Short Course Description
Much of Shakespeare?s early career as a playwright saw him experimenting with the dramatization of historical narratives gleaned primarily from the Tudor chronicle books of Hall and Holinshed ? a genre that soon became Shakespeare?s hallmark. Starting in 1590 with a trilogy of plays centered on the Wars of the Roses of the previous century, and the reign of Henry VI, Shakespeare went on to perfect his poetic and dramaturgical art by delving deeper, and farther back into the collective English historical memory of his day. In doing so, he not only teased out the tragic and comic elements of Tudor historical narratives, but explored the very idea of ?history? itself, and its manifold political and cultural uses for those locked in a historical gaze within their own present moment. In this course, we will explore Shakespeare?s treatment of history in his various chronicle plays while asking: what are the conceptual and theatrical connections between how Shakespeare understands history-making and history-writing with the role of theatre and drama in his own day? What are some of the wider national, political, and ultimately subjective implications of Shakespeare?s reimagination of historical epochs to his abiding preoccupation with questions about performance, moral and ethical agency, identity-formation, and selfhood? How does Shakespeare navigate in these plays the fine line between censorship, propaganda, and political criticism? And can it be said finally that in wanting to explore the root causes of human motives and action in a wider historical sense, Shakespeare discovered his great poetics of interiority of the human subject?
The course will focus on the close reading and discussion of the following plays (read in this sequence): Richard III, Richard II, 1 and 2 Henry IV, Julius Caesar and Henry VIII. * It is advisable to get hold of copies of the plays in advance of the course (buying online through websites like bookdepository.com is the cheapest and quickest option). The recommended edition is the Shakespeare Arden series. However, cheaper editions (which are less heavily annotated) are also available through Penguin, the Shakespeare Folger Library, or similar publications. In any case, it is compulsory to read the plays before they are discussed in class and always to have a text in class for reference.
The course requirements include an in-class midterm exam (30%) and a final take-home exam (70%).