Monthly Archives: December 2014

Machiavelli and The Prince

In 1532 a philosopher poet diplomat named Machiavelli who lived during the Italian Renaissance published a little book called The Prince.  This was about 30 years before Shakespeare was born.  In it, he describes the arts by which a Prince, can retain control of his realm. He focuses primarily on what he calls the “new prince”, under the assumption that a hereditary prince has an easier task since the people are accustomed to him. All a hereditary prince needs to do is carefully maintain the institutions that the people are used to; a new prince has a much more difficult task since he must stabilize his newfound power and build a structure that will endure. This task requires the Prince to be publicly above reproach but privately may require him to do immoral things in order to achieve his goals.

Continue reading Machiavelli and The Prince

Students’ Insights on The Tempest

Here are some insights my students came up on their own with from The Tempest. I haven’t shared their names, but will when I get permission. Great job!

Making the best of a bad situation 

It’s in human nature to make the best of a bad situation, as many do in The Tempest.  What comes of it depends on the way you go about achieving it. Two groups of characters in The Tempest show two different approaches: The first group, Stephano, Trinculo, Antonio, and Sebastian, goes about it in a way that exploits others for their own personal gain, while the second group, Prospero, Ferdinand and Gonzalo goes about in a different way.  They change their perspective on things.  It turns out, making the best of a bad situation does not necessarily have anything to do with changing things.

Continue reading Students’ Insights on The Tempest


Introduction to Metaphors and Similes

What is a metaphor?  Probably the simplest way to define it is to use one.  We use metaphors and similes every day, often without realizing it:

This house is a zoo – beehive of activity                     

Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter – now we’re getting to the sore spot

Your words are music to my ears – your words are bitter medicine.

Some are spending their time poorly – Time waits for no one.

What do all of these have in common?

In each one of these, we have described something by comparing it.

Continue reading Metaphor

Examples of Interesting Thesis Statements for the Macbeth Essay  


  • Macduff is the only character who shows real humanity in the play
  • Contrast his character with the lack of humanity showed by others, highlighting the specific points in which he shows “true” human emotion)
  • The Witches are responsible for all the evils of the play
  • Explain why the responsibility lies on them instead of on Macbeth for his own actions.
  • Lady Macbeth’s rejection of her feminine traits while attempting to adopt masculine qualities is the root of all the unnatural and evil events in the play, leading to the downfall of herself and her husband.
  • Through the use of gender stereotypes in the play, Macbeth, Shakespeare sends a message that straying from one’s culturally assigned gender expectations is dangerous.
  • Through the use of gender stereotypes in the play, Macbeth, Shakespeare sends a message that straying from one’s culturally assigned gender expectations is dangerous, but only for women.
  • Without the presence of overwhelming guilt, Macbeth’s ambition would have led him to true success
  • Explain how the actions that lead most directly to his downfall are committed out of guilt and/or paranoia
  • Macbeth’s guilt leads to the loss of his sanity and ultimately his downfall.
  • When Macbeth’s honor is at its highest points, his sanity is also apparent, but when his ambition overtakes his honor, his signs of insanity show.

Literary Techniques

Alliteration: the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of a word, such as the repetition of sounds in “bag and baggage,” “bed and board,” “primrose path,” and “through thick and thin” and in sayings like “look before you leap.”  There are also specialized terms for other sound-repetitions. Consonance repeats consonants, but not the vowels, as in horror-hearer. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds, These indeed seem.

Continue reading Literary Techniques

What was Shakespeare’s opinion?

Shakespeare is at first frustrating, initially because he is hard to understand, but later on, when one begins to understand the language and plot, he becomes frustrating because one never quite knows where he stands on things.  As I struggled to figure out the answers contained in some of this plays, I gradually came to realize that these plays are all about teasing out the dividing line between the good or admirable and the bad or shameful.  The dividing line is drawn along so many aspects of a particular question of life, and this leads to a very nuanced view of the human experience.  Where does contemplation become an excuse for or cause of inaction?  At what point does professed love become falsehood?  Where does confidence dissolve into self doubt or become corrupted into arrogance?  In Hamlet contemplation is obviously a good thing, when one compare Laertes’ reaction to his plight with Hamlet’s.  But it becomes a bad thing when Hamlet overthinks his predicament and allows the king to live once he has all the proof he needs.  Living the good life is all about towing the narrow line.  Shakespeare is good, and so universally revered though the ages, because he tries to tease out a rough idea of this line though stories and characters and language.  It is the universal, timeless question.  People who give us easy, ready answers are popular but not lasting.

So, you think you’d like to be Hamlet?

Have you ever fancied yourself as a bit of a Hamlet? Wanted to strut your stuff around a gloomy Danish castle, annoying your uncle the king and insulting his advisor?  Thought of having your school friends murdered or fighting your dead girlfriend’s brother?  Want to muse for hours over the question of mortality and existence?
If your answer to any of these questions is “I’ll have to think about it”, then you just might have the qualities necessary to make you one of the growing band of procrastinators much in demand in local government.

At the Elsinore University of Hamlet we will undertake to train you to fully fledged Hamlet in under a month at very competitive rates. We pledge that you will be able to avenge your father’s untimely death in under six weeks – or your money back!!

Still not sure?  Excellent!  You’ve obviously got what it takes.

Continue reading So, you think you’d like to be Hamlet?


Liz and I performed the following skit in class recently:

Amanda: Did you research that subject we were going to talk about today?

Liz: Oh no; I meant to do that! But anyway I had no wifi the last few days.

Amanda: Why didn’t you call me?

Liz: I meant to. But my phone broke. And Aidan got his wisdom teeth out so I’ve been busy.

Amanda: I didn’t prepare any lecture. I wasn’t feeling well yesterday. and I’ve had a really busy schedule the last week. Tom surprised me with a movie last night. Did you do that other thing?

Liz: I haven’t read email for the last couple days. Can you pull up the lecture you were going to do a few weeks ago on your phone?

Amanda: I wrote it, but I forgot to save it so I don’t have it. Sorry, I keep forgetting to save my documents.