E 321 • Shakespeare: Selected Plays
8:00 AM-9:30 AM
This course offers an introduction to Shakespeare's plays, locating them in their original contexts of social production and reception. Our principal focus will be the plays' engagements with dislocations of early modern assumptions about status, kinship, gender, and service relations.
Such social uncertainties lead to questions like these: Is social rank based on birth or effort? What sorts of authority go with kinship relations? How is the different worth of sons or daughters to be calculated? Are women more than vehicles for securing lineage and inheritance? Are children owned by their parents? Do men and women have different kinds of friendships? What should we make of the absence of women actors on the Renaissance stage--of the so-called transvestite theater? Were there "homosexuals" in the Renaissance? Were early modern notions of sexuality importantly different from ours? How could masters and servants feel about each other? How does service differ from employment? Why does the same word ("service") describe categories of labor and sexuality? How does servant status interact with social rank?
Tentative assignments: There will be several 3-page typed memo assignments worth 90% of your final grade. There will be no cumulative final exam. To pass the course you must complete all required memos; late memos will receive a penalty. Participation will count for the other 10% of the grade.
These listed will probably be ordered (and these editions recommended), but you can use any you already own (except for the Lear). I strongly advise you to use texts with rich annotations and glosses.
Henry IV, Part One (Oxford)
Henry IV, Part Two (Cambridge)
Henry V (Cambridge)
King Lear (Cambridge)
Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy (Norton)
Love's Labours Lost (Oxford)
Richard II (Cambridge)
The Merchant of Venice (Bedford)
The Tempest (Bedford)
Twelfth Night (Oxford)