Teaching Ambiguity in Shakespeare

Willden, Jared, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Kinney, Clare, English, University of Virginia

From defamations of women’s fidelity to questionable preternatural apparitions, moments that present one thing to an audience but suggest another abound in Shakespeare. The plays are often simultaneously familiar yet foreign to students, which can impede their considerations of these ambiguities’ diverse nuances. The first half of this thesis explores ambiguities across several of Shakespeare’s plays and considers approaches to guiding students as they interpret them. The second half looks closely at the ambiguities in The Winter’s Tale, which is especially preoccupied with the unreliability of performance and the instability of sight and language. It concludes by proposing an assessment in the form of planned student performances of the play’s final scene which require students to carefully consider how the text invites multiple interpretations.

MA (Master of Arts)
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