Shakespeare’s plays come to life not in summaries of their plots or themes, but
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Shakespeare’s plays come to life not in summaries of their plots or themes, but in the power of their language: the way that lines, speeches, and exchanges use argument, but also puns, jokes, metaphors and other figurative language, and even the sounds of words, to shape the way we think and feel about the characters, situations, and issues that add up to the full, complex effect of the play. Consequently, over the course of the semester we have spent much of our time—particularly in the lectures—looking closely at speeches from the plays, examining their meaning and function, and linking them to larger issues in or interpretations of the plays. This paper will allow you to demonstrate your facility with this sort of reading. From one of the six plays we will read this semester, choose a speech or short conversation that we did not discuss in class or in lectures and write a paper that discusses the meaning and function of that speech or conversation and relates it to an important issue in the play as a whole. That issue may be one that we have discussed in class, but it need not be. The focus of your paper—and at least 3/4 of its length—should be devoted to the speech or conversation you choose. You should read it closely, making sure that you know what means—not just in paraphrase but line by line and word by word—and also what it does: how it uses the sorts of techniques described above to make audiences feel and think a certain way. You should then link that effect to a larger issue in the play: the characterization of one or more of its characters, the way it invites us to think about an important idea or theme, or the way it supports an interpretation of the play as a whole.
Format and other details: 1. Your paper should be 5-6 pages long; that means at least five full pages. 2. It should be word-processed in 12-point Times New Roman font.
3. Margins should be one inch on each side: top, bottom, right, and left. 4. Your pages should be numbered.
5. Your paper should have a title page that is not numbered and does not count as one of your 5 pages. It should have a title that is not the same as the title of the play, as well as your name, the date, and the class. The first page after your title page is page 1.
6. You should not use any secondary sources for this paper, so you will not need a Works Cited page.
7. However, if you are using an edition of the play other than the one in the Norton Shakespeare, you will have to indicate which edition you are using in a Works Cited page, which does not count as one of your five pages.
8. You should not copy the entire passage you are writing about into your paper; you can assume that your reader is familiar with it. You may, of course, quote specific words and lines as you discuss them.
9. When you quote Shakespeare’s words, you should use proper format; I will give you a separate handout on this.
10. Please be sure to proofread your work before handing it in; it is best to let it sit overnight or at least for several hours after finishing the writing before proofreading. This is formal writing, and frequent or persistent errors will affect your grade.
11. Plagiarism of any sort—using secondary sources without acknowledging them (or, for the purposes of this paper, using them at all), handing in a paper written in whole or part by someone else, or otherwise passing off someone else’s ideas or words as your own—will result on no credit for the assignment, which will almost certainly mean failing the course, as well as a report to the Office of Student Conduct. Ethics aside, in practical terms you are far better off handing in a bad paper than getting caught plagiarizing. It’s not worth the risk.
12. This assignment offers an excellent opportunity to make use of the university’s excellent Writing Center, which is conducting online tutoring sessions. You can reach them through their web site.
13. Papers are due Tuesday, December 1 by the end of the day (11:59 pm)