Shakespeare's English History Plays

7360.01, Fall 2005, Wednesdays @1:40 - 4:40 pm

Independent Study, 4200/4100, Shakespeare's English History Plays

Roslyn L. Knutson

Where am I?
As you may know, Stabler Hall is being remodeled, and the English Department has moved out temporarily. Consequently, I will hold office hours in the Ottenheimer Library, 2nd floor (at one of the tables). My office hours are Tues/Thurs, 12:20-1:30 pm & 3:15-4:00 pm; Wednesdays, 12:30-1:30pm. To make an appointment, speak to me in class or e-mail me. I will have e-mail access in the library and DSC. Outside of office hours, look for me in my library carrel, #4F, on the 4th floor of the Ottenheimer Library.

Calendar of Readings:

August 24: Organization and Planning

August 31: The "Henry 6" plays: 1 Henry VI, 2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI

( Yes, I am asking that you read all three plays for this first discussion class; why? I want us to jump into the deep water at the start; I want to use these plays to raise a spectrum of issues about the history play and Shakespeare's treatment of it; this is a 7000-level course [we don't mess around]. You will notice that in general the reading is "front loaded"; this conforms to the pattern of graduate courses, in which all the reading is done early so that the later weeks in the term can be used for wide-ranging discussion in class and out-of-class time can be used for writing.)

September 7: Richard III (True Tragedy of Richard III; Edward III)

September 14: Discussion continued

September 21: King John (Troublesome Reign of King John; Look About You)

September 28: No class

October 5: Richard II (Marlowe's Edward II, Woodstock)

October 12: 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV (Famous Victories of Henry V; Merry Wives of Windsor)

October 19: Henry V

October 26: Henry VIII; the piece of Sir Thomas More allegedly Shakespeare's (Heywood's If You Know Not Me, parts one and two; the rest of Sir Thomas More, Thomas Lord Cromwell)

November 2: Special Guest: Prof. Scott McMillin, Cornell University; for an introduction to Prof. McMillin, click here

November 9: Discussion continued

November 16: Recap, overview

November 23: No class (pre-Thanksgiving holiday)

November 30: Performance workshop

December 12 @ 1:30 pm: Final Paper due (Final Exam: Identification Quiz: scrambled list of characters from all the history plays [just kidding!])

Texts: Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 1997); in addition, graduate students should get the following: F. J. Levy, Tudor Historical Thought; Emma Smith’s Shakespeare’s Histories; Michael Hattaway's Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s History Plays, and Foakes's new edition of Henslowe's Diary. Anyone (graduate or undergraduate) who works on a particular Shakespeare play should get the Arden edition of it, as complement to the Riverside. For those of you with a shaky sense of English history, I’ve ordered a simple aid: The Rough Guide Chronicle: England by Robin Eagles; decide for yourself whether this is worth the money.

More reading: 7360 students will read at least two plays not by Shakespeare; in addition, they will read Levy’s Tudor Historical Thought. 4100/4200 students will read at least one play not by Shakespeare and either one more or Levy’s Tudor Historical Thought. In addition, I would like everyone—graduate and undergraduate—to sample Shakespeare’s primary non-dramatic source for his history plays: Holinshed's Chronicles (Bullough prints the most relevant passages per play in his Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare [see vol 3 or 4, as appropriate]); there;’s also a book called Shakespeare’s Holinshed. Another important dimension of the Tudor appetite for historical matter is poetry. As relevant to your own academic discipline and graduate projects, I recommend that 7360 students sample the body of “history” poems: for example, Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Book II, canto ix, stanzas 59 & 60; canto x (all); Thomas Sackville’s Mirror for Magistrates; and Samuel Daniel's Civil Wars Between the Two Houses of York and Lancaster.

Class discussion: I will ask graduate students to sign up for one Shakespearean and one non- Shakespearean “presentation.” I will ask undergraduates to sign up for one Shakespearean presentation. On the day of your presentation/s, I will expect you to direct the discussion; provide the rest of the class with your “talking points.” Most of the time on the Shakespeare plays, you will share the burden with a fellow student. Divvy up responsibilities between yourselves, organizing by sections of the play, the range of issues you want to discuss, or whatever makes sense to you. For the presentation on the non-Shakespearean play (and talking points), you will have to assume that the rest of us haven’t read the play (so provide a brief plot summary and a little bit about its theater history and publication) and that we do not know its relevance to the Shakespearean play-of-the-day (so jump into the discussion of the Shakespearean play, as issues relevant to the non-Shakespearean one come up).

Still another layer of complication: I love the idea of “experts” on a range of subjects. This is yet another way to encourage discussion and keep the conversation diverse. So: I ask each of you to volunteer to be our class “expert” on one of the following topics (I suggest a couple of good resources to get you started):

1. Shakespeare’s sources: Geoffrey Bullough, The Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare (London, 1957-75 [vols 3 & 4 cover the history plays); Annabel Patterson, Reading Holinshed’s Chronicles (Chicago: 1994)

2. Shakespeare’s politics: Stephen Greenblatt, “Invisible Bullets,” in Political Shakespeare, edited by Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield (Ithaca: 1985); Richard Helgerson, “Staging Exclusion,” chapter 5 in his Forms of Nationhood (Chicago, 1992)

3. Tudor historiography: E. M. W. Tillyard, The Elizabethan World Picture (London, 1943); D. R. Woolf, “The Shapes of History,” in A Companion to Shakespeare, ed. David Scott Kastan (Oxford, 1999).

4. Gender—male and female identity: Bruce Smith, Shakespeare and Masculinity (Oxford, 2000); Phyllis Rackin, “Patriarchal History and Female Subversion,” chapter 4 in her Stages of History (Ithaca, 1990)

5. Genre: Irving Ribner, The English History Play in the Age of Shakespeare (Princeton, 1957); Michael Hattaway, “The Shakespearean History Play," in his anthology, The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s History Plays (Cambridge, 2002)

6. Drama and the marketplace (theater history, issues of Elizabethan staging, audience, history plays in print): R. A. Foakes, Henslowe’s Diary, 2nd ed (Cambridge, 2002); Roslyn L. Knutson, The Repertory of Shakespeare’s Company (Fayetteville, 1991)

7. Shakespeare’s texts: variations in the quarto versions of 2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI, Richard III and/or Henry V (the so-called “bad quartos’); M. J. B. Allen and Kenneth Muir, Shakespeare’s Plays in Quarto (Berkeley, 1981)

8. Shakespeare’s language: Russ McDonald, Shakespeare and the Arts of Language (Oxford, 2002; Stephen Booth, “’ Shakespeares Language and the Language of ‘Shakespeare’s Time,” Shakespeare Survey50 (1997): 1-17.

9. Shakespeare in performance: reviews of recent stage and screen versions; anything by Lois Potter, esp. “English and American Richards, Edwards, and Henries,” Shakespeare Quarterly 55.4 (2004): 450-61; expand this as you see fit to painting and illustrations.

10. Other: is anyone interested in medieval warfare? Shakespeare’s anachronisms? Time and mortality? Kingship? See me for suggestions, if you are.

Graduate students have three broad choices: (1) write a chapter of your thesis, if this subject matter "fits" what you're doing; (2) prepare an article for publication (we'll talk about where); the point of this is that no one at the 7000-graduate level should be writing just as a school exercise; you will be job hunting and/or applying to a PhD program; you need to show that you anticipate contributing to the scholarly discourse in print. I'll be keeping you company; I'm working on two papers that deal with history plays; (3) prepare a three-week lesson plan for teaching one or more of Shakespeare's history plays in an elementary or secondary classroom (history or English), with documentation from scholarship on pedagogy, historiography, and Shakespearean scholarship. I will also want the package to contain a substantially reduced text of the play, something about 800 lines long, as an exercise in editing as well as abbreviated performance.

Let’s have a conference early in the term to tweak one of these choices to suit your needs.

Undergraduates: I don't think any of the traditional paper formats will be all that useful for undergraduates in this class. Essentially, this course—as an independent study class—is more a tutorial, that is, a readings class, than it is a writing class. So, I'm thinking now that a blog is the best medium for you to share with me and your classmates what you're reading and what you think of it (graduate students and faculty can join in, as we choose, but the primary conversation will be among yourselves). I will ask you to print out your contributions and turn them in in a folder, both at mid-term and again on the date of the final. I'll set up a list-serv for us to use; if there is a better way of posting messages, let me know. This will be one medium (in addition to class discussion) that will enable you to talk about the additional readings you do and to chime in with expert knowledge on issues that interest you and others.