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.
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
- Lecture 1: Introduction to the Course
- Lecture 2: Primary Reading: Sir Orfeo, Sir Launfal
- Primary Reading: Midsummer Night’s Dream
- Primary Reading: Chaucer, The Knight’s Tale
- 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
- Primary Reading: Richard II
- Secondary Readings: Medieval sources on Kingship [TBA]; Ernst Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies (selections)
- Primary Reading: Henry IV, Part 1
- Secondary Readings: Henry IV, Part 2 (handout); Machiavelli, The Prince (selections)
- Primary Reading: Henry V
Unit 3: Shakespearean Tragedy and Medieval Legend
- Lecture 1: Primary Readings: Holinshed, Chronicles; Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain
- Lecture 2: Primary Reading: King Lear
- Lecture 1: Primary Reading: King Lear
- Lecture 2: Primary Reading: Herod the Great; The Harrowing of Hell
- Primary Reading: Macbeth
- Lecture 1: Primary Reading: Measure for Measure
- Lecture 2: Primary Reading: Hamlet
- Lecture 1: Primary Reading: Hamlet
- Lecture 2: Review
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.
- Henry IV, Part 1
- Henry V
- King Lear
- Measure for Measure
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- Richard II
- The Two Noble Kinsmen
This course has been offered in the following semesters.
|Spring 2017||Liam Daley & Faith Acker|