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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Undergraduate Course: Shakespeare and the Satirists (LLLG07104)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 7 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThis course offers students an opportunity to explore the origins and developments of dramatic satire, as seen through the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. We shall examine a variety of plays, some explicitly satirical, others more subtly so, and identify and explore the occurrences of satire within them. In doing so, we shall consider why some of the funniest and most tragic moments in late English Renaissance drama are deeply predicated on a satirical view of the world. Close attention will be paid to specific instances of satire including the mockery of other writers and contemporary authority figures, gender or wealth-based pretensions, social, political and religious customs and mores, as well as the folly of humanity in general.
Course description Students will engage in close analysis of Shakespeare's use of satire and explore the rise of English satire as a means of social and political commentary and exposure.

Students will be introduced to the special qualities of Renaissance satire (More, Erasmus, Rabelais) and examine examples of the early English satirical comedy before exploring the treatment of love, politics, bounty, prodigality, redemption, greed and ingratitude in English dramas of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. We shall consider the self-conscious nature of satirical writing and writers, and consider moments in the texts where the theatre itself is satirised and light is cast on literary friendships and rivalries.

The emergence of the city/citizen comedy will be explored through the works of Ben Jonson, Philip Massinger and Thomas Middleton and students will be asked to consider how these commentaries might have been received by contemporary audiences.

Key themes from the plays will be introduced each week through a mini-lecture after which students will read passages from the plays, watch filmed performances, and engage in guided group discussion in a small, friendly and supportive teaching environment. Students will be asked to consider the historical, political and social contexts in which the dramas were written and, through close textual analysis, the literary and dramatic techniques and devices used by the playwrights. Students will be encouraged to present their own arguments and ideas, supported by secondary reading. As a class, we shall ask why the plays are considered to be so relevant today, 400 years after they were written.

Students are encouraged to submit a formative practice essay and/or essay plan mid-way through the course. Tutors will provide detailed written feedback on this and discuss the work directly with students in time to inform preparation of final, assessed assignment.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Identify and evaluate satirical elements in a range of C16th and C17th plays and articulate and apply a knowledge of the main developments in English drama of the Renaissance;
  2. Explore connections and comparisons between texts and draw upon secondary material to inform an understanding of the political, historical and social contexts in which the plays were written;
  3. Identify literary and dramatic techniques and devices used by the playwrights, and demonstrate an understanding of how language is used for dramatic and satirical effect;
Reading List
Greenblatt, S., 2015. The Norton Shakespeare. New York: W. W. Norton and Co.
Udall, N., 2007. Ralph Roister Doister. Gloucester: Dodo Press
Middleton, T., 1988. A Trick to Catch the Old One in Five Plays. London: Penguin
Jonson, B., 2004. The Alchemist in Volpone and Other Plays. London: Penguin
Massinger, P., 2011. The City Madam. London: Nick Hern/RSC

Hodgart, M., 2010. Satire: Origins and Principles. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers
Kernan, A., 1962 The Cankered Muse. New Haven: Yale University Press
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Confidence in participating in group discussion
Close and critical reading,
Articulating and sharing knowledge and learning
Course organiserMs Rachael King
Course secretaryMr Benjamin Mcnab
Tel: (0131 6)51 4832
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