Sample Paper Proposal: Shakespeare in Legend of the Five Rings

What follows is a paper proposal like that students are asked to produce for the PProp assignment in my section of ENGL & THRE 3333: Shakespeare: Comedies & Sonnets during the Fall 2016 instructional term at Schreiner University. Its topic is slightly aside from that allowed to the students; rather than treating a single work, it treats a more general Shakespearean reconstruction, looking for what prompts continuance of the Bard in popular culture. It does, however, adhere to the length requirements expressed to students; they are asked for 300 to 500 words, exclusive of heading, title,  page numbers, and any necessary Works Cited entries, and the proposal below is 342 words long, assessed by those standards. Its formatting will necessarily differ from student submissions due to the differing medium. How the medium influences reading is something well worth considering as a classroom discussion, particularly for those students who are going into particularly writing- or design-intensive fields.

Set in a fantastical analogue of feudal Japan and China, the Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) is a tabletop gaming property that, across the first two decades of its existence, encompassed a collectible card game, a role-playing game, miniatures wargaming, and more “traditional” table games. Each partook of an ongoing, player-driven storyline; that is, while there was an over-arching plotline for the whole gaming property, many of the points of that plot were determined by players, whether explicitly by fiat or through results achieved by victories at major gaming events. The direct and identifiable impact on storyline by players accounted for much of the game’s popularity and the loyalty of its player base. It also commanded a rich and detailed back history for the player-current narratives to emerge from, and that, in turn, included consideration of faux-historical cultural figures. One of them, Shosuro Furuyari, is a clear send-up of a particular view on William Shakespeare–one that is, unfortunately, not the most accurate view of the Bard to be found.

The view of Shakespeare is conveyed by L5R’s presentation of its foremost dramatic mind merits explication; the figure is repeatedly referenced and, though convolutions of plot only possible in a fantastic setting, appears–or seems to do so–so it is clearly one of importance to the overarching storyline. Consideration of what influences lead to the specific iteration of the Bard–major cultural threads near the time of the property’s beginning and at significant points in the overall narrative–also suggests itself as worth offering, and the influences likely to result from consumption of the idea of Shakespeare conveyed by L5R–that is, what are players whose views on the world are necessarily influenced by the works in which they partake–are also likely to need investigation. What implications such media influence has appear to be usefully interrogated, as well. In effect, looking at Shosuro Furuyari allows for examination of the continued utility of even bad views of the Swan of Avon, arguing in favor of continued study of already-well-studied works.

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