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Literature Study Guide: How To Write A Good Shakespeare Essay

It has been four centuries since William Shakespeare wrote his last play, but even today, his work continues read by high school and college students all over the world.

Shakespeare is easily one of the best-known names when it comes to English literature, and his contribution to the world literature can be compared to an eternal ocean. Every few years, there seems to be a new movie based upon one of his plays.

Shakespeare Biography Essay or Shakespeare Character/play analysis essay?

There are several types of work you can compose about Shakespeare, and it can be both a Shakespeare biography essay and a work dedicated to his works. Students have to read numerous pages of Shakespeare's writing, so there is hardly anyone that is not familiar with some book or play of this English author.  

Nonetheless, most people would agree that he is a great writer who reserved a unique place in the history of humanity. His works are in-depth and thought-provoking, his characters are lively and relevant even to modern people, and his creative activity enjoys popularity for many years to come.

Thus, if you have the task to compose an assignment on Shakespeare, bring your thoughts together and choose what aspect of his work or life to study.

He wrote many different works, and his life itself is a fascinating subject for discussion as well. Both a character analysis and a biography essay may be valuable options. Shakespeare is credited with having the most movies based on his work in history. Currently, there are over a dozen movies in production based on his work.

Although his name is famous, it can sometimes be challenging to know how to write an essay on Shakespeare or his works.

Below is a list of simple and workable topics that may suit a short essay about William Shakespeare.

With a concise, creative approach and some work, they may transform even into dissertation topics. Although, in reality, research on Shakespeare is far from finished and completely not exhausted. You can make an original contribution to this field, even if you approach the subject skeptically.

  1. Analysis of competing interpretations of Shakespeare’s sonnets
  2. How Shakespeare addresses universal human values in his plays
  3. Shakespearean lovers: a character analysis
  4. Shakespeare’s women – character analysis in the context of feminist rights movement
  5. Stylistic analysis of Shakespeare’s works
  6. The debate of Shakespeare's authorship of his works – analysis of recent findings and discoveries on the subject
  7. Examination of hidden codes and cyphers in the Shakespearean texts
  8. A scene-by-scene analysis of some Shakespearean play.

The most essential phase of writing an essay on any given subject is choosing a topic. Carefully consider what you want to prove or discuss in your work. You are lucky to take advantage of the many Shakespeare topics and weigh precisely the one, which allows you to demonstrate your capabilities in the subject.

Indeed, it can seem pretty challenging to focus on what you would like to write about. Below are some general spheres, which you can consider when selecting the right topic:

MYSTERY

A legion of questions and mysteries surrounds the life and works of William Shakespeare. Maybe one of them will inspire you, and you would like to treat the subject in your original way.

PHILOSOPHY

If you like to read between the lines, analyze words and phrases, and discover moral lessons, this subject is right for you. In Shakespeare's work, you can find vital incorporation of ethical actions, principles, philosophies, and good deeds. You can concentrate on the set of valuable lessons of life in the selected author's work or examine one exemplary display in different plays or poems.

ANALYZING

This way is for students who can write about Shakespeare's works, analyze, appreciate, and criticize. Choose a play or a poem that you can easily comprehend and like the most. You can consider the famous one, but if you want to write a unique essay, choose one not so popular.

The Writing Process

Here, we will talk about the very process of writing a Shakespeare essay or just a piece in general. Through these vital steps and don't miss any of them to get an excellent-quality paper:

  • Select a topic and conduct in-depth research on it (you may use one from the list above). Having a precise topic is a guarantee of a successful start for your essay; having no subject means that you will lose much time on narrowing down the topic before you finally may start writing.
  • To give your essay structure, compose an outline. It will be an excellent piece of guidance for you at the first steps of the writing process.  
  • Select evidence to support each of your arguments. No high-quality paper may be complete without sound support of evidence from credible published resources. So, find the works of influencers and cite them. This will give your paper credibility and persuasiveness.
  • Compose topic sentences and structure paragraphs in a coherent way to build on your argument. All essays should have a clear structure and consist of well-constructed paragraphs. To make your ideal, develop topic sentences in line with your thesis statement and enrich them with evidence from authoritative sources.
  • Write the introductory and concluding parts of your essay. After the "meat" of your article is ready, give it some "seasoning" in the form of a catchy introduction and a thoughtful conclusion.
  • Proofread the draft and remove all redundancies and errors.

Below are some tips to help you write an outstanding essay on a Shakespeare play:

KNOW YOUR HISTORY

You're halfway to completing your assignment if you know the background historical context of the play. For instance, whether you analyze what led Brutus to murder Caesar or the role destiny plays in Macbeth, it is imperative to understand the background.

WATCH A PLAY

If you can find a video of an old production, featuring the marquee figures in British theaters, it will be the perfect reference to your paper. Local manufacturing will be as good as the early version.

SEE A MOVIE

As mentioned above, there are tons of movies on Shakespeare’s works. Make it to them. Anyone could relate to the familiar themes, so it shouldn't be a surprise that Bard's plays transcend cultures. Think of "Throne of Blood," which would be "Macbeth" set during the medieval samurai era. It could also be genres. For instance, "Forbidden Planet" would be "The Tempest" in spacesuits.

FOLLOW THE LEAD (CHARACTER)

If you're struggling to figure out what the play is all about, then concentrate on the lead character(s). See things from their point of view. For example, why did Romeo and Juliet became famous figures? How could young love withstand the more-pressing issues? There's a chance that most answers are almost identical, which shouldn't be a relief. There must be something else. Think harder.

IDENTIFY MOTIVE(S)

Emotions could affect good judgment, but it shouldn't be the case here. Power would corrupt anyone, and it had been a frequent theme in Shakespeare's tragedies. If you can contrast one from the other, you'll likely get a compliment from your professor. After all, you choose to make your path.

FORM THE THESIS STATEMENT

After you've gathered enough evidence, you need to start drafting. The first step to crafting the perfect introduction to your Shakespeare essay is to work on the thesis statement. It features in the introductory paragraph and also puts forth the main argument of the essay. It needs to be arguable and specific, which can be proven with reference to the play and evidence from the movie.

PRESENT WELL-SUPPORTED ARGUMENTS

As aforementioned, presenting logical evidence and reference from movies and plays to support your argument is crucial. You are starting to organize your arguments first and then devote a paragraph to each discussion and its corresponding evidence.

The evidence presented can be in the form of excerpts or quotations from the play/movie, which support the stand you are taking. However, refrain from quoting lengthy paragraphs or paraphrasing it. It just takes up space and is unnecessary, considering your Literature teacher is bound to be an expert in the play.

USE PROPER CITATIONS

Shakespearean citations are slightly different from usual in-text citations, considering the number of acts, scenes, and lines involved. It is essential to refer to the correct source accurately.

Parting Words

To conclude, we have curated many points above to help you craft a logical and analytical essay for all types of curriculum: O-level, A-level, IGCSE and IB. Studying literature should be enjoyable and fun, which we hope to encourage all students to study this at least once during their formative years.

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Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

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Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

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