Graduate Program

350:618 - Shakespeare and the Question of Voice

Course No:  350:618
Index # - 18723
Distribution Requirement:  A2
Monday - 1:10 p.m.
MU 207

Shakespeare and the Question of Voice

Emily Bartels

Within Shakespearean drama, (almost) everything – the production of character, space, action, ideas – depends on dialog. And yet, the act of speaking poses as many problems as it does solutions to the transmission of story. In this course we will delve into questions of voice in an attempt to understand the precariousness of the medium we may be taking for granted.

Setting Shakespeare’s plays alongside historical and critical texts that will help us with contexts and concepts, we will ask: what language(s) do Shakespeare’s characters speak? How do we decide whose voices matter, and whose do not, as signposts of story? How do individual voices come to stand in as “representative” of a larger group, and who sets the terms of that extrapolation? Under what circumstances and against what other forms of communication (letters, bodies, props, spectacles, silences) do voices seem to thrive or fail, within the dramatic fiction and as a theatrical device? Where does distraction, misdirection, manipulation, or deception end and communication begin?

Plays will include: Richard III, Richard II, 1 Henry 4, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, The Winter’s Tale. (I recommend Signets, though you can use any modern edition.) We will start with Shakespeare’s sonnets to examine the uneasy interplay of voice and story. Through the term, we will use performance exercises to teach ourselves to hear Shakespeare’s voices afresh and writing workshops to consider our own and others’ voices as critics.

Students will work on one project, culminating in a 12-15 page paper, and will present various parts of their research and writing throughout the term.