Teaching Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay: Writing Short Papers Effectively

Writing Short Papers Effectively: The Hand-Out

Para1The short papers are due at the beginning of the class on the day we begin discussing the play on which you’re writing. Topics are posted, and you must narrow down the topic to a specific application. You must hand in no more than two pages typed and double-spaced, with 1 inch margins all around, on a very specific concrete issue in the play under discussion for that week. Title your paper appropriately. Quote minimally. Late papers cannot be accepted. You will be penalized for not using the class Style Guide.
Para2What topics are acceptable in a short paper? Find a scene with a strong emotional impact, or a strong representation of a key idea in the play, perhaps in a strongly worded speech which you might analyze; or the recurrent focus on a single character; the treatment of a female character, a symbolic role, or an important stage property in the play. Consider how the play was originally performed and how it held its audience. The important thing is to narrow your choice to something specific and concrete, and develop a thesis you can support in a 2-page argument.

Expected Structure

State your thesis in 2–3 sentences in your first paragraph. Your last sentence in this paragraph should make your thesis very clear and concrete. Do not generalize.
Your next paragraphs in the body of your essay should each explain a step in the logic of your argument to prove your thesis is accurate. Link the paragraphs carefully. Quote only a word or a phrase to contexualize your argument.
Your last paragraph should not simply repeat the initial thesis. It should offer at least one other application to demonstrate that your argument works consistently: refer to another scene, another character’s experience, or another play, in order to establish that your idea has merit and will work in a variety of ways to help interpret the play.

Topics for the Short Paper

Consider magic as invested in a material object: (a) Bacon’s magic mirror: how does this prop develop key ideas in the play? or (b) the Brazen Head: what is its symbolic influence in the play and what is it supposed to do for the magician? or (c) a devil or spirit (scenes 2, 6, 9, and 15). What does the play have to say about scholars and intellectual life through these material magical presences? Focus on one key scene for your choice of magical item. Does magic always mean the power to destroy?
The play’s treatment of Margaret of Fressingfield: has she escaped one abusive lover to become victim of another? Consider Margaret’s strength in scene 8. Consider more specifically the whole idea of testing the woman in scenes 10 and 14. What is the play’s attitude to promises, and what does social class have to do with it? Focus on one scene but don’t ignore the others.
The role of the fool: choose one, either the licensed fool Ralph Simnell (especially in relation to the Prince) or the student/servant Miles (especially in relation to Bacon). Is the role ironic? Does it provide essential commentary? How does the fool help define either the role of a prince or the role of a scholar?
The treatment of the foreign: Why does this play have major concerns about foreign royalty? To what extent is the power of a king invested in the power of the magician he employs? What comment is made about foreign power in the defeat of Vandermast? Compare to the treatment of foreigners in The Three Ladies of London or The Masque of Blackness: is the idea about foreigners the same?1


1.You will see in the two sample final essays that these topics influenced the performers, particularly in assessing the brazen head (#1), the role of Miles (#3), and the treatment of the foreign (#4). These ideas developed out of lectures and tutorial meetings, as well as small group meetings and independent research.
2.You will see in the two sample final essays that these topics influenced the performers, particularly in assessing the brazen head (#1), the role of Miles (#3), and the treatment of the foreign (#4). These ideas developed out of lectures and tutorial meetings, as well as small group meetings and independent research.


Helen Ostovich

Helen Ostovich, professor emerita of English at McMaster University, is the founder and general editor of Queen’s Men Editions. She is a general editor of The Revels Plays (Manchester University Press); Series Editor of Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama (Ashgate, now Routledge), and series co-editor of Late Tudor and Stuart Drama (MIP); play-editor of several works by Ben Jonson, in Four Comedies: Ben Jonson (1997); Every Man Out of his Humour (Revels 2001); and The Magnetic Lady (Cambridge 2012). She has also edited the Norton Shakespeare 3 The Merry Wives of Windsor Q1602 and F1623 (2015); The Late Lancashire Witches and A Jovial Crew for Richard Brome Online, revised for a 4-volume set from OUP 2021; The Ball, for the Oxford Complete Works of James Shirley (2021); The Merry Wives of Windsor for Internet Shakespeare Editions, and The Dutch Courtesan (with Erin Julian) for the Complete Works of John Marston, OUP 2022. She has published many articles and book chapters on Jonson, Shakespeare, and others, and several book collections, most recently Magical Transformations of the Early Modern English Stage with Lisa Hopkins (2014), and the equivalent to book website, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context containing scripts, glossary, almost fifty conference papers edited and updated to essays; video; link to Queenʼs Mens Ediitons and YouTube: http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/index.htm, 2015. Recently, she was guest editor of Strangers and Aliens in London ca 1605, Special Issue on Marston, Early Theatre 23.1 (June 2020). She can be contacted at ostovich@mcmaster.ca.

