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Shakespeare in Context

ENGL 335.301
instructor(s):
TR 10:30-12

Shakespeare's plays were originally written in the context of a thriving commercial theatrical industry. In order to get some idea of the richness and variety of its productions, we will read a few Shakespearean plays along with representative samples of the work of other Renaissance English playwrights who brought strikingly different perspectives to similar subjects. Shakespeare's "Macbeth", for instance, will be studied with Thomas Heywood's "Wise Woman of Hogsdon", a comedy in which the reputed witch is actually a benevolent charlatan; and "Twelfth Night" will be paired with Webster's "Duchess of Malfi", a tragedy in which the steward, unlike Malvolio, is the play's hero and marries the lady. Other plays to be studied include "The Witch of Edmonton", "The Roaring Girl", "Epicoene", and "The Merry Wives of Windsor". Each of the assigned plays is to be studied carefully, both alone and in a study group that meets for approximately six hours a week outside of class.There will be unannounced quizzes on the reading assignments, a midterm, a term paper, and a final examination. Students are expected to make thoughtful, well-informed contributions to the class discussions. This course is designed for Benjamin Franklin Scholars. Other students will be admitted only with the instructor's permission.