This is an example that accompanies my Edutopia blog post, Teaching Literary Analysis. Remember that the questions posed and the answers provided should be worked out as part of a process. Students can have many different answers, but the teacher should facilitate questions throughout the process that encourage critical thinking.
- Choose a topic:
Character: Juliet from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
- Focus the topic:
What about Juliet?
- Her character suggests maturity.
How do we see her innocence?
- Juliet often speaks with reference to divine imagery and metaphors.
- Her actions also indicate she’s innocent.
- Other characters often silence Juliet’s character, both literally and figuratively. Her silence indicates her innocence.
Why is this important?
- Juliet’s innocent and pure heart is important because it relates to love.
So what? Why is that important?
- Thesis Statement: Juliet’s innocence and pure heart parallel the innocence of her young love for Romeo. Shakespeare is trying to show that such young love belongs to that of divinity and has no place for it here on earth. This can be shown through the imageries and metaphors that Juliet references to in her language when she speaks about her love for Romeo.
- Gather Textual Evidence:
Quote: “When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”
- Introduce, evidence, analyze:
Introduce: Juliet dreams a lot of another world outside of her own. Her dreams suggests that she is a very innocent and pure of heart character. Her perception of love is also innocent and pure, and this perception is usually shown through imageries and metaphors.
Evidence: When she states “he will make the face of heaven so fine” (CITE) it suggests that her love Romeo belongs in heaven, because of his beauty and her love for him.
Analyze: This quote however also suggests that her love only belongs in heaven and it can’t exist in the her world, the world in which she lives.
Why is this important? By her and Romeo dying together, Shakespeare shows the audience that they belong together in the afterlife, the one that Juliet envisioned for them.
Conclusion: (Summary) Juliet’s character, like all shakespearean characters, is very complex. While many of her quotes referenced that of divine nature, some of them also were very contradictory. (Why?) It is possible that Shakespeare intended for Juliet to speak of the innocence of youth and their young love. However, there’s also a possibility that he was suggesting Romeo and Juliet’s love was very pure and therefore had no place for it in the real world. (Why is this important?) This is a bleak statement of course, but this strong truth could have come as a shock to audience, and that shock could have an impact on the perception of true love during the Elizabethan era.
We’re using this approach in The Writing Project to help teachers encourage critical thinking through textual analysis. If you’re interested to read more about The Writing Project and how it helps to develop students’ critical thinking in writing, take a look at our website.