H6 7/10-8/16 CAC MW 6:00-9:40 PM 03226 CARLSON SC-216
Deceit, Desire, Revenge: Dramatic Selves on the Renaissance Stage
“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.” —Machiavelli, The Prince (1531)
Machiavelli’s books were banned in England in the sixteenth century—their association with atheism made them unacceptable—but his words and ideas circulated throughout the great drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. For these writers, the formal and material resources of the theater provided tools for confronting the philosophical and cultural dangers of a world characterized by appearance, doubleness, inwardness, and show. In this course, we will consider how expressions of dramatic selfhood on the Renaissance stage threatened traditional systems of authority, generated philosophical skepticism, and amplified problems related to race, gender, and religious difference. In what ways do Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Jonson further associate drama itself with duplicity, seduction, and even alchemy? How are their audiences and the new system of commercial theater that these playwrights helped create implicated in their “plots” and “inductions dangerous”?
Students will be expected to attend regularly; participate thoughtfully in all class discussions; and complete written assignments that will include several short close reading papers and one mid-length final paper.