An interesting idea, but it doesn’t work in every example.

Read the following paper. It is a weekly response paper written for a Study of Shakespeare class. The paper is presented without correction to grammar, structure, or idea. Why do you suppose a professor might say that the theme you are proposing doesn’t quite work in every example? Let’s review the key and begin reading the essay.

This is the key to the sample essay. It will help you locate the problems quickly within the student essay.

Table 3: Key to Sample Paper on Pericles

Thesis (italics);Theme (bold/italics);Different examples/support (bold)

Here is the student’s essay. Use the key as you read the text.

Figure 2: Sample Student Paper on Pericles

The Theme of Exchange in Pericles

Throughout the play lies the practice of reciprocity.  Many characters desire to go beyond their own personal need for something better regardless of the cost.  In many situations, there is an exchange of ideas, roles, and positions.  But there is one particular point the play desires to make with these different exchanges, that regardless of the gift in return, no exchange is worth the price paid.  And the price paid in the instance of the play is prostitution. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “prostitution” in many ways.  It is defined as the “offer of oneself unlawfully, usually for hire, to devote or expose to lewdness.”  Such devotion requires moving the word from a noun to a verb, hence, to prostitute.  So, now the word evokes action and implies the lace of control on the one subjected.  Whoever is being prostituted is subjected to lewdness, shame, and disgrace in many ways.  And the term prostitute translates as incest in the first scene.

For example, the presenter of the play details the actions of King Antioch, who take his “. . . female heir . . .” and “. . . her to incest did provoke” (i.22, 26).  In this exchange, the daughter moves to the role of mother and wife without option or personal inclination.  She is expected to understand the duties of marriage.  Regardless of her innocence, the king has a need or exchange that must be met.  His wife has died and now he needs another wife.  The exchange is fine for him, but detrimental for the Daughter.  He never recognizes her as a mother or wife in speech; instead she is just a daughter.  She is prostituted or exposed to shame by him without regard to her.  She is not permitted any suitors like a father usually presents to his daughter.  Instead, her only pleasure is his pleasure.  He even goes so far as to legalize the exchange (or the lewdness) by establishing a law on her behalf so that anyone who extends beyond the boundary the king set will die (i.35).  The Daughter is prostituted by her own father, and where this is an indirect action, the issue with Marina is altogether direct.  But first, the play directs the attention of the reader to the exchange of Marina by Pericles to Cleon and Dionyza.

In scene thirteen, Pericles has just lost his wife in childbirth.  He is forced to go back to claim his position as king.  His father has died and the people want Helicanus as their ruler, for “. . . Tyrus stands in a litigious . . .” place (xiii.1-2).  Pericles leaves the babe Marina with Cleon and his malicious wife Dionyza.  In this instance, matters concerning position and law take over matters of the heart.  He is leaving his only child with them.  Cleon is the governor of Tarsus, but the child is in an unfamiliar surrounding and she needs the comfort of her father since her mother is supposedly dead.  In this exchange, Pericles has more peace without the responsibility of dealing with a child.  He loves his child and this is very clear toward the end when he finally sees her grown for the first time.  It is fitting that he should suffer the possible loss of his child at the end because of this hasty decision to leave her with others.  It is probable that Pericles has committed such an unnatural act because of the supposed death of his wife.  One may argue that leaving the child is the best thing to do because she would be out of harm’s way.  But what is more detrimental, leaving her at an early stage without her father, or in the company of strangers?  Considering the time and the delicate issue at hand, there are no right answers.  But his decision to leave Marina proves detrimental for her because Dionyza envies and despises Marina, for she “. . . gets all praises . . .” (xv.33-34).  Marina is a threat to the public praises that Dionyza’s daughter should receive.  She plots Marina’s murder through the intermediary Leonine.  Leonine fails to secure Dionyza’s complete trust and messes up the plan to kill Marina.  Instead, a pack of pirates steal Marina, selling her into prostitution.  The word “steal” deserves attention.  At this instance, the pirates don’t really know that they are stealing away Marina’s character, her virtue, and especially her choice.  Where Dionyza also steals her choice by planning her murder, the pirates really do her in, physically.  Dionyza is too much of a coward to do her own dirty work, and this is probably due to her husband’s position.  On the other hand, this is the life the pirates lead, that of supply and demand.  They supply prostitutes and demand money in exchange.  One especially clear definition of prostitute is devote, or to devote to lewdness.

