Guide to Writing Argumentative Essays in Shakespeare Studies: All You Need

Writing guide
Posted on August 22, 2019

What is an Argumentative Essay in Shakespeare Studies?

To start with, an argumentative essay is a piece of writing in which you ought to state and support your opinion of a specific issue. In fact, problems are rarely one-dimensional, so it is essential to consider different sides of it. In turn, since your position should be extremely specific, you should make one side of the issue more forceful than the others. Similarly, an argumentative essay in Shakespeare studies follows the academic tradition of argumentative essays with only one exception – the issue under discussion must concern works of William Shakespeare.

Choosing a Topic for Argumentative Essay in Shakespeare Studies

Argumentative essays are considered to be above the average difficulty of academic writings since they require profound research and knowledge of persuasive techniques. Topics of argumentative essays are often straight to the point, signifying that the author is convinced in veracity of his or her claims. Keep in mind, however, that it is not recommended to choose topics that you are passionate about since it might blur your objectiveness and thus undermine the credibility of the research. Besides, the focus of your essay should correspond to the opinion of the majority of people so that you have to deal only with the minority. The following topics might guide you when you decide to begin your argumentative essay in Shakespeare studies:

  • William Shakespeare is a Revolutionary Figure in Literature;
  • Did a Person Named William Shakespeare Actually Exist?
  • William Shakespeare’s Plays Depict the Roots of a Modern Feminist Woman;
  • Gender Roles are Significant for the Development of the Plot in ‘King Lear’;
  • Hamlet Was Never in Love with Ophelia;
  • William Shakespeare is a Credible Source of the History of the 16th Century Society.

Pre-Writing Tips

Choosing a topic is the first tough challenge of writing. Although sometimes the instructor’s requirements may limit your space for creativity, it is often better to ask your teacher for guidance. Similarly, you can search for clues online, reviewing forums for present-day debates, or analyzing academic journals in order to find issues you are concerned about. Not only will it help you to choose a particular topic, but it might also lead to finding authoritative sources to support your claim. As a matter of fact, argumentative essays in Shakespeare studies should always be backed up with scholarly sources. Besides, although academic writing often demands up-to-date references, when writing an essay in Shakespeare studies, you can use older sources if you consider them to be of more considerable theoretical significance or if the issues discussed in them are still not resolved.

Nevertheless, even after knowing your subject of research, you might be stuck on a blank page for an extended period, thinking that your first word or sentence must be perfect. In order to avoid such a problematic situation, it is always helpful to create a short outline that ought to guide you through the writing process.

In this manner, write a sentence or set of words for each section, including introduction phrase, thesis statement, body paragraphs, refutation paragraphs, and concluding statement. In fact, sometimes it is helpful to write only thesis statement since it already includes all of the crucial aspects of your future essay. In case it is hard for you to organize your ideas into a smooth sequence, you should better revise the structure of the argumentative essay.

Structure of an Argumentative Essay

The structure of an argumentative essay in Shakespeare studies reflects a typical form of an academic essay, except the fact that it should also include one or more refutation paragraphs. Thus, it should start from an introduction, followed by several body and refutation paragraphs, and a conclusion section. The number of body paragraphs may vary according to the size limits of your paper. For instance, if you write a two-page essay, it is better to include three body paragraphs (of at least a hundred words each), which discuss three different aspects of the topic, and one refutation section. In turn, if you are writing a paper of five and more pages, it is better to create more body sections to discuss all essential aspects of your argumentation.


The first paragraph of your argumentative essay is an introduction, and here you are supposed to inform readers about what is going to be discussed and advocated in this paper. The first sentence is usually purely introduction, which means that it should not include any specific information, but, instead, make some general statement. For instance, if you are writing an essay on the issue of gender roles and femininity depicted in Shakespeare’s play, you can mention that this playwright is famous for creating deep female personalities, which was usual to those times. In this manner, your statement resonates with the mind and knowledge of your readers, pushing them to discover more about this topic. Then, say what particular works of Shakespeare resembles the topic under discussion in the most vivid manner. Keep in mind that any argumentative essay in Shakespeare studies should be based on and supported with the extractions from the original works of the playwright.

Finally, the last part of your introduction section is a thesis statement. In fact, the thesis sentence plays a crucial role not only for the introduction but also for the whole paper since it is supposed to guide readers throughout the essay. This statement should outline all the key moments of your argumentation. Again, if you are writing an essay of more than five pages, you may divide your thesis into two sentences in order to cover every point and to promote the readability of the statement. Here are examples of a correct thesis statement, which makes an argument and outlines the paper, and an incorrect one:

Incorrect: ‘William Shakespeare is the Revolutionary Figure in Literature since he is a world-renowned playwright.’
This thesis statement is not specific enough since it does not tell anything about Shakespeare or your paper. In turn, the correct variant should look like this:

‘William Shakespeare is the revolutionary figure in literature since he made a significant contribution to modern English language, his plays gave inspiration for a variety of playwrights, and the depth of his characters’ individualities put a basis for a character development technique for the generations of writers.’

As you see, this thesis statement not only vividly shows your stand, which says that ‘William Shakespeare is the revolutionary figure in literature,’ but also presents supporting details that ought to make your argument convincing. Besides, it also shows the structure of the essay, where the first body paragraph discusses Shakespeare’s ‘contribution to modern English language,’ the second advocates that ‘his plays gave inspiration for a variety of playwrights,’ and the last paragraph analyzes ‘depth of his characters’ individualities’ and how it ‘put a basis for a character development technique for the generations of writers.’

Body Section

Each body paragraph of your essay should start from a topic sentence. This sentence reflects the idea of the whole paragraph and corresponds to the sequence of arguments presented in your thesis statement. Then, it is necessary to support this idea with some pieces of evidence that you can find both in the original text and scholarly sources. Keep in mind, however, that when you are writing an essay in Shakespeare studies, it is crucial to make extractions and references from the original plays, thus showing that you are not only restating other’s opinions but are also eligible to make an analysis of a text by yourself.

In point of fact, when writing an argumentative essay, it is necessary to follow the ‘sandwich’ structure of quotes. This approach implies that you have to make an opening that presents your focus and idea. Then, you incorporate a quote that supports this particular idea and provides an explanation concerning the meaning of the reference. In this manner, you not only make your argument evident but also show that your understanding of the topic is profound. Finally, try to use at least two references in a paragraph to make the text look credible. For instance, you can extract one reference from Shakespeare play and the other one from scholarly literature.

The body section of your argumentative essay should end up with a refutation paragraph or paragraphs. In this section, you have to assume that your position is incorrect and write something that corresponds to the opinion of an opposition, which, in turn, opens the lines of communication. For instance, if your paper is based on the argumentation that Hamlet never really loved Ophelia, then you have to find evidence from the text where you seem to be incorrect. You can say, for example, that the character was greatly affected by her death, which might mean that he had strong feelings to her. Basically, you have to intentionally undermine the credibility and very purpose of your essay. At the same time, however, you must know how to respond to this opposing view and how to refute it. Thus, you may say that although Hamlet was affected by Ophelia’s death, it is likely that the character felt guilty for what he did and blamed himself. Thus, since he always shifts the focus on himself, the feeling of guilt raised due to his selfishness rather than from love to Ophelia. Therefore, refutation section allows you to become an objective researcher in the eyes of the audience since it shows that you can see both sides of the coin, which, in turn, makes your argumentative essay convincing.


The conclusion section is the last part of your argumentation essay, which signifies that you succeed in claiming your position. Keep in mind that there should not be any new information here, so if you think that your text is not persuasive enough, then you should better improve your body section first. Nevertheless, the conclusion paragraph always starts from a concluding phrase and the restatement of the thesis. Then, summarize all the ideas that you have discussed in the body paragraphs and go over the refutation part to strengthen readers’ understanding. Besides, at the end of the concluding paragraph, you can mention that although the topic was by the most part covered in your essay, there is still a space for improvement and further research.

Post-Writing Tips

Never forget that when you finished writing your essay, it is still only a draft and needs a lot of improvements. For instance, the writing process requires a significant amount of concentration on what is necessary to say and in what manner it should be expressed, so often writers pay more attention to the quality of their thought than the text itself. Therefore, one can rarely write a paper that is free of grammatical mistakes. In this manner, you should take your time to carefully reread the whole paper several times, finding possibly misspell or punctuation errors, misplaced modifiers, or tense verb mistakes.

Besides, when looking through the paper, consider whether your paragraphs and ideas are organized in a coherent flow. Using transition words, like ‘furthermore, similarly, for instance’, you can make your paper look like a smooth sequence of claims and then, ask yourself whether your argumentation is logical and whether it is convincing enough. Although it is always a room for improvement, try to focus only on critical issues, avoiding to do the unnecessary rewriting.

Last but not least, revise all the in-text citation and the reference page. For instance, writers tend to insert a quote from a source and forget to refer to its original. In academic writing, it is considered to be a plagiarism and can significantly decrease your chances to achieve good results. Besides, check if the rules of the required formatting style are followed since instructors usually pay much attention to this issue and will lower the mark. If you are not sure whether you remember the rules accurately, you can revise them on the OWL Purdue web page, where the latest updates are published.

Argumentative Essays. (n.d.). Owl Purdue. Retrieved from
Fleming, Grace. (2019, May 20). Tips on How to Write an Argumentative Essay. ThoughtCo. Retrieved from
Kearney, Virginia. (2019, April 10). How to Write an Argumentative Essay Step by Step. Owlcation. Retrieved from
Shakespeare Studies is Not Only About Visiting Performances. (n.d.). Ozzz. Retrieved from
Wendy, Ikemoto. (2018, March 15). What is an Argumentative Essay?. BibMe. Retrieved from

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