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398 Shakes Romance Short Paper

Page history last edited by Eric Leonidas 2 years, 6 months ago


ENG 398, Shakespearean Romance: “Problem Paper”


Some requirements:

  • 4-6 pages; consider 4 a hard minimum
  • MLA citation format
  • Works Cited
  • Numbered Pages
  • Title


Due: Wed., March 7


Also: In addition to the quotations page, which I linked to from the WA page, here are a couple of more links that might help you out with my expectations: ground rules for writing a paper in my Shakespeare Survey course; random things I don't like.



The purpose of this paper is to find and discuss an interpretive “problem” in one of the two romances—in their construction, in their language or imagery, in their endings, in their representation of a particular idea or social element, etc.  Your paper will need to:


  • Introduce the problem as a problem, as opposed to something you’ve merely noticed
  • Explain why thinking about this problem is important


In thinking about problems, Wayne Booth distinguishes between a “condition” (a circumstance, a situation) that leads to identifiable “consequences.”  Judiana Lawrence identified a condition in Cymbeline (an overly neat set of reconciliations at the end) that leads to a consequence (a sense of disunity, given the depths of the earlier problems).  Using evidence from the play, she showed that the ending is deliberately and self-consciously artificial so as to expose the forced gratifications of romance, generally, and to make us critically aware of our expectations for the genre. 


Or, consider Innogen’s discovery of the headless Cloten.  This is surely a problematic condition—but be careful.  One might be tempted to say the consequence is that Innogen mourns her dead husband and blames Pisanio.  But this is a plot consequence; we want to focus on interpretive problems, and therefore we need an interpretive (or perhaps “thematic”) consequence.  In this case, the interpretive consequence is that the man who is so seemingly right for her is unrecognizable to her, which suggests that identity in the play might not be essential; or that characters must learn to distrust signs, since they are inevitably deceiving; or perhaps the necessity of death (here, Posthumus’ symbolic death) for characters to grow.  We could probably find a number of interpretive consequences for any given condition.


1. Introduction.  Your Introduction will describe some aspect of the play that presents a contradiction or tension or irresolution, a condition that leads to an interpretive difficulty.  Besides the two mentioned above (an ending that seems not to fit, and a misreading of a sign), you might look for:

  • ambiguities in words, phrases, figures of speech, images, allusions, etc.
  • strange or unpredictable character decisions or actions
  • conceptual problems raised by disguise or deception
  • characters who mistake or ignore something about themselves or others
  • “solutions” that don’t fully address the problems they seek to remedy
  • a problem in the way social or political power is established, maintained, or exercised


2.  The body of your paper will consist (first) of one or more paragraphs that look at the problem in one or more specific places in the play, with analysis of specific language from those specific places (notice my annoying repetition of the word specific).  From there you need to move to consequence.  You might analyze a practical or plot consequence (so, what happens to Innogen as a result of her mistaking of Cloten) but you should do so as a way toward raising the larger interpretive questions and consequences that matter.





Aside from the content, described above, I’ll be looking for:


Paragraph organization 

  • Does each paragraph contain a clear topic sentence?
  • Is that topic sentence linked to the paper’s thesis somehow?
  • Is each paragraph sufficiently developed?
  • Do any paragraphs contain material beyond the scope of the paragraph topic?


Effective use of quotations

  • Have quotations been properly introduced with a “signal phrase”?
  • Are quotations punctuated properly?
  • Does each contain a citation?  Are the citations punctuated properly?


Close analysis

  • Is the play language treated in sufficient analytical detail?  That is, are individual words and phrases pulled out of the quotations and discussed?
  • Has attention been given to diction (individual word choices); imagery (similes and metaphors, symbols, etc.); shifts or breaks in tone or thought? 


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