shakespeare paper prompt

TS English
Shakespeare Paper
“Shakespeare’s Literary Meanings”
4-5 pages, double-spaced
Times New Roman font, 12pt size
MLA Format and Citation Style
In the first few weeks of winter quarter, we will turn to William Shakespeare’s play, The
Tempest, to examine the innovative and complex ways that the Bard constructed literary meaning
in his dramas. In case you haven’t noticed, reading Shakespeare is a unique experience. How
can we unpack the dense dialogue, imagery, and complex thematics that construct the play?
Ross McDonald, for one, has insisted that Shakespeare “in other words” is not Shakespeare at
all, and that an appreciation of his works must begin with a detailed microanalysis of language,
syntax, metrics, and wordplay. Taking this cue for our own work, this paper will ask you to
adopt a formal approach to the language of the play, analyzing how the language and structure of
the play itself constructs a dense and elaborate network of meanings.
This paper has two main goals:
1. Use a “formal analysis” of the text. By now, you should be familiar with several
strategies for breaking down and examining the formal elements of Shakespeare’s drama.
The important point here is that a critical reading of Shakespeare cannot simply look at
“the story” as though the play were no different than other fictional writing styles like the
novel. You must also look to components like the play’s mobilization of language, its
genre, its thematic structure and patterns, its choice of setting and scene. Your main
goal in this paper: make an argument about how these formal components produce
a particular meaning, conflict or problematic in The Tempest. Look for:
 Wordplay, multiple meanings that produce complex meanings
 Metrics/Syntax, meaningful shifts in the musicality and sound of the text
 Structure, meaningful patterns in the arrangement of the drama
2. Make an argument about the play’s use of/insights into language. Feel free to write
on a topic that interests you, be it romance, revenge, race, gender, or the nature of
political power. But, whatever you choose, it will be important to remember that all of
these issues are intimately connected with questions of language, speech, storytelling, art,
and the power of words. To construct a complex claim in this paper, and to make the
most of your formal analysis, make a claim which focuses on these issues (or their
connections). You may, for instance, consider how issues of slavery or parenthood are
expressed in particular kinds of dialogue or use of words, or how conceptions of race or
gender are linked to issues of language and storytelling.