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Eng 102 Shakespeare Research

This guide is designed to help you complete an English 102 research paper about a Shakespeare play.

2. Explore Your Play

After thoroughly examining your assignment, now it's time to look for some initial background research on your topic.  Try a search in the following database to learn more about your topic.

Analyze Your Play

Magnifying Glass

When considering a Shakespeare play, you should examine the basic elements of the work and the literary devices that are used to emphasize themes.  The historical context of the play will help you understand the messages Shakespeare wanted his audience to discover about human nature. After reading the play itself consider using Shakespeare for Students (above) to help you begin analyzing the works.

Explore Background: 

Historical context as well as social norms and politics are an important part of Shakespeare's plays.  For example, Macbeth is based loosely on the rivalry between two real Scottish kings, Macbeth and Duncan, of the 11th century.  Henry V includes many people and events during the king's reign such as a Hundred Years' War and other conflicts between France and England.


You will want to identify the themes of the play such as justice, love, revenge, and fate.  Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet both revolve around fate versus freewill.  Hamlet explores the ideas of revenge and mortality.

Imagery and Symbolism: 

Shakespeare used these devices to bring deeper meaning to his works as well as create humor and mystery. For example, he might use nature such as trees and the smell of flowers to compare youthfulness with age.  He might use blood to symbolize guilt and corruption. Spiritual images likes witches and Greek myths can create dark moods and suspense.

Study Scenes: 

Look for significant scenes and consider setting, character interactions, and audience involvement.  Opening scenes like the one in Romeo and Juliet with the two feuding families set the tone of the play and foreshadow upcoming events.   In Hamlet, the prince speaks directly to the audience creating drama and revealing his true feelings about Claudius.