HIST 477/ENGL 382 Murder and Monarchy: Shakespeare's British History


Prof. Pavlac
U.S. Mail Address:
History Department
King's College
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711
e-mail: bapavlacATkings.edu
Tel: (570) 208-5900, ext. # 5748
Office: Hafey-Marian 307
Office Hours:  MWF 10-10:50, TT 9:30-10:30 and  by appointment

Prof. Lloyd
U.S. Mail Address:
English Department
King's College
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711

e-mail: mslloydATkings.edu
Tel: (570) 208-5900, ext. # 5393
Office: Hafey-Marian 403
Office Hours:  TT 9:30-11:30 and by appointment

 Exams | Written Assignments | Links | Class Schedule

I. Description

This course introduces students to the works of Shakespeare through plays he wrote about the history of the British Isles.  Team taught from both historical and literary perspectives, students will read plays as both dramatic interpretations of history and enduring works of theatre.  They will learn how to understand a play by Shakespeare as well as think like an historian.  Beginning with an examination of the age in which Shakespeare lived and his own life, study will then shift to a chronological review of several plays about British monarchs in the context of actual historical events.  The success and failures of his characters use of war, murder, and power will illuminate Shakespeare's efforts as a dramatist, polemicist, and interpreter of the human condition.  Students will better understand medieval and renaissance British history and discover Shakespeare's significance within and beyond his age.  Counts either for a European History or a English Major Literary Figures course.

II. Purpose

This is a History Major or English Major course.

Objectives for the student:

  1. To identify the major events, persons and ideas of the history of Medieval and Renaissance Britain.
  2. To develop concepts and methods which give an understanding of what influenced the attitudes and behavior of major participants in political situations and literary interpretation.
  3. To read primary and secondary sources and explain their significance to relevant historical and literary problems.
  4. To practice critical and analytical skills on historical controversies and literary interpretation.
  5. To identify and analyze significant problems and situations as they relate to the current issues and the investigation of history and literary criticism.
  6. To become acquainted with Elizabethan and Jacobean drama and the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.
  7. To demonstrate knowledge of the Renaissance stage and Shakespeare as performance.
  8. To demonstrate knowledge of selected Shakespearean plays, including their content and style.
  9. To become acquainted with critical principles and research methods of the Shakespearean canon.
  10. To understand the development of certain literary forms and appreciate their influence on literature and life today.

Goals for the student:

  1. To develop a wider perspective which recognizes the political, economic and cultural interdependence of differing societies and people, and which encourages a more inclusive view of the human experience.
  2. To heighten awareness of the specific contributions and perspectives of diverse members of society.
  3. To appreciate the social, economic, cultural and political developments of Medieval and Renaissance Britain to our present culture and the human condition.
  4. To understand the influence of the past on contemporary events and problems, or, in other words, to develop "Historical Mindedness."

General Learning Outcomes for the student:

In addition to the more content related objectives described above, this course has some general liberal learning goals. Successful completion of this course is expected to help improve your ability

  1. To manage information, which involves sorting data, ranking data for significance, synthesizing facts, concepts and principles.
  2. To understand and use organizing principles or key concepts against which miscellaneous data can be evaluated.
  3. To differentiate between facts, opinions and inferences.
  4. To frame questions in order to more clearly clarify a problem, topic or issue.
  5. To compare and contrast the relative merits of opposing arguments and interpretations, moving between the main points of each position.
  6. To organize your thoughts and communicate them clearly and concisely in a written form and oral presentations.
  7. To obtain practice in selecting and presenting information and arguments within a restricted environment, especially the limitations of time in exams.

III. General Requirements

1. Readings:

Saccio, Peter. Shakespeare's English Kings: History, Chronicle, and Drama. Oxford University Press, 2000.

Shakespeare, William (recommended purchase of the Riverside Shakespeare)  the following plays will be examined in depth: 

Tey, Josephine. The Daughter of Time. (Original copyright 1951). 

Various handouts and readings, to be provided or linked from this page, below.

The required readings are intended both to provide you with important factual and background information before class and to be used as review and reference works afterwards. Before class, you will read the chapters or pages assigned according to the class schedule, section VIII. Not all topics in the books will be covered in class, but you are responsible for them on the exam and in class discussion.

The instructors may give quizzes to test your reading and comprehension.

2. Class Participation & Attendance:

Participation and attendance are necessary because lecture and discussion provide the essentials for achieving class goals and objectives. Thus a portion of your grade (about 20%) will depend on your in-class performance. You are required to attend each class, arrive on time, remain attentive, respond to questions, ask questions and participate in any in-class projects.

