Topics in Pre-1800 British Literature: Obscure Shakespeare
Monday 3 pm - 4 pm
Wednesday 3 pm - 5 pm
Brief Description of Course
Despite Shakespeare’s reputation as the most celebrated writer in the English language, some of his works remain rarely performed and seldom read. These “forgotten” works span Shakespeare’s entire career and all of the major forms in which he wrote: poetry, comedy, history, and tragedy. Far from minor or insignificant, some of these works constitute milestones in Shakespeare’s career and reception. The blockbuster poem Venus and Adonis was his debut publication, Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen were his last works for the stage, and the manuscript of Sir Thomas More preserves the only surviving literary example of Shakespeare’s handwriting. This course tracks the shape of Shakespeare’s career through an examination of his lesser-known works, asking how these historically neglected texts change our understanding of Shakespeare while also considering the critical and political forces that led to their marginalization. We will approach the plays both as literary texts and as embodied theatrical events, giving special attention to Shakespeare’s poetic language, dramaturgy, and complex treatments of power, politics, community, family, nation, race, gender, and sexuality.
Our course textbook will be The Norton Shakespeare: Third Edition (New York: Norton, 2016), which is available in both digital and hard-copy formats; however, free online substitutes for all of the texts will be made available.
First Three Authors/Texts
Venus and Adonis, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Method of Evaluation
- Short assignments
- Final paper
- Participation in discussion