Janelle Jenstad

Janelle Jenstad is a Professor of English at the University of Victoria, Director of The Map of Early Modern London, and Director of Linked Early Modern Drama Online. With Jennifer Roberts-Smith and Mark Kaethler, she co-edited Shakespeare’s Language in Digital Media: Old Words, New Tools (Routledge). She has edited John Stow’s A Survey of London (1598 text) for MoEML and is currently editing The Merchant of Venice (with Stephen Wittek) and Heywood’s 2 If You Know Not Me You Know Nobody for DRE. Her articles have appeared in Digital Humanities Quarterly, Elizabethan Theatre, Early Modern Literary Studies, Shakespeare Bulletin, Renaissance and Reformation, and The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies. She contributed chapters to Approaches to Teaching Othello (MLA); Teaching Early Modern Literature from the Archives (MLA); Institutional Culture in Early Modern England (Brill); Shakespeare, Language, and the Stage (Arden); Performing Maternity in Early Modern England (Ashgate); New Directions in the Geohumanities (Routledge); Early Modern Studies and the Digital Turn (Iter); Placing Names: Enriching and Integrating Gazetteers (Indiana); Making Things and Drawing Boundaries (Minnesota); Rethinking Shakespeare Source Study: Audiences, Authors, and Digital Technologies (Routledge); and Civic Performance: Pageantry and Entertainments in Early Modern London (Routledge). For more details, see janellejenstad.com.

Joey Takeda

Joey Takeda is LEMDO’s Consulting Programmer and Designer, a role he assumed in 2020 after three years as the Lead Developer on LEMDO.

Kate LeBere

Project Manager, 2020–2021. Assistant Project Manager, 2019–2020. Textual Remediator and Encoder, 2019–2021. Kate LeBere completed her BA (Hons.) in History and English at the University of Victoria in 2020. During her degree she published papers in The Corvette (2018), The Albatross (2019), and PLVS VLTRA (2020) and presented at the English Undergraduate Conference (2019), Qualicum History Conference (2020), and the Digital Humanities Summer Institute’s Project Management in the Humanities Conference (2021). While her primary research focus was sixteenth and seventeenth century England, she completed her honours thesis on Soviet ballet during the Russian Cultural Revolution. She is currently a student at the University of British Columbia’s iSchool, working on her masters in library and information science.

Martin Holmes

Martin Holmes has worked as a developer in the UVicʼs Humanities Computing and Media Centre for over two decades, and has been involved with dozens of Digital Humanities projects. He has served on the TEI Technical Council and as Managing Editor of the Journal of the TEI. He took over from Joey Takeda as lead developer on LEMDO in 2020. He is a collaborator on the SSHRC Partnership Grant led by Janelle Jenstad.

Navarra Houldin

Project manager 2022-present. Textual remediator 2021-present. Navarra Houldin (they/them) completed their BA in History and Spanish at the University of Victoria in 2022. During their degree, they worked as a teaching assistant with the University of Victoriaʼs Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies. Their primary research was on gender and sexuality in early modern Europe and Latin America.

Peter Cockett

Peter Cockett is an associate professor in the Theatre and Film Studies at McMaster University. He is the general editor (performance), and technical co-ordinating editor of Queen’s Men Editions. He was the stage director for the Shakespeare and the Queen’s Men project (SQM), directing King Leir, The Famous Victories of Henry V, and Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (2006) and he is the performance editor for our editions of those plays. The process behind those productions is documented in depth on his website Performing the Queen’s Men. Also featured on this site are his PAR productions of Clyomon and Clamydes (2009) and Three Ladies of London (2014). For the PLS, the University of Toronto’s Medieval and Renaissance Players, he has directed the Digby Mary Magdalene (2003) and the double bill of George Peele’s The Old Wives Tale and the Chester Antichrist (2004). He also directed An Experiment in Elizabethan Comedy (2005) for the SQM project and Inside Out: The Persistence of Allegory (2008) in collaboration with Alan Dessen. Peter is a professional actor and director with numerous stage and screen credits. He can be contacted at cockett@mcmaster.ca.



The LEMDO Team is based at the University of Victoria and normally comprises the project director, the lead developer, project manager, junior developers(s), remediators, encoders, and remediating editors.

QME Editorial Board (QMEB1)

The QME Editorial Board consists of Helen Ostovich, General Editor; Peter Cockett, General Editor (Performance); and Andrew Griffin, General Editor (Text), with the support of an Advisory Board.