Friday, February 17, 2017

For Those Interested: TEDx Lecture: Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Their Jews: John Kleiner

For those interested in the 16th century portrait of Jews in Elizabethan Drama, here's a short lecture (about 17 minutes) by a Renaissance scholar and professor at Williams College, John Kleiner. We might watch some of this in class, but either way, you might want this for your future research or simply to help understand The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice

NOTE: The questions for Tuesday are in the post below this one...

For Tuesday: Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, Act V and Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act I

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: In Act V, Barabas tells the audience, “Thus, loving neither, will I live with both,/Making a profit of my policy” (331). In the same way, Shylock does business with Christians, though admits in an aside, “I hate him for he is a Christian” (29). Does Shylock seem to have the same reasons for his “policy” with the enemy? Is he doing it simply to make money, or are hints of revenge woven into his cloth?

Q2: The Merchant of Venice exploits prose far more than any previous play in class. Discuss a passage where a character (or characters) venture into prose from poetry. Why is this? How does it help us understand the relationship between these characters, and when do they resume speaking in iambic pentameter?

Q3: Antonio has nothing but contempt for Shylock, as we see in his response, “I am as like to call thee so again,/To spet on thee again, to spurn thee, too.” (35). How might this interaction help us understand why Ferneze turns on Barabas in Act V, ultimately betraying him to the Turks and boiling him alive in a cauldron?

Q4: In Act One, Scene Two of The Merchant of Venice, we get the first scene in any of our plays where only women speak (not counting the brief appearance of the Serving Man). In this play, what makes the women stand apart from the men? How does he characterize their language and relationship? Related to this, why would we never mistake this scene for a passage in Marlowe? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

For Thursday: Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, Acts 3 & 4

[NOTE: A brief trailer for the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of The Jew of Malta...note how several people say how "funny" is was!] 

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: When Abigail decides to become a nun for the second time, Barabas goes off on a rant, proclaiming her “False, credulous, inconstant Abigail!” (197). He then hatches a plan which sounds like his boasts from Act 2, Scene 3: he decides to poison the entire nunnery with poisoned pottage. Does his broken heart drive him mad in this scene? Does he love Abigail even more than his gold? Or is he simply too vain to accept that anyone could choose a life apart from him? How does this confirm or complicate Barabas’ character?

Q2: Acts 3 and 4 most closely resemble the plot and tragic-comic elements of Titus Andronicus much more than Dr. Faustus. Where do we see echoes of this later play, that might prove Shakespeare studied it closely when writing his own, and/or worked with Marlowe in writing it?

Q3: Barabas is a master dissembler, not only in lying but in manipulating different roles throughout the course of the play. Discuss a scene where his language ‘clothes’ him in a different character: how does it impress the characters around him? Do they buy his performance? Do we?

Q4: Act 4, Scene 4, is arguably the funniest scene in the play: in the right hands, it could bring down the house. What makes this scene so humorous and over-the-top? Does the low comedy of this scene threaten to ruin the “tragedy of a Jew” that Machevil promised in the Prologue? 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

For Tuesday: Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, Acts One & Two

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: Strangely, The Jew of Malta opens with a Prologue spoken by Machevil, a corruption of Machiavelli, author of the infamous political text, The Prince (1532). Based on what he tells the audience (and his language), why might we assume that this character is played by the same actor who performs Barabas? Or do you think he actually resembles another character we meet in the play?

Q2: While this play is often singled out for its traditionally anti-semitic views, how does Marlowe portray the Christian authorities in this play—esp. Ferneze, Del Bosco, and others? Are they the ‘heroes’ of the play, or its moral center? Consider Act 1, Scene 2 in particular, when Ferneze summons Barabas and the Three Jews to court.

Q3: Act 2, Scene 1 contains a balcony scene that is strangely reminiscent of the same scene in Romeo and Juliet (written only a few years later). How does Marlowe parody the traditional ‘love scene’ in this passage, and why might it have inspired Shakespeare when he depicted Romeo and Juliet?

Q4: One of the most famous passages in the play is when Barabas and Ithamore try to one-up each other on the evil deeds they perform in Christian society, such as “I walk abroad a-nights/And kill sick people groaning under walls” (2.3.). How does this passage support what we’ve seen of Barabas’ character thus far in the play? Is Barabas another Aaron, who is sympathetic one moment and horrific the next? Or do you think he’s simply trying to get Ithamore to show his true colors (and is thus lying, as he does throughout the play)?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Short Paper #1 Assignment

Option #1: The Player Makes the Part
“When admiring Shakespeare’s authorship of his great tragic roles, we should remember that he created them for Burbage, and could not have done so without this actor’s particular and remarkable gifts” (Hackett 64).

