ENGL428X - Shakespeare, Reviser (or, Shakespeare Killed Cordelia)

This seminar will examine evidence of revision in and of Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Evidence of revision “in” the plays has to do with Shakespeare’s small and large rewrites of his source material; for instance, he adds to the chronicle record Richard II’s (historically untenable) scene of public abdication. And of course, only Shakespeare kills Cordelia. Evidence of revision “of’ the plays and poems has to do with the playwright (or one or more of his contemporaries) rewriting his words; for instance, there are two very distinct versions of Sonnet 138, also distinct versions of Hamlet and King Lear. Literally hundreds of lines, in fact whole chunks of scenes, are at variance between Q and F Lear. Portions of this course will be given over to close reading, but students also will reason their way from local revisions to more general claims; hence this will be a course devoted to evidence and argumentation. Finally, students will be encouraged to speculate about the motives for, and implications of, revision. Probable reading assignments: Sonnets, King Lear, Othello, Hamlet, Henry V, Troilus and Cressida, Romeo and Juliet; John Jones, Shakespeare at Work; Gary Taylor and Michael Warren, eds., The Division of the Kingdoms: Shakespeare’s Two Versions of King Lear; various essays.

Repeatable to 9 credits if content differs. Course intended primarily for students in English Honors Program. English majors with strong academic records may also apply. Permission from the Director of Honors required (kcoles@umd.edu).


Junior standing. For English Majors only.