Shakespeare “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” literary analysis essay

For this assignment, you will be writing a 2-page, double-spaced literary analysis of a play that we read for this class.

First, begin by selecting one (1) play from the plays we read. It is important to pick one that you have the most to say about–that is, the one that you feel has the most depth, is the most interesting, is complex, or most engages you. You want to have plenty to say to help you fill up your 2 pages! Keep in mind that choosing the play you liked most can sometimes be helpful, but is not always the best choice: just because you like something does not necessarily mean it is a great play to analyze with frameworks for criticism or academic research!

Then, select one (1) of the frameworks for criticism listed below. Make sure that you are comfortable with the framework that you choose–do not choose a framework that you do not understand! Please closely review your chosen framework in the textbook again before you start your essay. After you have done this, develop an argument about your chosen play that matches your chosen framewor


  • Formalist Criticism: A criticism of a work based on its form: its plot structure, writing style, or literary devices. You might examine how the author’s use of one or two literary devices (such as foreshadowing, flashbacks, metaphor, etc.) helps to tell the play more effectively, creates a specific tone, or impacts the audience in a surprising way, etc.
  • Biographical Criticism: A criticism of a work based on the author, such as how the author’s past and attitudes might have influenced the work. You might examine how the author’s political or religious views shaped and affected the play.
  • Historical Criticism: A criticism of a work based on the time period in which it was written. You might examine how major historical events, attitudes, artistic movements, or experiences might have affected or influenced a play.
  • Psychological Criticism: A criticism of a work based on psychological principles such as using Freud’s theories to analyze a scene in which a character has a strange dream. This could also include analyzing a character’s mental state, such as to prove they are not a reliable narrator.
  • Mythological Criticism: A criticism of a work based on its spiritual or mythological contents. This might include examining symbolism or allusion in the work to find connections between this play and other, earlier plays.
  • Sociological Criticism: A criticism of a work based on the culture/society the play comes from. This might include analyzing how political or economic values or events from the author’s society impacted the play.
  • Gender Criticism: A criticism of a work based on the gender values or issues expressed in the work. These could be issues related to feminism, but also issues related to men’s rights, LGBT+ issues, etc. A criticism would examine how and why these values and issues appear in the play.
  • Reader-Response Criticism: A criticism of a work based on the ways in which the reader might interpret the play, rather than what the author might have originally intended. For example, a play written during the Civil War might portray African Americans in a way very differently than readers see African American people today. This type of criticism examines places where the modern readers’ response might be different than the readers of the past.
  • Cultural Studies: A criticism of a work based on the culture that produced the work, particularly the elements of social class, race, and gender, and how these three issues are often combined. This type of criticism investigates the cultural values found within a work–the moral, ethical, political, and economic beliefs that the author expresses–in order to examine what these values mean for both the characters in the play and the readers who read that play.
  • Deconstructionist Criticism: A criticism that flips traditional theories on their heads. Deconstructionists believe that written language cannot probably express “reality,” and therefore any written play will inevitably include contradictions and conflicts. This form of criticism focuses on the conflicts or contradictions in a play–places where something “doesn’t add up” in order to find hidden meanings or hidden depths.
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