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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: March ::
Re: Syllabus for Odd Plays
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0287  Tuesday, 31 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 09:34:27 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   SHK 9.0283 Undergraduate Syllabus

[2]     From:   Annalisa Castaldo <
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        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 16:02:09 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0283 Qs: Syllabus for Odd Plays; TGV Question

[3]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 16:37:19 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0283  Q: Syllabus for Odd Plays

[4]     From:   Michael Ullyot <
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        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 17:29:23 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0283  Qs: Syllabus for Odd Plays


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 09:34:27 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Undergraduate Syllabus
Comment:        SHK 9.0283 Undergraduate Syllabus

Dear Ron,

Here are two groupings of three that you might want to consider:

Society "in extremis": King John, 2H4, Troilus & Cressida

The Hero/Heroine "in extremis": Titus, Coriolanus, Timon.

Of course, these categories overlap, but that's the point, and they fit
in well with any of the "big four" tragedies you want to use.

Yours,
--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Annalisa Castaldo <
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Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 16:02:09 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 9.0283 Qs: Syllabus for Odd Plays; TGV Question
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0283 Qs: Syllabus for Odd Plays; TGV Question

A couple of suggestions for teaching the odd plays. First, try to
persuade the campus theater group to put on one of them. After all, if
they do Shakespeare every semester, or even every year, they must also
want something new. It is worth a try.

If that doesn't work, consider the old/new grouping. If you are going to
teach one of the later, famous works such as King Lear or Twelfth Night,
begin with an early work such as Titus or Comedy of Errors, which have
similar themes. Then you can fruitfully compare how the plays develop
ideas of mistaken identity, misused power, age or whatever.

I would also suggest that LLL, Two Gentlmen and Troilus and Cressida can
all be linked by the theme of confused or problematic love (you might
throw Merry Wives in as well) and the Henry VI plays work well with
Coriolanus (which works well with Henry IV:2) in terms of what a king
(or ruler) *is* and what influence the people's voice have in creating
and keeping him in that position.

These are just a few ideas; many themes repeat over and over and you
should have no trouble coming up with ideas if you decide which plays
you want to teach first and then go looking for themes.

Annalisa Castaldo
Temple University

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 16:37:19 -0500
Subject: 9.0283  Q: Syllabus for Odd Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0283  Q: Syllabus for Odd Plays

Ron Dwelle wonders whether there is "any teachable 'patterns' or
'relationships' among my 14 untaught plays so that I could combine them
in groups of, say, 3 plays?  They would need to be somehow related to
the other 3 'prescribed' plays."

Here's what I might do, more or less in the order I would do it:

<Errors>, <Titus>, <Tempest>.  Shakespeare and the classics (Plautus,
Seneca, Aristotle)

<H6> Classics continued (Seneca, Livian historiography, the rhetorical
tradition).  Transition to early modern (Holinshed, etc.)  Both these
sets are good for introducing students to outside-in characterization,
Elizabethan and Jacobean stage practice, free use of sources, etc.  The
first three are fun, and <H6> can be fun, too.

<King John>, <2H4>, <H8>  Continues thematic emphasis on dynastic
politics of 5 preceding plays.  Bakhtinian invention and comic energy
(Fauconbridge, Falstaff), generic mixture (history and tragedy in <Jn>,
history and comedy in <2H4>, <H8> as tragicomedy/romance).

Big 4, <Coriolanus>, <Timon>.  Problematics of tragedy-violence, role
constraints, popular/elite struggle, gender relationships, etc.

<LLL>, <Merry Wives>, <Troilus>.  Problematics of comedy-role-playing,
humiliation, violence, death, the commodification of relationships, etc.

I did not leave a space for the other "prescribed course"-whatever is
being produced, I take it.  If I were Dwelle I'd go lobby the theater
department hard to do one of these plays

Should be a great course.

Designedly,
Dave Evett

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Ullyot <
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Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 17:29:23 -0500
Subject: 9.0283  Qs: Syllabus for Odd Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0283  Qs: Syllabus for Odd Plays

I'm heartened to see that some teachers, like Ron Dwelle, are interested
in teaching such lesser-known plays as _Troilus and Cressida_, _King
John_, and _Henry VIII_.  If not for a former professor of mine back in
a survey course, I would never have discovered _Troilus_, whose Ulysses
voices what may be Shakespeare's anticipation (I suggest this only
half-seriously) of the play's "abject" canonical status:

Nature, what things there are
Most abject in regard and dear in use!
What things again most dear in the esteem
And poor in worth!  (3.3.127-30)

Teaching these plays is important because it causes students to question
the extent to which a work's canonical status-its institutional "esteem"
-- is entrenched in inflexible systems of valuation. Moreover, a play
like _Troilus_ is most definitely "dear in use," as Ron will no doubt
discover.  In terms of linking themes in the 3 plays I listed above, I'd
suggest a look at the differences between writing mythology and writing
history- and how the difficulties of a weighty tradition behind a work's
composition can create difficulties for the writer. These 3 are all very
disjointed plays (hence their lack of theatre presence) -- something
which led Barbara Everett to remark (in _Young Hamlet_) that _Troilus_
was a play without a story. I'd suggest that for all of these plays, the
story had already been written.

M. Ullyot
 

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