ENG 220Y (Prof Percy & Jennifer Roberts-Smith’s section): Essay 2--Administrivia

|| To the essay subjects!|| ||Formatting the essay|| ||Documenting your work||

Due: The essay is due by 6pm on Thursday, March 15th, 2001.

Length: At least 2000 words (8 250-word pages) on a topic sharply focussed from the subjects below.

Format: The essay must have a bibliography and footnotes for all primary and secondary (print and electronic) sources. It must be formatted as specified below.

Late: 5% per day to a maximum of 25%. Not accepted thereafter, unless there are extenuating circumstances. Extenuating circumstances for penalty-free extensions require official documentation (medical certificate/registrar’s letter).

YOU MUST KEEP A COPY OF THE ESSAY. It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to make sure that I have received it if you do not submit the essay during class.


Writing the essay

Robert Ormsby, a previous TA for this course, has written a useful guide to essay-writing:



The U of T Writing Home Page has advice on writing all kinds of academic documents, including essays:



You can also work with your college writing centre at any stage of the essay-writing process (NewC: 978-5157), with me (TW12:15-1 or by appointment, Wetmore Hall 125), and/or with Jennifer (R3-4, UC57).


Documenting your sources:

When quoting from Shakespeare's text, you must include parenthetical references to the act, scene, and line number (e.g., 1.4.31 or I.iv.31 or 1.IV.31 - just be consistent). And you must give a full bibliographical reference to the edition that you have used in the bibliography. E.g.,

Shakespeare, William. Henry IV, Part I. Ed. David Bevington. Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

I do not expect you to use secondary sources: close reading and deep thought over a 4-week period can produce a first-rate essay. However, it can be satisfying and helpful to contextualize your ideas about a topic in current scholarship . It is better to put off reading secondary sources until you have devised a working thesis. That way you'll know what you are looking for. Once you've decided to use secondary sources, you must use a wide range of articles and books. Start with the ge neral guides to Shakespeare scholarship listed on the course syllabus.

PLAGIARISM. You must document all the sources you have used fully and accurately. Claiming ignorance has never, in my experience of these cases, been accepted as a defe nce. U of T's Writing Home Page has good advice on how to avoid plagiarism.




1. Please type or neatly print your assignments.

2. On a separate title page, please provide a unique (and interesting) title that reflects how you have focussed the topic; your name & student number; my name; and the date.

3. Do not put your name on the body of the essay. Your essay's title and your student number are my keys to your identity once I've finished grading. Please put the paper's title and your student number at the top of EACH page; number each page at the top right.

4. Please use a paper clip rather than a stapler to hold the paper's pages together. I do comments on the word processor, and it is easier for me to attach them to your essay if I don't have to chew off the staple.

Essay 2: List of subjects

Write an essay of at least 2000 words on a topic that you have focussed sharply from one of the subjects below. Feel free to ask me (CP), Jennifer, and/or your college writing centre for help focussing your topic. We will not have studie d Measure for Measure, Antony and Cleopatra, or The Tempest by March 15th, but I’ve included topics on those plays for those of you who’d like to work on them independently.

Give your essay an INTERESTING and VERY SPECIFIC title.

Instructions for documenting and formatting your essays are on the other side of this page.

1. Compare a servant from King Lear with one from Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra, or The Tempest. (Feste and Lear’s Fool would work well for this!) Why does it seem relevant to you to compare these two se rvants in particular? What is expected of them? How well do they serve? How is their service affected by their social status (if relevant)? What possibilities do they seem to expect from their employment? What are their ultimate fates and why? How does yo ur investigation illuminate important issues of the plays?

2. Consider how the writing and the interpretation of forged letters illuminates important themes in two of Twelfth Night, Hamlet, and King Lear.

3. Compare and contrast the thematic function(s) of the family in Hamlet and King Lear. You should narrow the topic down: evil vs. good siblings? obedience to a father? loyalty to spouses? Your well-focussed, well-organize d essay might also consider plot and/or character as well as theme; your essay must show how your specific topic illuminates important themes in the plays.

4. The song with the refrain "The rain it raineth every day" occurs in both King Lear (3.2) and Twelfth Night. In a sharply-focussed essay, compare the ways in which it is used in each play, considering its texts, contexts, and singers, a nd its relationship to other issues in each play.

5. Hamlet says, `What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties ... and yet to me what is this quintessence of dust?' (2.2); Lear says, `Is man no more than this ... Thou art the thing itself; unaccommodat ed man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art' (3.4). With particular emphasis on these passages (their content, style, and context), compare and contrast the thematic function of the tragic protagonists' musings on `Man' in Hamle t and King Lear.

6. Compare and contrast I.i of King Lear with its sources and probable sources in Volume 7. Major tragedies of Narrative and dramatic sources of Shakespeare, ed. Geoffrey Bullough (London and Henley: Routledge and K egan Paul; New York: Columbia UP, 1978) [on STL at Trinity, PR 2952 B8 volume 7]. Support your interpretation of the significance of I.i to the rest of the play with well-selected and well-synthesized examples of Shakespeare’s adaptation of his sources.

7. "The body in King Lear is a site not only of abject misery, nausea, and pain but of care and a nascent moral awareness" (Greenblatt). In a focussed, well-organized essay, explore the significance of the human body to important issues in the play. As well as analyzing Shakespeare’s language, you can also identify and interpret recurring images on stage: putting on or removing clothing, removing eyes, holding hands…

8. Compare and contrast the thematic functions of female sexuality in two of Hamlet, King Lear, Measure for Measure, Antony and Cleopatra and The Tempest. (You may choose to focus on sexual inno cence or experience!) Your well-focussed essay should explain how your specific topic illuminates important themes in the play. I will be happy to help you find a sharp focus for this (or any!) topic.

9. Both Richard II and Cleopatra stage-manage and perform their own downfall. How are their performances alike? How do they differ? How do the differences illuminate important issues in their respective plays?

10. (Some) characters in Hamlet and Antony and Cleopatra are preoccupied with the past’s difference from the present, with history, and with the representation of their lives to posterity. Consider both the similarities and the difference s between the plays, and account for the differences.

11. In a very well focussed essay, compare and contrast the thematic functions of the supernatural (e.g. ghosts, gods, magic, religion) in two of Hamlet, King Lear, and The Tempest.

12. Compare and contrast the thematic functions of music in Twelfth Night and The Tempest. You should focus your investigation quite sharply Are there similarities and differences in the functions of its performers – e.g. Feste and Ariel? What about their audience(s)? And of course, consider the lyrics of the songs: are there patterned similarities? differences?