Shakespeare changed the nature of drama in England. Arriving in London in the last decade of the sixteenth century, Shakespeare began his play-writing career by adapting the forms of already-successful plays - plays about historical characters (both English and Roman), the Senecan ‘Tragedy of Blood’, Romantic Comedy and plots centering on the Machiavellian villain. From the very first, however, Shakespeare transformed everything he touched: characters developed from the elementary stock characters of earlier traditions - such as the young Hero and Heroine, the Stern Father and the Tyrannical Ruler who must be overthrown - into recognizable human beings. Chronicle plays dealing with the sequence of English monarchs in consecutive order were replaced by studies of good governance - what made a ‘good’ king? And how - after over a hundred years of turbulence - was England to be well managed? The last decade of the sixteenth century, and the first decade of the seventeenth century, saw the greatest period of English drama. The theatre became an established part of London life, both presenting and subverting contemporary political and social ideas. Shakespeare, acknowledged as the greatest of English writers, needs to be studied both through his own texts and in relation to the literature and society of his time. This course will show the chronology of the plays, his development as a dramatist, and his principal themes.
This course is offered during the regular semester and in the summer. For summer sections, the course schedule is condensed, but the content, learning outcomes, and contact hours are the same.