Exploring Medieval Literature: Shakespeare and the Medieval Age
Time: 18:00 - 19:30
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
This course has now started
Course Code: HLT259
Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)
What is the course about?
This online literature course considers the influence of medieval writing and society on Shakespeare by looking at several plays, as well as the culture of the Early Modern theatre within which he worked. The course looks at a range of issues relating to the influence of medieval writing, culture, and historical and legendary events. How did the Middle English language affect his work? Can we see evidence of medieval practices and thought in his works? Why did he chose to put certain characters from the medieval period onto the early modern stage?
Shakespeare worked in a period of change; over his lifetime the events and culture of England and Europe were shifting. From birth in relatively rural England, with traditional culture and practices that engendered in him a nostalgia for the past, Shakespeare became part of a dynamic movement in London that was innovative and forward-thinking. These often paradoxical relationships between tradition and the creative potential developing during the English Renaissance fashion Shakespeare’s representations of the medieval world.
Tom White received his PhD in English from Birkbeck, University of London in 2016. He has since worked in the English Faculty at Oxford University, as a lecturer at Mansfield College, and as a tutor for the Workers' Educational Association. His research interests range broadly across the literature of the medieval and early modern periods, the history of the book, critical theory and visual culture. He also writes for the London Review of Books and MAP Magazine.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
Shakespeare’s historical influences
His literary influences, such as Chaucer and other English and European writers
His language choices relating to earlier English, particularly archaisms
Particular plays, including the history plays that deal with medieval matters, but also The Tempest, Hamlet, and King Lear, which also engage with medieval issues, thinking, and/or events.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
Understand the world of the theatre within which Shakespeare operated.
Be aware of a range of Shakespeare’s material relating to the medieval world, and have detailed understanding of a few selected plays and scenes that show medieval influence.
Have a general knowledge of the purpose and choices relating to the use of medieval sources.
Be familiar with the key medieval themes and events of interest to Shakespeare.
Understand how Shakespeare uses language relating to the medieval period in the creation of his works.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
Although this course considers earlier English writing, it is not technical and requires no specific knowledge of linguistics or linguistic terms. There will inevitably be discussion of historical as well as legendary events, but no knowledge of such matters is required before the course.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
By presentation and demonstration. Also group discussion. You would benefit from additional reading before and during the time of your course. If you could access either the Oxford, Norton or Arden Complete Works of Shakespeare before the course that would be ideal, though specific material will be provided in advance.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
As stated above, you would benefit from engaging with a copy of Shakespeare’s Complete Works. The tutor will be using the Arden Complete Works which has recently been published (in 2020), but any Works will be appropriate, and materials will also be distributed that focus on particular aspects of the plays.
An excellent book with the same title as this course by Helen Cooper, “Shakespeare and the Medieval World” is also recommended, but not essential.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Please see other Literary History and all Literature courses under History, Culture & Writing/Literature at www.citylit.ac.uk.