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The Major Assignment

For this assignment you will be given a choice of two different approaches to the analysis of a given scene from either The Merchant of Venice or The Tempest.

Important: you must get approval for your topic before you spend much time on your assignment. The deadline for submitting a title and short outline of your assignment is Monday 2nd March.

In order to be fair to all students, I will be unable to accept assignments that have not been approved.

Approach #1: Demonstrating how our understanding of the scene is enriched by an awareness of its historical context

This approach will require you to do research both on the Web and in the Library. In dicussing the scene, you will look at character, action, and language, showing how your research on the historical context of the period explicates and illuminates our response to this section of the play.

Your aim will be to use -- and ideally improve upon -- one or more pages in the "Life and Times" section of the Internet Shakespeare website, and to show how the topic it introduces illuminates the scene. Note that the website page will be the starting point for your research, and that you will need to go well beyond it. If you are especially adept, your work will be added to the website, with your name acknowledged.

You may choose a scene (or part of a scene, especially if it is a long one) from The Merchant of Venice or The Tempest. Be sure to let me know the scene or passage you have chosen, and the topic you will pursue, by Monday 2nd March. I will give you quick feedback on the appropriateness of your choice.

You may organize your essay in one of two ways:

  1. Either by considering in turn the topics that the scene deals with, showing in detail how your background research applies to specifics in the scene,
  2. or by working chronologically through the scene, illustrating how broader topics are dealt with as the scene progresses.

You should begin your research by exploring the resources on the Internet Shakespeare Editions section dealing with Shakespeare's Life and Times.

To use the site, try these tips:

For the advance approval of your topic, you should list

Please submit this assignment either by email as a Word document in an attachment, with no footnotes, or in hard copy. You will be expected to include a Works Cited, and to acknowledge your sources by parenthetical reference in the text (see the Writer's Guide for details on how to do this).

What I am looking for

Note that an essay must have an overall thesis that you argue, producing evidence from your research and from the text of the play you are discussing.

You will be graded on these specific points, and (as in all English courses) on your general command of written English. Marks will be deducted for major or continuing problems in expression.

Grading

The percentages here are intended to give you a clear sense of the emphasis I will put on the various components of your work. I will not actually break the mark down mechanically by each category, but will consider the assignment as a whole, with these categories in mind.

Approach #2: How a scene could be performed onstage

For this approach you will need to learn about stagecraft, and to apply it to the scene. The play is to be presented on a "thrust" stage, in the manner of the original staging, though you can include modern lighting effects. You should do some research on productions of the play. I will expect to see a number of inter-related documents:

The scenes to choose from are these (act, scene, line numbers from the Bevington):

For advance approval of this approach, you should submit

This assignment should be submitted in hard copy.

What I am looking for

You will be graded on these specific points, and (as in all English courses) on your general command of written English. Marks will be deducted for major or continuing problems in expression.

Grading

The percentages here are intended to give you a clear sense of the emphasis I will put on the various components of your work. I will not actually break the mark down mechanically by each category, but will consider the assignment as a whole, with these categories in mind.

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This page last updated on 20 October 2006. © Michael Best, 2002.