E s379M • Shakespeare in Context (Oxford)
Restricted to participants in the Oxford Summer Program.
This course will take its reading list from the plays we'll be seeing in England, performed by the dramatic companies staging Renaissance drama at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, the Globe Theatre, London, and other venues. This means that our class will engage with what the different authors had in common: the experience of Elizabethan and Jacobean England.
This period was a crisis period for several kinds of values: status, gender, marital and service relations. The criteria and definitions of status for both elite and subject groups were undergoing change; independent ("disorderly") women were arousing much comment in London; wives and servants sought altered relations with their erstwhile superiors; foreigners and "new men" seemed to appear everywhere. The stage reflected public interest in all of these phenomena, and dramatized many questions such as these: What sorts of authority and entitlement go with kinship relations? What obedience is owed to parents? Who should determine marital decisions? How is the different worth of sons or daughters to be understood? What do parents owe their children? Are married women more than vehicles for operating the home and securing inheritance? Are children owned by their parents? Do men and women have different kinds of friendships? How do masters and servants feel about each other? How does service differ from employment? What is an apprentice? Were servants happy?
More locally, we'll take advantage of being in England to explore how, if at all, we can discover the past "as it was," how we can engage with historical distance and difference. We'll pay special attention to how the productions strive for or abandon "historical accuracy," and how seeing and hearing relate to reading.
Grades will be based on written discussion of readings and productions.
Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice