The most popular dramatic form of the periods of Elizabeth and James I, revenge tragedy reflects an age of skepticism and lost direction.

It was expressive of the intellectual ferment and spiritual upheaval brought on by:

  • The dissolution of the medieval belief in an ordered cosmos,
  • the rise of urban economies,
  • the articulation of pragmatic approaches to the problems of political rule,
  • religious and political conflict in the English Renaissance, and
  • the emergence of competing ideas on the nature of the cosmos, the natural world and especially the character of humanity, its potential and its limitations.

In Hamlet Shakespeare takes up again his great theme, the killing of a king, deliberated as the duty, the burden, and the temptation of a prince bound to avenge.

Students in Ellen Mease’s advanced seminar, Renaissance Hamlet, will study Hamlet and its historical, social, and cultural contexts

Students will explore selections from Renaissance ethical and political philosophy, including Castiglione's Book of the Courtier, Machiavelli's Prince, and Montaigne, and sources such as Thomas Kyd's Spanish Tragedy and the Frenchman Belleforest's retelling of the old tale (Hystorie of Hamblet). 

The close reading of Hamlet will complement the Theatre Department's November production of the play. Seminar members are invited but not required to participate in the production as actors, dramaturgs, rehearsal assistants, , management, or crew. 

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