“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 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.
How to Start a Shakespeare Essay
Shakespeare’s plays are divided into four categories: tragedies, romance, history, and comedies. Knowing these will help your work of composing the essay easier.
Here’s how you can start your Shakespeare essay on a solid note.
Choose your topic
The best way to compose a Shakespeare essay well is to choose a topic that you are well acquainted with, one that is interesting to you or the reader, assuming that your professor hasn’t assigned you any topic. Your topic should either revolve around his plays or sonnets.
You can develop topic ideas from The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Macbeth, King John, Julius Caesar, or A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For example, if you use the poem Sonnet 29, your topic/title may read like this: “Sonnet 29 and Depression.”
Note that if you have chosen a topic on your own, find out from your professor if it is allowed the format requirements, word count, deadline, and style of your essay (debate, review, or investigative).
To make any essay believable and reliable, you need to back it with facts, and Shakespeare’s essays are no different.
For Shakespeare’s essays, it is Shakespeare’s opinion that will act as proof. You can collect these from Shakespeare’s biographies or his actual work, which he wrote himself. These will be your primary source.
Note important points
The reason for taking notes is to easily remember something when the time comes to create the draft. A few things to note down are quotes, important points, or comments you got from your primary and secondary sources.
Remember to include other expert opinions as well. Finally, have an outline to make writing the draft easier. In your outline, understand what goes in the introduction, body, and what background information you need to include in your essay.
How to Write a Thesis Statement for a Shakespeare Essay
The thesis statement forms the core of your Shakespeare essay. Here are three steps to get it right.
Develop a thesis statement
We have mentioned in the previous text the plays by Shakespeare and even a few topics you can use. Now you need to develop a thesis statement for your essay.
Some things to consider when coming up with your thesis statement are to make it as specific as possible while avoiding broad views or personal opinions. Here is an example of a thesis statement you can make using the poem Sonnet 29.
“Sonnet 29 asserts that love can help you overcome even the worst depression.”
You can use online thesis generator tools to develop a thesis statement. Other ways to develop a thesis statement include reading Shakespeare's plays or watching movies. Besides, have the thesis statement in the first paragraph of the essay.
State the main idea
The next step is to share your ideas about the topic. Here, ask yourself what you are trying to prove or make the reader believe, either by asserting something specific about the topic, taking a stand on an issue, or expressing a real-life opinion.
Provide reasons to support your main idea
An essential factor to consider when writing Shakespeare’s essays is you cannot just summarize your points. You must give an explicit statement. This is because Shakespeare’s essays are more of a report, so ensure that you have logical facts and evidence you can use to support the thesis statement.
As a result, go back to the notes you took, or you can reread the play, looking for parenthetical citations or quote snippets of texts you can use to support your thesis statement.
How to End a Shakespeare Essay
Your conclusion summarizes what you have written in the paper. To write a good conclusion, let your introductory paragraph guide you.
Besides, find what each paragraph is about. This will help you write your paragraph in a way that leaves readers with something to think about. This is not the time to start a new argument or speculate.
Reinstate the thesis statement
If you are writing about the benefits of love, as per the poem Sonnet 29, return to the theme in the introduction and recap the central points showing why the only way we can overcome depression and sadness is by thinking about someone we love. Repeat to the reader the thesis statement and the evidence to support it.
Find a quote to sum up your perspective.
Your readers must have something to think about or go home with, and the best way to do so is, to sum everything up with an interesting quote. Continuing with our example of Sonnet 29, you can quote these last lines:
“For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.”
This will sum up your perspective of how true love inspires positive attributes.
Write the concluding sentence
Your concluding paragraphs or sentences need to be more like a transition connecting two paragraphs to ensure that your idea is solid and easy to follow.
As a result, tie it to the next paragraph to create a flow for your readers. If you were working on two subjects, try to blend the two and quickly move to the next subject. Finally, summarize the subject you talked about in that paragraph.
6 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 during the program. Here are six tips to help you write an impressive analysis essay on a Shakespeare play.
Give Multiple Readings
You are mistaken if you think you can read a William Shakespeare play once and wholly understand it. Shakespeare’s plays are complex and layered, coupled with historical and poetic language. You will need to read it multiple times and make notes on the side to get the hang of it.
The first reading should be about knowing the story, followed by understanding his use of words and metaphors and digging further into the characters. Highlight paragraphs that interest 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 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 not to view the characters and their actions in silos but consider the events that were prevalent during that period.
Explore Themes and Imagery
One of the most significant defining factors of Shakespeare’s writing was how 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 and help you collect evidence and strengthen your argument.
Form the Thesis Statement
After gathering enough evidence, you must start drafting and 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 essay's main argument. 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 them as it 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 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 refer to the correct source accurately.
Be it MLA or APA format, you can follow these guidelines to provide proper citations.
While these six valuable tips will 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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Last edit at Jul 27 2023