This summer Nicole Prunetti, ’11, laid the groundwork for her senior honors English thesis by immersing herself in the study of Shakespeare. Prunetti, an English major with a minor in law and the liberal arts, explored how Shakespeare’s knowledge of 16th and 17th century laws manifests itself in his work.

Prunetti worked with English professor Dr. Anthony Russell, and was supported by an Arts & Sciences summer research fellowship. She was surprised to learn Richmond offered such a program for A&S students. “When I was accepted into the Honors Program, the professor in charge at the time suggested that students in this program look into research opportunities in the summer,” she says. “I had never thought of doing that, since I had never heard of anyone conducting summer research in English.”

Here’s what she learned this summer:

Tell us about your summer research project:

For my Senior Honors English Thesis, I have decided to look at the relationship between Shakespeare and the law. What many people do not realize is that, despite a lack of formal education, Shakespeare was extremely familiar with the laws of 16th and 17th century England.

Receiving a research grant from Richmond for the summer has enabled me to get a head start on my senior project. I'm looking at the scholarship that currently exists regarding this topic, with the hope of narrowing the focus of my project and choosing one or two plays on which I will concentrate.

How did you come up with your research topic?

I have always loved English and so, I chose that as my primary major. However, I also hope to attend law school one day. Thus, when it came time to decide a topic for my Honors Thesis, I was intrigued by the idea of combining my interests into one project, particularly since it is something I will be involved with for an entire year!

How do you see this project contributing to your success at Richmond?

I'm excited that I get to spend my last year at Richmond studying something that I love and something that combines my passions. It goes beyond "by the book" academic success, for I see this project as a continuous learning experience. I know that this project is going to be challenging and will probably lead me in directions that I hadn't even considered. While this does scare my "type A" personality a bit, it also excites me, for I feel that this is what attending college, and specifically a liberal arts university, is about — exploring your passions and figuring out a little about who you are along the way. What a fantastic way to end my experience at Richmond.

What has a liberal arts education at the University of Richmond meant to you?

I feel that a liberal arts education has given me the necessary freedom to explore all of my diverse interests. I feel that this has given me the opportunity to seriously consider who I am and what I would like to pursue after graduation. It has shown me that, clichéd as it sounds, education really goes way beyond the classroom and encompasses a broader range of experiences, discussions, and relationships than I could have ever imagined. I definitely feel blessed to have received a top-notch liberal arts education at a university that truly understands what a liberal arts education means and generously supports its students in any and all endeavors. 

What prepared you for this opportunity? 

I was very inspired by Dr. Anthony Russell and his Shakespeare class; hence my decision to write my thesis on Shakespeare and to work with Dr. Russell.

However, I would probably say that when I studied abroad in Perugia, Italy, in the fall of ’09, that was the first time I began to believe that I could actually conduct large-scale research on my topic. At the time, I was participating in an independent study on the 19th Century Italian Risorgimento (resurgence). I enjoyed working with my advisor in Italy and completely immersing myself in a topic about which I knew nothing.

This was the first time that I realized that research is so much more than sitting in a library surrounded by books; that it can actually be an engaging and intellectually stimulating process that can lead you down unexpected avenues. Thus, I feel that my experience in Italy has given me a great insight that not only led me to seriously consider this opportunity, but one that will also benefit my research.