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Shakespeare's Fools

$189 Limited inc GST / $¤,170
Shakespeare's Fools

<p>From low-class bunglers to urbane court jesters, Shakespeare’s fools are the outsiders who provide comic relief, commentary and insight into the social values of each play. Join us for a tour

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From low-class bunglers to urbane court jesters, Shakespeare’s fools are the outsiders who provide comic relief, commentary and insight into the social values of each play. Join us for a tour through the rogues' gallery – full of bawdy humour, malapropisms, and sometimes, a touch of tragedy. This course is suitable both for first-timers and for well-established lovers of The Bard. Excerpts from the plays will be provided in class each week, however reading (or watching) excerpts from King Lear, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, and Henry IV would be an asset.


COURSE OUTLINE

  • Roles of the Fool in Shakespeare: In our introductory class we will identify several different tropes of the Fool – from the ‘wise fool’ to the clown, and consider their literary value and political function in an Elizabethan and Jacobean context.
  • Lear’s Fool: The epitome of the ‘wise fool’, we will consider how being lowly or an outsider to the court gives the Fool the advantage of seeing and speaking the truth.
  • Jacques, the Melancholy Clown: In the experimental pastoral comedy, As You Like It, the role of the Fool is split between two extreme characters. To what extent is Jacques a parody of the trope?
  • Touchstone, the Bawdy Clown: Touchstone seems too urbane and cynical for wisdom, preferring to dole out witticisms and enjoy base pleasures. We discuss his connection to Jacques in the play.
  • Dogberry, the Buffoon: Despite his malapropisms and his affected social courtesy, Dogberry does discovery the villainy that wiser wits could not. We unpack the relationship between comedy and class.
  • Bottom, the Ass: Don’t be fooled by the donkey’s ears – the fool of A Midsummer Night’s Dream has the makings of a proto-Modernist hero, who, despite his obvious flaws, is on the verge of grasping the metaphysical.
  • The Gravedigger and Yorik: In Hamlet, we see what happens when the court – and the Prince – is without the wise perspective and balancing force of a jester.
  • Falstaff: In our final lesson, we examine how this sanguine fool of the King Henry plays came to be his own trope – beloved of Elizabethan audiences – and the pathos of the old knight’s end.


PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Assess the ways Elizabethan/Jacobean values and politics influenced Shakespeare.
  2. Identify various attitudes to class distinctions explored in the plays.
  3. Discuss the literary functions of the fool or clown in Shakespeare.
  4. Perform close passage readings of excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays.