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ENGLISH 2HT3 Shakespeare: History and Trag

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Melinda Gough

Email: goughm@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 329

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23716

Office Hours: Tuesdays 12:30-2:00 pm or by Appointment

Course Objectives:

Course Overview

According to the McMaster calendar, this course on Shakespeare’s histories and tragedies promises a “close study of selected plays in these genres, together with relevant literary, cultural, theatrical, and historical contexts,” including “plays by other dramatists.” Taking this brief description as our cue, we will study closely two tragedies and two history plays attributed to William Shakespeare. We will consider how these plays draw on texts from previous eras as well as play-texts by rival authors and playing companies from Shakespeare’s own time period. We will also consider some of the adaptations and mutations of Shakespeare’s histories and tragedies that have enabled them to survive – and thrive – for over four hundred years. Like Shakespeare’s tragedies and history plays, our discussions will foreground questions of violence, power, and authority, including the authority of art, theatre, and “bardolatry” itself.  

            During our term together, we will explore how Shakespeare and his adaptors use old texts to say new things about the cultures they belong to. Reading closely and carefully, we will engage in regular small and large group discussions. Published scholarly research and selected film clips will enrich our understandings of the plays; so will our analysis of Shakespearean drama in live performance.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course:

  1. You will be able to read, understand, and analyze early modern English drama in its historical, social, literary, and theatrical contexts.
  2. You will be able to identify and analyze some of the ways that Shakespearean drama makes meaning and intervenes, affectively, culturally, and politically -- through not only play-texts attributed to William Shakespeare but also in performance.
  3. You will be able to interpret primary literary texts (plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries) and defend your interpretations with evidence from these texts in discussions, in-class exercises, and argumentative essays.
  4. You will be able to identify and analyze the kinds of texts and performance traditions which influenced Shakespeare’s plays. You will also be able to recognize and analyze some of the shaping influences Shakespeare continues to have on contemporary culture.



Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Texts / Fees

Attendance at the Groundling Theatre’s King Lear matinee performance on Sat. Jan 27 in downtown Toronto is a requirement of our course. Discounted tickets for our group ($30 each) are available for purchase until 11:20 am on Tues Jan 16; for details, see “Important Notes” at the end of this document.

Shakespeare, William. Henry V. Ed. Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine. Folger Shakespeare Library Edition.

---. King Lear. Ed. Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine. Folger Shakespeare Library Edition.

---. Richard III. Ed. Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine. Folger Shakespeare Library Edition.

One additional tragedy attributed to William Shakespeare: to be decided by class vote.

Additional readings available via Avenue course site

Method of Assessment:

Assignments and Evaluation

Participation, including 3 sets of Discussion Questions and 1 Debate Worksheet         15%

Midterm test (in-class Feb 27, 50 minutes)                                                                     10%

Two of three 2-page discussion starter papers, questions to be assigned                      20%

Performance Analysis Essay, 1,500 words (due Feb 4)                                                  25%

Final Exam (cumulative; 2 hours)                                                                                    30%

Optional Bonus Performance Assignment: see Avenue course site for details

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

See Notes

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Th Jan 4       Introduction                 

T Jan 9         King Lear, Act 1

Th Jan 11     King Lear, Acts 2-3; Grafton, Chronicles of England selection and Holinshed, Chonicles of England selection (Avenue)

T Jan 16       King Lear, Act 4; “Handout: Prosody in Shakespeare” (Avenue)

Th Jan 18     King Lear, Act 5

T Jan 23       McDonald, “Performances, Playhouses, and Players” (Avenue); Anonymous, The History of King Leir scenes 1-19 (Avenue link)

                     Discussion Group Meeting 1 (Discussion Questions due) – no tutorials this week

Th Jan 25     History of King Leir scenes 20-32 (Avenue link)

Sat Jan 27    Groundling Theatre production of King Lear @ 2 pm with post show actor talk-back with our group, Harbourfront Centre Theatre, 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto

Jan 29-Feb 2          No regular class meetings or tutorials this week (in lieu of Toronto trip)

                              T Jan 20 & Th Feb 1: Optional drop-in sessions for feedback on initial essay ideas and draft thesis statements/outlines


Sun Feb 4    Performance analysis essay due to Avenue submission folder                    

T Feb 6         Richard III Act 1

                     2 page paper due

Th Feb 8      Richard III Acts 2-3; excerpts from Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles and Sir      Thomas More, History of King Richard III (Avenue)

T Feb 13       Richard III Acts 4-5

                     Discussion Group Meeting 2 (Discussion Questions due) – no tutorials this week

Th Feb 15    Richard III cont’d

Feb 19-25     Mid-term recess

T Feb 27       In-class test

Th Mar 1     Henry V Prologue, Act 1

                     2 page paper due

T Mar 6        Henry V Acts 2-3; excerpts from Holinshed’s Chronicles (Avenue)                  

Th Mar 8     Henry V Act 4

T Mar 13      Henry V Act 5

Th Mar 15   TBA

                     2 page paper due

T Mar 20      TBA

Th Mar 22   No regular class meeting (in lieu of Toronto trip to see King Lear)

T Mar 27      TBA

                     Discussion Group Meeting 3 (Discussion Questions due) – no tutorials                                       this week

Th Mar 29   TBA

T Apr 3        TBA; Overview of final exam format

Th Apr 5     Course wrap-up; review for final exam

                     Participation self-assessment form due to Avenue Submission folder

Other Course Information:

Important Notes


1. Attendance at the Groundling Theatre King Lear performance and actor talk-back is a required component of this course and forms the basis for the performance analysis essay worth 25% of the final course grade. Discounted student tickets ($30) must be purchased in class no later than Tues Jan 16. In recognition of the extra time involved in traveling to this event, no regular class meetings will be held on Tues Jan 30, Thurs Feb 1, and Thurs Apr 5; in addition, students are released from attending tutorials the week of Mon Jan 29-Fri Feb 2. If unavoidable conflicts or serious personal considerations make it impossible for you to attend this required event, you must contact Dr. Gough in person as soon as possible, and absolutely no later than Thurs Jan 11, to discuss possible alternative arrangements. If purchasing a ticket to the performance would cause you significant financial hardship, help may be available; please inquire with Dr. Gough by Jan 11.


2. Announcements and Resources on our Avenue course site: Please check our Avenue to Learn course site regularly for announcements as well as important course-related resources. If class is cancelled, students will be notified on Avenue to Learn and the English and Cultural Studies Department Website (http://www.humanities.mcmaster.ca/~english/). It is your responsibility to check these sites regularly for any such announcements.


3. Communication: Dr. Gough and the TAs encourage you to drop by during our office hours (or at other pre-arranged times) to discuss course content and/or your written work. You should also feel free also to email to us brief, logistical questions. If your email message requires more than 2-3 sentences in response, it is better suited for discussion in person during office hours or by appointment. When emailing, please identify yourself by your full name and student number.

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors, and from students to staff, must originate from the student's own McMaster University email account or the student’s own Avenue to Learn email. In this course, all email messages to the instructor and TAs must be sent from your Avenue to Learn email account. To email us, please use Avenue email only: log in to Avenue, select Communication, then select Email. Alternatively, under Communication you may select Classlist and then scroll down to find and select your TA or Dr. Gough. Please send any email messages to our Avenue email accounts (do not select our mcmaster.ca accounts). This policy allows the instructor and TAs to keep an accurate record of course-related email. It also protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of students.

Dr. Gough will check Avenue to Learn email every 24-36 hours, Monday through Friday, meaning that during the work week students can expect to receive brief responses to emailed questions within 24-36 hours; emails sent over the weekend will be seen on Mondays.


4. Participation: (a) Active and informed participation in class discussions, both during our ‘lecture’ hours and in tutorials, is essential to your success in this course. Come prepared for class by reading the assigned texts in advance. While you read, write down your questions or responses. Make notes, underline passages, and try to retain what you are reading. Be sure to bring texts to class so that you can refer to them during lectures and discussion. Note that our classroom may not have reliable wireless access. This means that if there is a reading on Avenue that we will be covering in class for a given day, you will need to download the file to your laptop or bring a printed copy. (b) Our schedule includes three Discussion Group meetings (Tues Jan 23, Tues Feb 13, and Tues Mar 27). During the weeks that Discussion Group meetings are held, there will be no tutorials; instead, we will all meet in our regular classroom on Tues 9:30-11:20 and Thurs 9:30-10:20. (c) Students are required to bring printed copies of their typed Discussion Questions to each Discussion Group Meeting; for further details, please see our Avenue course under “Content—Assignments.” Students are also required to complete a debate worksheet in preparation for an in-tutorial exercise the week of March 12-16. These assignments will be marked and will be the basis for a signification portion of your participation grade. (d) Participation in this course also includes regular contributions to other small and large group discussions and exercises, both during ‘lecture’ hours and in tutorials, as well as optional posting to our Avenue discussion boards. At the end of term, students will complete and submit to our Avenue course “Participation” Submission Folder a self-assessment form outlining specifics of their own participation in all of these aspects of the course (due Apr 5). Dr. Gough and the TAs will be guided by these narrative and numeric self-assessments when determining participation marks, although we reserve the right to make changes as needed.


