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current students > seminars > fall 2011 schedule > seminar: HNSPTP-Literature: Revenge, Reconciliation, and Redemption in Shakespearean Drama


Honors Seminars Fall 2011

HNSPTP-Literature: Revenge, Reconciliation, and Redemption in Shakespearean Drama

HON 293 Sec:001  
3 hours  
GER Cat:
Humanities: Literature  
Winston 00020  
Dr. Christopher J. Crosbie
Assistant Professor

In the broadest terms, drama takes as its subject the raw materials of life, placing before us through the peculiar phenomenology of performance the very things that draw us together and drive us apart. Early modern drama - that is, theater from the age of Shakespeare - is in this respect no different. For all the high-minded ideals espoused during the Renaissance, one popular theme recurs regularly in the drama of the time: retribution. On one level, this shouldn't surprise: the simplest dramatic formula, after all, derives from setting one person or group against another. Revenge is dramatically potent; revenge sells. But Renaissance theater, as often as not, staged remarkable tales of reconciliation and redemption as well. These range from plots of epic proportions that reunite lost siblings to those recounting the plight of spurned lovers who reconcile with their (often less than worthy) mates. What are we to make of these moments of retribution or reconciliation? How do the plays themselves call such moments into question, getting us to wonder if revenge might prove ethical, reconciliation problematic? Can revenge function as a vehicle for reconciliation? Can reconciliation - as strange and paradoxical as it may sound - prove a form of retribution? In short, by what standards do we evaluate the complex social configurations and motives - the rifts, the reunions, the seething hatreds, and the rekindled loves - that drama places so compellingly before us? In this course, we will read Titus Andronicus, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, Coriolanus, and The Tempest. Course requirements include two exams, a paper, a class presentation, online discussion, and a real or suitably-feigned interest in all things Shakespeare.