In this assignment you will compare and contrast Much Ado About Nothing and Macbeth using a particular character type or dramatic situation, given below in six topics. You will look at these two very different plays using just this one narrow topic and, in so doing, discover aspects of both plays you had not seen before. In approaching your topic, you will ask yourself a number of questions and organize your responses into a coherent essay. I have included examples of questions you might ask with each topic; feel free to use the probing questions from one topic in discussing any other topic. These questions are not the only ones you might ask; try making up your own. You will write about only one of the topics listed below, unless you have my prior approval to do more. You will avoid summarizing the plot to pad your essay; assume I already know the play. Use lots of quotations from the text to support your points. However, avoid using overly long quotations to pad your essay; if you wish to cite a speech of more than three lines, cite the act, scene and line number and quote the first line. As always write your essay with care and proofread your work carefully. A minimal effort (Cr/NC/C) on this assignment will be at least two full pages in length, double-spaced. If you're working for a superior grade, your essay will be considerably more thorough in its treatment.
1. Leadership Traits Good and Bad: In each play there is at least one example of a leader exercising admirable skills in leading other characters and one example of flawed leadership. Identify examples of each kind; a single leader may exhibit both kinds. What makes this leadership good or bad? Is the behavior effective in achieving the leader's goal? How does the action change the way the followers view the leader? What choices does the leader face in deciding how to act? Does the leader recognize what went wrong?
2. Dynamics of Couples: In each play there is at least one couple about whose relationship we learn a lot. What makes these couples tick? How do they feel and talk about one another? Do you have any idea what first attracted them to each other? Which is the dominant partner under which circumstances? How do they handle conflict between each other? Do we see the relationship change during the play? How do these people handle adversity? How do they use each other?
3. Parents/Children; In each play there is at least one example of parents interacting with their children. What do we learn about family dynamics? How do the children disappoint their parents? How do the parents fail their children? What tensions are apparent in the relationships? Are those tensions resolved? How?
4. Playing a Part: In each play there is at least one example of characters pretending to be something they are not. Identify examples of play-acting. Why do people do it? How effective is it? How do others react to their playing a part? What obstacles do they encounter in trying to be convincing in the role they are playing? Are they able to accomplish their goals in putting on an act?
5. Anticipating Consequences: In each play there are places where characters must make a choice. Do those making decisions ever think through the consequences of their actions? Show examples of both kinds of behavior. Why do you think these characters react as they do? Do the possible consequences make any difference in what characters decide to do? Do characters ever regret not thinking through the outcome of their behavior choices? How do characters handle the realization that they may have made the wrong decision?
6. Independent/Dependent Women: In each play there is at least one example of a woman who makes her own decisions and a woman who depends on others to decide for her. Identify the examples of each kind and show what the types have in common in the two plays. How do men or other women seem to react to a woman's independence or dependence? Does the independent woman find herself at odds with the expectations of her society? If so, how does she handle the conflict? Are the dependent women successful in what they seek? Speculate on Shakespeare's attitude toward women's independence in his own age.