The Middle Ages is one of the most important themes of Shakespeare's oeuvre. Whereas early in his dramatic career the playwright was primarily interested in the late medieval foundations of Tudor ... read more
The Middle Ages is one of the most important themes of Shakespeare's oeuvre. Whereas early in his dramatic career the playwright was primarily interested in the late medieval foundations of Tudor politics and nationhood, he later turned to the question of periodization itself and to that of the literary heritage the medieval period bequeathed to the Renaissance. Both in his politico-historical and in his rather more literary investigations into England's past Shakespeare displays a skeptical inquisitiveness with respect to myths of origin, celebrated historical ruptures and ideologically charged legends of legitimation. While the opening scene of Henry V depicts in cynical vividness the degree to which historical narrative is always embedded in contemporary politics, the Chorus of Pericles embodies the issue of historical alterity both linguistic and religious and the prologue to the Two Noble Kinsmen addresses literary tradition with an irony bordering on the irreverent. These are the problems that will concern us in this course.
Students are expected to have acquired critical editions (either Oxford or Arden) of the following plays by Shakespeare and to have read them by the beginning of the term:
Henry VPericlesThe Two Noble Kinsmenclose