5. In-class etiquette: Please be respectful of your fellow students’ needs to concentrate during lectures, screenings, performances, and discussions, both in our ‘lecture’ hours and during tutorials. Please arrive promptly and do not leave class early except if you suddenly become ill. During class, please do not chat with your neighbour(s) unless directed toward small group discussion by the instructor or TA; doing so is very distracting for other students. No cell phones in class, please. If you use a computer to take notes, you must shut down all other applications (including games) during class; otherwise, you will be requested to leave your computer outside the classroom. If undue problems arise, Dr. Gough reserves the right to make this a computer-free class. You may think that you are absolutely capable of multitasking during class, but studies show that doing so can be very distracting for those around you and inhibits not only your own learning but theirs; see, for example: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/canadian-university-report/laptops-in-class-help-or-hindrance/article32408443/.


6. Assignment submission: (a) Students are expected to retain a copy of each assignment they submit. (b) All 2 page discussion starter papers are due in two formats. Your hard copy is due at beginning of class on the day indicated in our schedule; by the end of the day you must also submit an electronic copy (.doc or .docx) to the relevant Avenue Submission folder. Emailed copies will not be accepted. If you do not submit both a printed copy and a hard copy uploaded to Avenue, your paper will be assigned a mark of zero and will forfeit written feedback. Late 2 page papers will not be accepted. (c) The Performance Analysis Essay is due in electronic format only to the Avenue Submission Folder. Unauthorized late essays will be penalized 5% per day (including weekends), up to a maximum of 7 days. Late essays will not receive comments, and assignments submitted later than 7 days after the due date will be given a grade of zero. (d) (d) Exceptions regarding due dates will be made in cases of documented illness or family emergency, or for religious commitments.


7. Extensions and other accommodations:  All requests for extensions on course work must be directed to either Dr. Gough or our senior TA, Sheena Jary, in person or via Avenue email no later than the end of the third week of classes. Additionally, the office of Student Accessibility Services (SAS) approves accommodations for students with disabilities; these accommodations are designed to ensure that each student has a fair opportunity to perform in McMaster courses. Students who require academic accommodation need to contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. If you do not have a documented disability, remember that other support services, including McMaster’s Student Success Centre (https://studentsuccess.mcmaster.ca/), are available to all students. Please note that all of us learn in different ways, and that the organization of any course will accommodate each student differently: please talk to Dr. Gough, or to Ms. Jary, as soon as possible about your individual learning needs and how this course can best accommodate them.


8. Academic integrity: Academic dishonesty consists of misrepresentation by deception or by other fraudulent means and can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: “Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty”), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university. It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. Plagiarism and submission of work that is not one’s own or for which previous credit has been obtained are examples of academic dishonesty. For more information on academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy (http://www.mcmaster.ca/policy/Students-AcademicStudies/AcademicIntegrity.pdf)

This course requires the use of Turnitin.com for the submission of written assignments. Assignments submitted to the Avenue Submission tool for this course are automatically submitted, through Avenue, to Turnitin.com. Failure to submit papers and essays to the Avenue Submission folder (and by extension to Turnitin.com) will result in a grade of zero (0), except where students with a principled objection to using Turnitin.com have let the instructor know within the first three (3) weeks of class and where alternate arrangements for establishing academic honesty can be made.


9. Course changes: The instructors and university reserve the right to modify elements of the course during the term. The university may change the dates and deadlines for all courses in extreme circumstances. If either type of modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. It is the responsibility of students to check their course websites, as well as Avenue email and McMaster email accounts, regularly during the term and to note any changes.


10. Evaluations: Students will be asked to complete evaluations at the end of the course.