ENG 318: Shakespeare's Comedies and Histories


Dr. Rankin 3 credits

          This course offers an advanced introduction to the comedies and histories of William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Of primary interest will be the problem of Shakespeare’s simultaneous engagement with issues of contemporary interest and his apparent ability to transcend his own particular time. As is appropriate for an upper-division course, we will develop strategies for proposing and evaluating original theses concerning Shakespeare and situating those arguments within the contexts of Shakespeare scholarship. We will also investigate strategies for visualizing and understanding Shakespearean drama as drama. Shakespeare’s great comedies have become part of our cultural stock of romance but retain a surprising degree of freshness. His histories, while including significant comedic elements, pose their own unique and challenging questions. What is the meaning and limit of nationalism, in both an English and British context? What is the relationship between drama and propaganda? How does Shakespeare engage political discourse without resorting to propaganda? How do the comedies and histories envision tragedy as a distinct phenomenon apart from the genre of tragedy? We will investigate Shakespeare’s treatment of a range of topics set against their cultural, literary, and political contexts. Relevant themes will include ambition, brutality, citizenship, disguise, gender, greed, humor, identity, intrigue, language, love, magic, megalomania, miracles, monarchical & republican government, nationalism, race, regicide, religion, revenge, rhetoric, sexuality, villainy, and more.

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James Madison University JMU English Department
Keezell Room 215
P: 540-568-6170
F: 540-568-2983

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