What Makes a Paragraph?


Note: this post has been password-protected because it contains examination answers from the 2017 JC1 cohort, which is not mine (and not right) to share with the world.

What makes a good body paragraph in a Literature essay? You may be asking yourself that question after receiving your CA2 and CA3 responses; this post tries to answer that, clarify a few misconceptions (if any), and examine two of your seniors’ paragraphs to light the way forward. From here you can re-enter our notes with a clearer perspective of your writing can reflect and even go deeper than our analysis, and we will only read stellar work from here!

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What the Duke Has Done

Just who is Duke Vincentio and what are his real motives? With these vital questions in hand, Ms. Ang’s lecture rummaged through the rampant “plotting, manipulation and duplicity” in Measure for Measure. Do these means justify the ends — that of exposing Angelo, restoring social order and purging Venice’s moral/sexual corruption?

This question assumes that the Duke “conforms to the traditional figure of the wise ruler” who always exercises “his wise and kindly concern for others” (Miles).  In other words, he must be the “convincingly remote” authority figure  whose actions are ultimately “benevolent” and morally righteous, even if his methods arouse our suspicion at times. This is the Duke that predominates Act 5.

This post, taking inspiration from an unlikely source, rethinks the above assumption. What if the Duke is not a corrector of vices? What if he is instead “profoundly disingenuous” (Miles), “very odd” in his execution of intentions (Adelman) and finally, self-important to disconcerting extremes? Lest the audience forgets, the Duke spends a protracted sequence in disguise and never clarifies his shifting position on Angelo. The play arguably presents to us three distinct Dukes with different intentions:

  • The Duke in Act 1 (“D1“) who avows his love for the people but not their vehement attentions. He proceeds to temporarily cede control to Angelo, his deputy;
  • The Duke disguised as the Friar (“D/F“) in Acts 2 -4, and the early section of Act 5, lurking in the shadows to manipulate; and
  • The Duke who resurfaces triumphantly in public during Act 5 (“D5“), pronouncing and quickly renouncing punishment upon Angelo and Lucio, and making amends to Claudio, Isabella and Mariana.

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CA3 Review: To Catch a Thief

This supplementary review of our third CA on Act 2 Sc 1 in Measure has been much delayed by sickness but hopefully arrives in time for revision purposes.

The Term 2 Week 9 lecture already covered the key ideas for this particular passage-based question (PBQ), as well as some of the skills. Regarding the latter, I’m confident that most of us are fully aware of the need to analyse methods and effects, close analyse specific words for effects, discuss concerns, and evaluate links to elsewhere in a PBQ answer. The question that a typical student would (and should) have is really, ‘how do I do this?’ rather than ‘what must I do?’. If you do need to ask yourself the latter question, you may wish to acquire a guilty look not unlike the picture above before moving to the next paragraph.

This post seeks to demonstrate the aforementioned skills (with periodic reminders of what they are!) while also studying what I found to be a conceptually difficult part of the passage — Angelo’s ironic avowal on the ‘thievish’ traits of a jury or judge. We’ll have this on lockdown in no time, so let’s get to it.

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Productions of Measure for Measure

Comic Summary

Reviews and synopses of various productions:

The Guardian (Shakespeare’s Globe)

The Guardian (Young Vic)


 The Guardian (Cheek by Jowl)
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Power and Transgression in Measure for Measure

Excerpts from ‘Power and Transgression in Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure‘ by Jesse A. Goldberg

Shakespeare’s comedies, at first glance, seem to uniformly end on a positive note, with the fulfillment of desires, the overcoming of obstacles, and the victory over malevolent forces. In Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure, however, this is not the case. The conclusions of both plays are reiterations of problematic power structures present in each play. […] Measure for Measure, in its focus on religion and motifs of manipulation and falsity, depicts how those who are empowered by status use their power to reinforce their own position and shape the world around them, thus leaving those who are set in a lower position subject to the power of the elite. Continue reading “Power and Transgression in Measure for Measure”

Measure for Measure: Starter Guide

Welcome! You have arrived here because you are intrigued by (and perhaps inspired too) the study of Literature in English at ‘A’ Level in Eunoia Junior College. As part of our JC1 syllabus, we will be undertaking Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare in Paper 1 (the core paper), and Alan Ayckbourn’s Woman in Mind together with Edward Albee’s seminal Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in Paper 3 (the elective paper).

We are in the midst of purchasing the physical copies of the above texts for our first cohort, and we ask you to be patient. The Heinemann [Book Depository link] edition of Measure for Measure is available only upon order from the UK. Shipping takes time, but we think it’s worth the time: the Heinemann edition provides a very detailed translation of Shakespeare’s Early Modern English to contemporary English on every facing page, and clues the reader in further with probing questions and short insights into the theatrical / performative aspects of the text. For ease of reference during our seminars and tutorials (i.e. ‘let’s flip to page 104, class’), we recommend you purchase the Heinemann edition as your study copy and exam copy.

measure-heinemannExhibit A: the currently elusive Heinemann edition, whose presence we ceaselessly yearn.

We sense from your emails and phone calls (or that from your parents :P) great eagerness to read ahead of time and get to grips with this challenging yet rewarding text. What can you do in the meantime then? Here are some suggestions:

  • Read the soft copies available online, linked below, to save your money for the Heinemann edition. We will try to make the latter available through other means as soon as we can:- Download the PDF of the Folger edition
    – Refer to the online MIT e-text
  • Purchase the following ‘alternative’ editions from stores or anywhere you can find it. They are ranked in descending order of recommendation:- New Cambridge Shakespeare: comprehensive footnotes, annotation-friendly
    Penguin: reasonably priced, available at Kinokuniya, not much space for annotation
    Oxford Shakespeare: reasonably priced, should be available at Kinokuniya
    Norton: the most scholarly and most expensive edition; very unfriendly thoughWe do not recommend the Signet, Classics Library or Folger editions, which may be cheaper and are worth only the pennies you pay (i.e. not very much value at all).Also, a word of caution! Assessment for Literature in English at ‘A’ Level, whether at H1 or H2 levels, takes an ‘open-book format‘, which means you may bring in your set texts. Some of you may want to purchase two copies of each text, one for exam use and one for study use. Regardless, you cannot write any notes in your exam text — more information on annotation of exam texts can be found here.


  • Read up the ‘basic’ guides on the text, before progressing to more academic criticism. Many a Literature tutor would frown upon students making use of the ‘popular’, American high school-focused study guides, but we do too. You should not need them by the middle of the year (partly because our notes will be pretty awesome). You should not be paraphrasing, adapting, or borrowing from them in your work because they exist on a mostly superficial, ‘unliterary level’ that covers plot, character and a hint of concerns (without the required analysis and personal response at ‘A’ Level).With the long, long disclaimer out of the way, they do have a place in your understanding of Measure for Measure. They can ease you into the events, characters and literal meaning of the play, so that you can encounter the text itself ready, and ready to pick apart its complexities.- The teachers will be making use of Penguin Teacher’s Guide, which we think is pegged closer to ‘A’ Level. The long commentary by Peter Cash also deserves mention.- The most ‘accessible’ guide on the play’s themes is on LitCharts. The CliffNotes site does have a decent character analysis section that lays on the table the various perspectives of Isabella, Angelo, Duke, Claudio, et al. We figure you’ll visit the above two sites on your own anyway…

    – Once you think you’re equipped to go deeper into the text’s methods and concerns, you should head over to our very rich Articles page for secondary literature (i.e. criticism, commentary) on Measure for Measure. Ask us personally for the password, which should be easy to remember once you remember who your Lit tutors will be (hint hint).

OK, this has been a long enough post! Enjoy reading up in the meantime!