Shakespeare Course Handouts & Cues
Copyright ? David Cope. Revised: December 12, 2001
File Two: Plays 1600-1611 / The Sonnets
Hamlet (1600-01) 2
Twelfth Night (1601-02) 7 Troilus and Cressida (1601-02) 11
Measure for Measure (1604) 17
Othello (1604) 23
King Lear (1605) 29
Macbeth (1606) 33 Antony and Cleopatra (1606-07) 39
Cymbeline (1609-10) 44
The Winter's Tale (1610-11) 53
The Tempest (1611) 59
The Sonnets 65
1. Tragedy: focuses on the fate of an individual whose downfall shakes the nation; unlike com- edy, where the trajectories of individuals lead to a common celebration, here the focus is on the agonies and psychology of one man (and often his antagonist). In Aristotle's discussion of tra- gedy, this hero is one who may be superior in any number of ways, but who contains one fault that is his downfall. Tragedy works, according to Aristotle, when the audiences recognizes and identifies with the struggles of this good or humane person; we are moved when he cannot free himself and experience sadness at his overthrow.
2. Revenge Tragedy: an Elizabethan sub-genre of tragedy, based on the Senecan model,
which features at least six recognizable motifs. These are:
(1) blood revenge for the murder or flagrant injury of a relative as the basic thrust
of the plot;
(2) action prompted by the accusations of a ghost;
(3) hesitation on the part of the hero because of the need for proof or a suitable occa-
sion to effect the revenge;
(4) madness, either feigned or real, as part of the hero's agon;
(5) a Machiavellian villain;
(6) numerous murders, both on-stage and off, usually as part of the climax.
3. Plot Types: GHOST STORY, A STORY OF INTERNATIONAL INTRIGUE, A MURDER
MYSTERY ("CHESS GAME" BETWEEN TWO DANGEROUS OPPONENTS), A LOVE
STORY, A DRAMA ABOUT DRAMA AND PSYCHOLOGY.
4. SIMILAR MOTIFS AND VERBAL ECHOES OF OTHER PLAYS:
and Cressida, Othello, The Winter's Tale
5. STRUCTURAL PARALLELS AND PAIRINGS:
on fitness to rule (vis-a-vis attitude toward action)
and real suicide.
6. OTHER IMPORTANT MOTIFS:
numerous father-daughter and father-son combinations in his plays, but few
plays include mothers e.g. (Volumnia in Coriolanus, Lady Macduff and, peculiarly
enough, since the children are missing) Lady Macbeth.
--Thus the Gertrude-Hamlet relationship has given twentieth century Freudian critics
fodder for their examination of the supposed oedipal relationship. See Ernest Jones.
ceived as clever, vicious, and yet possessing a conscience. His manipulative abilities
should be most apparent in his persuasion of Laertes.
7. A PLAY ABOUT PLAYING: THE DRAMATIC MASK, THE IRONIES OF EMOTION
Claudius, but he equally describes himself.
<2.2.329-61 (1204) Topical ref to "little eyases": children's companies who were suc-
cessfully competing against more established companies and depriving actors of their
income—a real problem, connected to the war of the theatres, in London.
a. 1.5.169-80 (1199)—explanation of "antic disposition" to come.
b. 2.1.74-97 (1200)—playing to Ophelia.
c. 2.2.170-221 (1202-03)—playing to Polonius
d. 2.2.222-310 (1203-04)—playing to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
e. 3.2.392-99 (1214) and 3.4.1-104 (1215-16)—playing to Gertrude
f. 5.2—performing the duel with Laertes (until the "playing" breaks down).
a. 2.2.109-11 (1202) Polonius weighing the language of Hamlet's letter.
b. 2.2.550-605 (1207) Acting, artifice, and emotion; use of play to manipulate
—implications re audience psychology? nature of imaginative figures?
c. 3.2.1-45 (1209-10) Aesthetics of performance (with actor)
provide a killing ground (e.g. Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, Webster's The White Devil);
as a masque, it functions as a purifying device in Merry Wives and as a wedding en-
tertainment in The Tempest.
8: "GHOSTOLOGY" AND THE SUPERNATURAL
terrifying fear of devils and Hell (stirred not only by the long tradition of apocalyptic
storytelling culminating in Dante's vision of Inferno, but also by native traditions of
fairies and other supernatural beings, ranging from the puckish Robin Goodfellow to
banshees and "ghosties and ghoolies."
—a production of Dr. Faustus in which more devils appeared on stage than were in
the cast: locals thought the play had called the devil from hell, and closed the
—the popularity of the memento mori and a greater awareness of death generally (the
—James' own book on Witchcraft; puritan habit of finding the devil in everything not
connected with their own beliefs: see Philip Stubbes' Anatomy of Abuses.
a. ghosts: Hamlet
b. "weird sisters" (witches): Macbeth
c. fairies and monsters: MND, Tempest (Ariel and Caliban)
d. fears and portents: Comedy of Errors, Julius Caesar
1. In Shakespeare's time, ghosts are real: they can either be blessed or
2. When they return, something is wrong with the world or society: either they
come to warn of possible troubles, or they come to mislead those to whom
they appear (is the ghost good or is it evil?).
3. They generally appear at night and must return to their places by day.
4. In Hamlet, the afterlife seems to be divided into the traditional three-part
structure described in Dante: Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. Old Hamlet's
ghost claims he's undergoing purgation (i.e. after purification, he may be
released to heaven), yet he is "in fires"—an image more in keeping with hell.
9. METAPHYSICS AND THEOLOGY: The world of Hamlet seems to imply a neo-platonic
Christian metaphysics involving an afterlife characterized by Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell.
Unlike in Dante or St. Thomas Aquinas, however, the Devil is understood in the Manichaean
sense, that is, he functions as an independent adversary of God. Thus, when Hamlet is
confronted with the apparent ghost of his father, he is troubled with the question of whether
the ghost comes from God or from the Devil—whether it is a blessed spirit warning him of
danger or a damned one, trying to get him to damn his own soul. The ghost claims that it is in
Purgatory by day—and is thus being purified of sins for which it had not done penance in life—
yet its demand for revenge seems more in keeping with the worldly code of honor, which de-
mands that one exact vengeance for the sins of others.
Important Questions and Concerns
and when? How does each cover his position? What explanations does Claudius give for not simply murdering Hamlet and being done with him?
ture of the patriarchal society, in which males are socially privileged and yet constricted in their emotional lives, while women are kept as a "privileged" underclass, feted with luxury yet with little or no real voice in the exercise of power. In such an arrangement, the male under terrible stress will often take out his frustrations on the one he loves most. The questions, then, involve the kinds of roles women could play in this society, and the relationships of Claudius and Gertrude, and Hamlet and Ophelia.
1. What roles may Gertrude and Ophelia play in this society? What is the extent of
their power, education, etc.?
2. How much does Gertrude influence the decisions of her husband—and when she
does, where does that influence lie?
3. What are the differences in the education of Laertes and Ophelia, and in the way their
father treats them?
4. Most importantly, how much does Gertrude know about Claudius's actions?
5. What are her attitudes toward her son? (In some modern versions of the play, Hamlet
is seen as the classic oedipal figure—in love with his mother, an attitude of which she
is not completely scornful).
6. What do you make of Hamlet's changed behavior—his abusiveness after earlier atti-
tudes of kindness and gentle regard—toward Ophelia? In what kind of situation does
she find herself?
stresses with which the court lives. What effects do international relations have on Claudius? on Hamlet? on the society as a whole? What are the causes of these stresses, and how do these in- form our perceptions of characters and the action of the plot?
in the trajectories of Fortinbras, Hamlet, and Laertes—and in the ways in which they conduct
themselves. What is Shakespeare implying about the qualities of the successful prince?
between what society (at the time) would call just actions and what the religious moral code would seem to claim.
satisfied older generation's defects are visited upon the younger generation: the sins of the fathers (and mothers) have devastating effects on their children, and in this world-gone-mad, the children must struggle to find the proper way to live--and here, only Horatio seems to have found that key.
