Dr. Peter Lowe
On this course we will use Shakespeare’s early plays to explore the social, intellectual, and political nature of the Elizabethan world in which he lived and wrote. Elizabeth I came to the throne amidst hopes of a new ‘Golden Age’ for England, and in many respects these hopes were fulfilled through a wealth of new scientific and intellectual discoveries, and the exploration and colonisation of new countries far from home. If the Elizabethan world was a changing one, however, it was also highly unstable, as religious tensions and grievances flared up into revolt and treason, and the pace of social change led to widespread civil unrest.
This was the world in which the young Shakespeare made his name, and in our study of five of his plays from this period we will see how he responded to the dynamics of the world around him. The history play Henry V, like the great tragedy Hamlet, is a study in the nature and use of power and authority, while comedies like Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream often suspend the ‘rules’ of normality and occur in worlds of their own, creating comic plots that are themselves re-worked to tragic ends in Romeo and Juliet.
This was also a time when theatres themselves changed fundamentally, with plays staged in new purpose-built venues for the first time in this country. Field trips will give us the opportunity to see the Shakespearean sights of Stratford and the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London, helping us to better understand how the practicalities of staging such plays enhanced Shakespeare’s writing.
Assessment will take the form of a Field Study Essay, written after our trips to the Globe Theatre in London and the historic sights of Stratford-upon-Avon (35%), a critical evaluation of a two set passages from the plays we have studied, written under exam conditions (40%), and a mark for class participation (25%).
Introductory Session: The Elizabethan World
|Romantic Comedy: A Midsummer Night’s Dream|
|TBA||A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Globe Theatre, London|
|Week 2||A Midsummer Night’s Dream|
|Romantic Tragedy: Romeo and Juliet|
|Week 3||Romeo and Juliet|
|Growing up in Public (1): Hamlet|
|TBA||Trip to Stratford upon Avon|
|Growing up in Public (2): Henry V|
|Week 5||Henry V|
|Cakes and Ale: Twelfth Night|
|Week 6||Twelfth Night|
|TBA||Critical Analysis Exam|