How to Write a Shakespeare Essay
“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears, I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” – Julius Caesar.
It has been four centuries since William Shakespeare wrote his last play but even today, his work continues to be read by high school and college students. From relatable characters to universal themes – his poems and plays still manage to resonate with us and offer incredible value.
Be it is Othello’s Iago or Macbeth’s Lady Macbeth; this literary genius has given us some of the most complex characters while using interesting literary techniques.
Here are Tips on Writing the Perfect Shakespeare Essay
Being a Literature student, chances are you have been asked to compose a Shakespeare essay at least once in the course of the program. Here are 6 tips to help you write an impressive analysis essay on a Shakespeare play.
Give Multiple Readings
If you think you can read a William Shakespeare play once and wholly understand it, you are mistaken. Shakespeare’s plays are complex and layered coupled with historical and poetic language. In order to completely get a hang of it, you will need to read it multiple times and make notes on the side.
The first reading should be about knowing the story which can be followed by understanding his use of words and metaphors and digging further into the characters. Highlight paragraphs that are of interest to your topic, so you don’t waste time looking for them later.
It is also a good idea to read a plot synopsis of the play for better understanding.
Understand the Historical Context
Whether you are analyzing what led Brutus to murder Caesar or the role destiny plays in Macbeth – it is imperative to understand the context.
Analyzing the background information and historical context will give you a holistic understanding of the turn of the events and the motivations behind the characters, helping you interpret the play better.
Without considering the historical context, you won’t be doing full justice to your analysis. Hence, remember to not view the characters and their actions in silos but take into consideration the events that were prevalent at that particular period.
Explore Themes and Imagery
One of the biggest defining factors of Shakespeare’s writing was the way he used imagery to reinforce underlying themes in his plays. For example, in Macbeth, the imagery of ‘darkness’ was used to depict the evil side of humans.
Hence, while working on your literary analysis, it is essential to pay close attention to the themes and imagery Shakespeare utilizes in the play which will give you a deep insight into the characters which will help you collect evidence and strengthen your argument.
Form the Thesis Statement
After you have gathered enough evidence, you need to start drafting. Wondering how to craft the perfect introduction for your Shakespeare essay?
The first step is to work on the thesis statement. A crucial statement, it features in the introductory paragraph and puts forth the main argument of the essay. It needs to be arguable and specific which can be proved with the help of evidence from the play.
Think about the issues the play talks about and enlist your personal opinions – this is an effective way to start forming the thesis statement.
Present Well-Supported Arguments
While the thesis statement is a subject of your opinion, you need to present logical evidence from the play to support your argument too.
Start with organizing your arguments first and devote one paragraph to each argument and its corresponding evidence. The evidence presented can be in the form of excerpts and quotations from the play which support the stand you are taking.
However, refrain from quoting lengthy paragraphs or paraphrasing it as it just takes up space and is unnecessary considering your professor is bound to be well-versed with the play.
Use Proper Citations
As you are writing a Shakespeare essay, you are likely to be quoting or citing multiple references from the play.
Shakespearean citations are slightly different from the usual in-text citations. Considering the number of acts, scenes and lines involved, it is essential to accurately refer to the correct original source.
Be it MLA or APA format, you can follow these guidelines to provide proper citations.
While these 6 useful tips will definitely help you write better Shakespeare essays, there are also instances when your overwhelming workload or worse still, lack of interest in Shakespeare might come in the way.
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