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Shakespeare and His Contemporaries

ENGL 226.950
MW 9-11:00
Penn-in-London: June 24 to July 28, 2006

Fulfills Distribution Requirement III: Arts & Letters and Sector III of the Core Requirement and/or the pre-1900 Seminar Requirement of the English Major. Taking as its central focus the world, plays, and reputations of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, this course will explore major and minor works of Renaissance drama, both as literary texts and as staged performances. This is a particularly exciting year to be considering Shakespeare on the page and on the stage. The Royal Shakespeare Company is planning to produce the complete works of Shakespeare over the next year, which means that we will be able to see plays rarely produced, as well as canonical favorites. By reading the familiar and the less familiar, we will be in a unique position to consider both the works themselves and the forces that have shaped how they have come to us. We will thus examine how such forces—aesthetic, political, social—comprise the identity of Shakespeare and his canon, as well as considering how the “figure” of Shakespeare has been constructed by our culture, using sites such as the Globe reconstruction itself and the site of Stratford-upon-Avon. What does it mean to try to recreate an authentic context for such an important writer? We will also read a few of Shakespeare’s contemporaries—Marlowe, Jonson, Middleton, Webster—to consolidate our understanding. Excursions, in addition to Shakespeare productions, will include a day trip to Stratford.