ENG 317: Shakespeare's Tragedies and Romances

Dr. Favila 3 credits

          A poet paints with words; a painter, with his brush; a sculptor,with his chisel. These artists present their audience with a perfect text: one that can be experienced over and over again,but never changed. That is not to say that a reader or viewer
is locked into the same response each time she reads Paradise Lost, contemplates the Mona Lisa's smile, or wonders at the height of David. But the art form itself remains the same: carved in stone, so to speak. Drama, however, is live.
The playwright paints with breath and bone, and his art dies in the very process of creation. Though a play may be read, the
reader can never forget that she fingers a skeleton as she turns each page. A character's expression, movement, speech, or pause must be continuously imagined, for stage directions are often kept at a minimum. Given that, the first goal of this class is to teach the student how to read drama: to visualize the play as production; to analyze the interaction between actor and audience (especially in the Renaissance); to recognize that, regardless of the author's intent, the theatrical moment is rife with change, as its medium is the human being. The second goal of this course is to help the student recognize and analyze the origins of Shakespearean Drama. Jonson defined Shakespeare as a man for all time, and Coleridge heralded Shakespeare's natural genius, but the Bard did not write in a vacuum. Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I and Part III owe an obvious debt to the morality plays that preceded them. His Titus Andronicus and Hamlet revisit Seneca's bloody revenge tragedies and stoic philosophy. His chaste Juliet breathes new life into the Petrarchan Ideal, just as his not-so-chaste Cleopatra embodies much of the love/hate portrait of the Dark Lady. Given that, the course readings include Seneca's Thyestes, two morality plays (Mankind and Everyman), and English Renaissance poetry.

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