Provide a response to ONE of the essay questions below. In your essay you should examine TWO of the module’s texts in detail. A text includes all plays, sources, and films used on the module. If you would like to use King Lear as two texts (Q and F) please check with your tutor.

1. “Ganymede, who still had the remembrance of Rosader in his thoughts, took delight to see the poor shepherd passionate, laughing at Love, that in all his actions was so imperious. At last, when she had noted his tears that stole down his cheeks, and his sighs that broke from the centre of his heart, pitying his lament, she demanded of Corydon why the young shepherd looked so sorrowful.”

(Thomas Lodge, Rosalynde, Critical Norton edition of As You Like It, p. 124)

To what extent does Shakespeare replicate or modify the gender dynamics found in the texts that he used as sources? Discuss in relation to two of the texts studied in this module.

2. Polonius: The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy,
history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical- historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited: Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the liberty, these are the only men.

(William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 2.2)

Examine how expectations surrounding genre (early modern or modern) are used to produce meaning in two of the module’s texts.

3. PETRUCHIO ….Katherine, that cap of yours becomes you not.
Off with that bauble, throw it underfoot.

(William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, 5.2.125-6).

Consider how a cue for an actor to produce a physical response to what another actor has said contributes to, or complicates, the meaning of a scene. Make use of examples from two of the module’s texts in your answer.

4. “Why…some critics ask, does not Cordelia humour her old father, in the opening scene, by telling him what he wants and expects to hear – that she loves him above everything. If he were only her father that could perhaps be a reputable argument. But he is also the King, he wields absolute power in the state, and for Cordelia to join in the public competition of flattery and cadging would be to collude with the corruption of absolute power- a matter which preoccupied many of James I’s most politically thoughtful subjects in 1604-7.”
Margot Heinemann, ‘Demystifying the Mystery of State’.
Consider how two texts on the module engage with ideas about political power that are relevant to the historical period in which they were produced.

5. “since I consider that a Shakespearean play exists in multiple states – as the words constituting the playtexts, as the readings based on those texts, and as their concrete, historically particular theatrical representations, … – my project encompasses all these forms of textuality or, to put it another way, several different ‘Shakespeares,’ …

(Barbara Hodgdon, The End Crowns All: Closure and Contradiction in Shakespeare’s History, 1991, p.3).

Using two texts on the module, examine how an understanding of the “multiple states” allows for fuller understanding, and perhaps differences in our understanding, of features within the plays.

6. “…there will also be levels of culture appropriately described as subordinate, repressed and marginal. Non-dominant elements interact with the dominant forms, sometimes coexisting with, or being absorbed or even destroyed by them, but also challenging, modifying or even displacing them. Culture is not by any stretch of the imagination—even the literary imagination—a unity”

(Jonathan Dollimore, Shakespeare, Cultural Materialism and The New Historicism,1992, p.49).

Examine how two texts on the module suggest an interaction between dominant and non-dominant elements of EITHER early modern OR modern culture.

7. I found the whole … a heap of jewels, unstrung and unpolished, yet so dazzling in their disorder, that I soon perceived I had seized a treasure.

(Nahum Tate, Dedication to The History of King Lear, 1681)

Examine how two texts on the module approach the process of adapting a play by Shakespeare.

8. “Of course, the average woman playgoer did not claim the clothes of the male gallant or his place upon the stage; nonetheless, to be at the theatre, especially without a male companion, was to transgress the physical and symbolic boundaries of the middle-class woman’s domestic containment. Perhaps unwittingly, these women were altering gender relations. The public theater was not a ritual space, but a commercial venture. Citizens’ wives who went to this theatre might, at one extreme, be invited by its fictions to take up positions of chastity, silence, and obedience, but at another extreme by its commercial practices they were positioned as consumers, critics, spectators, and spectacles.”

(Jean Howard, “Cross dressing, the Theatre, and Gender Struggle in Early Modern England,” Shakespeare Quarterly 39.4 (1988):418-40, p.40.

Consider how the commercial nature of the theater, with the audience being “positioned as consumers, critics, spectators, and spectacles,” informs an understanding of two of the module’s texts.

