Autumn 2019, English 323 a, Shakespeare before 1603, W.R. Streitberger
Texts: I have ordered The Complete Works of Shakespeare, 7th edition, ed. David Bevington (Pearson, 2014). In our class sessions, I will refer to introductions in this work, and I will also ask you to read much of the general introduction. Earlier editions of this work are acceptable; other editions are not acceptable.
On occasion you will want to look up definitions of literary terms. Literary encyclopedias and handbooks are available in the reference section of the library. The best recent study of Shakespeare’s life is Park Honan’s Shakespeare, A Life (Oxford 1998). The essays in Richard Dutton, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theatre 2nd ed. (Oxford, 2011) provide extensive discussions of Elizabethan theaters, acting companies, and plays in cultural context. These books are available from the library. Additional background reading will be found in the summaries and bibliographies in our class text. Bibliographies of what has been written since 1921 can be found on line. Go to the UW library site, click ‘Resources by Subject,’ then ‘English,’ then ‘MLA International Bibliography,’ then search by subject categories, e.g. ‘Shakespeare,’ ‘[name of play],’ ‘[topic].’
The Course: This is a junior-senior level course in which we will learn a fair amount about Shakespeare’s life, times, theatre, and about the criticism of his plays. In his early period Shakespeare was primarily a writer of poetry and of comedies and histories. We’ll begin with a selection of his Sonnets and Venus and Adonis before going on to the plays. We’ll read three comedies--A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and Twelfth Night—two histories--1 Henry IV and Henry V-- and Hamlet, the world’s most famous tragedy. Recurring concerns in his early period are the tensions between homo-social bonds on the one hand and heterosexual relationships and the demands of ambition and duty on the other. We will focus will be on the artistry in Shakespeare’s texts—the use of language and poetry, the ideas of dramatic construction, the understanding of genre, the conception of gender, the idea of theater, the impact of education on his choice and treatment of subjects, the history of his texts, and, finally, the criticism of his works.
Requirements: (1) A portfolio of short essays (50%) submitted in two parts. See syllabus for details. (2) Three quizzes (40%) which will consist of multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, passage identification, and short answer questions that test your understanding of the material in assigned readings, class sessions, and study questions. (3) This is a lecture discussion course. My job is to lecture. Your job is to actively participate in discussions. This is a graded component of the course (10%). We will read aloud and use the text to support our discussions. You must bring your text to every session. If you miss three classes your grade will be lowered. If you miss six you will be required to take a comprehensive exam during finals week to receive credit for the course.
Junior-Senior level study of Shakespeare's life, times, theatre, early plays, poetry, and criticism. Short essays and two quizzes. The text is any edition of Bevington's Complete Works of Shakespeare.