Lectures may be recorded with the instructors' permission, although the tapes must be erased after the exams.

The instructors will regularly take attendance. Absences due to college activities, emergency or extended illness may be excused by the appropriate director or dean. Other absences are unexcused and will lower the class participation portion of your grade. After any absence, you are responsible for making up missed work, requesting hand-outs and already returned assignments, or borrowing notes from other students. Whether absences are excused or not, you cannot get a higher grade than the percentage of classes attended.

All students who have a learning disability, physical handicap and/or any other possible impediment to class participation and requirements should schedule an appointment with the instructors during the first week of class to discuss available accommodations.

If you miss an exam, contact the instructors as soon as possible. You may take a missed exam only at the discretion of the instructors. The makeup exam may be in the form of an oral exam.

If at some point during the semester you must discontinue the course, due to poor performance, illness or some other cause, be sure to follow proper procedures for withdrawal.

C. Other Requirements:

You will take one mid-term exam on the assigned date in the class schedule, and a final exam as assigned during finals week. Exams are described in more detail below, section V.

You will have several in-class discussion/projects.  Short quizzes or written reports may also be required to evaluate the in-class discussion/projects.  You will have two major papers totaling twelve to fifteen pages.  These assignments are described below, section VII.

Note and follow the policy on academic honesty

IV. Grades:

You earn your grade through work done for this course.

For more information see grading policy. For your protection, in case of errors in recording, you should keep copies of all exams and assignments until you have received notice of your grade.

Your final grade will be based on a percentage (above 91%=A, 89%=B+, 81%=B, etc.) of the sum of the following points: 10-20 for each quiz or in-class discussion/project and paper evaluation;  50 for the Shakespeare Paper, 100 for the Play Paper; 100 for the midterm exam, 150 for the final exam; and 200 for your class performance and attendance.

3. Exams:

A. General Description:

You will take one mid-term exam on the assigned date in the class schedule, section VIII, and a final exam, which is comprehensive, as assigned during finals week.

Both exams will consist of short identifications quizzing knowledge of detail and significance (including quotations from plays), and essays testing your understanding of the course material through logical presentation of facts and explanation of historical trends and literary analysis.

To study for the exams you should regularly, at least once a week, review your class notes. You should also compare and contrast these notes with your textbook and other readings.

Only paper from the instructors is to be used. Please write legibly, in ink.

The Final Exam will include a question using Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time and an examination of Richard III.  Some questions to consider as you read:  How does the detective come to question what he knows?  How does he find his sources, with what difficulties?  How does he evaluate various sources against one another?  Do you agree with his conclusions?

B. Themes and Questions

What are the main historical trends and issues in the times Shakespeare covers, as seen by historians?  In particular, how did politics and society interact in the Middle Ages?  What foreign policy challenges did England and its neighbors face?  How do any of these reflect or illuminate the concerns of Shakespeare's time or our own?

How does Shakespeare use historical sources?  Where and why does he take liberties?  Is it art for art’s sake?  Does he have a particular intentional theme?  What are the weaknesses or strengths in the sources themselves?

Art of the universal in Shakespeare is that his plays are all domestic; take away all the different names and titles, and you have families dealing with problems that people face through the ages.   So how does any one play reflect (or not) the story of a family within a larger historical context? 

Perhaps by necessity, male voices tend to dominate Shakespeare’s history plays, but a female presence in Richard III, I Henry IV, and Henry V exists, and some would say is essential. Do you notice any differences among the women in Richard III compared to the women in I Henry IV? Comment on the female voices in the history plays you are reading.

VI. In-class Projects:

Regularly through the semester we will have in-class discussions and projects. You are required to have read before class the appropriate material (as listed on the class schedule or otherwise assigned by the instructors) and be prepared to discuss and write about it with the instructors or in small groups.

You will be evaluated by short quizzes or written reports done in-class or after class, worth between 10 and 20 points each.

Students with unexcused absences will receive no credit for the project/discussion. Students with excused absences may prepare a short report, after consultation with the instructors.

VII. Major Written Assignments:

A. Purpose:

These exercises will acquaint you with the processes used by historians and literary critics in conducting original research. Thus you will read carefully, manage information, evaluate different historical and literary opinions, compare and contrast arguments, organize your thoughts and present them in a clear, coherent and interesting narrative. You will also gain expertise and knowledge about a portion of the English history and a better sense of the interaction of fact and fiction.

B. Deadlines:

Meeting due dates are an important aspect of written assignments. Papers should be handed in to the instructors, by you yourself, at the beginning of class on the dates assigned (see class schedule). Unless special arrangements have been made, no late papers or assignments will be accepted, which means no credit (zero).

C. Presentation:

Both for practice in following guidelines and to facilitate consistency in grading, papers should be uniform in appearance. For more information see <http://departments.kings.edu/history/presentation.html>.

D. Assessment of major written assignments

Using the following chart, other students will evaluate and the instructors will grade your written assignment. You should use these criteria yourself as a self-assessment guide as you complete the project.

#1. SHAKESPEARE PAPER:  You are to write a four-to-six page paper examining the question of Shakespeare's authorship of his plays, from both literary and historical perspectives. 

Suggested Procedure:

1. Research both the historical and critical background of the controversy surrounding Shakespeare's authorship of his plays.  You must use the Riverside critical apparatus and appendixes, several of the websites linked to below, and at least 3 printed books or articles. Please consult the instructors for any advice concerning the paper, well in advance of its due date.

2. Collect, interpret and organize information about the topic.  Develop your thesis which takes an side, either validating Shakespeare as author, some other figure, or some point in between.  By January 25, you should meet with either instructor, during regular office hours or by appointment, to discuss the adequacy of the thesis and the progress of your research.

3. Write, re-write, polish and proofread your research paper.   Then hand it in on the due date. 


#2.  PLAY PAPER:  You are to write an eight-to-ten page research paper analyzing the interaction of historical and literary qualities in one of the following plays of your choice:  King John, Edward III, Henry IV Part II, Henry VI Part I, Henry VI Part II, Henry VI Part III, or Henry VIII.

 Suggested Procedure:

1. Select and read one of the following plays King John, Edward III, Henry IV Part II, Henry VI Part I, Henry VI Part II, Henry VI Part III or Henry VIII.

2. Research both the historical and critical background.  In addition to the relevant class texts, you must cite at least 6 books, 3 journal articles and 2 Internet sites from the links below.   Please consult the instructors for any advice concerning the paper, well in advance of its due date.

3. Collect, interpret and organize information about the topic.  Develop a thesis which evaluates (a) how Shakespeare used or misused history to serve the purposes of drama or (b) achieved a successful drama by selecting and transforming history.  By March 22, you should meet with either instructor, during regular office hours or by appointment, to discuss the adequacy of the thesis and the progress of your research.

4. Write, re-write, polish and proofread your research paper.  Then hand it in on the due date. 


Primary History Sources: 

Froissart, Chronicles.  <http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/browse-mixed-new?id=FroChro&tag=public&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed>.

Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain <http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/geoffrey_thompson.pdf>.

Raphael Holinshed,  Chronicles: The Historie of England <http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/h#a5166> or facsimile of 1587 edition <http://dewey.library.upenn.edu/sceti/printedbooksNew/index.cfm?TextID=holinshed_chronicle&PagePosition=1>.

Elizabethan Sumptuary Statutes <http://elizabethan.org/sumptuary/index.html>.

Shakespeare's Complete Works:  <http://www-tech.mit.edu/Shakespeare/ Complete Works>.

General History Sources: 

"Who's who in Shakespeare's History Plays" Roberts' Page: The coolest place in Cyberspace <http://www.geocities.com/yvain.geo/shakhist.html>. Geneaology with commentary.

The Official Website of the British Monarchy <http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page1.asp>.

Medieval English Towns <http://www.trytel.com/~tristan/towns/towns.html#menu>.  Diverse information on some specific towns and urban life in general.

Uniting the Kingdoms <http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/utk/>.  Detail about various British realms and France from 1066 to 1603.

Frederic Maitland, "The Crown as Corporation," Law Quarterly Review 17 (1901) pp. 131-46; <http://socserv2.socsci.mcmaster.ca/~econ/ugcm/3ll3/maitland/crowncor.mai>.  Article on the nature of kingship.

Museum of London <http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/English/EventsExhibitions/Permanent/medieval/>.  Exhibit about the city.

Dress, Jewels, Arms and Coat of Arms: Material Culture and Self-Representation in the Late Middle Ages <http://www.ceu.hu/medstud/manual/SRM/index.htm>.

Paleography <http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/default.htm>.

Knighthood, Chivalry, and Tournaments <http://www.chronique.com/>.

Life in Elizabethan England <http://elizabethan.org/compendium/index.html>.  With an Elizabethan Armorial <http://elizabethan.org/heraldry/blazons.html> coats of arms of leading figures and families. 


The Least You Should Know About Shakespeare <http://louisville.edu/a-s/english/dale/334/lysk.html>

Royal Shakespeare Company <http://www.rsc.org.uk/learning/11.aspx>.

