This assignment is in three parts. Parts 1 and 2 contain instructions as to how to prepare for part 3. It will be in your interest to complete parts one and two. They are designed to help you. But DO NOT hand in Parts 1 and 2. YOU MUST HAND IN PART 3, a 3-4 page essay which presents your analysis in the form of an argument supported by your observations from the text. Part 3, the essay, is due IN CLASS on Thursday, MARCH 29, 2001.

Choose one of the following speeches. You MUST write on ONE of the following speeches ONLY.

I have identified the first line of the BEAT OF ACTION surrounding the speech, the first and last lines of the speech, and the last line of the beat of action. Please pay close attention the lines in the beat of action. I have given additional instructions or information for each speech. Take these to heart; they are intended to help you.

1. From Twelfth Night, 2.2.17-41.

Consider seriously the possibility that Viola is addressing the audience directly. What would she gain? Of what might she need to convince the audience? Remember that an exit is still a character action which must be accounted for.

Beat begins: Exit MALVOLIO.

Speech begins: VIOLA I left no ring with her. What means this lady?

Speech ends: VIOLA It is too hard a knot for me tíuntie.

Beat ends: Exit VIOLA.


2. From Twelfth Night, 5.1.360-368.

Refer to the discussion in class and on the discussion list about the conclusion to the line of action of Twelfth Night. Remember that an exit is still a character action which must be accounted for.

Beat begins: OLIVIA Alas, poor fool, how have they baffled thee!

Speech begins: FESTE Why, ĎSome are born great, some achieve greatness...

Speech ends: FESTE the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.

Beat ends: MALVOLIO: Iíll be revenged on the whole pack of you. Exit MALVOLIO.


3. From Hamlet, 3.1.57-89.

Pay special attention to the first 56 lines of the scene to discover which characters are on stage (visible to Hamlet and invisible) during the speech. You will gain insight by comparing the context, register, punctuation, sentence structure, and metre of this speech to those of two other speeches: 1.2.129-159 ("O that this too to solid flesh would melt...") and 2.2.537-594 (Ay, so, God buy you. Now I am alone.) Please also notice and carefully consider the unconventional way I have divided this text: the stage direction causes the speech, the speech contains two major character actions which complete the beat.

Beat begins: CLAUDIUS and POLONIUS hide behind the arras. Enter HAMLET.

Speech begins: HAMLET To be or not to be Ė that is the question:

Speech ends: And lose the name of action.

Beat ends: HAMLET Ė Soft you now/ The fair Ophelia.


4. From Hamlet, 5.2.265-276.

This speech is one of the principal catalysts for the conclusion of Hamlet. Refer to the discussion in class about the line of action for Hamlet.

Beat begins: HAMLET O, villainy! Ho! Let the door be locked. Exit Osric

Speech begins: LAERTES It is here, Hamlet. Hamlet, thou art slain.

Speech ends: LAERTES I can no more. The King, the Kingís to blame.

Beat ends: HAMLET stabs CLAUDIUS


5. From King Lear, 1.2.1-22.

Consider seriously the possibility that Edmund is addressing the audience directly. What would he gain?

Beat begins: Enter EDMUND.

Speech begins: EDMUND Thou, Nature, art my goddess, to thy law

Speech ends: EDMUND Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

Beat ends: Enter GLOUCESTER.


6. From King Lear, 5.3.296-312.

Describe how Albionís speech causes Learís speech (they are not unconnected); pay special attention to what Lear wants in his speech. Refer to the opening scene of the play, and Learís explanation as to why he is dividing his kingdom. Albionís speech is a catalyst for the conclusion of King Lear.

Beat begins: MESSENGER Edmund is dead, my lord.

Speech begins: ALBION Thatís but a trifle here.

Speech ends: ALBION The cup of their deservings. O, see, see!

Beat ends: LEAR Look there, look there! He dies.


7. From Measure for Measure, 2.4.172-188.

Pay special attention the rhyme scheme of this speech. Who is Isabella speaking to?

Beat begins: Exit ANGELO

Speech begins: ISABELLA To whom should I complain? Did I tell this,

Speech ends: ISABELLA And fit his mind to death, for his soulís rest.

Beat ends: Exit ISABELLA


8. From Measure for Measure, 3.1.119-139.

Find the active (not the contemplative) content of this speech. It is a catalyst for the climax of the play.

Beat begins: CLAUDIO Death is a fearful thing.

Speech begins: CLAUDIO Ay, but to die, and go we know not where,

Speech ends: CLAUDIO To what we fear of death.

Beat ends: CLAUDIO That it becomes a virtue.



