English 225 AU 2017 Professor Butwin
Shakespeare: The Hollow Crown
Down to the time of Revolutions in America and in France at the end of the 18th century Kings (Queens and Consorts) enjoyed extraordinary power across and beyond Europe. Louis XIV of France famously equated himself with the state—“L’état, c’est moi”—but that was a modest claim. He was also identified with the Sun—as “Le roi soleil”—and he, like the English Elizabeth of Shakespeare’s time, ruled “by the Grace of God.” No public opinion polls, no elections. Generally speaking, they reigned until they died. They were not subject to the Law; their word was Law. But they were not infallible. . . .and they certainly were not invulnerable. This then is the paradox of royal power: the Monarch is divine but also human, all-powerful and powerless to deter mortality, madness, ridicule-- “ for within the hollow crown/That rounds the mortal temples of a king/Keeps death his court; and there the antic sits,/Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp (Richard II, III ii 160-163).
We will study five of the major Shakespearian plays that turn on the mystery (and the history) of kingship—that is, 4 Kings and one Emperor, all of whom merit special attention in our time. Lecture, discussion, short essays written in and out of class.
NOTE that the Seattle Shakespeare will be performing Julius Caesar as Autumn Quarter begins, September 13 to October 1:
Shakespeare, Richard II, Penguin Books (Pelican Shakespeare) isbn 978-0-14-071482-0. Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I Penguin Books (Pelican Shakespeare) isbn 978 0 14 071456 1.
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Penguin Books (Pelican Shakespeare) isbn 978 0 14 071468 5
Shakespeare, King Lear, Penguin Books (Pelican Shakespeare) isbn 978 0 14 071476 6
Shakespeare, Henry VIII Penguin Books (Pelican Shakespeare) isbn 978 0 14 071475-8