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HS Tragicomedy : Course Description

Course Description ^top

subject area: literature
language: English

Tragicomedy - situated, as the term implies, somewhere between tragedy and comedy - has puzzled English critics since its origin in the late sixteenth century. At the same time, tragicomedy has repeatedly been called the most popular genre of the Jacobean Age. In John Fletcher's famous definition of the genre, he points out that ""tragie-comedie is not so called in respect of mirth and killing, but in respect it wants deaths, which is inough to make it no tragedie, yet brings some neere it, which is inough to make it no comedie: which must be a representation of familiar people, with such kinde of trouble as no life be questioned, so that a God is as lawfull in this as in a tragedie, and meane people in a comedie." In this course, we will read a variety of tragicomedies, dating from the late Elizabethan to the Jacobean Age and use these plays to look into not only the development of the genre, but also their dependence on early modern discourses such as the law, gender (witchcraft, love), politics (especially the status of the ruler), religion and race. This course will also offer you a more coherent glimpse at the early modern stage as we will take into account several of Shakespeare's contemporaries.

Please note that attending this course entails a heavy reading load as we will read and discuss early modern (source) material in addition to the primary texts. You should therefore have finished reading at least Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and Measure for Measure by the beginning of summer term (see below for the complete reading list). Additionally, all course members are expected to join an expert group that is responsible for the structuring of one session.

Literature ^top

(1) William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (1596-98)
(2) William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure (1603-04)
(3) Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, Philaster, or Love Lies a-Bleeding (1608-10)
(4) Thomas Middleton, The Witch (c.1609-16)
(5) Philip Massinger, Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, The Old Law (c.1614-18)
(6) Philip Massinger, The Bondman (1624)
recommended literature:
A reader with mandatory material and background reading for the expert groups will be available via StudOn.