William Shakespeare

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How do I analyze a scene from a Shakespeare play? What exactly do I include in my analysis of it?  

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William Shakespeare needs no real introduction as his name is a world-wide phenomenon. One of the benefits of reading Shakespeare is that his plays are still relevant even to a twenty-first century reader. This is because his themes and story-lines have a universal quality and are timeless and appropriate. He talks about love in all its complexity and broaches controversial topics of race discrimination and gender roles, for example with his tragedies, such as Othello, and comedies, such as Twelfth Night being equally merited. Whilst The Tempest is categorized as a comedy it also falls into the romance category due to its serious undertones. 

To analyse a scene from any Shakespeare play, you need to place your scene in context in terms of the play itself and to have an understanding of the language used which can be confusing to a modern reader. It is a good idea to use a version of the play that includes notes which remove the potential for misunderstanding or for missed significance. You can then interpret the intention or importance of something and its relevance to the overall picture with a clearer understanding.

Shakespeare likes to leave the reader (or audience) with a degree of uncertainty in the interpretation so that that reader can draw his or her own conclusions. This allows the reader to ask and answer his own questions and ensures that he examines motives and circumstances and does not make assumptions which many Shakespeare characters do and around which the plot often revolves as miscommunication and misunderstanding is responsible for the downfall of many of Shakespeare's heroes. In Othello, Othello's assumption that "honest Iago" is in fact honest leads to his acceptance of the "ocular proof" (III.iii.364) presented to him and after which he kills his beloved Desdemona.  

In analyzing any scene of Shakespeare, give some attention to the soliloquies as they often expose contradictions, hints and they can reveal a lot about a character or theme. In Othello , the reader learns a lot about Iago which Othello is not...

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pippin1313 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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