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The Plays of Shakespeare

The Plays
A Writing Asssignment
IG12 Level 6.6

The Plays

The Tempest Lambs' Nesbit's
Two Gentlemen of Verona Lambs' Nesbit's
Merry Wives of Windsor
Twelfth Night; Or What You Will Lambs' Nesbit's
Measure for Measure Lambs' Nesbit's
Much Ado about Nothing Lambs' Nesbit's
A Midsummer Night's Dream Lambs' Nesbit's
Love's Labour's Lost
The Merchant of Venice Lambs' Nesbit's
As You Like It Lambs' Nesbit's
All's Well That Ends Well Lambs' Nesbit's
The Taming of the Shrew Lambs' Nesbit's
The Winter's Tale Lambs' Nesbit's
The Comedy of Errors Lambs' Nesbit's
King John
The Life and Death of King Richard II
First Part of King Henry IV
Second Part of King Henry IV
King Henry V
First Part of King Henry VI
Second Part of King Henry VI
Third Part of King Henry VI
The Life and Death of King RIchard III
King Henry VIII
Troilus and Cressida
Timon of Athens Lambs' Nesbit's
Julius Caesar
Anthony and Cleopatra
Cymbeline Lambs' Nesbit's
Titus Andronicus
Pericles, Prince of Tyre Lambs' Nesbit's
King Lear Lambs' Nesbit's
Romeo and Juliet Lambs' Nesbit's
Macbeth Lambs' Nesbit's
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark Lambs' Nesbit's
Othello, The Moor of Venice Lambs' Nesbit's

A Writing Assignment

     The following is a multi-class writing project that I used when I was teaching remedial writing at the college level. Obviously, you can adapt it any way you want to.

Day One. Introduction and the Assignment

     Shakespeare's plays have been retold as short stories both by Elizabeth Nesbit and by Mary and Charles Lamb.  Each student in the class will be randomly assigned one of the plays and be given free access to the version by Nesbit and the version by the Lambs.  Your assignment is to write a 500-750-word comparison of the two versions of the story that is assigned to you.
     Print and read this assignment and the two versions of the story assigned to you. Make some initial notes about the differences between the two versions. Bring the assignment, stories, and your notes to class. You will be writing this paper in parts, sections assigned for a sequence of class periods. 

In class -- Discussion of the assignment and how to do it.

Day 2. In-class Essay

     Reread the two versions of your assigned tale. Make a list of the names of the major characters. In class you will write your own version of the tale, and you can use your list of characters (in-class essay)

In class -- In-class essay (counts as an in-class essay).

Day 3.  -- Initial Storming

   Study the two versions, look for, and take notes on additional differences. Among others, consider, or do,  the following:

1. Make a list of the major characters in each version. Are there differences in the amount of space (detail) used to develop specific characters? Make a table to create a list of characteristics of the major characters in each version and of the way in which they are developed. For example:
Character: Nesbit's Lambs'
King X given almost all the quotations
wise but weak
quoted less
neither wise nor foolish
Princess Y brave
not developed
Servant Z never directly speaks
quoted once
In making the table, you should be prepared to point to specific examples (or the lack of them) to support what you put in it.
     When you finish the table, study it and consider why one version presents different characters, or the same character in different ways. Are all the characters equally important in both versions of the story? How do the differences affect your overall impression of the story?

2. What events or characters are presented in one version but not in the other? Note that this is not an either/or question. In one version, a specific event may be presented in great detail, including numerous direct quotations; in the other version that same event may be summarized in a single sentence. How do these differences affect your overall impression of the story?

3. The "setting" of a story is the time and place in which the events take place. If the setting is vague, the story may be more concerned with universal characteristics of mankind, i.e., it may be trying to make a point about human nature. If the setting is very specific, the story may be more concerned with taking us out of our everyday life and showing us other people in other places and times. How detailed is the setting of each version? What are the differences? What effect might these differences make on an overall impression of the story?

4. Most stories develop some type of conflict between "good" and "evil." How would you describe the conflict of the basic tale? What is presented as "good"? What is "evil"? Is the conflict between lovers, parents and children, one country and another? Or does it involve a moral question, such as greed? Do both versions develop the conflict in the same way?

5. Both versions of these stories were written to introduce children to the tales of Shakespeare. Do the writers have different views of what children might like? Does one tale present a moral or lesson that is not as obvious (or even missing) in the other version? What specific lines in the stories can you quote to demonstrate the differences that you see?

6. What differences are there in the styles of the two versions? Consider such things as the length of sentences and paragraphs. Are the words in one version more difficult than those in the other? How difficult is it to keep track of the characters' names?

Note that the preceding are only suggestions, but they are aimed at getting you to look at the two versions in detail so that you will have specific things to say in your paper.

In class -- Small group discussions of the results of your storming

Day 4. More Storming, Tentative Thesis and Outlines

     Based on the results of the in-class discussions for Day Three, add to your storming. Then look for a thesis for your paper. What single, major point do you want to make about the differences between the two versions? What items in your storming best support that point? Then write a brief tentative outline. I am expecting a point-by-point outline that looks something like the following.

I. Introduction and Thesis (Write out your tentative thesis statement).
II. Characterization
     A. Lambs' version
     B. Nesbit's version
III. The moral of the tale
     A. Lambs' version
     B. Nesbit's version
IV. Conclusion
The specifics of the Roman numbers in the body of your outline should obviously be based on your choice of points of comparison. If you wish, you can have a third section in the body of your outline, but that may mean that you did not find enough details to support just two sections. (In other words, your paper will be weaker.)

Bring your storming and two copies of your tentative thesis and outline to class.

In class -- Small group discussions of your thesis, outline, and storming.

Day 5.  Draft of the first difference

     Based on the input you received in the preceding class, type a draft of the difference.  Note that you can have one paragraph for each Roman number in your outline, or you can have, for example, two paragraphs on one or more major points. Thus, for example, you might have one paragraph on the characterization in the Lambs' version followed by a second paragraph on the characterization in Nesbit's version.

Bring two copies of this draft to class.

In class -- Small group discussions of drafts

Day 6.  Draft of the second difference

    Write a draft of the second difference.

Bring two copies of this draft to class.

In class -- Small group discussions of drafts

Day 7. Introduction, Outline, Thesis, & Conclusion

    Review your thesis and outline. Then write a draft of an introduction and conclusion.

Bring two copies of your thesis, outline, introduction and conclusion to class.

In class -- Small group discussions of work thus far.

Day 8. Revision & Editing Workshop

     Revise and edit your draft. 

In class -- Peer review of revisions and editing..

Day 9. The final paper is due.