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123422 SE Literary & Cultural Studies Seminar / BA Paper / MA British/Irish/New English (2017S)

Shakespeare's Power Plays

11.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 12 - Anglistik
Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 20 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Thursday 06.04. 12:00 - 14:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Thursday 27.04. 12:00 - 14:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Thursday 04.05. 12:00 - 14:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Thursday 11.05. 12:00 - 14:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Thursday 18.05. 12:00 - 14:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Thursday 01.06. 12:00 - 14:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Thursday 08.06. 12:00 - 14:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Saturday 10.06. 08:30 - 13:15 Raum 2 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-09
Thursday 22.06. 12:00 - 14:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Thursday 29.06. 12:00 - 14:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19


Aims, contents and method of the course

Many of Shakespeare's plays concern themselves with questions of power: How to legitimise it? How to get it? How to hold on to it? Whether to share it? What to sacrifice for it? What not to sacrifice for it? Whether, when and how to, gracefully, let go of it? In this course we are going to look at two of Shakespeare's history plays and two of his Roman plays in order to explore Elizabethan notions of good and bad sovereign rule, of divine ordination, the conflict between legitimacy of leadership and the ability to lead, the fear of tyranny etc. Richard II (1595-97) and Richard III (1597) frame the War of the Roses. Deposing and murdering the legitimate king Richard II, the last of the Plantagenets, led to a conflict between two influential families, which wreaked havoc in England for a hundred years. This so-called War of the Roses, waged between the houses of Lancaster and York, only came to an end once the last Yorkist, Richard III, who had killed everyone standing between him and the throne, was defeated in battle by a man whose marriage brought the feuding families together and founded the Tudor dynasty, of which Queen Elizabeth I. - the reigning monarch while Shakespeare wrote these history plays - was the last scion. When it came to questions of power, Renaissance England not only looked to its own history, however, but also to that of ancient Rome, since Shakespeare’s contemporaries thought of themselves and their dominions as the legitimate successors to the Roman Empire. Thus all Roman plays are, amongst other things, also experiments the outcomes of which have direct consequences on how Renaissance England sees itself and its system of political power. In their own ways, both "Julius Caesar" (1598-99) and "Coriolanus" (1608), Shakespeare's last tragedy, deal with betrayal and the dangers of tyranny. We are going to use these two Roman plays as entry points to early modern thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of feudal rule and democratic structures.

This course is designed to build on your basic skills for analysing dramatic texts and grasping historical contexts. You will learn to use concepts put forward by (contemporary) literary or cultural theory to produce enriched readings of early modern plays without falling into the trap of anachronistic thinking. You will have opportunities to practice close reading and positioning yourselves (critically and in support of) scholarly texts. The specialist model will enhance your skills in structuring a discussion, while the feedback-loop will hopefully boost your learning curve.

Assessment and permitted materials

Regular attendance; regular preparation of assigned reading material; active participation in class; active in specialist team for one lesson per term; active in peer-feedback; final paper.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Attendance: 5%
Active participation: 10%
Quizzes: 12%
Specialist task: 33%
Term paper: 40%

Students must attain at least 60% to pass this course.

Examination topics

There will be no written exam.

Reading list

Books to buy:
In this class we are going to use the Arden Edition of the four set Shakespeare plays. Please purchase the following:

William Shakespeare, "Richard III" ed. by James R. Siemon [ISBN: 978-1-903436-89-9]
William Shakespeare, "Richard II" ed. by Charles R. Forker [ISBN: 978-1-903436-33-2]
William Shakespeare, "Julius Caesar" ed. by David Daniell [ISBN: 978-1-903436-21-9]
William Shakespeare, "Coriolanus" ed. by Peter Holland [ISBN: 978-1-904271-28-4]

Background reading:
Whenever dealing with Shakespeare, this should be your first point of call, if you need to get a good general idea: Ina Schabert (ed.), "Shakespeare-Handbuch", Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 2000. So please familiarise yourselves with the entries on the four plays in the Shakespeare Handbuch. A good second point of call is the introduction to the individual play in question, which is provided by the every Arden edition. These intros are generally lengthy affairs, but their internal structure makes it easy to select which parts might be more relevant for the purpose at hand than others. Other critical texts on Shakespeare's plays and its cultural/political/ historical/social contexts will be made available at the beginning of term.

Association in the course directory

Studium: UF 344, BA 612, MA 844;
Code/Modul: UF 4.2.4-322, BA09.2, 10.2, MA4, MA6, MA7
Lehrinhalt: 12-0388

Last modified: Mo 07.09.2020 15:33