What is the course about?
These plays raise the question of what we mean by tragedy, in life and in literature. The Jacobean period generally is remarkable for the variety of ways in which it was understood and practised by dramatists. Reading these two plays in their entirety, and discussing them scene by scene, will contribute to our own understanding of the genre, and of the period in which they were written.
Marguerite has taught literature for more than forty years, principally at Birkbeck College and The City Lit. Her teaching is now focused on Shakespeare and his contemporaries, but in the past she has taught courses on a wide range of subjects, including American and Irish literature, modernism and postmodernism. In addition, Marguerite has published three books – critical studies of Shakespeare and postmodern fiction, and a novel.
What will we cover?
Setting - ancient Rome and Egypt in Antony and Cleopatra and contemporary Italy in The Duchess of Malfi – is of considerable importance in both plays. Rome was associated with particular values and behaviour in the English imagination, Italy with intrigue, Catholicism, horror and Machiavelli. We shall analyse how these motifs are used by Shakespeare and Webster to thematic and dramatic purpose. Both plays are celebrated for language and poetic effect, which we shall explore through a close reading of the texts. We shall in addition consider the two dramatists’ approach to character.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
Recognise some of the principal features of Jacobean tragedy
Analyse through close reading the language of the plays
Grasp how theme emerges through character, event and setting
Compare Shakespeare and Webster as writers of tragedy.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
The level is similar to that of a first year university course. You need to be willing and able to analyse text, to exchange responses to it and listen in an open and supportive way to the views of others.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Both plays will be read in full, with the tutor leading the discussion scene by scene and everybody given the opportunity to contribute. You will be expected to read in advance that portion of the play assigned to each session. Further reading, of critical and biographical texts, will be suggested as the course proceeds.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
You will need copies of the Arden edition of Antony and Cleopatra and of the New Mermaid edition of The
Duchess of Malfi. Otherwise there are no costs.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look for literature courses under History, Culture and Writing at www.citylit.ac.uk.