Study Questions

English 425 Shakespeare: Comedies and Non-Dramatic Poetry Spring 2009 Study questions


English 425 Shakespeare: Comedies and Non-Dramatic Poetry Spring 2009 Study questions

1). Groucho Marx once said, "Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?" The same may be said of the marriages that conclude Shakespeare's comedies. Discuss some of these marriages with a focus on ways that Shakespeare both utilizes the institution of marriage as a comedic convention for closure while at the same time altering and/or challenging this conventional usage. 

2). Discuss representations of substitution and surrogacy in the plays. How do substitution and surrogacy help to drive and/ or give shape to the plays? How do they influence relationships between the world of the play and the audience?

3). By focusing on specific female roles in the plays and the sonnets, discuss ways that comedic form and early modern concepts of the "feminine" are related. How does Shakespeare establish images of conventional and/or unconventional female characters in the plays? 

4). Discuss representations of female characters both as victims and as sources of power in the plays. Do these female characters subvert or reinforce traditional male hierarchies? How do representations of these female characters differ among the plays we have read? 

5). Discuss ways that actual or implied violence influences the plays. A distinction between public/private violence or between war/personal violence may be helpful here. Is violence or the threat of violence an intrinsic part of comedy and/or historical drama? If so, why? If not, why not? 

6). Discuss ways that Shakespeare uses and shapes the "two worlds" theory which is often present in his plays, not simply in terms of geography, but as locations or nexuses of ideological and/or generic conflict and/or confluence.

7). Discuss ways that Shakespeare "plays" with written documents and other semiotic and/or informational  icons  (rings, gold chains, Julietta's and Helena's large, round, pregnant stomachs, etc.). How do these items influence the determination of "truth" in the plays?

8). Discuss different ways that Shakespeare characterizes clowns or "clownish" figures in the plays. What purposes do these characters serve and how do they influence the overall mood and tone of the plays?

9). Identify characters who embody features of the antithesis of the Renaissance concept of the masculine ideal. What purposes do these characters serve in the plays?

10). Discuss relationships between representations of death and theatricality in the plays. In other words, how do apparent and "actual" deaths help to shape the concepts of plays and "playing?"

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