"Shakespeare's Histories," Screenonline <http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/564559/index.html>.

"Shakespeare Authorship Debate," Absolute Shakespeare <http://absoluteshakespeare.com/trivia/authorship/authorship.htm>.

"The Shakespeare Authorship Page:  Dedicated to the Proposition that Shakespeare Wrote Shakespeare" <http://shakespeareauthorship.com/>.

"The Shakespeare Mystery:  Who, in fact, was he?" Frontline <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shakespeare/>.

William Shakespeare info <http://www.william-shakespeare.info/site-map.htm>.

"Whose Life is it Anyway? The Shakespeare Identity Mystery," SF Live <http://www.metroactive.com/papers/sfmetro/07.96/shakespeare1-96-7.html>.

Folger Shakespeare Library <http://www.folger.edu/>.

Shakespeare Oxford Society <http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/>

Shakespeare's Globe <http://www.shakespeares-globe.org/>;  Pictures of the Globe Theatre <http://www.angband.demon.co.uk/Globe/gallery2000.html >

Specific Reigns or Plays: 


Bronze Age Britain <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/british_prehistory/bronzeageman_01.shtml>. Info with pictures. 

Robert G. Marks, "Cordelia, King Lear and his Fool" (1995) <http://users.bigpond.net.au/catchus/chapters.html>.  Notes and the source play King Leir

Anonymous, King Leir <http://pages.unibas.ch/shine/kingleir.html>.  Primary Source.


General History of the Highlands <http://www.electricscotland.com/history/genhist/hist23.html>.  Brief info. 

Holinshed reproduction <http://oldsite.library.upenn.edu/etext/furness/holinshed/238.html>. Primary Source.

Shakespeare's MacBeth <http://library.spokanefalls.edu/Macbeth/>. Info with links.

"To Strut and Fret Upon the Stage: Theatrical Interpretation of Sources for Macbeth" <http://www.io.com/~jlockett/Grist/English/macbethsources.html>.  Student interpretation.

Richard II

Ace G. Pilkington, "Richard II: Essentially Accurate History" <http://www.bard.org/education/resources/shakespeare/richard2history.html>.  Liner notes. 

Petition to the Chancery <http://vi.uh.edu/pages/bob/elhone/equity.html>.  Primary Source.

Derek Cohen, "History and the Nation in Richard II and Henry IV" <http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/studies_in_english_literature/v042/42.2cohen.html>.  Secondary Source/Journal Article.  

Henry IV

Glyndwr Owain, last King of Wales <http://www.owainglyndwr.info/>.  Useful biography. 

Alan Klehr and Winsoar Churchill, "Owain Glyndwr's Fight for Wales" <http://www.historynet.com/magazines/british_heritage/3035466.html>.  Informative article.

Arnie Sanders, "1HenryIV," English 211 English Literature Beowulf to Dryden <http://faculty.goucher.edu/eng211/shakespeare1henryiv.htm>. Commentary with "Issues and Resources."

The Lollard Society <http://lollardsociety.org/>. Resource site.

Henry V

"Historical Comments on Shakespeare's Henry V" <http://www.aginc.net/battle/play-comments.htm>.  Amateur survey of Battle of Agincourt.

Maps of 100 Years War <http://www.idbsu.edu/courses/hy309/topics/100yw/100yw.maps.html>.

The Great Battles: Agincourt <http://www.geocities.com/beckster05/Agincourt/AgCampaign.html>.

Henry VI

Wars of the Roses <http://www.warsoftheroses.com/index.htm>.

Wars of the Roses <http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Cavern/5123/roses.html>.

Jack Cade, Proclamation of Grievances <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1450jackcade.html>.  Primary Source.

Warwick Castle <http://www.warwick-castle.co.uk/warwick2004/index.asp>.  Tourist destination.

Richard III

Richard III Society, American Branch <http://www.r3.org/intro.html>.  Several articles on the historiographical controversy and a hypertext annotated version of the play to notes based on Charles Ross's biography. 

Richard III Society <http://www.richardiii.net/>.  Collection of sources and opinions. 

The Richard III Foundation <http://www.richard111.com/>.  Collection of sources and opinions. 

Sir Thomas More, The History of Richard III. <http://uoregon.edu/~rbear/r3.html>.  Primary Source.

Polydore Vergil, Anglica Historica, Books 23-25. <http://www.r3.org/bookcase/polydore.html>.  Primary Source.

Genealogy of Edward IV. <http://libwww.library.phila.gov/medievalman/Detail.cfm?imagetoZoom=mca2010007>.  Primary Source.

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