AS/HUMA 1115 9.0

Transformations of Ancient Literature
Second Essay Assignment
1. Write an essay comparing Shakespeare’s characterization of Cleopatra in Antony and
Cleopatra to Racine’s characterization of Phaedra in Phaedra. You should reach some
conclusion as a result of your comparison, and this conclusion should be your thesis: for
example, that one of the authors has a better understanding of the psychology of his
character than the other; or that the different family or political positions of the two
characters makes a great difference to their behavior (or not); and so on.
2. We have now read three plays by Shakespeare based on earlier writings: The Comedy
of Errors, based on Plautus’ The Brothers Menaechmus; Julius Caesar, based on Plutarch’s Life
of julius Caesar; and Antony and Cleopatra, based on Plutarch’s Life of Antony. On the basis of
these plays, discuss Shakespeare’s techniques of imitation and adaptation. You should reach
some conclusion as a result of your exploration of this topic, and this conclusion should be
your thesis: for example, that Shakespeare’s method of imitation changed as he matured, or
that it stayed much the same.
3. In this course we have read a number of works which include incidents of violence or
cruelty (for example, the beatings in Plautus’ Amphitryo, the murder in Cain’s The Postman
Always Rings Twice, or the killing of Clytemnestra in Euripides’ Orestes and Sartre’s The
Flies). Select two texts and write an essay exploring the theme of violence and cruelty. You
may consider the relationship of violence to other elements of these works, such as religion,
the state, the family, social structure, or gender. You should reach some conclusion as a
result of your comparison, and this conclusion should be your thesis. Be careful not to overgeneralize
your thesis.
Essays should be 1200-1500 words; please include a word count; essays that are too
long or too short will be penalized. They should be typed, double-spaced, using one side of
the paper only; the pages should be numbered, and your name should appear at the top of
each page. Please include a list of works cited.
You must deal with the questions that are posed; essays that are off topic will be
penalized. These questions suggest general areas for investigation: the questions DO NOT
present you with a thesis statement, that is, a specific and sufficiently narrow approach to
the issue. You must develop your own thesis statement for your essay. The purpose of this
assignment is to allow you to demonstrate your skills in forming and presenting an
argument based on evidence from the text itself; please do not bring any secondary sources
into your discussion. You may assume that your reader has read the texts in question, so
you should not spend too much time summarizing the stories.
The essay is due in tutorial the week of March 29. Essays MUST be handed in on or
before the due date. Late essays will be penalized, unless there is written documentation of
serious medical or family problems.
The essay is worth 20% of the total course grade.

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