We will be focusing on four plays written late in Shakespeare's career and known as tragi-comedies or romances: Pericles, The Winter's Tale, Cymbeline, and The Tempest.
One of the features of these plays is their evocation of wonder though sensational visual and verbal effects. Among the spectacular sights are pageants, animated statues, masques, and visions. Among the striking speeches are riddles, oracles, curses, wagers, and prayers. We will be exploring the relation of eye to ear, image to word, by examining the ways the two interact and compete in these extraordinary plays. Our exploration will be informed by looking at some key Renaissance materials: emblem books, drawings for stage sets, rhetorical handbooks, accounts the relation between pictures and words, and discussions of such consequential speech acts as God's fiat, the King's word, oaths, promises, slander, and perjury. One paper on each of the four plays will be required; mid-term and final exam will be given.