Close Reading Paper

Assignment Description

Draft Due: Friday, September 27

Final Due: Wednesday, October 2

The close reading essay is a standard exercise of literary analysis. First, it requires you to examine a piece of writing in detail, noticing how the writer uses language. Then, from these observations, you create an argument (summarized in the thesis statement) and defend it with evidence. The thesis should address how the details of the writing engage with the text’s themes or lead to a new understanding about the work as a whole.

For this assignment, you will answer one of the prompts below about As You Like It in a 4-5 page essay. To answer the prompt, you will have to choose a passage (or a set of quotes) and analyze them, paying close attention to literary devices and themes. Your analysis can take any number of directions—you are free to talk about wordplay or literary devices such as metaphors and similes (please see the list of literary devices in “Class Handouts” for definitions of these terms). The key point is to pick out details from the text and explain how they work to address themes in order to answer the prompt.

Your essay must be organized with a thesis and supporting points that include evidence. And your evidence must be blended with your argument: each quote will be preceded by a claim, and then elaborated through commentary. Therefore, the paper should have a main argument (the thesis) supported by smaller points (each paragraph), which are themselves supported by textual evidence (quotations).

To track your progress, I will be collecting two preparatory documents before you turn in the final paper. First, on Tuesday, September 24, you will submit your topic (the prompt you’ve chosen) with a list of quotes that you might use. Then, on Friday, September 27, you will submit a typed draft, with a minimum of three pages, which your peers will review in class. Your final paper is due, via email, on Wednesday, October 2.


Select one of the following essay prompts:

  • Love: Consider the theme of Love in As You Like It. Think specifically about the ways that love is presented—as foolish, superficial, random, all-encompassing, etc. Focusing on one of these qualities, examine how the play treats this theme, and what the deeper message seems to be. What characters or situations display the theme? How does the play encourage us to think a certain way about the nature of Love?
  • Disguise: Think about the effect that disguise or deception has on the events and characters of the play. How does it facilitate the unfolding of the plot? What does deception or disguise bring to the surface? You might focus on one character, explaining how deception/disguise affects their characterization or growth. Or you might think about how disguise connects to another theme from the play.
  • Character: Why might Shakespeare have included either Touchstone or Jacques? In answering this question, you might consider how one of these characters plays against the other characters. What does their presence or language add to the play? You might also consider whether their roles are appropriate for a romantic comedy.

Submit your Close Reading Papers below: