Shakespeare`S Writings Essay, Research Paper
Term Paper for Shakespeare 101
Title paper (do not underline).
When citing the text, follow the form of citation used in the
introductions to the plays in Norton. Four lines of quotation or more
should be indented and single spaced. Less than four lines should be
incorporated into your own text.
Avoid plot description.
Support observations and claims with examples and citations from
State your thesis in the first paragraph.
If you choose to use any secondary texts (and doing so is not
required), be sure to cite them in footnote or bibliography.
In every case, I have given you some questions to get you started thinking
on the topic. I hope they will be helpful in suggesting what kind of
issues you might address.
1. The Motive for Cursing: King Lear and Caliban
You might begin by locating a good dictionary definition of “curse”. (No
need to quote it, but do make sure you know what constitutes a curse).
This paper would involve collecting curses from the mouths of both Lear
and Caliban. You might also want to consider what the king and slave have
in common that drives them to curse. Whom do they curse? In what
situation? What passions does cursing vocalize? What kinds of misery
would Lear and Caliban bring down upon those they curse? What might an
alternative to cursing be? At what point do Lear and Caliban stop
cursing, and why?
2. Two Flashbacks: Hermia and Helena’s Childhood and Hamlet I and
Think about the circumstances that lead to these two narratives of the
past. How is each gendered? How is the experience each one records
different from that of the play in which it appears? Does the world
described in the sketches still exist in the world of the play? What has
superseded the girlhood friendship and the chivalric combat?
3. Shipwreck in two of the following plays: “Comedy of Errors,” “The
Winter’s Tale,” “The Tempest”
In what way does a shipwreck mark the end of tragedy and the beginning of
comedy in two of these plays?
4. The Cause of Death: Mamillius in “The Winter’s Tale” and Titania’s
Votary in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
What do we know about the circumstances of these two deaths? What are
the natural causes of each death? Does either the boy or the young woman
in any sense deserve to die? Is their death a punishment? Why do you
think death figures in these two plays when neither is a tragedy?
5. Allusions to Women in “Hamlet”: Niobe (1.2.149), Hecuba (2.2481ff.),
Jepthah’s daughter (2.2.392) , Nero’s mother (3.5.364)
Ophelia and Gertrude are the only women in the play, but there are
allusions to all the females listed above. Look up each of them in the
appropriate dictionary: mythological, classical and biblical. In what
respect are they all associated with different forms of reproduction? Do
they bear any relation to Ophelia and Gertrude?
N.B. If you prefer to write on a topic of your own choosing, please email
me a paragraph stating what you would like to write on. If the topic is
feasible for this course and this length of paper, I will happily approve
Ophelia’s chanting in the “mad” scenes is a parody of the OT
story of Jepthah’s daughter, who “bewailed her virginity” for a month before
she was sacrificed. In fact, “virginity” signifies dying before marrying and,
particularly, without offspring. Ophelia’s “virgin crants” were apparently hung
in the church during her requiem. This suggests a need in the community to
believe her a virgin. Those who read Hamlet as a Reformation chronicle detect
glances at the BVM here. You might see an article, “Ophelia’s Maimed Rites.”
Hope this helps.
Jephthah returned to Gilead and in Mizpah they made him commander over
the army and the head or leader of Gilead. Jephthah then set up negotiations
with the Ammonites but they would not listen to anything he had to say. (The
Ammonites were the descendants of Lot’s son, and inhabited a tract of country
east of the river Jordan and had always been hostile towards the Israelites.)
So as he marched into battle against the Ammonites he made a vow; “If You will
indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever
comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the
people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s and I will offer it up as a burnt
Jephthah secured a great victory “..from Aroer as far as Minnith –
twenty cities — and to Able Keramin.” It was a very bloody battle with much
loss of life and many great prizes were captured and the Ammonites “..were
subdued before the children of Israel.”
Upon Jephthah’s return home his daughter came dancing and singing from
the house to honour her father and to celebrate his great victory. But,
Jephthah, seeing this said to his daughter, “Alas, my daughter, you have
brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my
word to the LORD, and I cannot go back on it.”
Jephthah’s daughter agreed that the vow must be carried out but begged
to be given two months, “…that I may go and wander on the mountains and
bewail my virginity, my friends and I.” Jephthah permitted this and when the
two months were over the vow was carried out. To this day the daughter’s of
Agrippina was the daughter of the elder Agrippina, sister of the emperor Gaius, or Caligula (37–41), and wife of the emperor Claudius (41–54). She had been exiled in 39 for taking part in a conspiracy against Gaius but was allowed to return to Rome in 41. Her first husband, Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, was Nero’s father. She was accused of poisoning her second husband, Passienus Crispus, in 49. She married Claudius, her uncle, that same year and induced him to adopt Nero as heir to the throne in place of his own son. She also protected Seneca and Burrus, who were to be Nero’s tutors and advisers in the early part of his reign.
In 54 Claudius died, perhaps after being poisoned by Agrippina. Because Nero was only 16 when he succeeded Claudius, Agrippina at first attempted to play the role of regent. Her power gradually weakened, however, as Nero came to take charge of the government. As a result of her opposition to Nero’s affair with Poppaea Sabina, the Emperor decided to murder his mother. Inviting her to Baiae, he had her set forth on the Bay of Naples in a boat designed to sink, but she swam ashore. Eventually she was put to death on Nero’s orders at her country house.
Is it not monstrous that this player here,But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,Could force his soul so to his own conceit That from her working all his visage wann’d,Tears in his eyes, distraction in’s aspect,A broken voice, and his whole function suitingWith forms to his conceit? and all for nothing!For Hecuba!What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her? What would he do,Had he the motive and the cue for passion That I have? He would drown the stage with tearsAnd cleave the general ear with horrid speech,Make mad the guilty and appal the free,Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeedThe very faculties of eyes and ears.