A Century of Renaissance Drama

A Century of Renaissance Drama

Close Reading Essay Assignment
You are being asked to provide a close reading of a (short) passage from one of the three plays
we will have read by 10/3/ 18: The Spanish Tragedy, Gallathea, or Tamburlaine. To focus yo~
analysis, you will need to choose a single word from the text-just one word!-which you will
then use the Oxford English Dictionary to define. The Oxford English Dictionary is a unique
resource: it offers not just contemporary definitions of a word ( what the word means now) but
also historical ones, definitions that may no longer be in use. It also gives you the dates for each
of these uses. Keeping in mind when these plays were written (the late sixteenth-century), use
the OED (online, available through the Newman Library website under “databases”) to find out
what the word you have chosen meant at the time these plays were being written and performed.
Then, go back to the passage in which it appears. How do these multiple definitions affect the
meaning of the passage; and in turn, what does this analysis allow you to say about any one of
the larger themes the play addresses?

 

For example: at the conclusion of The Spanish Tragedy, the Ghost of Don Andrea offers what we
described in class as a kind of theater review of the play he just watched. He likes it. Part of what
he liked, he tells us, is the moment when “False Pedringano [was] hanged by quaint device”
( 4.5.5). This is a really strange phrase, “quaint device.” You could choose either of these two
words (but not both!) and use the OED to 1) explain what the phrase ineans and 2) to uncover
other, maybe not as exactly perfectly apt, definitions and think about how they inform the
meaning of the phrase in this passage; 3) finally, your paper should consider how your analysis
of this brief passage relates to any of the larger themes in the play, such as the meaning of
revenge and how it differs from justice or the use of the theater as a weapon.

 

We will be coming up with a running list of possible words for the assignment during class. You
should feel free to choose any of the ones we come up with together. You may also choose a
word we do not come up with as a class. If you decide to go this route, I ask that you please run
the word by me so I can give it a thumbs-up or point you in what I think will be a more
promising direction.

 

LENGTH: 2-3 pages
DUE: 9/26-10/3; please note that late papers will not be accepted after this final date
WORTH: 20% of final grade for the course

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