Vancouver School Board
York Region District School Board
Peel District School Board
New Frontiers School Board

Project Folio


Shakespeare's Comedies & the Mythos of Spring: Archetypal Criticism


Cindy Yeung


Lord Byng Secondary




English 9 (Literary Arts)

Last Modified

April 30, 2007


In an enriched English 9 class (Literary Arts specialization in the Byng Arts program), students explored archetypes in Shakespeare's comedies. We started by looking at different ways in which Shakespeare's comedies have been "classified" (e.g., tragicomedies, romances, "problem plays"). Students then worked in groups of three, selecting one of the comedies to present. After an introduction to key concepts in Northrop Frye's _Anatomy of Criticism_ (The Mythos of Spring) and Joseph Campbell's _The Hero with a Thousand Faces_, students identified at least ten ways in which Frye's comedy archetypes applied to their selected play (or, if they differed, how so). Students also explored three symbols from the play.

The major task was to create a poster to present these archetypes and symbols. Students had great freedom in designing whatever visual layout they felt best conveyed their ideas. One of the groups even chose to create a 3-D installation of the Forest of Arden from _As You Like It_.

The groups then presented their projects to the rest of the class. Starting with a brief summary of the plot and characters, each group explained their archetypes in detail. The visual mode enhanced the presentation of ideas; the patterns used to organize the archetypes on the poster helped clarify their connection to plot and character.

By the end, the students were able to trace commonalities among the comedies, especially when viewing several posters at a glance. Perhaps more importantly, they were able to identify the different transformations of each archetype from one play to another -- thus appreciating just some of the "thousand faces" worn by each archetype.

Companion assignments:

Oral Presentation: Students also selected passages from their play to dramatize for the class. The focus was their public speaking ability: vocal expression, non-verbal expression and gestures, pacing, enunciation, volume, and familiarity with their lines.

In-Class Essay: Students also wrote an in-class composition analyzing a character from their play. The focus was on their expository essay structure, written expression, and integration of quotations for supporting evidence. The previous study of character archetypes helped provide some background for their analysis.


The Tempest

Poster by Polina, Sine, and Wade: Comedy archetypes in Shakespeare's _The Tempest_. Note the visual arrangement of the poster: Prospero is the master puppeteer pulling the strings of the play's events.
View Gallery

As You Like It

Installation by Lee, Marchel, and Nico: Tree in the Forest of Arden -- 3-D presentation of comedy archetypes. This motif was inspired by the image of Orlando hanging his love poem to Rosalind from a tree.
View Gallery

Related Projects