FINAL PAPER I have attached to this email a list of possible topics. Please read them carefully, and choose one of them for your essay if you wish. You’re very welcome to devise one of your own or tweak mine to fit your needs better. At any rate, if you wish to devise your own question, we’ll have to discuss it asap so that I can approve it. You might also wish to devise a question that incorporate two texts (as long as you incorporate a text post mid-term exam, and you devote the same amount of attention to both texts – I’ll be fine with this). BTW -Don’t panic over the questions as we’ll go over the themes mentioned in the questions in class. BUT please do bear in mind that *the deadline for your research essay is May 18. You must submit your essay in class. Failure to do so will result in your getting a 0.* As you know( the purpose of an essay should be for you to articulate your thoughts in such a way that you learn something you otherwise couldn’t. In other words, the first rule of essay writing is that if you haven’t learned anything major as a result of your labor, your reader won’t either. Your essay must include the following segments: (1) a reformulated/improved synopsis offering a clear insight of what your topic is, (2) a thesis statement – for a 2500-3000 word paper, this paragraph should be about three quarters of a page long. Ideally it has a good opening sentence, a clear thesis, and an agenda. But here we are talking about an Outline so you may have a reduced/condensed version of your thesis statement. At any rate, you should include an explicit agenda. Remember that in some courses your papers are being read among various other entries, and this means that the more help you can give the instructor in explicitly telling him or her what you’re doing, the easier it will be to grasp the paper and intelligently mark it. If the instructor has to stop and puzzle on what the student is doing, well, you can guess what’s going to happen to the mark. A thesis and an agenda provide clarity; they show how the paper is meant to fit together and pre-structure the whole for the reader. This is essential if you want to make a good impression on people who are marking many papers at a stretch. By the way, even in the business world, people want to know up front what they’re getting into. No one has the time to figure out a murky paper. The thesis and agenda sentences usually come at the end of the first paragraph. This means that the opening sentence introduces the main topic; you develop a context within which the topic becomes of interest; and then you focus on your specific argument or thesis and end with a programmatic agenda that tells us how your analysis is going to proceed. This way we get a snapshot of the whole and all we have to do as markers is take pleasure on how cleverly you’ve developed the main thought. If this is done reasonably well, it should get you in the B range. If it’s done brilliantly, an A is in order. Remember that compared to the muddled paper your neighbor may be handing in, you have an immense advantage if your paper sets up a clear argument, execution, and conclusion. (4) Main critical body of your work – generally divided into 2/3 main sections. Each section should have a clear title, and therefore a clear argument with academic refs to support it (clearly and properly referenced) and – indispensable – excerpts/quotes from the actual plays. It is useful to know that each paragraph in this section needs to have a very definite purpose or function. Look at each paragraph and ask what it’s accomplishing (in other words: avoid unfounded assertions). Find those sentences and paragraphs that don’t earn their keep and get rid of them or strengthen them. Usually the problem is structural. The sentences or paragraphs are straying from the topic, or they’re repeating something you’ve already proven. Also think how you are planning to transition from one part to another and ask yourself if the connection comes naturally – if it doesn’t you might have a structural problem and might have to re-juggle your arguments. (5) You need to include a conclusion, but at this stage I would rather you concentrate on the above. I will go over the details of what constitutes a good conclusion very soon. (6) A bibliography – students of your caliber should include a minimum of 5 references but that would be the bare minimum. Writing is a labor intensive activity that unfolds one stage at a time. Keep in mind that what distinguishes an A from a B is not some magical *je ne sais quoi*, but the particularity and illumination of the insights. A paper that gets an A is a paper that is teaching the teacher. It can only do that if the writing is clear, substantiated and the insights genuinely insightful! ESSAY TOPICS: Please note that the following essay topics are only here to help you devise your own essay topic for researched essay. Be creative and independent and create one of your own! OTHELLO ESSAY TOPICS 1) Some have said that the focus of Othello is not the title character, as is the case with Shakespeare’s other great tragedies, Macbeth, King Lear, and Hamlet. Is Othello simply too one-dimensional to be considered a great tragic hero? Does his seemingly unrealistic gullibility lessen our interest in him and his suffering? 2) Samuel Taylor Coleridge once wrote that Iago’s soliloquies are the “motive-hunting of motiveless malignity.” Is this an accurate observation? Does Iago have a motive or motives for his hatred of Othello? 3) Explore the character of Desdemona. What does she represent in the play? 4) If you read the play closely you will see that not enough time could have elapsed on Cyprus for Desdemona to have committed adultery. Examine the problem of time in Othello and the possible dramatic reasons behind this unrealistic passage of time. 5) Discuss Othello’s relationship with Desdemona. Does he truly love her? 6) Examine the female characters in the play. Do they share a common role in Othello? RICHARD II ESSAY TOPICS 1) Examine the character of Richard II. In what ways does he contribute to his own downfall? 2) The historical Queen Isabella was but a child when Richard II was on the throne. Why does Shakespeare include her in the play as a grown woman? What does her presence add to the overall play? 3) In Act V, Scene III, Bolingbroke speaks of his son, Hal. Why is Hal mentioned in this scene? 4) Describe Richard’s relationship with his wife, making reference to their final meeting. 8) Examine Bolingbroke’s last speech. How does this speech reveal his thoughts on the death of Richard and his future as England’s new monarch? THE WINTER’S TALE ESSAY TOPICS 1) Examine issues of jealousy in the play. 2) The Winter’s Tale is classified as a romance but some have said that this classification is misleading. Do you feel the play should be classified as a tragedy and, if so, why? 3) Analyze the character of Hermione. How does Shakespeare’s portrayal of Hermione reflect the conceptions of women in Tudor England? 