Category Archives: Shakespeare
- Edmund’s soliloquy (2.1-21): He gives us nature as an abstract noun (anthropomorphism); state of nature that precedes (&exceeds?) culture, and as such can be made to function as an arbiter of value (i.e. bastards are better than legitimate babies); “natural ties of human feeling” (ft. nt. 1 p.116); natural, denoting “related to blood.”
- “Book of Nature” and/or Omens: “An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of the stars!” (1.2.119-20).
- Edgar’s transformation (7.166-85): Does Edgar decide to turn from culture to nature? Is his transformation inevitable, or does he choose to put on a disguise or costume? Also, & according to the play, can humans ever be naked? Is nature something a man can perform?
- Nature as vitality: Lear telling Gloucester and Kent, “We are not ourselves/When nature, being oppressed, commands the mind/To suffer with the body” (7.268-70).
- Unnatural: Lear’s criticisms of his daughters: “O, Regan she hath tied/Sharp-toothed unkindness like a vulture here” (7.294-5) & “Looked black upon me, struck me with her tongue/Most serpent-like upon the very heart” (7.317-18), to name just a two of many, many instances.
Part I. Judgement and Peter Brook’s & Paul Scofield King Lear (1971)
- What interpretive choices does Brook make? Are they successful? Why or why not?
- What difference does it make to any of the action that follows that the decision at the center of the play is ambiguous? Also, after Lear who gets to choose?
Part II. Rhetorical Analysis of the Introduction
- What sorts of arguments does Stanley Wells make in his Introduction? Could you read the play differently?
- What sorts of subheadings and information does the Introduction contain?
- What’s unusual about the Wells edition of King Lear? How does he solve textual problems and why?
- How do the Introduction and the footnotes in the text work together to produce a theory of the play?
Keep the following questions in mind as you read King Lear Scenes 9-15. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.
Does the play in performance give audiences on stage and/or in the theater enough time to understand what the Fool says and sings? Why or why not?
Why don’t Cornwall and Regan allow Lear and his train into Gloucester’s castle? Is there decision justified? What sorts of mistakes do they make?
Does Lear cause the storm, or vice versa? What is the relationship between the storm and Lear’s “woman’s weapons” (7.435)?
Why does Shakespeare give audiences a report of Lear in the storm before we see him out on the heath?
What secret does Kent tell the First Gentleman in Scene 8? What surety of his story does Kent offer the First Gentleman?
If you were staging Lear, how would you portrait the “Storm” in Scene 9? Why?
Whom does Lear address in the opening lines of Scene 9? How does Lear’s address compare to the Boatswain’s first few lines in The Tempest?
Is the storm magical or sentient? How is it possible, in Lear’s assessment, for the storm to “Find out their enemies now” (9.51)? Compare the power Lear attributes to the storm in 9.50-60, i.e. the storm can discover who all the villains are even if they are wearing disguises, to 11.25-33. Does the storm transform Lear, from a seemingly unsympathetic man to a deeply sympathetic one, OR, does is he another counterfeit exposed? Could you even, ever tell the difference between the two? If not, so what?
Is Lear, “More sinned against than sinning” (9.60)?
What ideas or emotions does the storm convey to stage and theater audience, as well as readers, that words cannot (11.6-20)?
What motivates Lear’s pity for Tom? Is Lear sincere? How can you tell and so what? Also, does it matter that Tom is really Edgar, disguised nobleman?
When Edgar describes Tom’s life before the hovel, is he telling the truth? If yes, assess his character. For instance, are you surprised he chose to take on the costume of a beggar?
If you were directing this play, would you have Lear take off all his clothes at “Unaccomodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you lendings! Come on, be true” (11.96-99)? Why or why not? AND, can an actor really ever be naked on stage? Also, did Derrida’s cat really see him naked? Is nakedness a feature of man that separates us from animals?
Where, or even how, do you think Edgar learned to curse?
What does Poor Tom eat? For what does his diet qualify him?
What, as Lear asks, is the “cause of the thunder” (11.139)?
Why can’t Gloucester recognize his own son?
