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Current Announcements


Grades should be posted outside 421 Wheeler on Tuesday 27 May (Monday is Memorial Day, a holiday)


Narrative structures: actions, plots; logic of plot-construction.

Characters: whether virtuous or vicious; also place in plot, e.g.: principal characters; exploited characters (used by Shakespeare to make other characters look better or worse); super-characters; extraneous characters; "outsiders" (Don Amando, Shylock, Malvolio, Caliban).

Conclusions or denouements: rewards and punishments; good deaths; justified deaths; do characters end up better or worse than they deserve?

Mechanics of end-results: do things come about by intention? by letting things work themselves out? by coincidence or dumb luck? by natural means? supernatural means?

Gender issues: relative power of men and women; how do women compensate? changing of roles; cross-dressing. If gender is important, is it more important than class?

Language: do characters speak prose? poetry? blank verse? rhymed verse? do they change the kind of language they speak over time? Is there a one-to-one suitability of language to character?

How is language used? to create atmosphere? spells? relationships? curses? storms? love? hate? comedy? wit? national, ethnic, or gender differences?

Physical space: benefits or disadvantages of open-plan stage? daylight? costume? absence of scenery? limited use of curtains?

Themes and topics: moral obligations: loyalty to king? ruler? overseer? living parents? dead parents? extended family? servants? others? Obligation to right wrongs? to fall in love? to beget children? to care for them?

Third Paper, Due 24 April

The topic for the third paper is the intermixture of the comic and the serious in Shakespeare. Select a comic incident in a tragedy or a tragic incident in a comedy. What is the effect of the apparently indecorous incident? Is the comedy mere "comic relief?" Is the serious or troubling event in the comedy no more than a momentary complication to add suspense?

Do not try to answer this question in the abstract; do try to define the effect of a particular incident both in its immediate context and in relation to the play as a whole.

Semester Syllabus

English 17 SHAKESPEARE Spring 1997
Mr. Nelson 22 Warren Hall
TTh 11:00-12:30

Tentative Reading List

Week 1
Tu Jan 21 Introduction: Contexts, Life, Works
Th     23 Poetry in Love's Labor's Lost and A Midsummer Night's Dream
Week 2
Tu     28 Love's Labor's Lost
Th     30
Week 3
Tu Feb 4 A Midsummer Night's Dream
Th     6
Week 4
Tu     11 Richard III         Mini-exam #1
Th     13 
Week 5
Tu     18 Henry IV, Part 1    Mini-exam #2
Th     20                First Paper Due
Week 6
Tu     25 Romeo and Juliet    Mini-exam #3
Th     27
Week 7
Tu Mar  4 Merchant of Venice  Mini-exam #4
Th      6
Week 8
Tu     11 Much Ado About Nothing
Th     13 
Week 9
Tu     18 Sonnets
Th     20                Second paper due

SPRING BREAK 24-28 March

Week 10
Tu Apr  1 Hamlet
Th      3
Week 11
Tu      8 Twelfth Night
Th     10
Week 12
Tu     15 Anthony and Cleopatra
Th     17
Week 13
Tu     22 King Lear  
Th     24                Third paper due
Week 14
Tu     29 The Tempest
Th May  1
Week 15
Tu      6  REVIEW WEEK
Th      8

Final Examination: Wednesday, 21 May, 8-11 a.m.

Notes on class business.

1) We will normally read one play per week.  Students are
expected to have read each play to the end by the appropriate

2) In lieu of a single mid-term examination, four mini-exams (20
minutes each) will be administered over four successive Tuesdays
(Weeks 4-7).  Each mini-exam will consist of one identification
taken from the reading for that Tuesday, plus one essay on a
topic discussed in previous weeks.  Each student must take three
and only three mini-exams.  No make-up mini-exams will be
permitted except on written medical excuses.

3) Play readings will be organized throughout the semester, both
late-afternoons and evenings.  Although this is a voluntary
activity, and students are not required to attend, each student
is urged to participate in at least one reading.

4) Most if not all of the plays on the reading-schedule are
available in the audio-visual facility on the first (lowest)
level of Moffit Library.  Students are urged to watch plays on
VCR, but as a supplment and not as a substitute for reading.

5) Students are expected to attend class regularly.  Attendance
will be taken at the instructor's discretion.  Persistent
absences will result in a reduction in the final grade.

6) Students are reminded of the Department of English policy
regarding plagiarism:
All written work submitted in this course, except for acknowledged quotations, is to be expressed in your own words. It should also be constructed upon a plan of your devising. Work copied from a book, from another student's paper, or from any other source is not acceptable. The submission of such copied work will, under University rules, render the offending student subject to an F grade for the work in question or for the whole course, and will also make him/her liable for referral to the Director of the Office of Student Activities and Programs for further disciplinary action.
Moderate quotation for illustrative ends is often advantageous. Such passages must be placed within quotation marks or otherwise identified. Moreover, if reliance is placed upon a particular work for ideas, acknowledgment must be made. The instructor will be glad to answer questions as to the proper use of footnotes and citations for identification of sources.

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First Paper Assignment

The essence of the first paper assignment is to discuss a passage which consists of a speech of one character followed by the speech of another. Show how each of the two speeches individually relates to the character of the speaker; then show how the transition from one kind of speech to the next reflects or creates a contrast between the two characters.

As a practical matter, you will have to find two consecutive speeches by two characters who differ from one another in a significant manner (gender, class, role). Then show how each individual is characterized by his or her manner of speech. Finally, show how the difference between the two characters is reflected in the differences in their manner of speech.

Second Paper Due 20 March

Papers are due Thursday the 20th of March. Don't miss class for the sake of completing a paper; rather, attend on the 20th, and finish your paper by 4:00 p.m., which is the final deadline. Papers not handed in at class may be slipped under the door of 421 Wheeler.

Second Paper Assignment

Discuss a speech or part of a speech by one character which dictinctly enriches that character - makes us care about him or her, whether positively or negatively. The example given in class - Shylock's speech appealing for sympathy on grounds of common humanity - is off limits, but may suggest a pattern for your own analysis.

For this second paper you are limited to four plays, except that you may not write about Henry IV Part 1 again if you wrote your first paper on that play: Henry IV Part 1, Romeo and Juliet, Merchant of Venice, or Much Ado About Nothing.

Although you will want to focus on a single passage, you will probably want to put it in context by discussing how the character is presented up to that point, and how he or she seems to develop after that point.

See paper instructions on calling page.