HUMS 634
The Literature of Tudor England: Drama and Poetry

Harris Friedberg

Course Syllabus
January 24

The Poet:
We will explore how Shakespeare and his contemporaries viewed literature itself. What was its moral function? What were the goals of literary representation? The hierarchy of the genres? The relationship between literature and religion? Truth and history? We will read Sir Philip Sidney's Defense of Poetry in detail and Spenser's complaint of the court's neglect of poetry in one of the poems of his epochal Shepherds Calendar.

Sidney, Defense of Poesie (RE 125-7, 136-49); Spenser, "October," (RE 152-9)

January 31

The Soul and the Invasion of English Tragedy:
We will investigate the changing conception of the soul in late medieval theology and the contestation of that vision in emergent Calvinist Protestant theology by examining the late medieval morality play Everyman. Almost all English drama before the Elizabethans is spiritual and Christian and spiritual; it either treats the history of salvation in Miracle Plays recounting the narratives of the Bible or else it treats the soul's struggle for salvation in the morality plays. By comparing Everyman with Marlow's greatest work, Dr. Faustus, we will examine the origins of tragedy and especially of the soliloquy by tracing how the personified abstractions of the morality plays are interiorized in soliloquy.

Everyman; Marlowe, Dr. Faustus

February 7

Father and Son: The Tragedy of Revenge:
Revenge, Sir Francis Bacon said, was "a kind of wild justice," and in revenge tragedy the Elizabethans staged the struggle between justice and power. We shall learn the conventions of the genre, conventions that Shakespeare shatters in Hamlet by staging a conflict between vengeance and Christina conscience: "Vengeance is mine, I shall revenge, saith the Lord."

Kyd, Spanish Tragedy

February 14

Shakespeare, Hamlet

February 21

Shakespeare, Hamlet

February 28

Male and Female: The Courtly Tradition:
We shall trace the introduction of the sonnet form and of Petrarch's influential representation of love as spiritual ordeal, beginning with Thomas Wyatt's responses to sexual politics at the court of Henry VIII, proceeding to the beginnings of the sonnet craze with Sidney's sequence, Astrophel and Stella, and then studying in detail the creating of poetic subjectivity in Shakespeare's Sonnets and Donne's Songs and Sonnets.

Petrarch (handout); Wyatt (RE 116-22); Surrey (RE 122-5); Sydney, Astrophel and Stella (RE 130-6); Spenser, Faerie Queene, II.xii,, xii

March 7 Shakespeare, Sonnets (RE 416-7, 427-38 and handouts)
March 28 Donne, Elegies and Songs and Sonnets (RE 515-9, 520-44)
April 4

Sex and Violence: Domestic Tragedy:
We shall read an anonymous playwright's account of an actual murder in 1551 of a man at the hands of his wife and her lover to study how the Elizabethans saw predatory sexuality and its relation to social mobility and then read Shakespeare's representation of the sexual Other in Othello.

Arden of Faversham, Heywood, A Woman Killed with Kindness

April 11 Shakespeare, Othello
April 18 Sex and Gender: Romantic Comedy:
We shall study the struggle between generations, between reason and desire, between patriarchal law and regenerative nature in one of Shakespeare's festive comedies, Twelfth Night.

Dekker, Shoemaker's Holiday

April 29 PAPER DUE
Texts Hollander and Kermode, Renaissance England (Oxford) [RE]; Kyd, Spanish Tragedy (Norton); Shakespeare, Hamlet, Othello (Arden/Thomson); Arden of Faversham (Norton); Heywood, Woman Killed with Kindness (Norton); Dekker, Shoemaker's Holiday (Norton); Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (Oxford).