Paper Two

Submitted by Peter Berek on Tuesday, 11/15/2011, at 9:38 PM

            In Cymbeline, one of Shakespeare’s last plays, we see patterns in the plot, dramatic situations, characters, and thematic concerns that seem to repeat or revise elements of Shakespeare’s earlier plays. No one can miss the similarities between Giacomo’s villainy and Iago’s, or the ways in which Imogen’s cross-dressing is like Rosalind’s. Think about the many ways in which you can compare Cymbeline to its predecessors. Choose the one that most interests you, and write an essay in which you use the comparison principally to illuminate what is distinctive about Cymbeline, but also to make a critical point about the play you choose for comparison. Remember that identifying similarities is the starting point of your argument, not its conclusion. How does looking at the earlier play help you see Cymbeline more clearly? How does Cymbeline sharpen your understanding of the earlier play? Are you willing to venture any generalizations about the changes in Shakespeare’s concerns, language and artistry?

            For your comparison with Cymbeline, please choose a play you did not write about in your first paper.

Some possible points of comparison (the list is suggestive, not exhaustive):

Giacomo and Iago; “comparative villains”


Imogen-Cordelia-Desdemona-Rosalind; “virtuous women”

Guiderius and Arviragus-Cloten-Prince Hal; “who is the true prince?”

Cymbeline’s queen-Regan-Goneril; “powerful wicked women”

Belarius-Kent-Edgar; “good men in disguise”

Postumus-Othello-Lear; “mistaken men”

England and Rome

Court and Country

I urge you to consult with me about the specific topic of your paper, either by email or in conference.

Five or Six pages

Due Friday, Dec. 9, 5 PM, in my Johnson Chapel mailbox.

Paper One

Submitted by Peter Berek on Wednesday, 10/12/2011, at 4:52 PM


               Choose one of these plays as the focus of your paper: Titus Andronicus, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry the Fourth, Part One, As You Like It, or Hamlet.

                Find a moment (a speech, some dialogue, some action, a scene) in the play you choose in which a character creates, discovers or reveals something fundamental about his or her self. By what means do the character, and the audience, come to perceive the character’s self? Then, describe how the play as a whole invites the audience to judge this moment. You should focus on one or two other moments in the play that help shape this judgment. And of course, you may want to argue that a play offers multiple or conflicting judgments of a character’s selfhood.

                Note: After reviewing a draft of this assignment, our TA, Elizabeth Ballinger-Dix ’13, wrote, “ ‘Self’ for me is always a complicated term to define in a paper—does ‘self’ mean deepest motives, true feelings and emotions, identity—a combination of these things or none of these things? Perhaps you could add, or mention in class, that students may wish to consider what their own and the play's ideas about the definition of the self are, and how the way they construct self influences the way they answer this problem.”

                I agree with Elizabeth’s good advice.


About Five pages. Due Tuesday, October 25, in class.

Brief Writing Exercise

Submitted by Peter Berek on Wednesday, 9/7/2011, at 9:33 PM

Exercise One


            Read and reread Sonnet 129 (Norton Shakespeare, p. 1990). Listen to the sounds and rhythms of the words—you may find it helpful to read the poem aloud to a classmate or friend.

            How do the sounds, rhythms and rhymes of the poem help shape your intellectual and emotional responses to the poem?

            You cannot possibly discuss the whole poem; select a few examples that seem to you important.

One page, double-spaced, maximum. Due at the start of class Thursday, Sept. 15.