Tragedy was one of the most popular, varied and innovative genres of the Early Modern period, spanning from the stage-shattering tragic heroes of Christopher Marlowe to the sophisticated and dark visions of intrigue, lust, and revenge of the Jacobean stage. In this course, we will engage with a variety of tragic sub-genres (including revenge tragedy, closet drama, and domestic tragedy) and investigate their varied sources, as well as the cultural and socio-political contexts that influenced both generic conventions and staging practices. We will explore how these texts engage with contemporary discourses surrounding questions of justice and revenge, the nature of power, and personal agency. Particular focus will also be placed on contemporary debates about gender and sexuality and the representation of women and gender relations on the Early Modern stage.
Early Modern treatises on the topic of ideal friendship stress the central importance of equality between friends, often describing the ideal friend as ”another self”, or as one part of a single soul split between two bodies. Through its central emphasis on likeness, Early Modern friendship rhetoric enabled a daring vision of parity and consent: Friendship was seen as a voluntary and intensely affective relationship between equals that was, at least in theory, capable of transcending familial and other societal bonds, and in some cases even social rank. However, friendships that grew too close, especially those bridging a significant difference in social standing, could easily come under suspicion of opportunism, flattery, and even homosexuality.
This seminar aims at examining the complex nature of Early Modern friendship and the tensions inherent to this ideal. We will engage with contemporary ideas about friendship and investigate their significance for the conception of both public and private selves. For the first half of this seminar, we will focus on friendship in the realm of politics, examining the complicated relationship between kingship and friendship in Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. For the second half, we will investigate the conflict between homosocial bonds and heterosexual relationships, as portrayed in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, The Merchant of Venice, and Twelfth Night.
Texts: Christopher Marlowe, Edward II (New Mermaids), William Shakespeare, Hamlet (The Arden Shakespeare), The Merchant of Venice (The Arden Shakespeare), Twelfth Night (The Arden Shakespeare). All other texts will be made available via GRIPS.
The expressed goal of Early Modern grammar schools was to ‘train up’ their pupils for the benefit of the commonwealth. As an (unintended) side effect, however, this training also produced some of the most famous poets and dramatists of the period. This seminar aims at providing an overview over the classical training that shaped both Early Modern authors and their audiences. We will trace Early Modern engagements with Classical Antiquity, focusing on the central role of imitatio – the practice of copying a model to a degree that the ”copy may be mistaken for the principal” (Ben Jonson, Timber) – to the humanist educational project. However, imitation was not only a textual practice but shaped every facet of a school boy’s life: This included copying the behaviour of superiors, rhetorical exercises that asked for the impersonation of different characters, as well as participation in school theatricals. During this seminar we will investigate the effects of this ‘culture of copying’ on Early Modern literary production, gender performance and social hierarchies. The plays we will look at reflect in different ways on the methodologies, successes, failings and pitfalls of the humanist educational programme: William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and The Taming of the Shrew, as well as Ben Jonson’s Epicoene and The Poetaster. In addition, we will engage with excerpts from Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queene, a text with the self-declared purpose to ”fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline”.
Texts: William Shakespeare, Hamlet (The Arden Shakespeare, published by Bloomsbury 2016), William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew (The Arden Shakespeare, published by Bloomsbury 2005), Ben Jonson, Epicoene or The Silent Woman (New Mermaids 2002). All other texts will be made available via GRIPS.
Requirements: active participation, reading responses, term paper (8-10 pages).
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