Winter 2001
Textual Explication
Shakespeare's The Tempest
Julian Lupton and Elizabeth Losh
Overview

The following assignment asks you to develop a close reading of a speech or an exchange between two or more characters from the The Tempest in which your thesis must take a position on the question of whether the character's speech defends or undermines colonialism. Your position should be clear, even if you are arguing that the text itself is ambiguous.  If you are arguing that a character's speech functions in more than one way, you may need a "yes . . . but" thesis.

The basis of your essay must be a close textual analysis of the passage, but your thesis can be guided by one of the following two approaches to analyzing the use of language in the Tempest:

A.  Treat the speech as an argument, but one in which the language of the argument suggests something more than what is stated literally.  For example, perhaps there are unstated assumptions in the argument that can be identified.

B. Treat the speech as a text for theatrical staging, but one in which the actual language of the speech suggests an on-stage interpretation that is less obvious than what initially seems to be presented on the page.  For example, perhaps there are nuances in the character's use of language that suggest specific choices for intonation, gesture, blocking, costumes, props, scenery, or lighting. Your account of this hypothetical staging much be accompanied by a detailed analysis of the scene, so that decisions about staging are explained and defended by reference to a close reading of the text.

The speech will be chosen by your section leader.

Before You Begin: Preparing for The Essay

Primarily your thesis should reflect your close reading of the speech.  However, you may want to use some of the interpretive skills that you have already learned to develop a complex and original thesis.  For example:

You will be expected to explore the meaning of words and phrases with a good etymological dictionary, like the Oxford English Dictionary, which is available on-line from "Research Resources A-Z" at the web page for the UCI Library.

A successful essay will do the following: