Shakespeare Study Programs; The Comedies
by Charlotte Porter and Helen A. Clarke
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Authors of The Tragedies Editors of the Pembroke Shakespeare, the First Folio Shakespeare, Poet Lore, etc.

Boston: Richard G. Badger Toronto: The Copp Clark Co., Limited The Gorham Press, Boston, U.S.A.


The Shakespeare Study Programs appeared originally in Poet Lore. They have met with marked favor, and have been reprinted as the back numbers went out of print. The steady demand for these programs prompts the present issue in book-form. Several new programs have been added, and those reprinted have been revised.

The references in this volume are to the "First Folio Edition" of Shakespeare, edited by Charlotte Porter.

"Criticism is the endeavour to find, to know, to love, to recommend not only the best, but all the good that has been known and thought and written in the world. ... It shows how to grasp and how to enjoy;... it helps the ear to listen when the horns of England blow."

—GEORGE SAINTSBURY, "History of Criticism."


The Comedie of Errors

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

The Taming of the Shrew

Love's Labour's Lost

Much Adoe About Nothing

A Midsommer Nights Dreame

The Merchant of Venice

The Merry Wives of Windsor

As You Like It

Twelfe Night

The Tempest

The Winter's Tale


In the Summer of 1594 a translation of a Latin Farce by the Roman Dramatist, Plautus, was made ready for publication in London. It may even have been published then, for, although the title page date is 1595, then, as often now, the issue was made in advance of date. Circulation in MS., moreover, now unusual, was then common.

This translation was registered, at any rate, for publication, June 16, 1594, as "A Booke entitled Menaechmi, being a pleasant and fine conceited comedy taken out of the most wittie poet Plautus, chosen purposely from out the rest as being the least harmful and most delightful."

Six months later, Shakespeare had made an English Farce out of this Latin one. He invented several new characters, arranged many new situations, and put a good deal more life-likeness in the relations of the characters, while yet it may be seen that, his new play, "The Comedie of Errors," was directly drawn from the old one by Plautus.

The first record we have of Shakespeare as an actor before Queen Elizabeth relates to the performance in Christmas week of this same year of "twoe severall comedies." This record in the Accounts of the Treasurer who paid out the money for the Plays acted before the Queen, runs as follows:

"To William Kempe, William Shakespeare, and Richard Burbage, servaunts to the Lord Chamberleyn upon the Councelles warrant dated at Whitehall xv. die. Marcij 1594 [1595], for twoe severall comedies or enterludes, shewed by them before her Majestie in Christmas tyme laste paste, viz., upon St. Stephen daye, [Dec. 26,] and Innocente's day, [Dec. 28,] xiii^{li} vi^{s} viij^{d} and by way of her Majesties rewarde vi^{li} xiij^{s} iv^{d} in all xx^{li}."

It is fair to infer that the "Comedie of Errors" was one of these two comedies, for on the evening of the 28th of December, 1594, there arose a sudden necessity to hire an entertainment to take the place at Gray's Inn, one of the great Law Schools of London, of a Play by the students which had gone to pieces. In lieu of this amateur play, for which a great stage had been built in their Hall, it is recorded that the great throng assembled were forced, first, to "content themselves with ordinary dancing and revelling, and when that was over, with a Comedy of Errors like to Plautus his Menoechmus, which was played by the players." That these "players" were public players is shown in the Gray's Inn account of these Christmas festivities by another reference to this "company of base and common fellows" who were "foisted" in "to make up our disorders with a play of Errors and Confusions."

Since this substitution of the "players" Play for the Play by the young gentlemen students was unexpected, we can be sure it was not made for this occasion. It seems obvious that whatever comedy was specially designed by Shakespeare and his fellow actors for their Christmas performances before the Queen at Greenwich, would be apt to be chosen for a sudden repetition at Gray's Inn the same evening. And of course for such an institution of scholarly gentlemen as Gray's Inn, a farce based on Plautus would be likely to be thought appropriate.

So Mrs. Charlotte Stopes argues, who brought into association these facts and dates. She brings out also, another curious incident or two concerning what we may take to be the earliest performances of "The Comedie of Errors." One is that the mother of the Earl of Southampton,—the young nobleman who was Shakespeare's patron and to whom the Poet dedicated "Venus and Adonis" and "Lucrece,"—was then acting officially for her late husband. Thus it fell to her care to make up his accounts as Treasurer of the Chamber, and she it was who wrote this particular notice of the acting of Shakespeare before Queen Elizabeth. Others acting as Treasurer did not find it worth their while to include the Actors' names in their accounts. This notice of hers is the first and last to mention names in this way. Her son, being a Gray's Inn man, would have been in a position to suggest the substitution of Shakespeare's Play and as a friend of Shakespeare's would desire to do so.

The other incident of biographical interest is that the Gray's Inn students were much mortified by the uproar which caused the failure of the program of their chief of Revels called "The Prince of Purpoole," and made it necessary for them to call in common players. The result of their desire "to recover their lost honor with some graver conceipt" was to give Jan. 3d, a learned Dialogue called "Divers Plots and Devices." Bacon aided largely in this stately affair. In its course six Councillors one after the other deliver speeches on enrollment of Knights and Chivalry, the glory of War, the study of Philosophy, etc. The scorn felt for Shakespeare's "Comedie" and the contrast with this rival specimen of academic dramatics is significant.

Out of the comparatively simple plot of Plautus, Shakespeare developed an amusing complexity of situations. These appear upon studying the progress of the story, Act by Act, as follows:



What has the arrest of the "Marchant" Egean to do with the rest of the Story? How soon does any connection appear?

The reference in scene ii, to the occurrence taking place in scene i, suggests a somewhat odd chance coincidence in the arrival from Syracuse on the same day of both of these strangers. By this casual reference the seemingly unrelated scenes are so innocently linked together that it rather blinds than opens the eyes of the audience to the deeper links of connection. It also acts at once as a warning to Antipholus, and explains why he also is not arrested under the same law from which Egean suffered.

The merchant who gives Antipholus this warning does not appear to be at all an intimate friend. Yet he seems to have met the stranger upon his arrival. Is this accounted for? What office does the scene show that he bears toward him? How recent an institution is the Bank and Letter of Credit for travellers? Was the lack of such facilities long filled in the way here exemplified?

Do these two men keep the appointment they made to meet at five o'clock? Why is it made? Does it serve any need of the Play?

The reference to Ephesus as a town given over to sorcery and witchcraft assists in giving the impression that the time of the Play falls within the Christian era, when the ancient customs of the Pagan inhabitants gave the City a bad repute of this particular kind. Was it derived from Plautus? Note whether sorcery and witchcraft are included in his account of the discreditableness of Ephesus. What conclusions may be gathered as to Shakespeare's account of it from a comparison with the corresponding passage in Plautus (This extract is given in Note on I, ii, 102-107 in the "First Folio" Edition of Shakespeare's Play). Show how this statement is useful in throwing light upon the character of Antipholus as well as on events.

The first complication in scene ii arises from mistaking Dromio of Ephesus for Dromio of Syracuse; but notice that this error is accounted for by the second source of the errors of the play—belief in witchcraft.


Is the audience as much in the dark over the first mystification as Antipholus is? Should it be? Is the play the better or worse for not being clear? If both Dromios are made to look exactly alike how can the audience know?



Notice how the last scene of the preceding Act is cleared up by the first scene of the present Act.

Are the errors of Act II the results of those of Act I? The errors of Act I affect but a very few characters, but in Act II how many? A new source of complication is brought forward in this Act, also. Show what it is, and how it both adds to the interest of the Play as a story and to the confusion begun by the mistaken identity and the witchcraft elements of the Plot.

The fooling dialogue of Scene ii gives the action pause. Is it therefore useless, or a dramatic mistake? The ease with which the right master and man fall into this talk after the earlier cross-purposes with the wrong man, seems to betray the fact that they do belong together. They are so readily familiar that the cross-purposes making up the plot seem to be no longer troublesome either to themselves or the audience. The interval of reassurance makes the return of strangeness more unaccountable. Antipholus is also now reassured about his gold, and the earlier cross-purpose seems only a jest.

Why does the mention of Dromio's name (II, ii, 156) cause both master and man to exclaim? Why should it not have led them to guess the truth?

Would this scene with Adriana and Luciana have been equally mystifying and skilful if the right master and man had not been together?


In the debate between the sisters upon patience in marriage is Adriana or Luciana the more justifiable? Has their argument anything to do with the plot? Is character interest or plot interest of the first importance, and how are they apportioned in this play?

Is Adriana's argument that she is bound to share morally herself in the infidelity of her husband sophistical? Or has it a core of sound ethical value?



How far are the errors of Act III new? From which element of the plot, mistaken identity, or the domestic difficulties of the native-born Antipholus do they arise?

What effects are gained by bringing together in this Act the right pairs of master and man?

The closed door between the two groups, one within the house, the other without, is the only barrier to such an exhibition of the double resemblances as would clear up all difficulties immediately. Is the humor of the situation the better for this slightness of the barrier, or is it rendered altogether too unlikely by it? Notice also the narrow escapes from meeting and being seen together which masters and men are constantly making and the skill of the stage movements so that, for example, while one pair of twins is in the house, the other pair is absolutely unable to come there, and make clear the main cause of the errors.

What relation to the subordinate cause of the errors, i.e., the domestic difficulties of Antipholus the Native—has the new source of difficulty and bepuzzlement—the gold chain? Bring out the relation of the dialogue (III, i, 23-35), between Antipholus and the friends he invites, to the welcome they find and discuss later. The irony of his confidence in welcome, at least, which is precisely what is lacking, is peculiarly true to such disappointments in life. For the fun and naturalness gained by it, therefore, the carefully planned arrangement of the dialogue to lead up to it, does not seem to be artificial. What would have happened to the plot if the plan proposed to force the door with a crow-bar had been carried out? Since the dramatist was so daring as to cause it to be suggested, it was incumbent upon him at once to devise something to prevent it from being done. The way in which he has accomplished this through Balthazar, puts both Antipholus and his guest in an estimable light. Show its effect upon the present scene and upon both the character-interest and the scenes to come in which the Courtisan figures. What expense does Antipholus refer to (III, i, 169)?

Is Luciana's advice so good that it accounts for the attraction she has for Antipholus the Stranger? Or do you think she is attractive in spite of it?

Is the dialogue in this Act between the right master and man as good as that in Act II? Has it other excuse for being besides punning and fooling? Examine its value as compared with the other in introducing a new and amusing error, and educing puns that are suggested by this, and therefore not independent of the plot.

This Act closes with two new incidents of use in the sequel: What are they?


Why has Shakespeare chosen to make Antipholus the Stranger abhor Adriana, and be attracted to her sister instead? What is the result for the plot? Is it a mistake that the promised match between Luciana and the Stranger is not consummated at the close of the play? Is the reference then made to it the best imaginable? How, if so, is it reconcilable with the more rapid matches at the close of other plays, e.g. Oliver and Celia in "As You Like It?"



The errors of the early Acts begin simply and proceed by begetting other errors and beginning, also, with but one of the twin masters and one of the twin men-servants proceed by involving every one in each of the two Antipholus groups. In this Act others outside the main groups are continually being interwoven in the net of complications. In which Act did these larger social complications arise, and how are they carried on in the present Act. Show how by means of these larger circles of complication, e.g., the arrests, the visits of the Courtisan to Adriana in the attempt to get back her ring, the conjurring scenes, etc., the confusion becomes extreme. And then show, also, how by the very means of these larger circles of complication the clearing up process is brought forward. To whom is the suggestion due that Antipholus the Native has gone mad? What fitness is there in that, especially in its being broached by a minor character? Trace the relation of the Goldsmith, his delays and his debts to the Plot. How does it come about effectively that in this Act the wrong master and man are together, the opposite of what has prevailed, earlier? Show how in the eagerness of Adriana to send the gold and the grief over what she jealously suspects to be the cause of it, a tragic situation is reached. In which scene is the most complex confusion reached.


Is the confusion of identity, the domestic discord or the bewitchment and supposed lunacy the most powerful factor in the plot of error. Which is the most comical and which the most tragic moment in this Act?



The climax of bewilderment being reached in the evidence that the same man is both out of the Priory and in it, solutions follow. Trace the steps by which this is accomplished.

Why is the attack upon Antipholus the Stranger assigned to the Merchant who is the Goldsmith's creditor instead of to the Goldsmith? Is it by chance or is there some reason for it? Why did not Antipholus explain that he had the chain through no option of his own? By means of the Merchant drawing his sword and detaining him, the scene with Adriana at the close of the preceding Act when his flight prevented her from having him bound as a mad man is carried on again, and refuge in the Priory forced upon him.

Why does the Abbess blame Adriana first because she did not find fault with her husband and then because she did? Is her sudden harsh turn against her explicable not as personal inconsistency or womanly prejudice, but as due to a gleam of insight? What clew to the case does Adriana's meekness afford? Or else of the relationship of the Abbess to the twins? Why does she so peremptorily keep the man from his wife? Is not this conduct devised to mystify the audience rather than the characters?

Notice that the Abbess is more of a surprise in her relation to the plot than the condemned Egean is. The Abbess episode balances at the close of the Play the Egean episode at the opening of the story. Trace the links of connection with the main action of each and their relation to each other, showing how they bind into an absolute unity a peculiarly symmetrical plot. Why do the two Dromios end the Play instead of the main characters?


Is this Play the better or worse farce for the serious domestic situation and the pathos of the long separation of the shipwrecked family?



In what sense can there be said to be a development of character in "The Comedie of Errors?" If no progress can be traced in the standpoint of any one character of the Play, save possibly in that of Adriana, is there yet not to be seen a gradual bringing forward of the traits inwardly differentiating the two pairs of twins, and stamping the personality of Adriana and Luciana and even in a slighter degree of the Goldsmith, the Creditor Merchant, Egean, and the Abbess?

Show what you deem this to be in each character, and by what means the result in each is effected.

Is Antipholus the Stranger of a gentler and more pious spirit than Antipholus the Native? What signs of this impression can you cite? Was Antipholus the Native popular in Ephesus? What calling had he followed? Why do we learn more of Antipholus the Stranger at once than of his brother? In what respects does this suit the plot and the circumstances?

Which Dromio do you think the wittier? Is one more a house servant and less of a personal attendant and professional fool than the other? Why, do you think, is Antipholus the Stranger made to beat his man so often? Is his quick temper, or a sort of horse-play fun at the bottom of it? Or is the ancient custom as to body servants exemplified?

Which Antipholus has been the more independently reared and is this signified in their characters? It has been supposed that Antipholus the Native married at the Duke's bidding for money and not for love. What reason does the Play give for this supposition? Is Adriana's jealousy a reason, or is he fonder of her than she realizes? Which of the Sisters do you like best, and why?

Why would Antipholus the Native be better mated with one than the other? In what respects of character would Luciana be apt to attract Antipholus the Stranger more than Adriana would? Are there signs to show that Adriana and her husband are the more stalwart pair? Show how admirably the riper characters of the father and mother set off the qualities and relationships of the younger group.


The resemblances of the twins externally are counter-balanced by diversities that are internal, so that the possibilities of confusion may be said to be only skin deep. Does this add to the improbableness of the plot sufficiently to make it a questionable quality of the plot that the characters are so much differentiated, or does it serve rather to enrich the Play and make it far more interesting? Are there signs of character in Adriana and her husband going to show that they are destined to be happier in their relation to each other than ever before?



The omissions and changes Shakespeare made from Plautus's plot are almost as important in lending his Play a new effect as the additions and entirely original inventions.

Notice the entire omission of the borrowed cloak taken from his wife, Mulier, by Menaechmus and given to the Courtisan, Erotium; also, of the character of the parasite, Peniculus, by means of whom as a spiteful informer the wife is told of her husband's relations with Erotium and the dinner he proposes to take with her. Instead of Mulier's father, Senex, Shakespeare creates the noble Egean, the father of the Twins. Introducing his plot with the incident of his arrest, he closes it with the still more notable character of the mother whom he gives an important part to play in the happy solution of the difficulties and the re-union. The part of the Duke and the trade relations of the two cities, the city in Sicily as in Plautus, the other Ephesus, instead of Epidamnum, as in Plautus, are ingenious changes of an external sort. What is effected by them? The different treatment of the dinner incident which causes the husband to mean to dine at home, until he finds he cannot, when with others he invites the courtisan to dine with them at an Inn, lends a different color to the story. What do you think it effects as to character, amusingness, and unity with the plot of mistaken identity? The courtisan's open visit to the wife and direct effect upon the plot is in strong contrast to the intrigue of which the wife is informed by a third person. Bring this out, and show what the influence is.

Compare the argument of Plautus (For this see "First Folio Edition" of "Comedie of Errors," p. 76) with the opening scene wherein Shakespeare causes Egean to tell the story out of which the Play grows. In what respects is this an improvement? (See Extract from Ten Brink, p. 183).

What is accomplished by the addition of the twin servants?—the two Dromios? (for special assistance in a comparative appreciation of Shakespeare's farce and that of Plautus see Introduction also Sources in the "First Folio Edition" of this Play).


Is the complexity of Shakespeare's plot over that of Plautus a disadvantage? If not, how does this fact agree with the common saying that simplicity in Art is the highest Art?

Are the farcical interest and the character interest carried on too far not to be seen to be inconsistent interests? Or is the secret of the Art of the Play the reconciliation and harmony of the farcical and the serious?


The unusual in this Comedy is due to its reflection of the ideals and manners of Chivalry in Love and Friendship as loyally professed by Valentine and Silvia and outraged by Protheus.

The plot is extremely simple and is carried on by means of causing its main characters successively to dominate in their influence upon the action.



Valentine's reasons for travel and those of Protheus for staying at home separate the two friends. Compare Valentine's preference of Honor, and that of Protheus for Love, with the opening of "Love's Labour's Lost" and "Much Adoe."

Show how the rest of the action, after the separation of the friends to suit this double thesis of life, depends upon illustrating the effect of Protheus's love upon Julia's fortunes, and of Valentine's quest of honor upon the fortunes of Protheus. Notice how it happens that his own deception has a direct influence upon his father, so that his departure to join Valentine is as much due to his own lack of firmness in his desire to stay on Julia's account, as to Valentine's initiative in going.


Is Valentine's or Protheus's the more influential character upon the course of events thus far?



Tell the story of this Act.

Explain the courtship scene with which this Act opens as illustrating the service of love in systems of Chivalry. (For hints on this see Introduction to the Play in "First Folio Edition" also Note on II, i, 97).

Contrast the earnestness of Valentine's nature in this devotion to Silvia with the fickleness of Protheus.

The two servants, Speed and Launce, may be compared, their contrasts to each other shown, and their general resemblance to a similarly contrasted pair—the two Dromios in the "Comedie of Errors."


Is the love of Protheus for Silvia a reflex influence from Valentine's extreme enthusiasm?

Why does Lucetta distrust Protheus?



What effect has the arrival of Protheus at the Milanese Court? How does the new-comer manage to dominate this Act? Point out the skill of Protheus in making his disclosure to the Duke seem to be reluctantly wrung from him against the friendship he feels for Valentine and only because of a sense of duty toward the Duke.

What does this delicacy accomplish toward his own courtship of Silvia? If he had seemed eager to tell his friend's secrets would not the Duke distrust him and suspect some self-interest on his part? What did his mention of Thurio's suit do for himself?

Compare the nature of the two friends' talk; how that of Protheus gives a better impression of himself than is true, that of Valentine, a worse. Show the consistency in wile of Protheus in his conduct toward the Duke, Thurio, Silvia, and Julia. Why does it succeed? Wherein is it likely to fail?


Is Protheus impossibly false as a character? Or is his duplicity an exemplification of the facility toward evil of this kind that is natural to an extremely impressionable nature which lacks stability?

In what does Valentine's superiority consist? Are the maxims for the treatment of women which he gives the Duke due to artificial system learned from others or a part of his own experience?



Tell the story of the Act. All the main characters and one new one have their parts in the next steps in the plot? What are those parts?

Valentine's fate and its result.

Silvia's determination and its effect. Notice how her call upon Eglamoure for knightly service brings the action into the province of Chivalry again.

Julia's office in the schemes of Protheus.

Is this Act dominated in its drift by the two women? How do they put their impress upon events?

Show how the villain Protheus is instrumental in bringing these two women together, and how this is equivalent to uniting against his evil policy, the good forces of the Play. The loyalty of Silvia to Julia considered as offsetting the falsity of Protheus to Valentine.


Is the most actively beneficial episode in this Act also the most charming.



What are the results of Silvia's flight?

Why does outlawry bring out the superiority of Valentine?

Does it serve also to bring out the inferiority of Protheus?

How does outlawry serve to defeat the purposes of the Duke and Thurio and bring about the conquest over them of Valentine?

How does Thurio's nature inure to the credit of Valentine's with the Duke?

Does outlawry here represent the injustices of civic life? To what degree? Or the natural life beneficent and innocent of Arden Forest in "As You Like It?" To what degree is this true?


Why did Julia swoon? Was the repentance of Protheus genuine?—and natural? What does Valentine mean by his forgiveness of Protheus and his proof of it—"All that was mine, in Silvia, I give thee?" could he give her, personally, against her will, in Chivalry? Or in true love? How could he mean anything then, but proving by this entrusting of her to his friend his belief in his loyalty and purity?

Why is Silvia silent? (See Introduction to the Play in "First Folio Edition," also Selected Criticism and Notes on V, iv, 91, for hints on these latter queries).


A Play or mask within the Play is not uncommon in Shakespeare. A Play outside the Play especially distinguishes the arrangement of this Comedy.

Perhaps it serves to indicate that the theme of the taming of a wife is crude and primitive folk-farce, particularly suited to the taste of the drunken tinker before whom it is played.

Shakespeare's handling of the tinker's subject, however, like other rude and homely matters taken up by an acute mind is such as to fasten deeper attention and to overgo a tinker's appreciation.



The effect of the Induction in dramatic presentation is not easy to estimate. Since there is no direct connection between it and the Play itself what do you see that it could be made to do for the action? Is it like a frame for a picture adapted to give the theme remoteness? Is this appropriate? Is it otherwise a mere cause for confusion? Or is it intended to add one more thread of amusement? Why does Shakespeare in "The Shrew" drop the tinker interregnum dialogue recurring regularly in "A Shrew?" May Shakespeare, therefore, be cited as finding only a limited use for "the Play outside the Play," deeming it in the way later? How has he arranged for its gradual disappearance from attention? Is there a stage reason alone enough to account for it? (See suggestions in Notes on I, i, 266, and IV, iii, i, "First Folio Edition"). Compare the Tinker scenes in the version of 1594. (For these see Extracts in Sources, pp. 105-110, in "First Folio Edition"). Do the Slie of "A Shrew" and Christophero Sly of "The Shrew" differ as characters? As to their opinion of the Play: Are their between-the-act dialogues materially different?

What is the relation to the source and what has been altered from the old tale.

The local Warwickshire touches in the Induction and their explanation. (For these see "Story of the Induction" in the Play).


Ought the Induction play to be left out? How might it be made more effective by special treatment on the stage? Should the additional scenes be interpolated as was the stage custom, or should Shakespeare's diminishing notice of them be adopted to produce the most artistic effect?



In "A Shrew" and "The Shrew": Show how the story, with respect to the Taming scenes, is the same substantially, with comparatively minor differences, except for the characterization. But with respect to the Bianca scenes it has been expanded and altered. This suggests, most naturally, that the part Shakespeare did not write or answer for in "A Shrew" was merely the Bianca scenes, and that his task in "The Shrew" was to cut out and rewrite the scenes that were not his so as to be unhampered with the disharmony of the two parts of the plot as it appears in the Quarto of 1594.

The story of the Play as it now stands consists of an interweaving of the Taming story and the story of Bianca's Courtship in such a way that while they keep their separateness of necessity, they balance better in interest and are more continually brought to bear upon each other from time to time. What are their points of contact in each Act? The sisters with relation to their father and their suitors in Act I: How does this initiate the action?

With relation to each other and the Music Master in Act II: How does this separate the action into two lines of Courtship.

After Katherine's marriage in Act III the interest divides between the Taming of Katherine and the Courtship of Bianca.

In Act IV two or three points of contact are arranged by means of the journey and what two characters?

In Act V how is contact both objective and moral obtained?

Alternative interest in the Bianca Courtship after Kate's marriage and taming is attained by the elaborate scheme to make Lucentio the most successful suitor and the droll surprises and difficulties met with in the process.


Is the lack of unity in the Play sufficiently remedied by enriching the Bianca counterplot and arranging for alternate interest first in the plot and then in the counterplot, or is the original difficulty irremediable?

In which story is plot or else character the supreme interest?

Is the Bianca story or the Katherine story the more entertaining? Why?



Lucentio's errand in Padua, his breeding and relations to his servant qualify him as quite the conventional hero of a romantic love-story. How does he compare with the young noblemen of "Love's Labour's Lost?" What part of the study of Philosophy does he specially desire to take up and how does his temper toward learning fall in with theirs?

What light does Bianca on her appearance throw upon herself? Through the testimony of her sister and her father and the two suitors what else is to be gathered?

Her effect upon Lucentio: The parallelism with "A Midsommer Nights Dreame" (I, i, 156, and see p. 134 in the First Folio Edition of "The Shrew") not appearing in "A Shrew," considered as indicative of the favorite method of Shakespearian lovers in falling in love at first sight.

Katherine's effect upon Tranio, lost upon Lucentio, in his daze over Bianca, leads to what plan of action? How does the part Hortensio and Gremio play in this reinforce the plot, and combine them all to instigate Petruchio to woo Katherine? How does the contest for the best sale of Bianca when Katherine is out of the way lead to a new plot? The money-contest of the suitors, judged by the father is supplemented by the mock teaching-contest of the lovers of which Bianca herself is the judge. Show how this constitutes the second step in the action and what complications and simplifications it prepares. Lucentio's studies in the hedonistic Philosophy he professes and its victory over Music and Hortensio.

What is Bianca's contribution to the gossip excited by Katherine's wedding, and what impression does Act III give you altogether of Bianca's character? Is the bad report of it in Act IV, made by Hortensio, as the Musician, Lisio, with Tranio, quite fair to her?

The abusive opinion and jealousy of Hortensio assisted by the supposed Lucentio narrow down the uncertainties of the courtship so as to concentrate interest on the new scheme of the supposed father. How is this worked out? Explain the conflict with the arrival of the true father, and the amusing counter-play.


Why does Lucentio's suit excel that of any other in interest?

Is Bianca wrong in acting independently of her father?



Does the Shrew justify her reputation on her first appearance? What is said of her compared with what she does then and in Act II? Why is Petruchio's first approach with a combat of wit and a great bluff of compliment effective? Is Kate really impressed by it, or only fearful that she is being fooled? How do you account for her denial of him and his suit to her father in Act II and her mortification when he does not arrive till late in Act III? Does Petruchio's speech to the others and before them (II, i, 328-350) account for the change? His arrival at the wedding in such shabby attire and with so wretched an appearance as to retinue, with his sorry horse and man-servant contrasts strongly with the promises held out in this speech. What is the effect on Kate and why does it serve his purpose?

Is Kate's entreaty to stay, or her action in showing her bridegroom the door the climax of the wedding scene? What is the point in the stage business of Petruchio's speech warning others not to touch his chattel? Is she really being befriended by the bystanders when she declares they must go "forward to the bridall dinner" or is she so entirely alone in her opposition to Petruchio's command to go, that his speech is the keenest satire upon her defencelessness in every direction but through him?

Is Petruchio's conduct at home and the servants' comment upon it such as to make Kate's two entreaties explicable?

What light does Petruchio's own account (IV, i, 183-207) of his method throw upon it?

In the eating and haberdasher scene (IV, iii) what is it Kate learns—merely that she cannot command by force and can have what she wants by another method? What is the secret of her tractableness in Scene v?


Are Katherine and Petruchio the most interesting characters in the Play? Why?

Is their prominence due to their personal attractiveness or to the Dramatist's skill?



Why should the Play not end with Act IV?

What does Act V add?

Is the quality of the table-talk in keeping with the plot and characters?

The husbands' talk and wager turns on what point, obedience to the husband, or agreement of husband and wife as mutually to their interest?

Show the drift of Kate's expression of the moral of the Play, and state your own way of looking at it.


Did Petruchio and Kate give an impromptu performance of conjugal felicity, or one decided upon beforehand?

Was Kate quick-witted enough to guess there was money in it, or was she really, once of a different mind and reformed.



Trace the antiquity of this schooling of a wife, and the resemblances and contrasts in the chief variants of the story (for help in this see Sources in "First Folio Edition").

Is there any progress to be discerned in the degree of bodily force deemed expedient?

Is any such scheme of the marriage-relation compatible with advanced civilization, or is it peculiar to crude notions of life in a taming age?


Is the folk-legend indicative of an inherent relation in marriage of the male and female natures, or is it merely an expression of established custom and legalized institution upon gaining for each the aims and line of conduct desired? If so, is the result of the process to gain a ground of mutual compromise and accommodation and a division of labor in joint life which will enable the process itself to fall into disuse.

Is coercion of others consistent with a high grade of individuality?

Did Petruchio play the Tamer in a "Pickwickian sense" and the whole thing being a bit of acting, did Kate see through it, finally, and play her part too?

The use of finesse in the Play (see Introduction to the Play "First Folio Edition").

Does Shakespeare's way of handling the characters and the process of taming materially differ from the way prevailing both in the crude folk tales and in "A Shrew?"

Does he suggest that in both Petruchio's and Kate's case they are merely bent upon their own individual emotions until closer relation makes them join forces?

What is the modern bearing of Shakespeare's way of putting the story?

Partnership and co-operation versus autocratic rule: Are the administrative advantages of the latter consonant with the good will and continual psychical development furthered by the former?

Does the intellectual advantage rest with the user of force or with the mind that accommodates itself to force by gaining its ends by stratagem and other indirect policies?

Is coercion as wise as persuasion which has no such penalties to pay?


Shakespeare makes us laugh in "Love's Labour's Lost" at the futility of the attempt of ascetic and academic men to shut out love and women from their schemes of life and study.

His early work in putting the past history of England into dramatic form may possibly have suggested to him to put more recent history on the stage by means of this Comedy. Light as it is, the point of it is to satirize the monastic and exclusive element in current educational schemes. Fictitious as the story is, it touches upon names and incidents belonging to actual history. So familiar were these actual happenings of the day to his audience that it could especially enjoy these veiled allusions to them.

The main idea of the plot of the Comedy—the "Academe," was one that had a bearing upon various similarly named educational projects of that time in England.

One such scheme was drawn up about 1570, by Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Sir Walter Raleigh's half-brother, for the "education of her Majeste's Wardes and others the youths of nobility and gentlemen." This plan was, like Shakespeare's arranged for a "three yeeres terme" (I, i, 20) and at the end of "every three years" some book was to be published which would represent the fruit of the Academy's study during that period. Merely the title of this scheme—"Queen Elizabethes Achademy" may have suggested Shakespeare's "Achademe" (I, i, 17). Of course, however, both Gilbert's and Shakespeare's adoption of the name are examples of the appropriation by educational groups of the classic academes of the Philosophers of Athens and their student followers. Another educational plan "for the bringing up in vertue and learning of the Queenes Majestis Wardes," was devised by Sir Nicholas Bacon, in 1561. Later, in the reign of James I, the establishment of the "Academe Royal" by Bolton, is an example of the early vogue of the name, which has since become familiar everywhere, for educational and learned institutions.

A less important element in the formation of the plot is the allusion to current French politics which the situation of the characters of the Play suggests.

A King of Navarre and a Princess of France conferring in treaty over a disputed province and a claim of allowance for services rendered is an incident constituting a reference to a state of things in France then closely concerning England. The succession to the throne of France of Henry of Navarre, the champion of the Huguenots of France, was long contested. England was friendly to Navarre, the object of her foreign policy being to counterpoise the power of Spain and the Catholics of France, with whom Queen Elizabeth's most formidable rival, Mary Stuart, was allied in interest.

No king of Navarre was ever named Ferdinand. Yet by making an entirely fictitious hero a king of Navarre and the suitor of a princess of France, the relationship of Henry of Navarre to dominance in France was suggested in an unobjectionable and amusing way. And the death of the King of France introduced at the close of the Play, involving the prospect as a probability that the hero might then succeed to the throne of France, could scarcely fail to remind Shakespeare's audience of the actual struggle of the King of Navarre for the French crown, and also of the fact that on the death of the French King in August, 1589, Navarre then became heir presumptive, and after the battle of Ivry in 1590 Spain delayed but could not long obstruct his complete success.

In 1593 the most important cities of the Kingdom yielded him allegiance and in the Spring of 1594 Paris herself opened her gates to him. These dates 1589-1594 indicate the time, also, when "Love's Labour's Lost" is likely to have been timely in these references, and yield a clew to its date of composition.

The effect of these allusions to French political affairs, made more piquant by the downfall of Spain in her political opposition both to England and the party of Henry of Navarre, was intensified in Shakespeare's Play by the names given to Navarre's lords. Berowne, as the name appears in the Folio, is an English spelling of the French name Biron, to which it is changed in modernized editions of Shakespeare. Longavill is an English equivalent of Longueville, and Dumaine or Dumane of De Mayenne, names which also are changed in the modernized editions, although not consistently. All these names are associated with Navarre's struggles in France. The Marechal de Biron and the Duc de Longueville fought prominently on Navarre's side. The Duc de Mayenne, brother of Henry of Guise, fought on the opposite side. The Duc d'Alencon long a suitor for the hand of Queen Elizabeth, is mentioned as the father of Rosaline.

Another veiled reference to a Russian suitor of the Queen's seems to be made in the incident introduced in the last Act. This scene of the wooing of the King and his lords when disguised as Russians makes fun, perhaps, of an actual embassy of Russians to the Court of Elizabeth, in 1583, when the Queen had arranged to put upon Lady Mary Hastings the suit which the Czar Ivan had originally hoped to proffer to the Queen herself. (For information upon these and other incidents of the period that may be used in the plot see Sources, pp. 106-116 also Notes in the "First Folio Edition" of this Play).



The theme of the Comedy—the exclusion of love for the sake of winning fame for learning, is made clear by the first speaker. The opposition Love will make to this is next expressed through another speaker, and then embodied in a practical example. Bring out the argument, in full, on both sides, as expressed by the King and his lords, on the one side, and by one lord who is less subservient on the other side. What does Berowne object to in the King's idea about study and fame? He says, practically, that fame is a mere expression of opinion, and that as anybody can give anyone the name of being learned or the name of being anything, fame may be given by those who have very little notion of any real knowledge. Superficial knowledge is knowledge of names but real knowledge is that which names mean. In a word, we but dull our minds and blind our eyes in poring over the outsides of things, unless we study to understand life and act a beneficent part in it.

As children we are rightly put to task work in order to get the means to go on independently using life and all the products of life including books, in order to minister toward independent thought and life. But to start in with rules and restrictions when we are older and life itself is opening before us, is like climbing over a house to unlock the gate before it. Their artificial arrangements are not fitted to meet actual experience. Actual experience is bound to laugh at their exclusion of life. How does the message brought by Costard and Clowne bear on the argument? The fooling seems to be the dominant interest in Scene ii. Is it, nevertheless, only the vehicle by which the theme is developed? Show how also not alone by the confession Armado makes but also by the words in which he expressed it, the theme of the conflict of Love against the vow foreswearing it is made clear. Notice, too, that the symptom, so to speak, of the labour of Love or Cupid as opposed to the Herculean labor of "warre against your owne affections" is at once made evident in Armando. This symptom is the desire to write a Sonnet. In what way, then, does it appear from the Story of Act I, that witness will be borne to the success of love's labor over the vow of the Achademe?

Does the sprightliness of the second scene obscure the scheme of the play advantageously or disadvantageously?



How is it made apparent that the effect of the Embassy of France to Navarre will be on the side of Love against the Vow? The ladies' remarks upon the students of the Achademe throw light upon themselves and the drift of the story as well as upon their subjects. Show what may be gathered from their speeches? What does the Princess gather from them?

The King does not invite the Princess to his Court, and declares he will not violate his vow. Nevertheless he does do so. In what respect? Boyet's observation of him goes still farther. What is this? And how does it seem to be justified? Is Boyet's conclusion that "Navar is affected," more a means of telling the Audience what is about to happen, than comment on what is to be seen? Or is it of use to show the Actor of the King's part how he must bear himself? How does it fit with the name and scheme of the Play that Boyet who thinks the King has already fallen in love should be called Cupid's grandfather?


Why does the Princess discount Boyet's remarks and accuse him of joking? Does she give any clew to her own feelings?



Why is it in keeping with the Play that Berowne should be the first of the Lords to be foresworn?

In making Armado the keeper of Costard, the Clown's breaking of the vow has already been satirized by the King's own act. Armado now takes his next turn at making Costard's sentence a hollow mockery by sending him as a messenger to Jacquenetta. How is this first letter-carrying made to lead to a second, doubling the mockery and promising new confusions?

Has Moth anything to do with the scheme of the Play?

Who is the "Boy" of whom Berowne speaks repeatedly in his speech concluding this Act? What is the bearing of the reference to him upon the Play?

How is the joke of the rhyme in which the Boy got the better of his Master by selling him the "Goose" to be explained? It is commonly supposed that the interpolation from the Quarto, i.e., the lines put between brackets in the "First Folio Edition" (p. 31) are necessary. It is better however, to leave them out, as they are left out in the Folio text, if it is understood that the Boy Moth, repeats ll. 91-92, after Armado has said them. Then Armado begins the "lenvoy" with the intention that the Boy will also repeat that and that being the end, turn the laugh on himself by calling himself the Goose. But the Boy is too clever. He says it ends where it should. Costard declares the Boy has sold him, and both laugh to the bewilderment of Armado. If the Page added the "lenvoy" as the Quarto puts it the joke would already have been turned against him. The explanation has to be very elaborate and the poor little joke is too thin to stand it, if both texts be followed. It is easy to see that the repetition by the Page of ll. 91 and 92, on the stage, confused the hearer who set it down for the publisher of the Quarto, and also that the repetition would be a part of the stage business and the lines might not appear twice therefore in the MS. of the Play itself. The question growing out of this is—Ought not the bracketed part of the text to be left out?


Why does Berowne say that he loves "the worst of all" (III, i, 193)? Is this true? Does he think it true? Does it refer to her looks, or her disposition, or her brain? Is it said of her because she is the cleverest, and does Berowne really share the common prejudice of the male against a superior woman or only pretend to?



Does the Princess guess the truth of the matter when Costard delivers the wrong letter for Rosaline?

What relation has the second scene of Act IV to the Play? Of what use to the preceding action, and to the present? Of what use are all these new characters to the Plot? One has been before heard from, but is he of the most or least use here? Are they of use to the story in any other way, later? In what respects do their tricks of speech and affectation of learning suit the aim of the Comedy? Show how the Sonnet-writing is made the means of unmasking the lovers to each other and all of them to Berowne. Are the sonnets suited to the characters of the writers? Contrast the King's and Berowne's in this respect. Does the King suspect Berowne before Jaquenetta brings her letter? Why does Jaquenetta say it was treason? Would Berowne have confessed if he were not forced to? After having so unmercifully followed the example of the others in condemning them for doing what each was equally involved in, the climax of forced confession from him is more amusing than if any one of them had unmasked him, as Longaville did Dumain, the King Longaville, and Berowne the King. What special fitness was there in making Dumane find out that the torn letter was in Berowne's hand and bore his signature?


Is Berowne's speech to "salve" their "perjury" (IV, iii, 309-383) the moral of the piece? If so why should not the Play end here? How does Berowne's final speech in this Act foreshadow the conclusion of the Play?



What were the main events of the last Act and of this one, and how do they bear upon one another? Why is the revenge planned by the Princess both fair and prudent? Are the men more in earnest than they seem? Do the women seem less in earnest than they are? Which man first draws a lesson from being outwitted, and how is it justified? Show how this lesson suits the trend of the Play, and advances upon the outcome of the preceding Act. To whom is Berowne's line (V, ii, 477)—"Speake for yourselves, my wit is at an end"—addressed? How is the King brought to confusion? Is the Princess too hard upon him? Why does Berowne scoff so fiercely at Boyet?

Is the presentation of the Nine Worthies too absurd in itself to mix well with the courtliness, learning, and elaborate wit of the rest of the Play? Note Berowne's defence of it (V, ii, 569-571) and his rebuke to the King for despising it? The Princess's defence of it and its correspondence with that of Theseus for the show of the "base mechanicals" in the "Midsommer Nights Dreame." How does Berowne's humility in accepting the parallel with their own wit-overthrown mask agree with his boisterous jeering at the mask of the Nine Worthies later? How does the attitude of the ladies toward it compare with that of the men and what comment upon it does it constitute in your opinion? How does it all prepare the way for the sudden sad message, and also for the decision of the Ladies to rebuff love that is not serious? What special point is there in the kind of trial Rosaline and her mistress each specially propose for Berowne and the King? Has it any relation to what has just been shown of each of them in their attitude towards others with respect to the humble performers of the Mask of the Nine Worthies? What makes wit an unalloyed pleasure?


Is the serious ending of this Comedy a disappointment? Is seriousness an ending artistically called for by this plot, or only morally called for? Compare with the serious strain in the "Comedie of Errors." What does the contradictory little final dialogue between Winter and Spring add to the significance of the Play?



This has been called by Armitage Brown, "A Comedy of Conversation"; and the quibbles in which the Play abounds have been supposed by Dr. Johnson to give the Author "such delight, that he was content to sacrifice reason propriety and truth" for their sake. How far do these observations justly apply to the Play?

In what degree is the extravagant banter of the Play itself an imitation of current fashions of speech and itself an object of ridicule?

Its relations to Lyly and Euphuism. (See Extracts from Ward and from Landmann in "Selected Criticism," in First Folio Edition of the Play).

Make a study of the lesser and larger wit of the play, showing how the former is merely incidental to the latter.

In what respects is the whimsical talk of the Play suited to certain groups and to special characters, so that there is more variety in it than appears at first.


Does the master wit of the Play consist in any one class of fun, as verbal conceits in the punning line; practical jokes; Euphuism, so-called; banter in speech and retort, versemaking and sonneteering, learned quips, or in the use of all these combined in a way to bring out the point of the Play—the clash of natural with artificial methods.

Is wit or purpose dominant in the Play?

Which is the wittiest scene? Is it also the most morally significant?



Three groups of characters appear in the play—the main group belonging to the Court; the learned group, Armado, the, schoolmaster, and the Curate; and the native group, Costard, Jaquenetta, Dull, and Moth. The two latter subordinate groups add much to the Play. Show in what respects: as to Plot interest what do they add? As to merriment and significance? Is the morality and wit of the Play contributed to by them? Are they of interest in themselves, apart from their relation to the other characters? Are Costard and Jaquenetta the only happy lovers in the Play? Why?

Is the King, kingly? In what respects, do you think, does he evince youth and inexperience? When does he begin seriously to be in love? Is the Princess justified in disciplining him? How much of her discipline is due to the event that cuts short the Play? Judging from his character, do you think he will stand the "twelvemonth" test?

Is Berowne the oldest as well as the deepest and wisest of the men? How does he show all this?

Why does Rosaline discipline him? Is she in insight superior to him as the Princess is to the King? Are the other court ladies equally wise in the probation period they allot?

Are all the men—Costard included—so much a prey to a sort of foppery of expression and love of animal spirits as to be properly subject to the satire the play provides for them? Are the women more sane in this respect, despite their wit, or not?

Is Shakespeare apparently on the women's side?


Is Costard the bumpkin the best actor in the Mask of the Worthies? Why? Why is Jaquenetta the least and Moth the most discomfitted of the third group of characters?

Dowden says the women of the Play "have not the entire advantage on their side." What do they lack? He also says, to bear this out, that "Berowne is yet a larger nature than the Princess or Rosaline." What has this to do with their relative advantage in the Play itself, as Shakespeare shows it?

Who are the critics of the falseness of artifice in the Play? Is Berowne on the women's side in the criticism which gives them their advantage?



Is there a moral against the current educational methods and the affectations social and literary of Shakespeare's time? The monastic and aristocratic elements in education considered as opposed to the progress of Women and the People. Show the general conditions of education prevailing after the Middle Ages, and the new spirit of the Renascence making itself felt, also the degree in which this appears in this plot. If Shakespeare's spirit, as manifested in this Play, had been more influential practically, do you think a different road would have been taken? (For hints upon this line of thought see Introduction in the "First Folio Edition"). How far is Berowne to be taken as the spokesman of Shakespeare? Note what Pater says of him as "a reflex of Shakespeare himself," and trace the truth of this as concerns the fact that he is never "quite in touch" with the level of the understanding shown by others of the Play, and state the bearing this has upon the Moral of the Play. (See Pater's "Appreciations" or extract from same in "Selected Criticism," pp. 242-248, "First Folio Edition").

Why does so frolicsome a Comedy end so seriously? Does that make it funnier?


Is there really a moral in the Play in favor of nature and sincerity or is it merely read into it?

Is Dowden right, who says "there is a serious intention in the play," or Barrett Wendell who says: "like modern comic opera, such essentially lyric work as this has no profound meaning; its object is just to delight, to amuse; whoever searches for significance in such literature misunderstands it."

In comparison with other comedies of Shakespeare, is a serious undercurrent discernible in all of them, but none in this?



Summarize story and outcome of Play and Poem in comparison and in contrast. Does Shakespeare's exposition of the contemporary view of education account for the condition Tennyson criticises? If so, are women to blame for it? If not, how much does this modify Tennyson's criticism of the educational exclusion that is the scheme of the College in "The Princess?" Shakespeare seems to point his moral against his male characters for their exclusiveness, Tennyson against his women characters? Which one goes the deeper? Wherein do they agree and disagree? How may they be made to supplement each other? Has Tennyson's poem presented any phase of the question touching upon popular interest in exclusive educational schemes? Is Shakespeare, considering his time, the more democratic in his views of life, as shown by this Play, in comparison with those brought out in Tennyson's Poem. Why does Shakespeare leave the women in moral and actual command of the situation?


Is co-education the right conclusion to draw from the exposition by the Poets of educational restraints and the relation of men and women to life?

What ideals of life as to Nature and Education must be included in educational schemes? Why does the Play not end with as many marriages as there are lovers? Is it possibly because Shakespeare did not mean to bring forward love between man and woman as if it were the only thing in life but as the typical experience of life that should open up the depths of knowledge not of love alone but of death and suffering in relation to it.


The title of this Comedy broadly describes its character, and is based upon the double meaning of "Nothing." The events that constitute the plot are the result of "note-ing" or overhearing and so taking note of events which are deceptive in some way. Hence, in all the "note-ing" that takes place, there is, after all "nothing," and the whole amusing plot constitutes much ado about nothing. The letter "h" in Nothing was often silent in Elizabethan pronunciation. The "h" in "Moth" in "Love's Labour's Lost" is another example.

Noting or overhearing as a factor of the plot is introduced also in "Love's Labour's Lost." It is one of several links in workmanship with that Play and its use there may have suggested the production of a Play almost altogether built, as this is, on overhearing or taking critical notice such as Benedicke and Beatrice take of each other.

The part of the plot that is based on an already existent story does not develop this noteing element particularly. For that reason it is the likelier that it is a device of Shakespeare's to make up his Comedy.



The Story of Act I results, on the arrival of the Prince and his suite, in making it known that Claudio has noted Hero as "the sweetest Ladie" that ever he "lookt on." Show how it also comes out in Scene i that a noting of a severer kind has passed between Benedicke and Beatrice. The two kinds of special interest—the openly admiring noting of Claudio, and the captious notice of each other shown by Beatrice and Benedicke, initiate the two channels of action in which the plot will run. The normal sex-agreement of the one pair of characters is varied by contrast with the more unusual sex-warfare that asserts itself humorously both in Beatrice and Benedicke. Bring out pertinent examples of their defiance of love and marriage. What is to be gathered of Hero and her point of view from this Act? How much from others, from little from herself? And how much from her of others? Contrast with hers the witness given of herself by Beatrice. Is Claudio taciturn, too, when compared with Benedicke?

What noting goes on in scene ii? Is it in accordance with what has already taken place between Claudio and the Prince? What additional noting comes out in Sc. iii. Is this in accordance with Scene i or Scene ii? Act I closes with a sense of some confusion which Act II is required to clear up. In addition to the inconsistency, notice Don John's enmity to Claudio, and its menace of disaster.


Is the inconsistency of the last three scenes misleading and puzzling rather than alluring to the curiosity of the reader?

Could it be made more interesting on the stage by the way of enacting the part of Brother Anthony?



Tell the story of the masked ball. What new light is thrown, first, on the characters and, then, on the plot by means of these fragmentary bits of dialogue heard as the revellers pass on and off stage together.

Is Don John really misled as to his Brother's intentions toward Hero?

What does Hero herself think?

Does Don Pedro himself show that he is acting for another—that the god, Love, dwells beneath his visor? The modernized edition spoils one of the references to this office in which the Prince labors for Love and does a labor of love in whose disinterestedness some doubt is expressed. By changing Love to Jove (in II, i, 92) a literal correction is made in accord with the legend referred to, but in entire destruction of the point made by the Prince, if Shakespeare means to adapt the allusion to his special purpose. Note also Benedicke's name for Claudio (II, iii, 34). What is your opinion of this? (See Note on II, i, 91, in "First Folio Edition"). Compare another instance where the Prince shows that he is acting for Cupid (II, i, 358-367). Is Don Pedro the most active spirit in the plot? Show how in Acts I and II, it is made clear that the plot will consist in the prevalence of either a favorable or unfavorable influence upon the happiness of the characters. Who represents each influence?

Notice that the favorable influence in its first action in favor of Claudio's happiness is misunderstood, discounted and disbelieved in several directions. Is Claudio led to distrust of the Prince by others or by his own jealousy?

In the second action of the favorable influence initiated by the Prince, which of the characters share? Does the unfavorable influence work against Benedicke's happiness?

What is Borachio's place in the action of the unfavorable influence?


Noteing or overhearing is itself nothing or has a large element of the deceptive in it. How is it made to work well in Benedicke's case? Is the element of truth the only one that is effective?



Show that the action taking the Story on consists in the "note-ing" already planned being enacted and being noted as true. How does this work with Beatrice in Scene i?

In Scene ii the unfavorable influence makes its preparation to carry on the plot disastrously by the same method. How is this made clear?

In Scene iii the "note-ing" is as effective for evil as that in scene i, is for good. But a counter influence is brought to bear upon it which consists in "noteing" the falsity of the first "noteing." Show how this is arranged and promises to solve all difficulty. But the marriage is shown next to be in active preparation, and then the promise of intervention in time to frustrate Hero's disgrace is in scene v itself frustrated by the bestowal of all Dogberry's "tediousness" upon Leonato and by his own impatience. Show the place in the action of the hurrying on of scene iv, and the tediousness of scene v, and of both on the humor of the Play.


Are the Prince and Claudio justified in the action they propose?

Is the element of chance, which both destroys the falseness of the evidence by means of Borachio's talk, and prevents it from being known by Dogberry's, especially fitting? Why?



Does Claudio's demeanor in the repudiation scene betray the violence of love?

What is to be inferred from the Prince's words and those of his bastard brother Don John?

Is it natural for Leonato to be convinced and to know his daughter no better?

Why is the Friar on her side? Notice how the Friar represents the Church as Dogberry does the Law. As institutional forces of civic life, outside the circle of the central group of characters, they intervene in the action of the drama when it is properly amenable to outside influences and civic instrumentalities. And both are brought into the sphere of the Play by a means in sympathy with the artistic method belonging to it. Observe how Dogberry is made humorously to desire to have everything noted down, and how the Friar has come to the conclusion that Hero is innocent "by noting of the Ladie." With the Friar on her side, Hero and her one staunch friend—Beatrice are enabled to follow a policy of resistance to her disgrace and of re-establishment, first, of her good fame and, then, of her happiness. How is this brought about? The share of the Friar in rallying her friends to be loyal, and the share of Beatrice in instituting a counter-movement to the accusation combine to what effect? How does it suit with the scheme of the action that the love of Benedicke and Beatrice here attains its climax?

What does scene ii accomplish for the plot?


Is the injection of tragedy at this Fourth Act into the Comedy effective? Does it change the character of the Comedy or merely intensify it?

Does Beatrice ask an unreasonable deed of Benedicke when she says "Kill Claudio"? Suppose it were to prove true, instead of to be prevented as may be already guessed, by the defeat of Don John's false witness and evil influence: Is Beatrice justified in refusing Benedicke if he will not kill his friend because it shows "there is no love" in him?



The valor and humor of the two old men against the two young ones has especial value in restoring the comic vein. How does this somewhat belated loyalty of Leonato act upon our sympathy with him? Does the forbearance of Claudio and the Prince toward the two men raise our esteem of them or lead to further dislike?

What effect has the mock heroics of their ineffective challenge on Benedicke's earnest championship of Hero? Is the Prince's satiric speech (V, i, 208-209) to be interpreted as complimentary to Benedicke? Notice Claudio's next speech in comment upon it, and explain the implications intended.

What does Leonato mean by blaming Borachio less than the three nobles? How far do you think him justified—the relations of master to man at the time being considered?

Was Margaret to blame? Why did she not make the cheat known? (Cf. V, iv, 5-7 with V, i, 311-314). Is it worth while to spend much time on making all minor details clear?

Is Claudio's consent to a second marriage creditable, natural, or a clumsy expedient which only the entire hollowness of the whole plot of false noting as to Hero renders endurable? Can you imagine any way of acting the part of Claudio that would make it seem attractive?

Do you find it in character at the wedding that one couple says so little, the other so much?


Is the ending of the Plot happily contrived in too forced and unreal a way?

Which is the most stirring scheme in the Play and why?

Which is the funniest, and is it possible to say why?


Does this Play succeed in giving so extremely definite and varied an impression of the characters that it is chiefly notable for that? To bring out this idea of the plot as successful less in itself than because it illuminates the quality and humor of the characters, compare with the "Comedie of Errors" or any of the Plays where events figure more prominently. Show how the events of this Play may be said to be created by the Characters. The Prince and his Brother (and their tools on each side who lend themselves to their plans with Dogberry, the highly unconscious, and the Friar, the highly conscious character) by being what they are constitute the diverse means of influencing the whole turn of events. These persons may all be considered with reference to what they are themselves, in character, and through that, in relation to the other characters of the Comedy.


These two loving couples reveal their special characters most vividly by means of their contrasting and supplementary relations to each other. Show how Benedicke and Beatrice do not throw Claudio and Hero too much in the shade by their superior brilliancy, because through the love of the minor couple their own love is enabled to ripen. Is their character heightened or lessened in wit and individual interest by love?

The minor characters: Show how the adversity of the family brings out the heroic element lying unobserved in Brother Anthony of the "dry hand," and kindles his philosophy into something martial.

The merry maids, Ursula and Margaret and their light-hearted parts in the plot.


Beatrice "is a tarter,—and, if a natural woman, is not a pleasing representative of her sex." She "will provoke her Benedicke to give her much and just conjugal castigation," says Campbell. Is he right, and will Benedicke feel so?—or is Swinburne right, who says she is "a decidedly more perfect woman than could properly or permissibly have trod the stage of Congreve or Moliere" and who speaks of her "light true heart"?

Is the superficial Claudio worthy of Hero?

Are the faults in the plot of the Play, such as are necessitated by the design of using the characters themselves and their "noting" of one another as the source of events, and, therefore, in the last analysis not faults, a study of their relation to the design leading us, as Hartley Coleridge puts it, never to censure Shakespeare without finding reason to eat our words?


Having read "A Midsommer Nights Dreame" as a whole, if it be not already fresh in the mind, or, if possible, having seen it acted, then consider more carefully the characteristics of its dramatic structure, studying the plot and progress of the story as it is unfolded act by act, also the sources, the characters, and so forth, as suggested in the following study.



Sum up the incidents and characters introduced in the first Act and ascertain which are most important in influencing the rest of the story.

It may be noticed that Theseus and Hippolyta and their marriage festivities are personages and events which make up a decorative external sort of frame for the whole play, but that the centre of the action takes its start, primarily, from the conflict of Hermia's love for Lysander with her father's choice of Demetrius, and, secondarily, from the clash of Helena's love for Demetrius with his suit for Hermia. Show how the brisk bit of dialogue between Hermia and Lysander (I. i. 141-166) implies the forthcoming plot. For example, it may be shown that 'to be enthrall'd to love' (the first folio reading is love instead of low, which was an emendation of Theobald's,) [Footnote: See foot note in First Folio edition.] and to have 'sympathy in choice' made as 'momentary as a sound, swift as a shadow, short as any dream,' is to be the fate of all the lovers in the play, except Theseus and Hippolyta, and to constitute the substance of the action.

Consider what relation the second scene has to the story. Is it more extraneous to the movement than the scene presenting the Duke and his bride? It is linked to the crossed lovers group, on the one side, by the part the chief of the 'rude mechanicals,' Bottom, is to assume with Titania, although this does not appear in the first Act, and Shakespeare's intention to do something special with this character is only shadowed forth here by its prominence. On the other side it is linked to the ducal group still more superficially, merely by the rehearsal of a piece to be played at the wedding. It may be contrasted with the preparation in 'Hamlet' for a piece similarly played before the Court, but which had a vital connection with the action and characters which is lacking here. Can there be said to be an artistic design, however, though of a more external sort, in the contrast between the Court scene and the rehearsal scene, and the realistic offset the latter scene supplies to the fairy fantasies that are to follow in the next acts? For instance, it may be shown that the merriment the clownish scene provides balances the dignity of the ducal scene. His audience, having put a yoke upon the dramatists by requiring a clown, his genius is betokened here by his making it an artistic advantage.

POINTS 1. 'The ancient privilege of Athens,' I. i. 49. What was the position of the father toward the family in Attica? 2. 'On Dian's altar to protest,' i. 98. Did the service of Diana offer women a respite from masculine dictation? Compare the myth of Iphigenia's salvation by Diana. 3. 'To that place the sharp Athenian law cannot pursue,' i. 172. What Grecian states had laws more lenient to women? 4. What traces can be found in history or legend of the victory of Theseus over the Amazons, and the rise of a new civic order on the ruins of a matriarchate? 5. The story of Pyramus and Thisbe (see Chaucer's 'Legend of Good Women' for an early English use of the story). 6. Explanation of allusions to Phoebe, Cupid, Ercles, etc.



Upon what does the interest centre in Act I? In the marriage of Hippolyta and Theseus, or the love affairs of the four lovers?

Is Hermia, whose determination not to be forced to marry starts the plot, the best-drawn character in the first Act?



Show how in this Act a new agency of a fairies' quarrel is devised and set forth.

Point out how this is made to crystallize in Oberon's scheme for revenge on Titania, and also how, in the course of disentangling their own love-snarl, it is made to develop the conflict between the crossed lovers. This, it may be emphasized, is the second step in the movement, as Hermia's and Helena's love was the first, and these two main factors of the action are taken up together in this act.

Are the other two groups which were introduced in the first act, the Duke's party and Bottom's set, interwoven with the new fairy group in any way in this Act? See if the new fairy element now shows any disposition in the person of Oberon to smooth out the difficulties of the mortals.

Oberon's intentions, however, were one thing, and his deeds another. Through Puck as his instrument, his jealousy at once begins to make matters worse instead of better for the lovers. Notice the delicate appropriateness of Oberon's means of influence, namely Puck and the two flowers, the first being 'Cupid's flower,'—Love in idleness—the second 'Dian's bud,' introduced later to correct the influence of the first. The first flower assists in the development of a plot which is to enact the 'momentariness' of 'sympathy in choice.' The cross-purpose, fostered by Puck's mistake, seems to provide the comparatively grosser sort of merriment for this Act which Bottom and his friends supplied for the first; and the dainty humor and sprightly novelty attending the introduction of the fairies on the scene, the description of their quarrel, and the foreshadowing of the influence they are to have on the next stages of the story, may be shown to occupy the chief place in the plot at this period, the crossed lovers, who predominated in the first Act, now falling into a relatively subordinate position.

POINTS 1. Robin Goodfellow and the traditions about him. 2. Fairies and changelings. 3. The stories of Theseus's loves. 4. Explanation of allusions to nine men's morris, old Hiems, etc. 5. Account of theories as to meaning of references to the imperiall votresse, a little westerne flower, a mearemaide on a dolphins backe, etc. Warburton says the mermaid was meant for Mary Queen of Scots. N.H. Halpin thinks that by Cynthia is meant Queen Elizabeth; by Tellus, Lady Douglas; by the little 'western flower,' Lettice, wife of Walter, Earl of Essex, while Cupid is Leicester. (See "First Folio Edition" for particulars). 6. Explain use of 'Lob,' II. i. 15; 'wodde,' 200. 7. 'The starres shot madly from their Spheares,' i. 159. Look up Ptolemaic system of astronomy for explanation of the idea. Compare "Merchant of Venice," V. i. 71-75, and notes on same in "First Folio Edition" of that play. 8. What is "Love in idleness"? (See Introduction to "First Folio Edition" of "A Midsommer Nights Dreame" for references to this flower in Chaucer's poem of "The Flower and the Leaf.") Compare "The Taming of the Shrew," I. i. 156. 9. What are "Cankers" in the musk rosebuds? II. ii. 4.


Is it probable that the various passages in this act said to allude to current incidents were so intended? In that case what effect do they have upon the beauty of a Play set in Athens?

Is the interest of this Act a divided one?



Analyze the scenes constituting this Act. Observe that scene i. takes up Bottom and his fellows, the group not as yet brought into relation with the fairy group, and initiates them in the magic of fairy land by means of the new but appropriate head Puck bestows upon Bottom. Why is Bottom picked out for this favor? The 'ass-head' as a symbolic piece of stage furniture. Show how this transformation makes the mismating of Titania with Bottom more gross and obvious to the audience; also how this is the next direct effect of Oberon's revenge.

Notice that scene ii. takes up the cross-effect already worked upon Lysander by Puck's mistake, instead of on Demetrius, as Oberon intended, and sets forth its further effects upon Helena and Hermia. The dialogues between the two pairs of lovers now overheard by Oberon makes the error clear, and so enables him to take the first step in clearing up the tangle. Meantime, the poet and his audience agree with Puck that they are so far 'glad it so did sort, As this their jangling' is esteemed 'a sport.'

POINTS 1. Explain 'It shall be written in eight and sixe,' III. i. 23-4. 2. The custom in Shakespeare's day as to the women's parts. Would it have been as amusing to the audience then as it would be to us when Quince says 'Robin Starveling, you play Thisbies mother'? 3. Pyramus and Thisbe. This may have been derived from Ovid, or from Chaucer's "Legend of Good Women," or C. Robinson's "Handful of Pleasant Delights." (1504.) 4. Explain 'Two of the first like coats in heraldry,' III. ii. 220. 5. Describe the personal appearance of the heroines from the references made.


Is Puck or Bottom the presiding genius of this act?

Does the jangling between the two women belittle them as heroines, and is it, therefore, a blot upon the beauty of the play?



