Few people question whether William Shakespeare was a genius. But there are many questions about the forces that shaped his work as a playwright. In this course, we will study Hamlet in order to understand how he responded to the work of his predecessor, Thomas Kyd, especially in light of the crises of his day: the royal succession, religious divisiveness, and the problem of personal vengeance. We will begin by reading Kyd’s greatest play, The Spanish Tragedy. That play, more than any other known drama, shaped Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy, Hamlet.
Virginia Mason Vaughan received her PhD from the University of Michigan. She is Professor Emerita and Research Professor at Clark University where she taught for 38 years. She is the author of Othello: A Contextual History (1994) and Performing Blackness on English Stages, 1500-1800 (2005), both published by Cambridge University Press. Her latest book, Shakespeare and the Gods, published in Bloomsbury’s Arden Shakespeare series, explores Shakespeare’s allusions to classical mythology.
Helen Whall received her Ph.D. from Yale University in 1976 and immediately joined the faculty of the College of the Holy Cross. There, until she retired in 2017, Professor Whall taught courses in Shakespeare, the Renaissance, Renaissance Drama, Law and Drama and Dramatic Comedy. She published a book on Pre-Shakespearean drama and numerous essays on Shakespeare and his contemporaries as well as modern and contemporary playwrights.
REQUIRED BOOKS: New Folger texts of both plays, The Spanish Tragedy and Hamlet, available online for free and in a reasonably priced print version.
READING FOR THE FIRST CLASS: Read the first act of The Spanish Tragedy.
Worcester Institute for Senior Education (WISE)Assumption University, 500 Salisbury Street, Worcester MA 01609