Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Shakespeare: Essay

English 205 — Delahoyde
Washington State University

SHAKESPEARE
ESSAY

One of the objectives of this course is that you improve your skills in critical analysis by by articulating, organizing, and polishing the presentation of your insights in some kind of written form. On the due date noted below, you will be pleased and relieved to turn in a significant piece of written work, something that ought to have more meaning than just a graded assignment: at least as a potential portfolio paper, but possibly as the central production of your own particular expertise in Shakespeare studies or the beginning of a larger future masterpiece. Eventually the rest will be silence; aim for step one of immortality now.

Although this is in one respect a mere essay portion of an exam, treat the project as much as possible in the most scholarly and professional manner you can. This exam essay is taking the place of what formerly would have been an independent research paper assignment, so expectations are high.

The Essay:

Provide a heading with more than your name; you may in the future need to know what class you wrote this for and when.

Create a title more creative than the dutiful and perhaps grudging: Essay #1. Do not underline or italicize your own title, ever, except here for only the possibly included word Hamlet or a play title.

Begin the essay in a focused and, ideally, engaging way for readers. Beginning with the phrase “There are many different …” or “In today’s society …” already creates a sinking feeling in the hearts and minds of your readers. Set up your focus in a way that indicates its importance rather than implying subjectively that you “came across” a quotation or idea or “decided to write about” some topic — which makes your selection sound absolutely arbitrary.

What moment or feature in a Shakespeare work emerging since the start of the semester has had a significant effect upon you and what are the implications of this experience? Find and describe an incident, or a character, or a theme you have noticed in one of the works — something that has resonated with you personally, or professionally, or emotionally, or in any unique way.

Explore your quotation or topic and its implications in a minimum three-page complete manuscript using MLA-style format. (The use of secondary source journal articles is optional but professional and would be impressive).

You need not, and probably should not, adopt a mode of maudlin deep personal confession; rather, aim for a more philosophical kind of discussion. The essay should include a thesis and supporting evidence, ultimately serving as a reflective exploration with some critical thinking on this portion of your educational experience at WSU while it is, ideally, still happening.

Although you may do some research and include secondary sources, original insight and analysis should still dominate the entire discussion. Your final revised essay must consist of three typed, double-spaced pages containing an intriguing (not underlined) title, an original unified thesis, vigorous analytical work, no extra spaces between paragraphs, all in a clean, effective, illuminating, properly documented presentation (correctly punctuated in-text parenthetical citations of author and page, and a correctly formatted MLA-style Works Cited list). You will include a Works Cited list even if the only work on the list is the primary text. For further instruction regarding documentation, see my Shakespeare website, or ask me ahead of time. Proofread well so that minor surface matters do not distract readers from your ideas. The grade for any manuscript lacking a Works Cited list or containing a renegade, variant, or insane documentation system will strike you as intensely disappointing.

The Deal:You are obligated to hand in a hard copy of the essay at the beginning of the class period on the designated due date. Truancy is, of course, no excuse (i.e., “I didn’t know about this essay because I cut class every day for the last three weeks”). Fate, as we know, plays amusing tricks. I tell you right now that Aunt Millie could drop in a flash on “paper-due eve”: it is your obligation to anticipate anything like this in your life that could go wrong and to take preventive measures or to develop back-up plans. You also must accept responsibility for being so foolish as to stake your grade on a computer’s or printer’s reliability. And no bitter ironies about roommates and alarm-clocks. Beyond the devastation to the overall exam grade, of which this essay is a component, no work submitted means you did not meet the requirements of the course (big F); late work will not be read but at least you will have met requirements minimally (little F factored in). On a more positive note, I assure you that I am happy to provide advice and help at any stage of the pre-writing, researching, and drafting processes, short of giving you a topic and writing the text for you. Ultimately, though, it must be completed and turned in when due; the overenrolled nature of this kindof class does not allow for screwing around and cheesy excuses. Get to work early, consult with me as needed, and turn in the best possible masterpiece. Sample essays, good to excellent and most in excess of what your own task is here, are available on the web site, as are instructions and examples for the required MLA-style documentation.


ESSAY DUE: WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17th, 2012; 10:10 pm.