NATURE OF THIS TRAGIC HERO?
<He shows different sides of his character according to the situation and the people he is with. Bradley says he is a changed man as of 5.2: see especially lines 219-24.
; sidetracking: use of Ophelia to set Claudius on wrong track ("madness" and romance). ; "reading": reading the performances of R & G, Polonius, the Queen, etc. by "throwing out
an angle" to make them reveal themselves.
; testing: testing the ghost's claims via play within play, etc.
tasteful charge, coping with need for action only after struggling with his anxieties.
; Villain view: holds that Hamlet changes, becoming more evil himself: the sensitive young man is rendered more and more villainous as he assumes his role—killing R & G without
a thought, raging at Laertes over Ophelia's body, wanting not simply justice against Claudius,
but wanting to wait to ensure that he will go to hell.
; Inertia view: Hamlet's delay is directly responsible for the numerous deaths: in the end, he must accept responsibility for this slaughter because he failed to immediately follow through on his charge.
; Oedipal view (psychoanalytic): Hamlet's oedipus complex is awakened by the murder of his
father and the "incest" of his mother:
Ernest Jones: from Hamlet and Oedipus
For some deep-seated reason, which is to him unacceptable, Hamlet is plunged into an- guish at the thought of his father being replaced in his mother's affections by someone else. It is as if his devotion to his mother had made him so jealous for her affection that he had found it hard enough to share this even with his father and could not endure to share it with still another man. Against this thought, however, suggestive as it is, may be urged three objections. First, if it
were in itself a full statement of the matter, Hamlet would have been aware of the jealousy, whereas we have concluded that the mental process we are seeking is hidden from him. Secondly, we see in it no evidence of the arousing of an old and forgotten memory. And, thirdly, Hamlet is being deprived by Claudius of no greater share in the Queen's affection than he had been by his own father, for the two brothers made exactly similar claims in this respect—namely,
those of a loved husband. The last-named objection, however, leads us to the heart of the situ-ation. How if, in fact, Hamlet had in years gone by, as a child, bitterly resented having had to share his mother's affection even with his own father, had regarded him as a rival, and had se- cretly wished him out of the way so that he might enjoy undisputed and undisturbed the monopoly of that affection? If such thoughts had been present in his mind in childhood days they evidently would have been "repressed," and all traces of them obliterated, by filial piety and other educative influences. The actual realization of his early wish in the death of his father at the hands of a jealous rival would then have stimulated into activity these "repressed" memories, which would have produced, in the form of depression and other suffering, an obscure aftermath of his childhood's conflict. This is at all events the mechanism that is actually found in the real Hamlets who are investigated psychologically.
The explanation, therefore, of the delay and self-frustration exhibited in the endeavour to fulfil his father's demand for vengeance is that to Hamlet the thought of incest and parricide com- bined is too intolerable to be borne. One part of him tries to carry out the task, the other flinches inexorably from the thought of it. How fain would he blot it out in that "bestial oblivion" which un- fortunately for him his conscience contemns. He is torn and tortured in an insoluble conflict.
Jones, Ernest. Hamlet and Oedipus. New York and London: Norton, 1976: 69-70.
1. Nature of love as represented?
2. Cross-dressing (homoerotic arousal? friction? nature of gender relations? 3. Casting out Malvolio: nature of comedy
a. Contextualizing the play--the question of satire:
b. comedy: when does laughter become cruelty? social function of such art? 4. Frye's blocking character: who: Malvolio? the characters themselves? 5. Gender as constructed hierarchy preventing clear signals?
Some Motifs & Dramatic Devices
; CROSS-DRESSING / DISGUISE (with larger issues): the heroine disguises herself as
a man as a means of empowerment. Practically speaking, this was an easy way for the
boy actor playing the heroine to act as a boy, yet the device in and of itself raises issues
about gender and its representation—for whoever's playing her, Viola is a woman, caught in
the hierarchies of gender typical of the period, and struggling to make her own way—to find
herself, her place in society, and to fulfill her wishes.