For this option, consider that Marlowe and Shakespeare shared many of the same actors when composing their plays; to make a play successful, you had to fit the part to the actor’s talents/abilities. We know that Edward Alleyn of the Admiral’s Men performed in Marlowe’s plays and continued acting until 1600 (long after Titus). Additionally, many other actors performed in different companies and for different playwrights. With this in mind, discuss a single character in Dr. Faustus and in Titus Andronicus that you think was written for the same actor. How does this role seem to suggest a specific set of qualities, abilities, and characteristics? What kind of actor does it seem written for? Is the language fluent and poetic? Short and comic? Full of bawdy innuendos? Or dripping with Classical allusions? Through close reading, make the case that each role shares certain qualities that would make it likely to be played by the same actor—or even a certain type of actor.

Option #2: Collaboration is King
“Chettle was one of a stable of writers…[who] contributed to some 49 plays between 1598 and 1603, of which 36 were collaborations. His colleague Heywood claimed to have had ‘either an entire hand, or at the least a maine finger’ in no fewer than 200 plays” (Hackett 67).

For this option, explore the idea that both plays (Faustus and Titus) are
collaborations by Shakespeare and Marlowe. In Faustus, Marlowe would have
been the chief writer with Shakespeare more a junior collaborator, whereas
Shakespeare took the lead on Titus with Marlowe simply adding a “hand or a
finger” to its composition. With this in mind, discuss two specific passages (at
least one from each play) that seem to illustrate the same quill at work. How
can we tell that this is Shakespeare writing or Marlowe writing? You don’t have
to prove this through sources/documentation, but rather, focus on themes,
characterization, and language to illustrate your theory. Where do two speeches
sound uncannily alike? Is there an obsession with a specific theme? A recurring
metaphor? A linguistic quirk? Through close reading, analyze both passages and
help us see the man behind the meter.

·        4-5 pages, double spaced
·        Must quote from both plays and analyze these quotations
·        Cite all quotations using MLA format with a Works Cited page
·        Due Thursday, February 9th by 5pm

Thursday, February 2, 2017

For Tuesday: Hackett, English Renaissance Drama, Chs. 3 and 4 “Marlowe” and “Shakespeare”

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: According to Hackett, what qualities distinguish the verse of Marlowe and Shakespeare? Similarly, what makes them distinct from one another? What does Shakespeare attempt in his lines/speeches that is rarely (if ever) encountered in Marlowe?

Q2: Why does Marlowe’s biography (or what little we know of it) shape the content of his plays? How did this lead to the Renaissance scholar, A.L. Rowse to proclaim “Faustus is Marlowe”? According to Hackett, where might we see some of his character in the plays or characters themselves?

Q3: The great 18th century poet Alexander Pope once wrote of Shakespeare: “His characters are so much Nature her self that ‘tis a sort of injury to call them by so distant a name as Copies of her...every single character in Shakespeare is as much an Individual as those in Life itself” (99). While this might be hyperbolic, how does Hackett explain the basis for this sentiment? What makes many of his characters seem “universal” or “natural”?

Q4: Writing just before Shakespeare took the stage, the poet Sir Philip Sidney attacked the theater for creating plays where “you...have Asia of the one side, and Afric of the other, and so many other under-kingdoms that the player, when he cometh in, must ever begin with telling where he is” (109). How did both Shakespeare and Marlowe commit these artistic ‘sins,’ and why do you think they did so? Shakespeare, especially, was flagrant in disregarding the classical rules of theater.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

For Thursday: Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus, Act V & “A Modern Perspective” by Alexander Leggatt

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: In Alexander Leggatt’s brief essay on the play, he writes that “The extravagance of the play’s action takes it to the edge of grotesque comedy. For Aaron, peering through the wall that signifies his detachment, it is a comedy” (249). How does Act 5 seem to underline Aaron’s view of the play—or life itself—as a comedy staged for his benefit? Why might this prove that Aaron could actually be played by the comic actor of the troupe?

Q2: How would you advise the actors play the elaborate meeting between Titus and Revenge in Act 5, Scene 2: as a tense, thrilling drama or as farcical slapstick? Is Titus cunning to see through the disguises of Tamora and her sons, or are the disguises really so bad that anyone could see through them? How does the language help us understand how to stage this extremely bizarre scene?

Q3: In one page—or more accurately, 6 lines—all the major characters are murdered by one another’s hand. It is a chaotic minute of murder, so fast that even the characters can’t keep up with it, saying little more than “Die, frantic wretch!” or “death for a deadly deed” (197). Is this revenge cathartic? Is it a satisfying pay off for all the planning and scheming going on since Act 3? Do you feel the audience would be satisfied by this grand bloodbath...or is it strangely anticlimactic—or even comic?

Q4: Leggatt, writing about Lavinia’s death, notes that “The last we hear of Lavinia is Lucius’ command to bury his father and sister in the family tomb. She is released from an intolerable life, but she is also absorbed into the patriarchal world that was implicated in her suffering” (246). How do the men in the play speak about the deaths of both women in the play, allowing them to be “absorbed” in the same manner?