Answer the following questions in note form. List each answer under a heading which indicates which question you are answering. Document your sources. For example:






  1. Summarise the plot of the play. Mark clearly the point at which the speech you are analysing occurs. (Remember that a plot summary is a list of important on-stage events in the order in which they occur on stage.)
  2. Say when the speech takes place. (Give time of year and time of day.)
  3. Say where, in the play-world, the speech takes place.
  4. List the characters on stage (dead or alive) during the speech.
  5. Say why everyone is here. (Is there a particular event underway? What was each on-stage character doing just before he or she entered? Why did each character come to this place at this moment?)
  6. Describe what happens right before the beginning of the speech, on stage and off. (Pay very close attention to the lines I have identified in the assignment as belonging to the speechís beat of action. Refer especially to the last line or stage direction before the beginning of the speech.)
  7. Describe what happens right after the end of the speech, on stage and off. (Pay very close attention to the lines I have identified in the assignment as belonging to the speechís beat of action. Refer especially to the first line or stage direction after the speech.)
  8. Name the main topic of the beat of action. (What are the characters talking about for the whole duration of the beat of action? Name one topic, in no more than one phrase.)
  9. Speaker:

  10. Give the speakerís name, age, occupation and social status.
  11. Describe the speakerís important relationships (especially to other characters on stage or mentioned in the speech). Note any changes in the speakerís relationships over the course of the play.
  12. Describe the speakerís pre-history (any information you have about the speakerís life or actions before the beginning of the play).
  13. List the ways in which other characters describe the speaker.
  14. What has the speaker done up to this point in the play? (List each on-stage act, or "event" Ė Ballís "something happening", in the order in which it occurs. A major character will likely perform several acts or events in any given scene. You will almost never meet a character who does nothing, whether he or she is speaking or not. Note any changes in the speakerís patterns of behaviour.)

    Key words

  16. Underline key words in the text and look them up in the Oxford English Dictionary. Identify the sense in which you think the speaker is using the word. Identify groups of related key words. (Key words are words that are important in the speech, and are not necessarily limited to words that you donít recognise. Use the full 20-volume edition of the OED, and be sure that the definitions you choose to focus on were current during Shakespeareís lifetime. Focus on the concrete and literal sense in which the speaker is using the word, rather than the metaphorical or thematic resonances that the word may have in the play. You should be trying to make literal sense of the text of the speech.)
  17. Topics

  18. Identify the main topic of the speech. (What is the speaker talking about for the entire speech? Account for every line, including and especially any that seem odd or out of place. Identify one topic, in no more than one phrase, which unifies the entire speech.) This will be a clue to the speakerís objective in the speech.
  19. Mark each time the speaker changes minor topics in the speech. (Look for literal topics that unify sections of text. It is unusual, though not impossible, for a speaker to change topics mid-line. Again, you should be able to name the topic in no more than a phrase.) Remember that a change in topic usually denotes a new beat of character action: one or all of the characterís objective, obstacle and action have changed. These beats all serve and inform the characterís action for the speech.
  20. Form

  21. Say whether the speech is written in prose or in verse. If it is in verse, name the speechís metre. Scan the speech, indicating which syllables are stressed and which are unstressed. Mark places where the rhythm of the speech is different from the that of the metre. Mark caesurae.
  22. Identify any rhymes that appear in the speech. Look for rhymes within lines of verse as well as rhymes at the ends of lines.
  23. Identify other sound-patterns in the speech, looking especially for alliteration and assonance.
  24. Describe the register of the language. (Is it formal or informal? Is it appropriate to a specific context? Is the speaker using language appropriate to the context of the play-world at this moment in the action?)
  25. Figures

    Characters use figurative language to manipulate other characters. The observations you make here will help you analyse the speakerís objective and action: what is the speaker trying to accomplish by phrasing his or her point in this particular way?

  26. Mark each figure the speaker uses, and identify what kind of figure it is (eg. metaphor, simile, personification, antithesis, grammatical parallelism, etc....).
  27. Mark any places at which the speaker does not use figures.
  28. Identify and describe any changes in the types of figurative language used over the course of the speech.
  29. Textual Context

  30. Identify the speakerís explicit audience(s). (Who or what is the speaker addressing directly? Remember that it is possible for characters to address the theatre audience directly.) Identify any changes in the speakerís explicit audience(s).
  1. Identify the speakerís implicit audience(s). (Who else on stage is within earshot, and within view of the speaker?) Identify any changes in the speakerís implicit audience(s).
  1. Identify eavesdroppers. (Is there evidence that off-stage characters overhear the speech?) Identify any changes in the speakerís eavesdroppers. (Are they listening throughout the speech? When do they appear or disappear?)
  2. Review the speakerís relationships to each of his or her implicit, explicit and eavesdropping audiences.
  3. Review any differences in the knowledge that the speaker, his or her audience(s), and the theatre audience respectively have about the events of the play. (Does the speaker know something his or her audience(s) donít know or vice-versa? Does the audience know everything the characters know and vice-versa?)
  4. Identify any textual evidence of physical activity on stage during the speech. (Does the text indicate that the speaker or any other on-stage character moves? Or that anyone other than the speaker speaks? Or that any part of the play-world environment moves?)
  1. Identify any transformations of space or time that take place during the course of the speech (Does a specific amount of time pass? Does the play-world location change in any way?)


