When in Doubt

It's from Shakespeare...

Cameron Carpentier

English II Honors

Lake Norman High School


When in Doubt, It's From Shakespeare...

How writers in today's society use Shakespearean style, vocabulary, plots, and characterization in their literary works.

"Shakespeare provides a figure whom writers can struggle, a source of text against which other texts can bounce ideas." (Foster 43).

Most of what this chapter is about is the concept of intertextuality.

Intertextuality is the shaping of a text from another text.

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Why students should learn this

Students should learn these concepts because the Shakespearean style is in most if not all works of literature today.

They should also learn it because it shows them how their writing styles are affected because students subliminally use Shakespearean concepts while writing.

Big Concepts

Shakespearean style

  • Style is a way of writing that all authors develop as their own signature; many authors use Shakespeare's style without realizing it is Shakespeare
  • Shakespeare's overall style was poetry using structured language to emphasize tragedy and comedy, to illustrate the human condition, and to expose human frailty though the use of metaphor and vivid imagery.
  • This style makes it easy for any reader to analyze and visualize a text because humans respond and relate to each other through the use of structured language, especially through the use of metaphors and imagery which creates mental pictures for the reader, who then creates his or her personal meaningful images from the words written on the page : "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances." -William Shakespeare, As You Like It.

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  • Characterization is the way the major people or characters are developed through writing.
  • Students should know that many writers use Shakespeare's characters as a basis for their own characters' developments through description, action, speech, or thought.
  • Shakespeare's characters can be analyzed by their actions or personality such as Hamlet who is heroic, vengeful, and melancholy, not unlike Stephen King's Jack Torrence (The Shining) who is tortured, haunted, melancholic and vengeful. Shakespeare's Othello is jealous; King Lear is greedy. Stephen King's novelist Paul Sheldon from Misery is greedy in that he kills off his profitable, popular heroin in order to return to writing what he prefers, while Annie, Paul Sheldon's kidnapper is jealous, vengeful and equally greedy, in that she wants Paul Sheldon to change his story to better fit what she wants.

Vocabulary or phrases

  • Vocabulary is the use of words used as symbols to express complex ideas and simple daily life.
  • Students need to know about this because the use of Shakespeare's vocabulary goes beyond the dictionary's meaning of a word.
  • Students are wise to analyze Shakespearean vocabulary, even though it seems archaic. In-fact, we use Shakespeare's terms regularly without realizing it is Shakespeare: To thine own self be true; Double, double, toil and trouble; / Fire burns and cauldrons bubble.


  • Events commonly used in a story to shape an action and give focus, 3 parts.
  1. Rising actions
  2. Climax
  3. Resolution
  • Writers use what is common in a culture as a kind of shorthand, Shakespeare was persuasive so his plots are frequently echoed. Every writer reinvents their own Shakespeare using similar plots and situations that come up in the stories they write. Like Shakespeare, authors generally use plots such as Comedies, Histories and Tragedies.
  • Use of these familiar plots makes reading a story easier to digest-- more familiar. Stephen King uses these plots as well: in 11-22-63 he develops a compelling history. In almost all of his novels, King's plots include tragedy, as in Christine, Misery, The Shining and Under the Dome. Understanding how these familiar plots are developed allow the reader to follow the action, and eagerly anticipate the next action.

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Big Ideas from the chapter

  • Shakespeare is not an antique, he is relevant today.
  • Shakespeare also provides a figure against whom writers can struggle, a source of text against which other writers can bounce ideas.
  • So many of today's authors just rework plots provided in Shakespeare's work.
  • Need to be aware of Shakespeare so we can interact with todays text.
  • If your reading something too good to be true, it is probably from Shakespeare.(46).

Learning strategy

  • Split Page Notes
  • Take out a sheet of paper.
  • Write the name of the excerpt at the top of your paper.
  • Read the excerpt using the concepts we have gone over.
  • While reading: Try and figure out what parts of the excerpt seem to relate to one of the Shakespearean concepts.
  • If you see anything that seems to be a Shakespearean concept, highlight it and write it down on your paper.
  • After reading: For the parts you have found, use your smart phones to look up how what you highlighted is from Shakespeare

Works Cited

N/A, Brian. Shakespeare. 2010. N/A. http://www.mint.com/blog/how-to/career-advancement-11052010/. Web. 11/5/13.

Roger, Furse. Hamlet. 1948. London. http://www.murphsplace.com/olivier/hamlet2.html. Web. 11/5/13.

Flood, Alison. Jack Torance. 2009. N/A. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/jan/07/stephen-king-shining-novel. Web. 11/5/13.

N/A. Misery. N/A. The Archive. http://www.pitofhorror.com/features/misery.html. Web. 11/5/13.

West Michigan DADS. Complete works of Shakespeare. 2013. Barns and Noble. http://westmichigandad.wordpress.com/books/for-children/the-complete-works-of-william-shakespeare/. Web. 11/5/13.

Foster, Thomas. How to read Literature Like a Professor. Harper, New York. 2003. Print.