We compare various things on a regular basis. Thus, products and services are examined based on their similarities and differences and how well they carry out a particular function or satisfy a certain need. With character comparisons, the purpose is the same — two distinct characters are profoundly examined from different perspectives.
The key components of a compare and contrast essay are:
- Precise and reliable examples of the characters' similarities and differences
- A profound analysis of the findings presented coherently.
Shakespeare's Characters that Make a Good Comparison
The good idea is to divide the characters into unifying categories first. That may help you grasp what traits tie two or more characters together and make up a basis for your writing. Along with having one main common feature, the characters should also have other important similarities to help you develop the ideas. The main objective is to simply facilitate the foundation for a strong and consistent argument. Some of the examples of unifying categories are those based on generic titles such as heroes and villains, or characteristics such as brash, charming, and timid. The connection seen below is a simple breakdown of male and female characters that can make good comparisons for your essays.Famous Shakespearean women to compare:
- Juliet, Lavinia, and Ophelia
- Helena and Hermia
- Volumnia and Gertrude
- Goneril, Reagan, and Lady Macbeth
- Falstaff and King Henry
- Hamlet and Macbeth
- King Lear and Gloucester
- Macbeth and King Richard III
- Macbeth, King Claudius, Iago, and Edmund
For Shakespearean literature, simple gender categories are more than sufficient for introducing characters that you are going to compare. That is because of the method in which Shakespeare uniquely, and expectantly develops male and female characters throughout his plays. For even more depth, a student can also look for further divisions within character groups to make a more compounded analysis.
Comparisons should be made with more round and well-developed characters rather than static and minor ones (for obvious reasons). The more dynamic you can find within a character, the more interesting it will be to evaluate and examine them. That is what can make your essay compelling and engaging for the reader as well. Also, well-known and more complex characters have probably been studied and compared already, and that gives you an opportunity to analyze writings and come up with original ideas and arguments.
As it was mentioned previously, compare and contrast essay is usually written with a block or alternative methods. The block method refers to analyzing one character in depth first and then moving on to the next one. This technique allows to conduct a thorough evaluation of each character but is limited because strong points of comparison may lose their emphasis. That is because each character is separated by sections, and readers may not remember much of the first character when moving on to the second one. The alternative method, in turn, is often preferable because it provides a point-by-point analysis of each character trait. That allows the reader to perceive a clear connection or disconnection towards each character rather than waiting to the end of the essay to connect their concepts and ideas. An example of the point-by-point method can be seen below.
- Provide background information on both characters and their roles in selected plays.
- Indicate a clear thesis statement, the purpose of comparing these two characters, and the main points being compared.
II. Similar Trait #1
For example, The Chaste Woman
- Define and expand on the trait (Who is a chaste woman? How is this character typically developed? What is its position in Shakespearean literature?)
- Evidence of how the first character demonstrates a certain trait in the play.
- Evidence of how the second character demonstrates a certain trait in the play.
- Unify the proofs by connecting each character's matching description to the overall interpretation of the trait.
The essay would continue in this manner — providing supportive evidence for each section. Other examples of categories are as follows:
III. Similar Trait #2
For example, the social status of the characters.
IV. Similar Trait #3
Here, you can describe their relationships with others.
V. Differences #1
For example, Juliet commits suicide, while Ophelia's death is accidental.
VI. Difference #2
Study the characters' perception of presence and absence of love.
After sharing all of the different points of analysis, a student can add a discussion that connects all the ideas summarizes the details of the thesis statement. That may include additional information such as the differences of the plays' plots and the characters' roles in them, or any other issues that may seem important to mention.
When writing a good comparison, you may find that the similarities outweigh the differences — that is fine. Characters with many similarities can make it challenging to come up with a more in-depth analysis. It allows taking two characters that are seemingly the same (Juliet and Ophelia, for example, are both portrayed as innocent girls) and examine the features that actually set them apart.
Essay Writing Tips
When analyzing characters, you can face a lot of key literary terms that the student should be familiar with. Each element holds a definition that may help you explain the intricacies of each character, their specific role, and significance in the text, and allow you to develop a compelling discourse. Here are some key terms to keep in mind when analyzing characters.
Terms to know
- Stereotype — displays those traits that are 'expected' or 'stereotypical' (There are many instances of this in Shakespeare's work).
- Antagonist — the one character (maybe be something other than a human) that is in conflict with the main protagonist.
- Protagonist — the main character of the play/novel, etc.
- Foil — the one who is contrasting the protagonist (for example, Laertes was the foil in Hamlet, and King Lear was the antagonist).
- Character development — explain and demonstrate evidence of how the character has been changing throughout a play.
- Flat character — a character that isn't fully developed, minor.
- Round character — a character that is fully developed, complex.
All of these terms may not make it into your essay, but the point is to know and understand their meanings. Thus, you will prove your competence in the issue and make your comparison and contrast essay refined and interesting.