EN 8523

Summer Session I M-F 10:00-11:50

The Hermeneutics of Shakespearean Tragedy



"She cannot be so much without true judgment --

Having so swift and excellent a wit ..." (MA 3.1.88089)


"What a pretty thing man is when he

Goes in his doublet and hose and leaves off his wit" (M.A. 5.1.199-200


In perhaps an unorthodox move, we will begin our investigation of Shakespearean tragedy by examining one of his relatively late comedies Much Ado About Nothing (1598), a play that foregrounds the hermeneutic process, especially the purpose and use of knowledge (wit) and its intimate connection to discourse. We will then turn our attention to Shakespeare's four major tragedies: Hamlet (1600-01), Othello (1604), King Lear (1605), and Macbeth (1606) in order to understand not only how the hermeneutic process is a fundamental part of the formal, psychological, ideological, and aesthetic elements of tragedy, but also to recognize how these plays differ from but simultaneously anticipate the Romances that Shakespeare composed in the last stages of his literary career.

Text: The Riverside Shakespeare (or any other scholarly edition)

Assignments: Oral presentations and one 15-20 page seminar paper