4) Compare the play with its primary source, Robert Greene’s Pandosto. What changes did Shakespeare make and why? 5) Analyze the importance of Time in The Winter’s Tale. 6) Perdita says “Methinks I play as I have seen them do”. Examine the references to life as artifice in The Winter’s Tale. 7) Discuss the role of mythology in the play. 8) Examine Leontes’ stages of evolution and discuss forgiveness, remorse, and love as it pertains to each major character in the drama. OTHELLO ESSAY TOPICS 1)Traditionally, tragedy has been thought of as following the pattern described by Aristotle: A great man suffers a change of fortune from happiness to misery because of a mistaken act, one that he is led to by his “tragic flaw.” Such a story evokes in the viewers both pity, because, since the hero is not an evil man, his misfortune is more than he deserved, and fear, because we can imagine ourselves being led to a similar error. Do you think that Othello fits this traditional pattern? Do you consider Othello to be a good example of a tragic hero? 2)Iago has often been referred to as one of the greatest villains of all time, because the evil he does seems so calculated but senseless. Consider Iago – what is the root of his evil? What qualities in him combine to make a particularly devilish character? What makes him so successful in working his devilish plans against Othello? 3)Desdemona has been called by one critic “Shakespeare’s word for love,” and by others, “weak,” “passive,” “whimpering.” How do you see Desdemona? Is she a loving woman caught in a snare that she never understands, or is she a weakling who could have avoided her fate by sticking up for herself more? Take a position on this debate – is Desdemona a character to admire or to scorn? 4)Though Othello contains many patterns of imagery (heaven/hell, animals, plants/gardens), a pattern contributing to one of the play’s major themes involves seeing/not seeing. In what ways is the plot about seeing vs. not seeing or vision vs. blindness? Look back through such references and comment on their significance to the themes of the play. 5) What role do race and racism play in Othello? How do they affect Othello’s character, his relationship with Desdemona, and the attitudes of the society around them? Does racism contribute to Othello’s downfall or cause it? Or are Othello’s problems strictly of his own making? MACBETH ESSAY TOPICS 1)In Macbeth, the natural world of weather, animals, and birds serves almost as an additional character in the play. Look through the text at the references to the natural world (e.g., Macbeth’s statement to Banquo at 1.3.37, “So fair and foul a day I have not seen”; Lennox’ speech in 2.3 following “The night has been unruly,” line 52) and comment on the ways in which nature serves an important role in the play. 2) When staging or filming Macbeth, directors have an important decision to make: should special effects be used in order to make the daggers and the ghost appear, or should those elements be left to the audience’s imagination? What difference does it make to the plot and the theme of the play if the daggers and ghost are shown? 3) Over the centuries, critics of Macbeth have been divided over the nature of the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Are they, as A.C. Bradley argues, deeply in love and supportive of one another, or are they, as Mary McCarthy believes, cold-hearted individuals who will use anything and anyone – including one another – to achieve their ambitions? Consider the evidence in the play and argue the case, one way or another. 4) A major thread in the discussion of Macbeth over the years centers on the character of Macbeth himself: Is he a victim – of the witches, of Fate, of Lady Macbeth – or a villain, exercising his free will and bringing about his downfall through his own actions? As you have developed your ideas about the play, which opinion do you hold? KING LEAR ESSAY TOPICS 1) Evil infuses King Lear, and we certainly have no shortage of villains in the play. What kinds of evil are represented? What are its causes? Its consequences? Are the evildoers in King Lear brought to justice? 2) Do you find King Lear a sympathetic character, or is he someone who clearly brings on his own troubles? Does he change at all during the play? If so, in what ways? A tragic hero is one who evokes pity; by the end of the play, do you pity King Lear? Do you find his story “tragic”? 3) What role does the Fool have in the play? What important function does he serve for King Lear? Is he truly “foolish”? 4) In King Lear, we see two sets of parents and children: Lear and his daughters and Gloucester and his sons. In each case, the father has misjudged his children, causing terrible problems. What do we learn about parents and children from King Lear? How do the two analogous situations help develop the themes of the play? THE TEMPEST ESSAY TOPICS 1) The Tempest is a play for the ears as well as the eyes. Consider the role of sound (both noise and music) in the play, commenting on its significance. 2) Some have seen in The Tempest an illustration of colonialism; others, a critique of it. What is your opinion? What do you see in the confrontation of Old World and New World within the play? 3) Discuss Prospero’s status as a magician within the play. What is the role of magic? What does he use it for? How is magic related to the play’s themes? 4) In 4.1, Prospero makes a famous speech beginning, “Our revels now are ended.” Analyze this speech in terms of its connections to the overall themes of The Tempest. THE MERCHANT OF VENICE ESSAY TOPICS 1) “Mercy,” “justice,” and “retribution” are all important to the themes of The Merchant of Venice, as various characters argue for one or the other. Consider the role these concepts play and how they are significant to the themes of the play. 2)The Merchant of Venice resists classification in a specific genre. Is it a romantic comedy with tragic undertones, or a tragedy enclosed within an inappropriate comedic envelope? The answer will depend upon your reading of which aspects of the play are most significant. 3) Shylock is an outsider in many ways – not only in his religion, but also in his profession and his social class. Do you find his character sympathetic or unsympathetic? Is his fate tragic or appropriate? His desire for revenge against Antonio justified or not? 4) Some readers, viewers, and critics have found Shakespeare’s portrayal of Shylock (and his characters’ treatment of him) to be so offensive that they feel the play should no longer be performed. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Make a case for one side or the other – should Merchant be banned, or should companies continue to mount productions of it?
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