Contemporary environmental discourse is often carried on by people who don’t live and work with animals or complex ecosystems. Is Edgar part of this tradition? OR, what might an actual wandering, wildman have to contribute to conversations about environmental justice?
Does Lear’s maddness come from inside or outside?
Where are they in Scene 13?
Why do you think that several key lines and actions in Scenes 13 & 14 are missing from F1? (13.15-45; 13.91-105; & 14.96-106). What difference does it make to what comes before or what comes after if these scenes/lines are cut?
Is Lear’s condemnation of his daughters in the mock trial justified? What does he see when he anatomizes Regan?
Why does Tom/Edgar taxonomize the all those dogs even as he disperses them?
Are Regan and Cornwall’s “revenges” (14.5) against Gloucester justified, why or why not?
How does Regan and Cornwall’s interrogation of Gloucester compare with the ‘mock trial’ scene that precedes it? What happens to the rest of the play if the mock trial scene is left out?
What does Gloucester see after he looses his eyes?
Keep the following questions in mind as you read Act 1 of The Taming of the Shrew, and Donna Haraway’s, “Companion Species” (97-107). The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.
Taming of the Shrew Act 1
Does Sly remain on stage for the entirety of the play, or return to play another role? If he does return to play another role, what part would you cast him in? If he stays on stage, how does his presence shape the play’s meaning?
What does Lucentio decide to study, and why? What does Tranio suggest he do instead?
What is the matter of the play according to Baptista’s first lines? What other plots does his decision provoke?
What’s Katherina’s first line? How does she offer a rejoinder to Gremio’s “To cart her, rather” (1.155), and then some?
How does Bianca plan to spend her time till she can get married? Is there any reason to fear that “music, instruments, and poetry,” (1.1.93) will transform her into a shrew?
Do Gremio, Hortentio, Tranio, & Lucentio form a chorus? Do they represent everyday values, or do they muddy everyday values?
How does Hortentio respond to Gremio’s rhetoric?
How do descriptions of Katherina in 1.1 compare with what she does and says herself?
Near the end of act one, Lucentio says, “And let me be a slave to achieve that maid/Whose sudden sight hath enthralled my wounded eye” (1.1.18-19). What sorts of poetic conventions does he draw on here? How does this moment suggest an expectation that there is something inherently dangerous in visual composition?
Does Tranio make Luctentio or does Lucentio make Tranio? Is there any danger in their in plot?
Is Petruccio a villain? What do you make of his relationship with Grumio?
How does Hortensio interpret Petruccio? Does his response to him cast doubts on his ability to judge character?
Donna Haraway, “Encounters with Companion Species” (97-107)
What does Haraway mean when she says, “companion species” (98-99)?
- Companion: what connotations/denotations does her etymology of the word yield? What does she mean when she says the word is “gustatory” (100)?
- Species: What does connotations/denotations does her etymology of the word yield? How is this term ”visual” (100-102)?
What are tradition expectations of human-animal relations? What happens to those expectations when we recognize that animals not only “look back at humans” (102), but both our trajectories are irrevocably changed as a consequence of the intersection?
What does it mean to distinguish a response from a reaction? What are the stakes of this discrimination (103)?
What might it mean to consider the absence of a name as something “other than a privation” (103)?
What “obligation” did Derrida fail to meet with his cat? What kept him from answering the cat’s invitation (103)?
What questions about animals does Derrida regard as the “decisive question”? What does questions about animals does Haraway regard as the “decisive question”? Why the difference (105-07)?
To give your colleagues and I a sense of your interests, please freewrite a response to the following prompt. Once you respond to the prompt, we will discuss the responses–first in pairs, then in groups of four, and then as a class. Make sure you introduce yourself to your colleagues before discussing your responses in pairs and groups.
What is your favorite Shakespeare play or poem? (Or, if you don’t have a favorite Shakespeare work, name your favorite poem, novel, movie, or TV show). Next, in 5-10 sentences, briefly describe how your favorite Shakespeare text helps you to think about contemporary events and/or engages your individual interests.