E 321 • Shakespeare: Selected Plays (Honors)
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
Restricted to students admitted to the English Honors Program.
In this course we will study selected works of William Shakespeare, and one or two other authors (Kyd and Marlowe) who help illuminate the great playwright's career.
We will have two main purposes. The first is to familiarize the class with the early works of William Shakespeare and his contemporaries. We will study at least five plays from Shakespeare, rather intensively, and at least one from Kyd and Marlowe. In each case we will consider the authors' distinguishing characteristics: their use of poetic language and mythology, their creation and confusion of genres, their submission or challenge to the dominant religious and political ideologies of Elizabethan England.
Which leads us to the second purpose. The course might also be called "Shakespeare in the 1590s," because we will attempt to understand the history of this period as the writers engage it. Thus, we will also read some biographical, religious, and political material that can help us decide how Marlowe and Shakespeare conversed with the age, and how their competition helped shape the consciousness of late Elizabethan England.
The course will have a slightly unusual structure. The first ten weeks or so will consist of discussion, reading, essay writing and test taking-traditional enough. The final five weeks of the class will be in the form of two pedagogical games: Shakespeare v. Marlowe, 1592, and Lord Chamberlain v. Lord Admiral, 1599, in which the students play roles advocating for Marlowe or for Shakespeare, or interrogating those advocates. During the game, students will still be writing and performing textual explication, but will also be performing as characters from the time period. The course will culminate with students performing in scenes from the plays.
The course will conclude with a long essay (about 10 pages) involving one of your roles and the reading of literature. This essay will count for 40% of the grade. A shorter essay will count for 25%. Class participation and performance in the game will complete the tally (35%).
Shakespeare: Richard III; Titus Andronicus; Merchant of Venice; Rape of Lucrece; Hamlet; Much Ado about Nothing
Marlowe: Jew of Malta; Dr. Faustus; Hero and Leander
Kyd: The Spanish Tragedy
James Shapiro: A Year in the Life (1599)
Biographies of Shakespeare and Marlowe, studies of Elizabethan political and religious history, and selected criticism about early modern drama.