I need help with a thesis topic for my undergraduate senior thesis. I have tried to find a topic for months but now I have only a month left to write my thesis (40 pages double space) and still...

I need help with a thesis topic for my undergraduate senior thesis. I have tried to find a topic for months but now I have only a month left to write my thesis (40 pages double space) and still have no topic. I am desperate for a topic and perhaps couple of suggestions from within the text. I thought I could do a work on Shakespeare so I have read:

As You Like It

Othello

Much Ado About Nothing

The Merchant for Venice

The Winter's Tale

Macbeth (But I much earlier, so need to reread)

(Also Twelfth Night, Antony Cleopatra, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet but because we have done these in class before, I cant use them as main texts, but can include them as references in other texts [I might be able to use Twelfth Night though])

Usually with plays we look for one topic to cover in 4 plays, ten pages each but it can be fewer plays than that I guess.

Can you please suggest a topic? (Except for love, I tried love but I was stuck so bad.)

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thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

A senior thesis has somewhat different goals than the ordinary papers you write for your classes. When you write regular papers or exams, your main purpose is to prove to the instructor that you have completed the assigned readings and know the material covered. A thesis does something very different. It is meant to show that you can take the material you have learned and think about it in an interesting and original fashion. The point of a thesis is that it is a creative synthesis, often of literary works with your other interests. As a professor, I normally have 30-minute individual conferences with my students before they write their theses, and we try to find a topic that fits their interests. For example, student going on to medical school might choose to write about diseases in Shakespeare or a pre-law student about the trials in Shakespeare's plays. The key to a good thesis is always choosing a topic that really interests you. Also, before you start writing, it's a good idea to meet briefly with your professor or to send your professor an email with a one-paragraph summary of your intended thesis. That way, you can be sure that you are moving in the right direction.

One possible theme would be how power corrupts the person who wields it. Lord Acton famously stated "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." In four of these plays, power turns the people who wield it into tyrants. The power is financial in the case of Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice" , military in the case of Othello, and political in the case of Macbeth and Leontes in "A Winter's Tale". In each of these cases, it is the degree to which they wield power over others that allows them to carry out their morally bad choices.

If we examine the power structures of "The Merchant of Venice," for example, we find that the gentiles of Venice have a long history of mistreating the Jews, as we see in Shylock's speech:

Signior Antonio, many a time and oft

In the Rialto you have rated me

About my moneys and my usances:

Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,

For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.

You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,

And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine ...

When the tables are turned, Shylock claims his pound of flesh and makes an important point that the powerful are not compelled to be just, and because they have the ability to act badly, often mistreat those they have in their power:

You have among you many a purchased slave,

Which, like your asses and your dogs and mules,

You use in abject and in slavish parts,

Because you bought them: shall I say to you,

Let them be free, marry them to your heirs?

Why sweat they under burthens? ...

You will answer 'The slaves are ours:' ...

Eventually, though what matters in choosing a thesis is finding a theme that genuinely interests you, rather than trying to write 40 pages about something you find boring. While this theme of power would work, I suspect you'd enjoy the writing process more if you sought a theme based on your own interests. For example, if you like cooking, you could investigate meals in Shakespeare, or if you are a fashionista, you could look at female fashions in Shakespeare. If you are a student athlete, you could research sports in Shakespeare. Then, once you have a theme that actually interests you, ask another question and we can help you find the places where Shakespeare discusses it.

Sources:
angelusblanc's profile pic

angelusblanc | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Yes but I need ten pages a play or so, and I can hardly derive 10 pages feom I'll have her even if she were an Ethiope.

any other suggestions?

other plays could be tentatively add

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tjmsg1994's profile pic

tjmsg1994 | Student, College Senior | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Given the texts you have listed, I think it might make sense to write on race and racism in Shakespeare. "Much Ado About Nothing" has a few quick insults against Africans and Jews that, to a contemporary audience, would not have been seen as insults. "Othello" has a main character who is Black, and "Merchant" has an important Jewish character. I am not too familiar with sections of the other texts, but i am sure related quotes and scenes will show themselves with a little research. I think this is an easy approach,saying something about how back then, clear insults and derogatory statements towards minority groups were the norm ,even made to be jokes.

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