1. Two Gentlemen Julia / Sebastian to find her supposed lover, Proteus 2. The Merchant of Venice Portia / Balthasar to rescue Bassanio from Shylock 3. As You Like It Rosalind / Ganymede to find Orlando & get his love 4. Twelfth Night Viola / Cesario to seek refuge / find love with Orsino 5. Cymbeline Imogen / Fidele to escape her father & Cloten / to
1. Middleton, Dekker: The Roaring Girl, or Moll Cutpurse. (not disguise, but deliberate
identity & defiance).
2. Jonson: Epicoene, or The Silent Woman. (disguise as misogynist means to bring
down an obnoxious misanthrope).
WHAT TO MAKE OF CROSS DRESSING AS CULTURAL EXPRESSION?
Modern Critical views:
A New Historicist approach:
prostitutes in Alderman's Court (1565-1605)
Anatomy of Abuses (1583) claimed that transgressions of dress code "don't just signal social
disruption; they constitute it."
<The proclamation against "inordinate apparel" (1597) stated that subjects must dress
according to their social class (see Riverside 2004).
onstage, the playwrights were taking a political stance supporting the flouting of dress codes,
and opposed to Puritan and conservative complaints about this change.
Sources re Cross-dressing
Bullough, Vern L., and Bonnie Bullough. "Playing with Gender: Cross Dressing in the
Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries." Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender. Phila-
delphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1993: 74-93.
Garber, Marjorie. "Rosalind the Yeshiva Boy." Vested Interests: cross-dressing and
cultural anxiety. London and New York: Routledge, 1992: 71-77.
Woodbridge, Linda. Women and the English Renaissance: Literature and the Nature of
Womankind, 1540-1620. Urbana and Chicago: U of Illinois, 1986.
; "Plans" Motif
; Letters as a device to connect or change characters:
; Ring as device: Olivia's ruse to get Cesario to return 2.1 (449)
; Spectacle: yellow stockings, swordfights (comic—Andrew & Cesario / serious—
Sebastian & Toby)
Plot & Characters
Plot Type: (Romance (mistaken identities) with minor Intrigues):
1. Romance plots (mistaken identities): Orsino>Olivia, Olivia>Cesario (Viola),
2. Reuniting brother and sister (twins theme from Plautus)
3. Intrigue: Toby's use of Andrew.
4. Intrigue: Toby's and Maria's intrigue re Malvolio.
Social context: the play not only explores the ridiculous posturing of the willful, but also pre-
sents satire of the type of the Puritan (see "Satire, the Puritan, and a Little History," and
Appendix D, pages 1996-2008)
Characters: who are these people?
1. "The Lovers": Orsino, Olivia, Viola, Sebastian. Situation and tonic key? What
do you make of each of these? How does each "deal with" the situations he/she is
dealt? What social and psychological assumptions may one make about each?
2. Other Characters—Types (see "Comedy" page of syllabus):
1. Parasite/Vice: Toby
2. Gull: Andrew
3. Killjoy: Malvolio (Puritan / Jonson?)
4. Wise fool (Feste)
5. Tricky slave: Maria Note others: Ms. Quickly, Thersites, Caliban and Ariel
3. Malvolio as a Character:
a. Topical Views:
1. Leslie Hotson's claim: Sir William Knollys, the pompous comptroller of the royal
2. David Riggs' theory: Shakespeare's contribution to the poetomachia—Malvolio
as a caricature of Ben Jonson—on the basis of a reference in the Return from
Parnassus II, where Will Kemp remarks that Shakespeare has given Jonson "a
purge that will beray his credit" (Riggs 84).
3. The type of the Puritan as seen by his enemies: 2.3.140, 147
b. Phases of his character: (Note that he cannot change except by suggestions
arousing ambitions / hopes already present but hidden in his personality (like
1. Self-righteous puritan / misanthrope (pages 446-47; 1.5)
2. Puffed-up "lover" /ambitions exposed (pages 456-57, 461-62; 2.5, 3.4)
3. Tortured prisoner (pages 467-68; 4.2)
4. Enraged Pathetic (page 473; 5.1)
c. What to do with the "outsider"?
the body politic?
too. Some are reconciled to the new society, some not: Why?
Questions for Debate: Twelfth Night: Satire, the Puritan, & A Little History
Donna B. Hamilton (1992) claims that Twelfth Night may be seen as a loose allegory of the
Elizabethan state in which Olivia/Elizabeth presides over a family/state pitting Toby and Maria as conforming Anglicans against the Puritan Malvolio. To support this contention, she points out that Toby and Maria exhibit the kinds of excesses that Puritans accused the bishops of, and that the famous exorcism scene (3.4. 84-125) displays the sort of interrogations that Puritans endured from their accusers. Hamilton supports her views by examining the case of John Darrell, a Puritan exorcist who had been convicted for this outlawed practice in 1598 and died in prison in 1602. She also claims that the major political event of the period—the rebellion and eventual beheading
of the Earl of Essex—exacerbated the tensions between these rival factions and the government.
The history between the Puritans and the state church had long been a running sore in the government, which simultaneously had far more important issues to contend with: warfare with the Spanish at sea and on the continent, Tyrone's Irish uprising and, as the new century opened, Essex's rebellion (1601).
About the time Elizabeth was engaged against the Spanish Armada (1588), Puritans wrote the Martin Marprelate tracts attacking the Anglican church. A pamphlet war ensued from 1588-1590, and in the following years, Elizabeth's government struggled to contain this Puritan minority and to destroy the influence of the Catholic church altogether. Important events include the Hacket Conspiracy of 1591(in which a Puritan fanatic proclaimed himself King of Europe), state proclamations against recusancy—enforcing Anglican church attendance against secret Catholics
and non-conforming protestants (1591, 1593), and the 1593 trial and execution of three Brownists (Barrow, Penry, Greenwood). Yet the Puritan influence on the court continued to grow, in their objections to the immorality of the theatres, to "inordinate" clothing and extravagances, in their continuous critiques of Anglicans, and in their eventual request that the newly-installed King James appoint a commission to revise the protestant Bible.
Before and during this entire period, Elizabeth's major religious problem involved Catholics and was exacerbated by the imprisonment and eventual death of her cousin Mary Stuart, the Catholic claimant to the throne. The Arden and Throgmorton (1583) and Babington (1586) plots involved assassination attempts in the hopes of restoring a Catholic kingdom, and in 1586 the Pope himself offered a million crowns to finance Spain's attempt to invade and destroy protestant England. Connected with these are a propaganda war and consequent tightening of control over printed materials, massive arrests of Catholics (see Riverside 1994), the execution of Jesuits in 1584 and 1595, all of which also figure in the passage of recusancy ordinances and other close supervision of the intellectual life of the people.
The playwrights take up satire where the Martin Marprelate controversy left off, eventually expanding its scope to include every kind of courtly fop, rich country bumpkin, prostitute and miser, Puritan and priest. In 1599, Archbishop Whitgift and his council issued a proclamation against it; playwrights responded with "comicall satyres" in a Poetomachia—Jonson levelling
blasts against court parasites and allegorized personal attacks against Marston and Dekker, who responded by "untrussing" the contentious poet. According to David Riggs (1989), Shakespeare's Malvolio is his contribution to the poetomachia—presenting the self-righteous
puritan as a send-up of Jonson, whose personal arrogance and aesthetic contentiousness targeted Dekker and others as pretenders to the title of poet. Jonson's satire of Puritans is far more acerbic than Shakespeare's, in any case: Malvolio is almost likeable next to Ben's ridiculous Tribulation Wholesome and his deacon Ananias (The Alchemist, 1610) or the
obnoxious Zeal-of-the-Land Busy (Bartholomew Fair, 1614), whose supposed skill at contention
is overmastered by a puppet.