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L2 lit UK : Shakespeare & Co: AMND & MAAN


Introduction : This semester we will be studying 2 plays by William Shakespeare, 2 comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (AMND) for the first 6 weeks, and Much Ado About Nothing (MAAN) for the last 6 weeks. As we have 7 weeks before and 5 weeks after the October-November Week break, we will start MAAN just before the hols.

Practical : Books & Editions. Please feel free to choose any edition of Shakespeare you prefer, I tend to use the Arden Edition, because I like the design and the layout, but the choice is yours. BUT BUT BUT… you will need Act, Scene and Line references in you book as I will put up a list of texts to read and texts to study each week. Make sure the edition you choose has these references or you will be lost. Don’t get lost!!

Plan of Work : We will proceed chronologically through the play, reading most of the act and scenes, and choosing a couple of texts under scrutiny each week to prepare you for the exam at the end of the semester which will be a text commentary. See Ellen’s Tips for a Text Commentary below. The Vice President for Pedagogy has advised that we do continuous assessment (Contrôle Continu) face to face or at a distance if necessary. We will see how this plays out as the semester progresses.

Resources : This is where you will find relative files and resources to help you with your literature classes. There are general hints on structuring the text commentary and also content files on the Shakespeare play A MidsummerNight’s Dream and Much Ado about Nothing, to be added later.

Films/DVDs/Downloads : I recommend A Midsummer Night’s Dream 1999 version by Michael Hoffman, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Kline, Calista Flockhart and our own Sophie Marceau. You can find this on YouTube in several trailers and extracts, but you may have to download the whole movie (legally of course!) to watch. Netflix movies or Amazon Prime have it, or here is a link to the DVD on which you can share with friends, buying it between 3-4 people and watching it at home. It might even be fun…..A Midsummer Night’s Dream film 1999 version

I recommend Much Ado About Nothing 1993 version by Kenneth Branagh, starring Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Richard Briers, Brian Blessed, Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves, Robert Sean Leonard and Kate Beckinsale. But any other version you can find will help.  See for Much Ado about Nothing DVD. This film costs 4£ approx.

They are both fairly close to the Shakespearean text, obviously shorter than the written version, otherwise the film would be 4 hours long !! But it contains the major scenes and the level of acting is spectacular, and excellent value to watch several times. Always remember that this is a play and would have been essentially visual in Shakespeare’s day (no one wasted time READING a play, and very few people part from the clergy and the aristocracy could read!!) so as I can’t take you all to the Globe theatre in London to watch the play, the film is the next best thing, especially if you find the English Shakesperian text difficult to understand at first glance. Watching the film will enable you to get a general picture of the plot, the intrigue and the main themes involved. This helps a lot.

Shakespeare in Love, a film made in 2005 by John Madden, gives a background to the Elizabethan period. Starring Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow (not forgetting Ben Affleck and Colin Firth!), it shows a humoristic vision of the life of a playwright in Shakespeare’s lifetime as he wrote the plays on the hoof, as it were, and delivered it before the ink was dry. About 3€ on A..z…n, 2nd hand.

Figures of Speech : please find attached certain links that you should find useful for different figures of speech:

The website is a mine of information : please use it properly!! Please attribute sources you quote and use.

Please also find below materials added to date.

You can expand the Flash panels by using the full screen logo at the bottom right hand corner of the panel.

The Dream Unfolds
This is a quick synopsis of the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream which you may find fun to look at .

Ellen’s Tips for a Text Commentary :

1 : Reading: Take time to read the text several times through. You should be able to identify the passage immediately and say what its specificity is, i.e. what happens in this passage that is  ”news” to the reader? And how does it affect, change or fit in with the rest of the text? What comes before or after? If you know the work well, this will be immediately apparent to you. If you don’t..I shall know you don’t!

2 : Note-taking: Take note of anything that might be of interest, either semantically (vocabulary), structurally (tenses, grammar, divisions), or rhetorically (stylistics, rhetorical devices) speaking. Underline or highlight these words, however best they retain your attention. Is it prose or verse? (plays). What about the narrator? The focaliser? (novels and short stories). Can you identify the rhyme scheme or the preponderant rhythm used? (poetry)

3 : Organisation: Find the dominant themes in the passage (love, hatred, revenge, comedy, tragedy, whatever) and try to organise them into 3 sections, realising that several might come under the same title. Use the themes and their semantic, structural and rhetorical points of interest present in the text to form your commentary. Keep away from pure character studies, what you are aiming for is analysis, not description. The author (WS) describes better than any of us, leave that up to him, let’s do our job of analysis.

