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Select one of the following: HAMLET or LEAR or OTHELLO or MEASURE FOR MEASURE or MACBETH:

QUESTIONS FOR ALL OF THE PLAYS--know the following concepts for each play:

1. Basic plot outline
2. Major soliloquies and their importance to character development and plot
3. Material in the play that relates to the Renaissance background packets
4. Identification of major themes in the play--relating to Aristotle's idea of universals = plot = soul of tragedy
5. Identification of significant motifs and figures of speech in the play-where and why and by whom they are used
6. Development of character--static, dynamic etc.


1. How do all actions in the play relate in one way or another to Hamlet's "situation"--What is Hamlet's situation?
2. Major issue in the play is sanity--find evidence relating to whether Hamlet is sane, insane or some mixture according to evidence in packets.
3. The ghost is considered the "linchpin' of the play. Why?
4. Hamlet is often seen as delaying. Does he? Show arguments both ways.
5. What humor is Hamlet? Why?
6. Is it true that Hamlet tends to dwell on the universal rather than the particular? Find examples.
7. In what sense is Hamlet especially vicious and cruel? Very kind?
8. How do others in the play judge Hamlet? Can we get an accurate .account
of what Hamlet may have been like before the play opened?
9. What are the defects in this play?
10. How does Hamlet think? What characterizes his mental outlook: Pay very careful attention to the soliloquies.
11. What does the play reflect about Renaissance theories about: Machiavelli, revenge, the pragmatic theory, sexual conduct, women in general.


1. Coleridge refers to the actions of Iago as "motiveless malignancy". Is he correct? What does motivate ago?
2. Is Iago more concerned with end results or the process of achieving them?
3. Note the importance of Iago's soliloquies very carefully.
4. How much do we (should) we admire Iago? Othello? Desdemona?
5. Study the Machiavellian influence very carefully.
6. What is the most serious limitation that Othello has?
7. What is Iago's greatest "asset" in the play?
8. What motif is used over 30 times in OTHELLO? Why
9. Everyone says this play is about jealousy? Is it?
10. Show what qualities Othello and Desdemona lead directly to their downfall, and then ask if Iago really wins in the end.
11. Note the importance of WIT and WITCHCRAFT in this play.
12. Why are biblical allusions so important in this play?


1. Critics talk of the Lear "UNIVERSE"--what do they mean?
2. How do you evaluate the conduct of Lear's daughters? Can
we make clear-cut distinctions between good and evil?
3. Apply the following to the play: "Offenses of manners are often seen as more insulting than offenses of morals."
4.Why is macrocosmic / microcosmic imagery so important in this play?
5. What is Lear's offense?
6. What role does the FOOL play?
7. Why does the Fool disappear half-way though the play?
8. Comment on the role of Poor Tom in the play.
9. Show how the packet concepts of insanity and sanity function in Lear.
10. Demonstrate that generational conflict helps to develop a major theme In Lear.
11. The ending of Lear has provoked much controversy. Explain why.
12. What elements in this play strain credibility! WHY?
13. What makes this greatest of tragedies so humorous--What serious role does the comedy play?


1. Find the biblical quote to which the title alludes. Explain the allusion.
2. What important moral / psychological truth governs the entire play?
3. Find one passage that you would call the theme passage--quote and analyze.
4.There is a theme in Greek classical tragedy that says man will always be humbled before the gods, especially if the crime is HUBRIS. Look up the term and apply to this play.
5. You are a director and have to stage the conclusion scene. At the very end of the play, what crucial decision will you have to make, so crucial that the entire play’s meaning depends on what you will do?
6. Shakespeare wrote at a time when literature had two purposes as defined in the “Pragmatic theory”--to teach and entertain. What do you think the audience was supposed to learn, while being entertained at the same time?
7. Why is paradox such an important figure of speech?
8. Explain the role of appearance vs. reality in the play.
9. What is the importance of the sexual theme in the play?
10. How does the “Troilus and Cressida” speech from the Renaissance packet relate to this play.
11. Evaluate the play in light of nominalism vs. realism.
12. What role does lying have in the play?


1. Coleridge said that the key to the play's meaning is the first scene What did he mean?
2. Why does paradox play such an important role? alliteration?
3. Does the supernatural compromise the free will of the protagonist?
4. Why is Macbeth such a figure of note in war, but not at home? What is his weakness?
5. Discuss in detail the imagination of the protagonist. What role does Shakespeare assign it?
6. What is the importance of sense-perception confusion in the play?
7. Discuss the role of equivocation in Macbeth. Relate your answer to the gunpowder plot.
8. Do the Macbeths love one another?
9. Examine the motivation of Macbeth--if he has been so well rewarded and knows the consequences of the crime, then why does he kill Duncan?
10. Is there humor in the play? Where, and what is its function?
11. Most protagonists have a regeneration scene in act V. Does Macbeth?
12. Would Aristotle have ranked Macbeth worthy of praise according to the Poetics?
13. Insanity is a major theme of the play--discuss its specifics medically and morally.


HAMLET : disease garden supernatural macro / micro theater clothing

OTHELLO: animals biblical hunting entrapment sexual-puns love/lust music wit witchcraft

LEAR: macro / micro music gods animal clothing nature

MEASURE FOR MEASURE: Biblical paradox sexual death life clothing

MACBETH: clothing blood alliteration patterns: D / F animal disorder symbols storms