9. Petruchio: I’ll swear I’ll cuff you, if you Strike again.

Margaret: That’s the way to loose your Armes, if you strike a Woman,
you are no Gentleman.

(John Lacey, Sauny the Scot, Critical Norton edition of The Taming of the Shrew, p.307)

Examine how threats AND/OR acts of violence are used as a means of judging character in two texts on the module.

10. Enter aloft the drunkard and three Servants – with apparel, basin and
ewer, and other appurtenances – and Lord.

(William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, Induction)

Examine how uses of the balcony/upper playing area add to the meaning of a particular scene within two of the module’s plays.




Sample Solution

Sample solution

Dante Alighieri played a critical role in the literature world through his poem Divine Comedy that was written in the 14th century. The poem contains Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. The Inferno is a description of the nine circles of torment that are found on the earth. It depicts the realms of the people that have gone against the spiritual values and who, instead, have chosen bestial appetite, violence, or fraud and malice. The nine circles of hell are limbo, lust, gluttony, greed and wrath. Others are heresy, violence, fraud, and treachery. The purpose of this paper is to examine the Dante’s Inferno in the perspective of its portrayal of God’s image and the justification of hell. 

In this epic poem, God is portrayed as a super being guilty of multiple weaknesses including being egotistic, unjust, and hypocritical. Dante, in this poem, depicts God as being more human than divine by challenging God’s omnipotence. Additionally, the manner in which Dante describes Hell is in full contradiction to the morals of God as written in the Bible. When god arranges Hell to flatter Himself, He commits egotism, a sin that is common among human beings (Cheney, 2016). The weakness is depicted in Limbo and on the Gate of Hell where, for instance, God sends those who do not worship Him to Hell. This implies that failure to worship Him is a sin.

God is also depicted as lacking justice in His actions thus removing the godly image. The injustice is portrayed by the manner in which the sodomites and opportunists are treated. The opportunists are subjected to banner chasing in their lives after death followed by being stung by insects and maggots. They are known to having done neither good nor bad during their lifetimes and, therefore, justice could have demanded that they be granted a neutral punishment having lived a neutral life. The sodomites are also punished unfairly by God when Brunetto Lattini is condemned to hell despite being a good leader (Babor, T. F., McGovern, T., & Robaina, K. (2017). While he commited sodomy, God chooses to ignore all the other good deeds that Brunetto did.

Finally, God is also portrayed as being hypocritical in His actions, a sin that further diminishes His godliness and makes Him more human. A case in point is when God condemns the sin of egotism and goes ahead to commit it repeatedly. Proverbs 29:23 states that “arrogance will bring your downfall, but if you are humble, you will be respected.” When Slattery condemns Dante’s human state as being weak, doubtful, and limited, he is proving God’s hypocrisy because He is also human (Verdicchio, 2015). The actions of God in Hell as portrayed by Dante are inconsistent with the Biblical literature. Both Dante and God are prone to making mistakes, something common among human beings thus making God more human.

To wrap it up, Dante portrays God is more human since He commits the same sins that humans commit: egotism, hypocrisy, and injustice. Hell is justified as being a destination for victims of the mistakes committed by God. The Hell is presented as being a totally different place as compared to what is written about it in the Bible. As a result, reading through the text gives an image of God who is prone to the very mistakes common to humans thus ripping Him off His lofty status of divine and, instead, making Him a mere human. Whether or not Dante did it intentionally is subject to debate but one thing is clear in the poem: the misconstrued notion of God is revealed to future generations.



Babor, T. F., McGovern, T., & Robaina, K. (2017). Dante’s inferno: Seven deadly sins in scientific publishing and how to avoid them. Addiction Science: A Guide for the Perplexed, 267.

Cheney, L. D. G. (2016). Illustrations for Dante’s Inferno: A Comparative Study of Sandro Botticelli, Giovanni Stradano, and Federico Zuccaro. Cultural and Religious Studies4(8), 487.

Verdicchio, M. (2015). Irony and Desire in Dante’s” Inferno” 27. Italica, 285-297.