Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Shakespeare and History

I'm taking "English History and Shakespeare" this semester. We're reading Shakespeare's royal history plays and comparing them with actual events and people. It's quite confusing at times with all the constantly changing names, titles, and allegiances.

On Tuesdays, rather than a lecture, our instructor lets us raise items we are confused about to discuss - this is very useful! Then we have a multiple-choice quiz (with fill-in-the-blank bonus questions). You can do quite well on the quizzes if you've read the assigned reading at least once and pay attention to the discussion (as evidenced by the fact that I'm averaging 104).

On Thursdays, we watch a production of whichever play we're reading (half one week, half the next). We didn't read King John, but so far we've covered Richard II, Henry IV (Parts 1 and 2), and Henry V; we'll also cover Henry VI (Parts 1, 2, and 3) and Richard III. We have to write a 3,000 word paper on Henry VIII (which we won't be discussing or watching in class).

Our textbooks are the Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd ed. (a shame, as I still have my 1st ed.), Shakespeare's Kings by Norwich, and two books by Antonia Fraser: The Middle Ages and The Wars of the Roses.

As an undergraduate, I studied only some of the comedies and tragedies, so the history plays are completely new to me and my history coverage, especially non-American, has always be sparse. I am enjoying this class and hope to be able to take other history courses in the future.

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