Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Shakespeare on Trial

ENGL 430.640
instructor(s):
T 5:30-8:30

This course examines issues of justice in the plays and poetry of William Shakespeare. We will look at justice broadly defined in the early modern period, treating the theme within the context of philosophical and religious traditions as well as legal practices. Within the works themselves, we will be treating everything from actual trial scenes (as in Henry VIII, The Merchant of Venice, and The Winter's Tale) to more subtle or extra-legal "trials" such as the various injustices in the name of justice that run throughout Measure for Measure, the accusations against Desdemona in Othello, the trials by combat and the deposition scene in Richard II, and the mock trial of Lear's daughters in King Lear. We will also pay close attention to acts of revenge, often called "rough justice," in Hamlet, Titus Andronicus, and The Rape of Lucrece