Historical Contextualization

The second essay of the class was historical contextualization, which asked me to utilize primary and secondary sources to better understand The Tempest. Though this essay still uses close reading to analyze the play, it also provides a background for the play by placing it in its historical background.

While discussing Queen Elizabeth I’s speeches during class, I became intrigued by the idea of society’s expectations of women to marry, and how an unmarried woman in power was viewed in Shakespeare’s times. I connected this to Sycorax, who stood out to me throughout the entire play (though she is barely mentioned and dies before the actual events of the play) because she is an unmarried, powerful woman.

Before writing this paper, I let my thoughts swirl about in my head; sometimes, these thoughts were just wisps of insubstantial nothing. At other times, they were palpable things that I grabbed onto. This paper was very easy regarding just thinking about it, but harder in terms of actually writing it out, which admittedly is the case with most papers. Sounds like symphonies in your head, but comes out sounding like a kazoo on paper. Unlike in the first essay, where I was sure of the quotes I wanted to use but only had a vague understanding of what overall theme I would focus on, for this second essay I knew what subject I wanted to write about- societal expectations of marriage- but I did not know what quotes to use. Eventually, I figured it out by reading scenes that included Sycorax and Miranda and putting pen to paper‒ or rather, fingers to a keyboard‒ and writing whatever came to mind. Hopefully, that doesn’t stand out too much in the first draft. After this initial attempt, I received feedback through peer review.

From these comments, I revised, adding in Prospero’s objectification of Miranda, while also fixing some wording problems and proofreading. Then came my second draft for grading.

I received feedback from my professor, but I decided not to edit further. I had no real inspiration for this essay. Strangely, this was my least favorite attempt of the semester; usually I love rooting literary works in their historical background, because I think history and literature influence each other, but something just did not click with this essay.

Though this essay was my least favorite, I would not say it is a complete failure. I did enjoy learning more about Queen Elizabeth. She was strong and rather crafty. I also learned that I need to work on coming up with a thesis offering a claim that can be discussed and debated as opposed to a thesis that is essentially an observation.