The players, Pander, Boult, and Bawd, are “devoted” to this market of supply and demand.  Pander states scene sixteen, “Search the market narrowly. . . . We lose too much money this mart by being wenchless” (3-4).  Supplying prostitutes is not a personal thing.  It is business in the sense that they receive their due exchange of money when they supply women.  And when the pirates bring Marina to them, they become all too eager for what they could possibly obtain for such a chaste woman as Marina.  Another definition of prostitute entails exposure, shame, public sale, and exhibition.  Marina must be advertised so that exchange can have a place in the market and in this society.  Bawd asks Boult, “Now, sir, has thou cried her through the market?” (xvi.82). Marina’s dignity, virtue, character, and chastity no longer exist, because once her name has been announced, her reputation is no more the same.  Announcing her name is like attaching a newfound reputation.  Even though she never sleeps with anyone, the reputation is still there.  The public cry demands an exchange.  For the exchange to happen the way it should, Marina must first do her job; and the only way this can happen is the Wife instructs her in the way of this job.  There is a goal that must be completed, an exchange that demands to be paid.  To a certain extent, the reader sees this goal accomplished in the actions of Lysimachus when he pays Marina for non-sexual services.  Even though sex isn’t rendered, an exchange has still been made.  Marina pleads her case, for she is still “. . . unspotted . . .” and “. . . unstained ev’n in thought” (xviiii.102-103).  And Lysimachus accepts this plea, pays for the services, and even goes so far as to praise her; and, he desires to marry her at the end.  It follows that exchanges are exchanges when they are accepted.  If Lysimachus had left, an exchange wouldn’t have taken place.

Exchanges are made every day, from conversing with fellow people on the street to bartering and sale.  Without exchanges, there would be no gifts.  Without gifts, there would be no happiness and subsequently, no appreciation.  Exchanges are necessary so appreciation can thrive.  Even in lewd conduct such as prostitution, the one being prostituted is not happy or appreciative, but the imitator is.  And this is what makes exchanges such a necessary tool.  On the other hand, defining cases of exchanges can prove detrimental when handled improperly.  And the flip-side of prostitution is an exchange that hurts everyone.  There is always some price paid for the “exchange,” regardless of the context.


This is an outline of the whole response: The first example of “exchange” begins with the theme of exchange and centers on the relationship of prostitution to the theme. The second example begins with an exchange that doesn’t highlight the relationship of prostitution. Instead, this example focuses on the exchange of a baby. From the middle to the end of the paragraph is merely plot summary. The third example reverts to the theme of exchange as it relates to prostitution.

For one, we can argue that the thesis isn’t as clearly defined as it needs to be.  It doesn’t make allowances for different types of reciprocity. The word “reciprocity” is too general for a two-page response paper. The student doesn’t provide a definition for the term and “exchange” is only defined in terms of the word “prostitution.” There is nothing in the introduction/thesis to alert the reader that “different” types of exchanges will be discussed, some not based on prostitution and some based on this theme of “exchange.” 

Last, if the example of the baby exchange relates to prostitution, it is important to make the connection. By what association is the exchange of Marina to her role as a prostitute as an adult?

This theme of exchange, in relation to prostitution (reciprocity), does not work in every example.


When a professor places “An interesting idea, but it doesn’t work in every example.” at the end of your paper, he or she is saying that you need to proofread your paper for more than just grammatical errors, but also for relevance, relationships, continuity, transition, and support. You must perform a checklist on the whole of your paper, especially on the body. Pretend you have a shopping list in one hand and the theme in the other. All of your examples, 1-2-3, are on the list.

The theme is in the same hand as the pencil. Your theme/thesis should match each example in your paper. If it doesn’t, set the paragraph aside and develop it more. If you are still unable to edit it, then consider the relevance it has to the overall paper. If it has none, consider removing the paragraph.

What your professor wants you to realize is that although the idea you present is interesting, the idea isn’t supported in every example. If it is not supported, then the example is just mere filler, not something of value and relevance to your paper.

For an extended explanation, see also the comments “Too General to be Meaningful” and “Your Ideas Are too General.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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