1. Is there anything odd in the speech or in the beat of action? Is there anything that stands out in any way, that seems like a non-sequitur, that seems unreasonable or is unexpected? Oddities often provide the key to an action: be sure you deal specifically with anything you note here in your analysis. You must find a way to explain it.

2. Summarise your evidence: make a list of the major points from each section of your observations. Use the summary to write a one-paragraph description of what is happening (describe the event) during the speech.


Answer the following questions in note form. Please refer to your definitions of key terms to ensure that you understand what you are being asked. It is not necessary to answer the questions on objective, obstacle and action in the order they appear. Often, discovering one of the three elements will allow you to identify the other two.

Character through-line

In this section, you must account for the characterís behaviour throughout the ENTIRE PLAY, from his or her first entrance until his or her last exit.

  1. What is the speakerís biggest problem in the play (a clue to main obstacle)?
  2. How does the speaker react to the problem (a clue to main action)?
  3. Why is the problem a problem (a clue to super-objective)?
  4. Name the speakerís super-objective, main obstacle and main action.
  5. Character beat

    In this section, deal ONLY with the characterís behaviour during the SPEECH.

  6. What is the speaker doing in the speech (clue to action)?
  7. What problem is the speaker trying to overcome by doing that (clue to obstacle)?
  8. Why is the speaker trying to overcome this problem (clue to objective)?
  9. Name the speakerís objective, obstacle and action for the speech.
  10. Does the speaker achieve his or her objective?
  11. Action beat

    In this section, discuss ONLY the section of text I identified as the BEAT of ACTION in your assignment. When I say immediately, I mean IMMEDIATELY, with no intervening action of any kind. I am referring to the last line or stage direction before the beginning of the speech, or to the first line or stage direction after the speech.

  12. How does the speech respond to the event immediately before it?
  13. How does it cause the event immediately after it?
  14. How do other on-stage characters affect the speaker? (Identify the objectives, obstacles and actions of other characters in the beat. How do their actions affect the characterís objectives, obstacles, and actions? What MUST the speaker do as a result of their presence?)
  15. What is the dramatic action of the beat? What happens between or among characters; what action is accomplished as the result of all the things characters do to one another?
  16. Would you like to refine your decisions about the characterís objective, obstacle, and action for the speech?
  17. Line of Action

    In this section, you must be able to account for the events and actions of the ENTIRE PLAY, including all five acts and all sub-plots. All of the plays in the assignment have crises in the first scene or scenes; all of the plays have conclusions in the final scene or scenes; all of the plays have climaxes somewhere around the middle.

  18. Identify the initial exposition at the beginning of the play. Say what information about the play-world is revealed.
  19. Identify the crisis, the climax, and the conclusion of the play. (Give scene numbers at the very least, and preferably line numbers.)
  20. Define the line of action of the play. (Use a single verb or verb phrase.)
  1. Say how this beat of action contributes to the line of action. (Why MUST this beat happen in order for the final action of the play to be possible. Frame your discussion in terms of action, not in terms of events, ie. donít describe its contribution to the plot. )


Write a 3-4 PAGE essay in which you present your analysis in the form of an argument, supported by your observations of the text. ANSWER the following question EXPLICITLY. You MUST USE the STRUCTURAL OUTLINE below as a guide. QUOTE DIRECTLY FROM THE TEXT to support each point in your argument. This is not an exercise intended to demonstrate originality; it is intended to demonstrate analytical and argumentative skills. Convince me that you are able to analyse a play-text for dramatic action, and convince me that your analysis is the best possible performance analysis of the passage you have chosen.


What is the speakerís "character beat" (objective, obstacle and action) in the speech you chose to analyse?


Introduction: state your thesis and outline your argument.

Argument: use your background preparation and analysis to support your thesis:

Support each point you make using one or more of the following kinds of evidence. You MUST USE ALL THREE kinds of evidence in your argument.

Conclusion: review the major points of your argument and suggest a way in which this speech might contribute to the line of action of the play.

WRITE YOUR NAME ON EVERY PAGE of your essay. NUMBER PAGES 1 of __, 2 of ___, etc.