Trace throughout this act the smoothing-out process.

Why does Oberon himself release Titania while Puck is made to minister to the other victims of the charm? Is Oberon's explanation of the Fairy Queen's sudden change of heart about the changeling quite satisfactory, or does it simply appear so by a sort of artistic sleight-of-hand characteristic of Shakespeare in small touches at the close of a plot?

Show how poetically suitable as a stage effect the entry of Theseus and his huntsmen is,—shedding the first rays of morning on the night-enchanted lovers.

Why is Bottom made to waken last? Perhaps because he helps to denote the prose of broad daylight. Show what relation scene ii. has to the completion of the smoothing-out process.

POINTS. 1. 'I was with Hercules and Cadmus once,' IV. i. 126. What relation had Hippolyta to these Greek heroes? 2. Account of May-day rites. 3. Traditions of St. Valentine. 4. Rites of Midsummer Eve.


Why is the choice of Hermia's father for her no longer supported by the Duke? Does this imply a criticism on the inconsistency of allowing men their choice, and their brides none, with which Shakespeare was in sympathy, or is this only apparent to some modern minds?



If the central action of the play be considered as virtually concluded with the fourth Act, what office is performed by the fifth Act?

Notice that in it the three groups of characters constituting the play—the court group with the lovers; the 'rude mechanicals' and their 'tedious brief scene,' and the fairy train—are in this Act all brought upon the stage, the whole spectacle being set in the palace at Athens, in celebration of the wedding festivities of the ducal pair, which, as before noticed, is used as a sort of decorative frame for the play as a whole.

Examine the working-out of this unified presentation of all the personages. How are we to account for the silence of the women who were made to do so much towards the institution of the action? Show the poetic reasons for the entrance of Puck and the fairies last of all, and when the stage is empty.

POINTS. 1. Explanation of all mythical allusions. 2. Account of theories as to meaning of 'The thrice three muses,' etc., V. i. 59. 3. What is a 'Bergomask dance'? 4. The date and occasion of the play: This play appears in Meres's list of 1598 and in the Quartos of 1600. Titania's description of the unseasonable weather (II. i. 92, foll.) may refer to the year 1594. Note that Chaucer in the 'Knight's Tale' speaks of the tempest at Hippolyta's home-coming. Many critics have believed that the play was written on the occasion of some marriage in high life, but they do not agree as to whose it was.


Upon what does the interest of the last Act centre? How does the ending suit the various threads of the Play?

Is Theseus or Hippolyta the wiser critic of 'the story of the night'; and which of them is the wiser critic of the play of Pyramus and Thisbe?



In Plutarch's 'Life of Theseus' will be found passages which furnished Shakespeare with some points for his drama. Chaucer's 'Knight's Tale' is also said to have given him material. The editor of the "First Folio Edition" suggests in the introduction that a reading by Shakespeare of a poem in his day supposed to be Chaucer's, 'The Flower and the Leaf,' gave him an important hint for his plot. Examine for yourself, and state what indebtedness you find in any of these sources. In I. i. 20, Theseus says to Hippolyta, 'I woo'd thee with my sword.' Compare this with the account given in Chaucer. According to another version of the story Hercules gave Hippolyta to his kinsman Theseus in marriage. Compare 'The Two Noble Kinsmen' and the 'Knight's Tale' with Shakespeare's 'Dreame.'


The models in literature from which Shakespeare drew may have been 'Huon of Bordeaux,' where he got little, however, but the name Oberon. The name Titania may have been derived from Ovid's 'Metamorphoses.' The Fairy Queen in Shakespeare's day usually went by the name of Queen Mab. Puck's characteristics seem to have been derived from the little tract of 'Robin Goodfellow, His Mad Pranks and Merry Jests.' Rolfe, in the notes to his edition of the play, says that White argues that this was probably written after "A Midsommer Nights Dreame." Ward thinks that the entire machinery of Oberon and his court may have been derived from Greene's 'Scottish History of James IV,' and that Titania may have been suggested by Chaucer's 'Wife of Bath's Tale.' He probably owed his fairies in great measure to tradition or folk-lore. The folk-lore of England was originally made up of Teutonic elements, which have been modified by Danish and Norman invasions, by remnants of old Keltic belief, and by the introduction of Christianity, which last degraded the good fairies into mischievous elves. (See Hazlitt, 'Fairy Mythology of Shakespeare,' Halliwell's 'Illustrations of the Fairy Mythology of Midsummer Night's Dream,' also Poet-Lore, April, 1891, 'Fairy-lore in Midsummer Night's Dream.')


According to some authorities the Teutonic mythology was of cosmic origin. In the fairies may be seen many reflections of cosmic characteristics. Oberon and Titania are fairies of the night, and the old battle between light and darkness shows itself in the mad pranks which they play on unsuspecting mortals. But as the daylight comes they are obliged to flee. Puck reflects the characteristics of a wind god. (See Cox, 'Myths of the Aryan Nations;' also Korner, 'Solar Myths in Midsummer Night's Dream,' Poet-Lore, Jan., 1891). Compare his character with that of Hermes in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes (Shelley's Translation).




1. Hermia and Helena are hardly worth considering, but if anything Helena is to be preferred to Hermia because she is so humble, and shows no sign of jealousy of Hermia. 2. If Hermia had been more dignified when she found that both the lovers had turned their attention to Helena, she would better have carried out the promise of her character in the first Act when she declared she would rather die than wed the man chosen by her father.



1. The only indication we have of the character of Hippolyta is in the last act, where she is so bored by the play of 'Pyramus and Thisbe.' Does this show stupidity on her part or exceptional development? 2. Do you agree with Dowden that there is no figure in the early drama of Shakespeare so magnificent as Theseus? His insistence in Act I. that Hermia should obey her father against her own inclinations is certainly not very praiseworthy, but might be excused on the score of the times in which he lived. 3. His complaisance toward Quince and his companions has been considered an indication that he was a most perfect gentleman; does he not rather conceitedly patronize them?



1. Have the Fairies any idea of morality? 2. Oberon was perfectly justified in wishing to get the changeling from his wife, and shows himself worthy of becoming a mortal for insisting on his rights as a husband. 3. Titania is the most developed woman character in the play, because she insists on her individual right to the changeling. 4. Is Puck a more developed fairy than Ariel in 'The Tempest'?



1. Is Shakespeare making fun of the stupidity of Quince and his companions, or is he gently satirizing the stage and the exaggerated style of writing for the stage which prevailed at this time? 2. If the last is true, is not Shakespeare in the last act making fun of the audience, as well as of the players, who with a superior air pass judgment upon the play and indulge in very lame wit, while the real meaning of it quite escapes them.


Every member of the class or club should bring in a short paper giving his favorite passage in the play and why he likes it, including his criticism of the metre, of the metaphors and similes, and the thought contained.


1. Which characters in the play are original with Shakespeare? 2. What is to be thought of Shakespeare for bringing together in one play Greek mythology, English folk-lore, and English workmen of his own age? Does this commixture of elements make the Play seem unnatural or incongruous? Has he skilfully harmonised these diverse elements by giving the Play its dream-like character? 3. That this play is charming cannot be disputed. Is its chief charm its humor, its fancy, its dramatic construction, or subtle developments of character?


Sufficiently indirect use of contemporary political events in a Play was a cause of popularity without seeming dangerous to the State.

As "Love's Labour's Lost" is an early example of a plot woven out of masked allusions to current topics, so even as definitely plotted a comedy as "The Merchant of Venice" here and there worked in an animating shred of contemporary reference.

After Dr. Roderigo Lopez, the Queen's physician, was accused by Don Antonio of Portugal, and executed June 7, 1594, on the charge of being bribed by the King of Spain to poison Queen Elizabeth, the story of a Shylock's defeat and the rescue from his clutches of an Anthonio had just enough relevance to be popular without definiteness enough to be obtrusive.



Why is Anthonio sad? Is it presentiment? Is it, despite his unselfish willingness to furnish forth Bassanio to sue at Belmont for Portia, some sense of loss in friendship through this love? Anthonio and Bassanio may be considered as examples of that devoted friendship illustrated by Valentine's feelings towards Protheus in "The Two Gentlemen of Verona."

The group of young and gay courtiers circling about the two friends bring them into brighter relief.

Unlike Protheus, though perhaps younger and less wrapped up in the sense of friendship than Anthonio is, Bassanio is worthy of such regard. Do the "faire speechless messages" he has received from Portia's eyes and his praise of her as "nothing undervalued to Brutus's Portia" tell the cause of his quest better than what is said of her wealth? Notice that even what he says of that is as a mere grace of her person: "her sunny locks Hang on her temples," etc. (I. i. 177-181).

What reasons had Shylock for hating Anthonio?

Does Anthonio's demand that he lend the money to him as an enemy justify the terms of the bond?

Is Bassanio right in distrusting, and wrong in accepting such a bond?

The long pedigree of Jewish and Christian antipathy and its illustration in this bond by the characters that are its exemplars.

What is to be gathered of Portia in this Act before she meets again with Bassanio?


Are Anthonio and Shylock more individual than typical?

Does the Act close with assurance of good luck or foreboding of bad?

Is Bassanio a fortune hunter?

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