English 416 Shakespeare: Machiavellian Politics and the Ethics of History

Dr. Michael Bryson
Sierra Tower 832
818-677-5695
michael.bryson@csun.edu

 

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course will explore Shakespeare's history plays.

In Shakespeare’s time the threat of political chaos was often personified in the figure of the stage-Machiavel. This kind of figure is portrayed as being capable of any and all nefarious schemes and duplicitous actions. Elizabethans held a notion of the Machiavel as a soulless creature dedicated to endless manipulation, betrayal, and violence as means to power and advantage (not, of course, that such tactics were wholly unfamiliar in England). The question Shakespeare's history plays ask, is how different are the tactics (both onstage and in the realm of “real life”) of the Machiavel from those of the King?

EVALUATION METHOD: Discussion, midterm essay, final essay.

ASSIGNMENTS:

Midterm: in the range of 5-6 pages, this will be comprised of responses to essay questions, and will require you to present an analysis of characters from the blocks of plays we will have read to that point. These essays will not require secondary sources, but will require you to read the plays closely, and quote/cite evidence from the plays (using MLA citation) to back up your arguments. The midterm will be assigned 6/13 and be due in class 6/20.

Final: Just as with the midterm, this will be in the range of 5-6 pages, will be comprised of responses to essay questions, and will require you to present an analysis of characters from the blocks of plays we will have read to that point. Quotations should follow MLA format.  The final quiz/essay will be due by Thursday, July 13th. Finals must be submitted via email by 11:59:59 PM. No exceptions.

READING LIST: Complete Pelican Shakespeare


Weekly Preview

Week 1
5/30) Introductions: Machiavelli—The Prince
6/1) King John

Week 2
6/6) Richard II

6/8) Henry IV, part 1

Week 3

6/13)
Henry IV, part 2
6/15)
Henry V

Week 4

6/20) Henry VI, part 1

6/22) Henry VI, part 2

Week 5

6/27)
Henry VI, part 3
6/29) Richard III

Week 6
7/6) Henry VIII