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ENGL401: Shakespeare

Unit 3: Tragedies   In this unit, we will read two of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, analyzing their various thematic, structural, and linguistic achievements, while attempting to define for ourselves:  What is a Shakespearean tragedy?  How is it different from a Shakespearean comedy, or from an Aristotelian tragedy? 

Unit 3 Time Advisory
This unit will take you 18.25 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 3.1: 6.5 hours

☐    Subunit 3.1.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 3.1.2: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 3.1.3: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 3.1.4: 0.75 hours

☐    Subunit 3.2: 11.5 hours

☐    Subunit 3.2.1: 8 hours

☐    Subunit 3.2.3: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 3.2.4: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 3.2.5: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 3.3: 10 hours

☐    Subunit 3.3.1: 7 hours

☐    Subunit 3.3.2: 0.75 hours

☐    Subunit 3.3.3: 1.75 hour

Unit3 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Define “Shakespearean tragedy” as well as the “tragic hero.”
  • Situate Shakespeare’s work in terms of broader movements in Elizabethan tragedy.
  • Provide critical analyses (in terms of dominant themes and ideas) of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth.  

3.1 Tragedy in Context   3.1.1 What Is Tragedy? A Review of the Tradition   - Reading: Utah State University: Mark Damen’s Classical Drama and Society: “Classical Greek Tragedy I,” “Classical Greek Tragedy II,” and “Classical Greek Tragedy III” Link: Utah State University: Mark Damen’s Classical Drama and Society: “Classical Greek Tragedy I,” (PDF) “Classical Greek Tragedy II,” (PDF) and “Classical Greek Tragedy III” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read these pages, which are intended to provide you with a history of Classical Greek tragedy, with which Shakespeare would have been familiar.
 
Terms of Use: These resources are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. They are attributed to Mark Damen and the original versions can be found here.

3.1.2 The Flawed Hero and His Downfall: Aristotle’s Conceptualization of Tragedy   - Reading: The College of New Rochelle: Dr. Barbara F. McManus’ “Outline of Aristotle’s Theory of Tragedy in the Poetics” Link:  The College of New Rochelle: Dr. Barbara F. McManus’ “Outline of Aristotle’s Theory of Tragedy in the Poetics” (HTML)
 
Instructions:  Please scroll down and read the entirety of Dr. McManus’s outline of Aristotelian tragedy.  What was Aristotle’s definition of “tragedy”?  
   
About the link:  Dr. McManus of the College of New Rochelle has made this webpage available online through her departmental homepage.  
 
Terms of Use:  Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.1.3 Characteristics of Elizabethan Tragedy   - Reading: City University of New York (Brooklyn College): Dr. Lilia Melani’s Introduction to “Tragedy” Link:  City University of New York (Brooklyn College):  Dr. Lilia Melani’s Introduction to “Tragedy” (HTML)
 
Instructions:  Please scroll down and read the entirety of Dr. Melani’s explication of Elizabethan tragedy in the context of other forms of dramatic tragedy.  
   
About the link:  Dr. Melani of the City University of New York (Brooklyn College) has made this webpage available through her departmental website.  
 
Terms of Use:  Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.1.4 Hallmarks of the Shakespearean Tragedy   - Reading: A. C. Bradley’s “Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth” Link:  A. C. Bradley’s “Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth” (HTML)
 
Instructions:  Please scroll down and read the introduction and first lecture of A.C. Bradley’s classic study of Shakespearean tragedy.  You might choose to do a little research yourself on A.C. Bradley and this work, as it has itself become a source of debate amongst literary critics.  Some take issue with Bradley’s overall approach to Shakespeare’s work, finding that he spends too much time exercising his own moral judgment of the characters; others point to factual errors in his work; and still others believe that he is expecting Shakespeare’s plays to conform to more contemporary conventions of literature than are appropriate or fair.  What do you think of these criticisms?  Do they matter to you?  Do they balance the way in which you approach Bradley’s writings?  Reading up on some of the criticism can help you situate his work within a critical discourse that will help you become an even more discerning reader and student of Shakespeare (and of literature more generally)!
 
Regardless of these criticisms, it cannot be ignored that Bradley’s work has remained incredibly influential since its original publication.  It has been reprinted dozens of times!

 Reading this article should take approximately 45 minutes.  
      
 About the link:  Project Gutenberg, a literary database, has made
the entirety of A. C. Bradley’s essay available online.    
    
 Terms of Use:  Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

3.2 Hamlet   3.2.1 Power and Politics in Hamlet   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's version of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Vancouver Island University: Dr. Ian Johnston’s “Introductory Lecture on Shakespeare’s Hamlet” Links: The Saylor Foundation's version of William Shakespeare's Hamlet (PDF), Vancouver Island University: Dr. Ian Johnston’s “Introductory Lecture on Shakespeare’s Hamlet” (HTML)
 
Also available in:
HTML (play)
eText format on the Kindle
ePub format on Google Books
 
Instructions:  Please read Shakespeare’s play.  Then scroll down and read the entirety of Dr. Johnston’s introductory lecture on Shakespeare’s play.  If you can find a filmic adaptation of this play at a movie store or online (especially the Branagh version mentioned in the reading beneath subunit 1.1.5), please view it.
   
