In reading a classic let the Master avoid the practice, common to inferior teachers, of taking it as the text for universal and irrelevant commentary. Respect the writer, and let your rule be to rest content with explaining and illustrating his meaning. This would b the method I advise, say, in taking a class through a play of Terrence. You begin by offering an appreciation of the author, and state what is necessary concerning his life and surroundings, his talent, and the characteristics of his style. You next consider comedy as an example of particular form of literature, and its interest for the student: the origin and meaning of the term itself, the varieties of Comedy, and the Terrentian prosody. Now you proceed to treat briefly and clearly the argument of the play, taking each situation in due course. Side by side with this you will handle the diction of the writer; noting any conspicuous elegance, or such peculiarities as archaism, novel usage, Graecisms; bringing out anything that is involved or obscure in phrases or sentence-forms; marking, where necessary, derivations and orthography, metaphors and other rhetorical artifices. Parallel passages should next be brought under notice, similarities and contrasts in treatment observed, and direct borrowings traced -- no difficult task when we are comparing a Latin poet with his Greek predecessors. The last factor in the lesson consists in the moral applications which it suggests; the story of Orestes and Pylades, or of Tantalus, are obvious examples.
It may be wise in some cases to open the reading of a fresh book by arousing interest in its broader significance. For instance, the Second Eclogue of Virgil must be treated as something more than a purely grammatical or literary exercise. "The essence of friendship," the Master would begin, "lies in similarity. Violently contradictory natures are incapable of mutual affection. The stronger and the more numerous the ties of taste and interest the more durable is the bond. ... true affection can subsist between the good alone. For where excellence is only upon one side, friendship is but a fleeting and insecure thing." Now it is as a parable of unstable friendship that the Master should treat this Eclogue.