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SHAKESPEARE, HISTORY, AND PROPAGANDA

Renée Faubion, sanren@unm.edu                                           

COURSE DESCRIPTION

Much of what we think we know about King Richard III comes from William Shakespeare’s play. Shakespeare’s version of those events was derived in part from the chronicles written by Edward Hall and Raphael Holinshed, but he was also influenced by his desire to win the good will of Elizabeth I, who reigned during much of his life. Like her father, Henry VIII, Elizabeth was unusually savvy in using propaganda—including art—to shore up her legitimacy as monarch; Shakespeare was a shrewd participant in this process, and it is often argued that he did much to advertise the Tudor version of events and to help his fellow citizens think through their anxieties about being governed by a female monarch.

To examine how Shakespeare wrote history and the ends to which he put his awesome talent, we will examine chronicles and other texts which provided him with his raw material. We will also look at modern histories of the era and consider the Elizabethans’ attitude toward history—not only their own, but that of the Romans as well. Our explorations of art and architecture from the era will give us a better sense of how Elizabeth used propaganda to strengthen support for her reign. And of course, we will spend the bulk of our time reading several of Shakespeare’s plays to better understand the art and the politics shaping his work. As we move through the semester, we will sharpen our understanding of how literature and history work together to shape our understanding of our world.

READINGS AND TEXTS

Henry VI (Part II)
Richard III
Richard II
1 Henry IV
Henry V
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar
The Merchant of Venice
Selections from various sources, including chronicles and modern histories of the events discussed in the plays

FILMS AND OTHER COURSE MATERIALS

Clips from various film versions of the plays

 

COURSE FEE (if applicable) & BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF HOW FEES WILL BE USED

NONE

 

STUDENT REQUIREMENTS

A series of research assignments leading to a final project; a presentation introducing the class to a relevant historical figure or event; a short paper reflecting upon the disciplines of literature and history; strong attendance and participation in seminar sessions

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR

After receiving degrees in Russian from Trinity University and the University of Kansas, Renée Faubion earned a second M.A. and a Ph.D. in English at UNM. For several years, she taught the Early Shakespeare course in UNM’s English department. She has won four awards for excellence in teaching.