About the links: Dr. Ian Johnston’s essay on Hamlet has been made available online through Vancouver Island University.  
 
Terms of Use:  Please respect the copyrights and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

3.2.2 The Representation of Insanity/Madness in “Hamlet”   - Reading: TheatreHistory.com: Simon Augustine Blackmore’s “The Real or Assumed Madness of Hamlet” Link:  TheatreHistory.com: Simon Augustine Blackmore’s “The Real or Assumed Madness of Hamlet” (HTML)
 
Instructions:  Please scroll down and read the entirety of TheatreHistory.com’s version of Blackmore’s essay on madness in Shakespeare’s play.  Do you believe that Hamlet was mad, or simply cunning and quite calculating?  What evidence leads you to your conclusion?  
   
About the link:  TheatreHistory.com, a website dedicated to the history of drama, has made the entirety of Blackmore’s essay available online.  Blackmore’s essay was originally published in The Riddles of Hamlet and The Newest Answers in 1917.
 
Terms of Use:  Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.2.3 Using Psychoanalysis to Understand Hamlet   - Reading: UC Santa Cruz: Hamlet Conundrums: “Now, Mother, What’s the Matter? Dr. Freud’s Hamlet” Link: UC Santa Cruz: Hamlet Conundrums: “Now, Mother, What’s the Matter? Dr. Freud’s Hamlet” (HTML)
 
Instructions: On the left of the screen, please click on “Dr. Freud’s Hamlet” and read all seven of the entries displayed.  What is Dr. Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of Hamlet’s motivations?  How is Hamlet motivated by his relationship with his mother according to Dr. Freud?

 Terms of use: Please respect the copyright and terms displayed on
the webpage above.  

3.2.4 Depth of Characterization: Hamlet’s Problems   - Reading: Circle, Uncoiled: T.S. Eliot’s “Hamlet and His Problems” Link: Circle, Uncoiled: T.S. Eliot’s “Hamlet and His Problems” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please scroll down and read the entirety of T.S.
Eliot’s famous essay on Shakespeare’s play.  Eliot’s reading of this
play derives from his 1922 text *The Sacred Wood:  Essays on Poetry
and Criticism*.  What are some of the assumptions that Eliot makes
about this play?  Do you agree with these assumptions?  

 Terms of use: Please respect the copyright and terms displayed on
the webpage above.  

3.2.5 Women in Hamlet   - Reading: UC Santa Cruz: Hamlet Conundrums’ “Frailty, thy name is woman: Women in Hamlet” Link:  UC Santa Cruz: Hamlet Conundrums’ “Frailty, thy name is woman: Women in Hamlet” (HTML)
 
Instructions:  Please follow the link above to be directed to eight additional links exploring women in Shakespeare’s play.  You will need to click on the links beginning at “Ophelia” and ending at “Gertrude: In the Middle.”  Be sure to read the entirety of each webpage here.  How would you characterize the function of gender in this play?  
   
About the link:  Hamlet Conundrums, a website dedicated to Shakespeare’s Hamlet and hosted by the University of California, Santa Cruz, has made these webpages available online.  
 
Terms of Use:  Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.3 Macbeth   3.3.1 Introducing Shakespeare’s Macbeth   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's version of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Vancouver Island University: Dr. Ian Johnston’s “Introduction to Macbeth” Links: The Saylor Foundation's version of William Shakespeare's Macbeth (PDF) and Vancouver Island University: Dr. Ian Johnston’s “Introduction to Macbeth” (HTML)
 
Also available in:
HTML (play)
eText format on the Kindle
ePub format on Google Books
 
Instructions:  Please read Shakespeare’s play as well as the entirety of Dr. Johnston’s introduction to the play.   
   
About the links: Dr. Ian Johnston’s essay on Macbeth has been made available online through Vancouver Island University.  
 
Terms of Use:  Please respect the copyrights and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

3.3.2 Witchcraft and the Role of the Supernatural   - Reading: A. C. Bradley’s “Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth” Link: A. C. Bradley’s “Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please scroll down and read lecture 9.  This is a
continuation of the Bradley work we encountered earlier in this
unit.  Continue to evaluate this reading within the context of the
criticisms broached earlier.  Keep good notes!  

 Reading this lecture should take approximately 45 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

3.3.3 The Representation of Lady Macbeth   - Reading: A. C. Bradley’s “Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth” Link: A. C. Bradley’s “Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please scroll down and read lecture 10.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 45 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Theatre Database: Anna Jameson’s “Lady Macbeth” Link:  Theatre Database: Anna Jameson’s “Lady Macbeth” (HTML)
     
    Instructions:  Please scroll down and read Jameson’s classic essay on Lady Macbeth.  Does Lady Macbeth have a tragic flaw?  If so, what is it and how did you arrive at this reading of her character?  
     
    About the link:  Theater Database, a website dedicated to theater history and criticism, has reproduced online Jameson’s essay originally printed in Shakespeare’s Heroines in 1897.  
     
    Terms of Use:  Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.