Portia– Merchant of Venice
Isabella– Measure to measure
Source must be scholarly and peer reviewed.
Assignment: Develop and argue a thesis about how a specific historical context informs two
characters (from a similar group) from different plays. For instance, do these characters illustrate
that context? Or do they contradict or complicate it? Does the insight help explain some aspect
of them? (lots of possibilities – not all will be relevant to all projects).
Length 4-6 pages
How to do this: Step by Step
1. Choose one “group” represented by characters in at least two plays.
What does this mean? Some suggestions (but these are not exhaustive: your own interest
may help you see others)
Italians heiresses bastards unmarried woman Professional Custom Writing Services from the Experts!
unmarried men betrothed women betrothed men constables
rulers servants ladies-in-waiting friends
people wear disguises people to act a part advisors old men
women with power poor men wastrels fathers
men who take power uncles rich men aristocrats
fashionable men priests brothers . . . you get the idea
Avoid overly general “men” or “women” or “people.” Narrow in some way.
2. Find one substantial but specific historical insight from the early modern period
about your group.
You need to use scholarly insight: find it in a book from our library or an article from
Galileo, Project Muse, etc. You might get it from a “pure history” work – it doesn’t
necessarily need to mention Shakespeare, but it is OK if it does.
3. Choose two characters – each representing a different play – from the group you
have chosen. Look at them in light of your historical insight. See how they relate
and what the insight might tell you about them, using it as a stringboard to examine
how Shakespeare portrays that particular group.
4. Write a strong, well-organized essay: make sure the first body paragraph clearly
explains your historical insight, then move on to examining the characters in light of
that insight, drawing comparisons and contrasts. Make sure to examine in detail at
least 3 rich, significant quotations related to each character (either something they
say or something said about them).
5. You need use no other sources besides the plays and your historical source. Of
course, if another source is used, it too needs to be documented and cited
appropriately, using MLA format
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