4 : Links: See how the themes you have chosen might best fit together going from the most general to the most specific. You might have to change their order if one flows more easily into the other. This will then form the backbone of your plan.


Theme A


Theme B


Theme C


5 : Intro: The golden rule is “Keep it short and simple” (KISS) Use key words that will appear in the main sections of your commentary. Don’t be tempted to say too much and let the cat out of the bag. I always write the introduction last (you might change the order of your main sections and then it won’t seem coherent if you haven’t changed your intro). I use a technique I pinched from my students in chemistry : group the key words in your paragraphs to form an abstract, which I then turn into an introduction made up of my key words. I have put them in red in my corrigés which I then send out to you.

6 : Conclusion: Do not be tempted to repeat what you have already said in your main sections one more time. Your conclusion should be in the form of a “given that…then…” and possibly open out to another idea for a commentary. The conclusion might explain the effects of what is contained in the passage on the rest of the novel, short story, play etc. A larger view is needed here, but beware of banal platitudes! A question might be an idea to end on?

Texts to read and study  : Schedule week by week:

AMND & MAAN : List of texts to study, on average 2/3 per session, 1.5 hours per week.

Week One : A Midsummer Night’s Dream (AMND)

Act One Scene One : lines 20-127 (107 lines) Egeus : Happy be Theseus our renowned Duke…we follow you….here is my reading of the scene

Act One Scene One : lines 128-251 (123 lines) Lysander : How now my love?…thither and back again… is my reading of the scene

Week Two : AMND

Act One Scene Two : the entire scene (104 lines) Quince: Is all our company here?…cut bow strings (end)…… here is my reading of the scene

Act Two Scene One : lines 60-145 (85 lines) Oberon : Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania…if I longer stay…. here is my reading of the scene

Week Three : AMND

Act Two Scene One : lines 188-268 (end) (80 lines) Demetrius : I love thee not, therefore pursue me not…your servant shall do so…. here is my reading of the scene

Act Three Scene One : lines 73-194 (end) (121 lines) Puck : What hempen homespuns have we…bring him silently….here is my reading of the scene

Week Four : AMND

Act Three Scene Two : lines 41-176 (135 lines) Oberon : Stand close : this is the same Athenian…yonder is thy dear….here is my reading of the scene

Act Three Scene Two : lines 177-344 (167 lines) Hermia : Dark night that from the eye…I am amazed and know not what to say…here is my reading of the scene

Week Five : AMND

Act Four Scene One : lines 1-101 (101 lines) Titania : Come sit thee down…with these mortals on the ground….here is my reading of the scene

Act Four Scene One : lines 102-217 (end) (115 lines) Theseus : Go one of you, find out the forester…at her death….here is my reading of the scene

Week Six : AMND

Act Five Scene One : lines 1-107  (107) Hippo : ‘Tis strange, my Theseus, that these lovers speak of…let him approach….here is my reading of the scene

Act Five Scene One : lines 261-422 (end) (161) Pyramus : Sweet Moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams…and Robin shall restore amends….here is my reading of the scene and my remarks for the end of the scene

Week Seven: Much Ado About Nothing (MAAN)

Act One Scene One : lines 88-235 (127) Don Pedro : Good Signor Leonato…the sign of blind Cupid

Act One Scene One : lines 270-308 (70) Claudio : My liege, your Highness now…in practice let us put it presently.


Week Eight : MAAN

Act Two Scene One : lines 1-76 (76) Leonato : Was not Count John…a church by daylight.

Act Two Scene One : lines 266-365 (99) Bea : So I would not…I will tell you my drift.

Week Nine : MAAN

Act Two Scene Two : lines 1-56  the whole scene (56) DJ It is so…their day of marriage.

Act Two Scene Two : lines 61-259 (198) Balthazar : Sigh no more ladies…I will go get her picture.

Week Ten : MAAN

Act Three Scene One : lines 1-116 (116) Hero : Good Margaret…believe it better than reportingly.

Act Three Scene Two : lines 71-123 (52) Don John : My Lord and brother…when you have seen the sequel

Week Eleven : MAAN

Act Four Scene One : lines 113-254 (141) Benedick : How doth the lady? …have patience and endure.

Act Four Scene One : lines 255- 334 end scene (79) Benedick : Come Lady Beatrice…I must say she is dead.

Week Twelve : MAAN

Act Five Scene One : lines 45-201 (156) Antonio : Here comes the Prince and Claudio…Did he not say my brother was fled?

Act Five Scene Four : lines 1-126 (the whole scene) (126) Friar : Did I not tell you she was innocent?…Strike up pipers!