ENG 341: Shakespeare Among His Contemporaries
T & R: 9.30 – 10.50 am
Dr. Stephen Mead
Dr. Molly Smith
This course will engage students in reading and analyzing plays from the English Renaissance, and encourage them to see Shakespeare alongside his contemporaries as part of a vibrant, engaging, and innovative theatrical culture. The course will introduce students to social and cultural contexts in Renaissance London and England and compel them to discuss such issues as the extent to which society influenced theatre and theatre, in turn, shaped society.
We will read 8 plays: two comedies, two histories, and four tragedies. Students will identify one critical essay on a play and lead the class in a 15-20 minute discussion of the same. Readings (other than the plays, which students are encouraged to purchase in hard copy so that they are in sync with the particular editions selected for the class) will be placed on Moodle.
Attend all scheduled class sessions; your final grade will be lowered by one decrement (e.g., B to B-) for every absence beyond three. Students who have excessive absences may be asked to withdraw from the class. General tardiness will count as ½ an absence.
Read the assigned plays at least twice and contribute without prompting to class discussions
Complete and submit three 5-6 page analytical essays on assigned topics by the assigned deadlines;
Select a critical essay, lead discussion of the same in class, and submit a one-page response to
the essay in writing within one week after the class discussion
Complete a mid-term and a final examination on their scheduled dates
- Acquire a deeper understanding of the social and cultural contexts that resulted in theatre’s renaissance in late-sixteenth and early seventeenth century London;
- Develop an appreciation for the richness of Renaissance drama, and understand Shakespeare as a writer in regular dialogue and debate with his contemporaries;
- Understand the extent to which Renaissance theatre might help us negotiate modern/contemporary/twenty-first century issues surrounding race and gender, freedom and social constraints, hierarchy and equality, class and privilege, authority and subversion, alterity and inside-ness.
Objectives / Student Learning Outcomes
- Through three 5-6 page essays, strengthen one’s critical thinking, argumentation, research, and writing skills;
- Through in-class discussions, demonstrate one’s ability to read texts closely while understanding the larger social and cultural contexts in which they were created; also, participate in “growing” class ideas, showing how an idea is not finished once one “comes up with it”;
- Identify one critical essay written post 1990 on one of the assigned plays and lead discussion on the critical piece and its application to the play; note the article’s central argument, its methodology, and its use of secondary sources;
- Through mid-term and final exams, demonstrate your ability to amalgamate knowledge into cogent arguments which demonstrate fresh insights into texts and an ability to engage with literary theory and criticism in evolving those insights.
Christopher Marlowe, Edward II (New Mermaids) and William Shakespeare, Richard II (Folger)
Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew (1597) and John Fletcher, The Tamer Tamed (1612)
Shakespeare, Macbeth (1605) and Thomas Middleton, Women Beware Women (1621)
Shakespeare, Othello and Middleton and Rowley, The Changeling (1622)
N.B. All Shakespeare editions are Folger Shakespeare Library paperbacks; all other plays are New Mermaids paperbacks.
January 13, Tuesday: Introductions / Contexts
January 15, Thursday Edward II
January 20, Tuesday Edward II
January 22, Thursday Edward II
January 27, Tuesday Richard II
January 29, Thursday Richard II
February 3, Tuesday Richard II
February 5, Thursday The Taming of the Shrew
February 10, Tuesday The Taming of the Shrew
February 12, Thursday Taming and The Tamer Tamed (Paper #1 Due)
February 17, Tuesday The Tamer Tamed
February 19, Thursday The Tamer Tamed
February 24, Tuesday Macbeth
February 26, Thursday Macbeth
March 3, Tuesday Macbeth
March 5, Thursday Mid-term Examination
. . . Spring Break . . .
March 17, Tuesday Women Beware Women
March 19, Thursday Women Beware Women
March 24, Tuesday Women Beware Women
March 26, Thursday Advising Day – No classes
March 31, Tuesday Presentations (Paper # 2 Due)
April 2, Thursday Presentations
April 7, Tuesday Presentations
April 9, Thursday Othello
April 14, Tuesday Othello
April 16, Thursday Othello
April 21, Tuesday The Changeling
April 23, Thursday The Changeling
April 28, Tuesday The Changeling (Paper # 3 Due)
April 30, Thursday Wrap-up
May 5, Tuesday Final Exam (8:00-10:00)
Papers should provide thesis-driven, interpretive arguments that engage with and/or challenge conventional interpretations of the texts. Introductory paragraphs must have a clear thesis, methodology, and argument for its own importance (i.e., why is this thesis worth considering?)
T.I.M: thesis-importance-methodology. Body paragraphs need a topic sentence that connects the paragraph’s idea to the paper’s thesis. Analysis must center on close reading of selected passages: exploration of how word choice, tone, meter, imagery, syntax, sound effects, repetition, etc. affect the denotative meaning of the passage, in light of your thesis. Unless you speak with the professors at least 24 hours before a due date, late papers will be lowered by one decrement for each calendar day they are tardy. All papers must be submitted in a cardboard folder with at least two earlier drafts that show the development of the process writing. Make it clear which copy is the final version. Each paper is worth 15% of the final grade.
Exams will require you to identify passages from the plays and to write a blue-book essay. Each Exam is worth 20% of the final grade.
*”specific place” does not mean “I.iii.12-22,” or anything that precise; nor does it mean “in the middle of the play” or anything that vague. It means something along the lines of “when Hamlet visits his mother’s chambers after the play has been performed.”
Participation means your coming to class on time, prepared, having thought about critical issues of the plays, and speaking to the purpose without prompting. Participation means taking copious notes, listening to and engaging with other students (not just the professors), and following up on class discussions with office meetings, study groups, and trips to the Writing Center. Participation is worth 15% of your final grade.
Students with special needs must contact the professors in the first week of classes, and they will make all reasonable accommodations.
Stephen X. Mead OM312b. tel. 4336, firstname.lastname@example.org TR 8:30-9:00, 11:00-11:50.
AND BY APPOINTMENT. You may leave me a voice or email message, to which I will typically respond by the next class meeting
Molly E. Smith OM201. tel.4310, MSmith@stmartin.edu TR 8.00 – 9.15 and by appointment
Students are strongly encouraged to form reading/study groups to work on reading comprehension, thesis construction, note sharing, and mutual support. A good size for groups is 3-5; a good session is 45minutes-one hour; a good number of meetings per week is 2.
You must complete all assignments to pass the class.
See Professor Mead’s blog for copies of the syllabus and other relevant handouts: