SHAKESPEARE AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES

 

A PROPOSED U3A DISCUSSION GROUP

 

Marlowe, Beaumont, Jonson, Massinger, Shakespeare
 

Leader

John Price is recently retired and has a MA degree in English Renaissance Literature. He has seen over 100 Shakespeare performances and has delivered papers to the post-graduate Shakespeare Conference at the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford.

 

Protocol

·         The aim is to have around 12 members, maximum 15 including leader.

·         Sessions to be between 60 and 90 minutes long, including a 10 minute break.

·         The meetings will be seminar style, all gathered around a table.

·         A web page will be provided in advance of each session setting out questions that will be addressed and suggesting materials that may be of interest.

·        Some commitment to preparatory work necessary, generally to read, watch, or listen to a play in advance of meetings and to consider some questions in relation to it.

·         Discussions will be based mostly on the text and context, not so much on modern performances.

·         The sessions will start by looking at the play  as a whole before changing focus to one particular aspect or theme.

·         All members should come with observations and ideas they want to share and explore. Members should be listen carefully to the ideas of others, respectfully contesting them where appropriate. Members will be encouraged not to make overly subjective assessments.

·         Meetings to be held on the final Thursday of each month, excluding May and December.

·         Leadership of sessions will be shared around if volunteers can be found.

·         Venue to be decided, based on numbers.

 

Proposed programme – year 1 – The Shakespeare History Plays, aka The Henriad [i]

 

This is a proposal only, suggestions to vary it from group members would be most welcome. For instance, members may wish to spend more than one session one each play, perhaps look at a history play by another author or spend time considering the historical events in more detail.  A field trip to the Battlefield and Abbey at Tewkesbury would also be a possibility. The aim will be to consider all suggestions and arrive at a group consensus.

 

·         Session 1 – Agree programme, Introduction to the plays – special topic: the nature of Tudor History.

·         Session 2 – Henry VI Part 1 – special topic: portrayal of Joan of Arc.

·         Session 3 – Henry VI Part 2 – special topic: the Jack Cade plot.

·         Session 4 - Henry VI Part 3 – special topic: corruption or power and the young Richard.

·         Session 5 – Richard III – special topic: the emergence of the Tudor dynasty.

·         Session 6 – Richard II – special topic: History or Tragedy?

·         Session 7 – Henry IV Part 1 – special topic: Falstaff.

·         Session 8 – Henry IV Part 2 – special topic: power and betrayal.

·         Session 9 – Henry V – special topic: the wooing of Catherine.

·         Session 10 – Retrospective view of the plays – special topic to be group decision.

 

Suggested study material

·         Complete works of Shakespeare – any edition is fine, but I recommend the Oxford Shakespeare.

·         Excellent online version of The Complete Works - Open Source Shakespeare

·         To study the plays, my recommendation is to listen to the Arkangel Shakespeare version of the play whilst following the text.

·         There are numerous DVDs of the plays available including:

o    The Age of Kings – Black and White BBC version of all eight plays from 1960. Actors included Judi Dench, Sean Connery and Robert Hardy. A ground-breaking series.

 

o     The Wars of the Roses - a filmed version of the RSC’s landmark 1965 production of the minor tetralogy.

 

o     The Hollow Crown: Series 1 and 2  - 2012 BBC version of the major tetralogy.

 

o     The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses – 2016 BBC version of the minor tetralogy.

 

o    BBC Television Shakespeare – a series famous for its uneven quality; however the history plays are amongst the more highly regarded productions.

 

o     The RSC and The Globe have also released DVDs of many of these plays.

·         Shakespeare’s Kings by John Julian Norwich – a text which compares the action of the plays to accepted history. Out-of-print but numerous copies are available from www.abebooks.co.uk .


If you are interested in joining this group, please contact jp@john-price.me.uk (01242 262556)

 


[i] Note – this proposal consists of the eight plays sometimes known as the Henriad, that is to say the minor tetralogy (Henry VI 1,2 & 3 and Richard III) and the major tetralogy (Richard II, Henry IV 1 & 2 and Henry V). Plays will be considered in the approximate order of composition rather than the order of the historic events.