Shakespeare and the Middle Ages

Shakespeare and the Middle Ages

The course examines Shakespeare’s Comedies in the context of their medieval literary sources, his Histories in light of Tudor views of the recent medieval past, and his Tragedies in the context of medieval beliefs and cosmologies.

START:
January 16, 2017
DURATION:
12 Weeks
ID:
LITD 5306
CREDIT:
3

INSTRUCTORS:

Faith Acker
Preceptor

Though often spoken of as the greatest writing of the English Renaissance, Shakespeare’s plays are both shaped by and directly comment on medieval literature, history, and culture in profound ways which are frequently overlooked. “Shakespeare and the Middle Ages” examines significant Shakespearean plays in light of these medieval connections. The course examines Shakespeare’s Comedies in the context of their medieval literary sources, his History plays in light of Tudor views of the recent medieval past, and his Tragedies in the context of medieval beliefs and cosmologies which, if no longer wholly credited, continued to hover (like King Hamlet’s ghost) on the periphery of belief in early modern England.

Weekly Outline

Lectures will be held on Monday and Wednesday, 7:00 – 8:30 pm Eastern Time, with one weekly discussion session as assigned. Weekly outline, readings, and assignments subject to change in the final syllabus.

Unit 1: Shakespearean Comedy and Medieval Literature

Week 1

  • Lecture 1: Introduction to the Course
  • Lecture 2: Primary Reading: Sir Orfeo, Sir Launfal

Week 2

  • Primary Reading: Midsummer Night’s Dream

Week 3

  • Primary Reading: Chaucer, The Knight’s Tale

Week 4

  • Primary Reading: The Two Noble Kinsmen
  • Secondary Readings: Misha Teramura, “The Anxiety of Auctoritas: Chaucer and the Two Noble Kinsmen”

Unit 2: Shakespearean History and Medieval History

Week 5

  • Primary Reading: Richard II
  • Secondary Readings: Medieval sources on Kingship [TBA]; Ernst Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies (selections)

Week 6

  • Primary Reading: Henry IV, Part 1
  • Secondary Readings: Henry IV, Part 2 (handout); Machiavelli, The Prince (selections)

Week 7

  • Primary Reading: Henry V

Unit 3: Shakespearean Tragedy and Medieval Legend

Week 8

  • Lecture 1: Primary Readings: Holinshed, Chronicles; Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain
  • Lecture 2: Primary Reading: King Lear

Week 9

  • Lecture 1: Primary Reading: King Lear
  • Lecture 2: Primary Reading: Herod the Great; The Harrowing of Hell

Week 10

  • Primary Reading: Macbeth

Week 11

  • Lecture 1: Primary Reading: Measure for Measure
  • Lecture 2: Primary Reading: Hamlet

Week 12

  • Lecture 1: Primary Reading: Hamlet
  • Lecture 2: Review

Required Texts

Students are welcome to use any editions of Shakespeare’s plays.

We recommend the Arden and Folger editions, but really any editions with good annotations will do. For Shakespeare’s complete works, the Riverside, Oxford, and Arden are all excellent. Students are responsible for obtaining copies of the plays listed below. All other course documents will be provided by the instructors.

  • Hamlet
  • Henry IV, Part 1
  • Henry V
  • King Lear
  • Macbeth
  • Measure for Measure
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Richard II
  • The Two Noble Kinsmen

Course History

This course has been offered in the following semesters.

Shakespeare and the Middle Ages Offerings
SemesterPreceptor(s)
Spring 2017Liam Daley & Faith Acker