In addition to the exam shown below, you may also download a quiz (PDF) by Prof. Shankar Raman.

Past Instructions for the Final Examination

Part One: Short-answer Identifications (30 Minutes)

Be brief, be substantial, and answer as many as you can. In the context of this class, please identify and convey the significance of the following:

[20 names/dates/things/phrases]

Part Two: Passages (60 Minutes)

Choose five (5) of these passages to discuss in some detail. Specify the significance of each passage, attending (as appropriate) to its style, tone, and topic as well as its dramatic context and how it reflects its speaker’s character. Consider how the passage illuminates some themes or conflicts in the play, and how it contributes to this play’s particular character.

[8 Passages]

Part Three: Essays (90 Minutes)

  1. Choose one of the following two essay topics to address in a substantial essay. (45 Minutes)

    1. Select three plays that we have read and that you have watched in performance (film or live) during this semester; do not choose the Hoffman film of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Discuss the relationships between Shakespeare’s text and performance, using specific examples to support your claims. Focus on those aspects of the productions that seemed most illuminating to you.

    2. Discuss specific ways in which the secondary reading for this course (The Age of Shakespeare; the materials in the Hodgdon edition of The First Part of Henry the Fourth; the essays in The Tempest: A Case Study in Critical Controversies; or the substantial introductions and accompanying materials in other assigned editions of the plays) shaped or altered your understanding and response to three plays. Do not repeat the argument or use the same historical text discussed in your essay on Henry the Fourth .

  2. Choose one of the following essay topics to address in a substantial essay. You may use your texts to supply quotations and details; be attentive to the nuances and complexities in the language and stagecraft. Do not select the same plays for discussion as you used in Part A, and do not repeat the argument of your comparative essay: this is your opportunity to show the range of your studies, not to reiterate earlier good points. (45 Minutes)

    1. In many of Shakespeare’s plays, a character or group of characters stages a performance, ranging from the obvious disguises and play-acting of the “mechanicals to the more subtle productions of Iago or Prospero. Select three of these “metatheatrical” scenes and analyze their form and significance within the play.

    2. Many of Shakespeare’s characters test or prove their sense of identity by crossing certain societal boundaries of gender, class, race, or religion. What are the opportunities or perils of such crossings? Do the plays seem to uphold some challenges to social categories and condemn others? Choose examples from three plays and discuss the significance of these boundary crossings.

    3. In many of his plays, Shakespeare has characters refer to the “nation,” the “land,” the “kingdom”–for good or ill. Do these words correspond? Does his sense of the nation correspond with “civilization”? To what extent and how do the plays question or endorse any of these concepts? What societal values do the plays seem to uphold or criticize thereby? Discuss some of these questions as they apply to three of the plays we have read.

    4. Shakespeare repeatedly stresses the problems of perception and trust involved in communication: letters are forged, love tokens are stolen, conversations are overheard incorrectly, people lie. How can one determine what counts as “evidence” in such a world, and yet how can one not interpret human actions and continue to live? Do the plays suggest any solutions to this seeming double bind? Discuss some dimension of the problem of knowledge in Shakespeare, citing examples from three plays.

    5. Choose plays from three different subgenres (comedy, tragedy, history, romance) that share a similar situation or conflict. How does Shakespeare use generic conventions to give variety and coherence to his art? How does the genre affect or shape the situation? To what extent does the play challenge its formal category?

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