For each play you should complete 4 of the 10 exercises below. You must complete each exercise twice over the course of the semester. Detailed prompts for each exercise are provided at the end of this handout.

A deep investigation of one word (or, possibly two words) from the text that seeks to understand the word’s etymology, development, usage in Shakespeare’s writing, and usage in other sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts.

Scene Study (film)

A close, comparative study of a two film versions of one scene from the play. What decisions are being made about the setting, line editing, casting, camera angles, etc.?

Stage Adaptations

A broader study of how the play has been adapted for stage. Such a study might trace one particular aspect of staging (costumes, for instance) across a number of adaptations, or it might closely compare two or three stage adaptations.

Character Investigation

A focused study of one character. This exercise might focus on various representations of the Shakespearean character, on the historical source for Shakespeare’s character, or on some combination of the two. (Note: The siren call of Wikipedia is especially strong for this one. Resist the urge and dig deep!)

Annotated Bibliography

Find, carefully read, and compose 4-5 sentence annotations for two academic essays related to the play. One of the essays must be from a scholarly journal, the other must be from a printed collection of essays that you find in the library.

Publication History

A catalog of Shakespeare’s print sources and of the early printings of the play. When was it first printed, by whom, and in what format? Are there any other notable print versions of the play prior to the First Folio? What other print sources might Shakespeare have drawn upon when writing the play?

Bibliographic Comparison

A detail-conscious comparison of one scene from the play as it appears in the course text and as it appears in a pre-1900 printed version of the play. Note: this exercise must be completed in Special Collections.

Environmental Interpretation

An investigation of one plant, animal, or mineral used in the play. Where does it originate from? How was it processed for use? How else was it used in sixteenth-century England?


A descriptive study of a cultural object that re-envisions the play (or aspects of the play) and/or converts it into a non-traditional format.


A freebie category of sorts that begins with your personal intellectual interests. What are the sorts of questions you like to ask of literature? Pose answerable questions and gather information.