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We have talked about the idea of representation and the theory of Semiotics (Signs). Using William Shakespeare’s Henry V or Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, take Saussure’s theory of Semiotics and analyze some of the Signs Shakespeare or Beckett uses in order to represent an idea. Explain the Sign in full (the signifier and the signified). Explain what object carries the meaning and explain what the meaning is. Then link it to the overall themes we see in the play. You could also discuss the Signs used in the films by Olivier or Branagh.

For example, you could take the tennis balls Henry receives at the beginning of the play. The tennis balls are the signifier (they carry the meaning), and the lack of respect shown by the French Dauphin is the signified (the meaning carried). So the tennis balls and the meaning they carry make up the complete Sign. You would, then, discuss how they show a lack of respect because the tennis balls refer to a game and, therefore, idleness or a lack of seriousness and how the Dauphin is making reference to Henry’s early days as an idle lay about; therefore, the Sign shows how the Dauphin is not taking Henry seriously as King and mocks him.

Then you would link it to the overall themes of the play. One of the themes Shakespeare gives us is the idea that the French continue to underestimate Henry as monarch. The gift of the tennis balls is Shakespeare’s way of introducing that theme. On his ascension to the throne, the French fail to take him seriously, so that when they go to war with him, they fail to recognize his ability and lose as a result. It also shows just how mature Henry has become upon his ascension to the throne.

Make sure you quote from the text (NOTE: quotations do NOT count toward the word count). You may use the scenes we discussed in class.

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