Studies in Genre: Early Modern Tragedy (LSE / pre-1700)

Influence and Appropriation in the Plays of Shakespeare, Davenant, and Dryden

This seminar explores the ideas of influence and appropriation as they
affect the relationship both of Marlowe and Shakespeare (rivals and
contemporaries) and of Shakespeare and both Davenant and Dryden. We will
examine the critical questions relating to influence and appropriation,
beginning with the “anxiety of influence” in Bloom’s well-known formulation. We
will consider aspects of his historical context, as these dramatists wrote
before the copyright act of 1710, at a time when ideas of individual authorship
and plagiarism were not so well defined as they came to be later.

Some of the reading strays beyond the boundaries of tragedy, so that the
nature of those boundaries and the implications of generic definitions can be
examined. Also, we will consider issues of the canon and literary judgment.
Bate and Bloom will lead us to consider writers’ methods and purposes of
appropriation and perhaps exorcizing anxiety, which they argue is seen in
Shakespeare; Bate defines three stages: “(1) imitation, (2) parody, (3)
outstripping” (107). This comparison will allow close readings of plays by both
Marlowe and Shakespeare, together with investigations of the kinds of evidence
that are useful or misleading. Ultimately, we will attempt to define the
importance of Marlowe in making Shakespeare Shakespeare. In the cases of
Davenant and Dryden, we will look at dramatists who self-consciously addressed
the role of Shakespeare in the critical and dramatic culture of their own time,
much as contemporary filmmakers do when adapting Shakespearean texts for the
movies. Christopher Ricks has written that Dryden “is the first great European
(not merely English) example of a major writer who is it taking it for granted
that the very existence of the past creates the necessity for difference …
for the writer or artist himself” (Allusion to the Poets [2002], 15).
This course will examine in adaptations of Shakespeare and his critical
discussions of them.


Students will be asked to make weekly presentations to the class,
produce a critical review of one book related to this topic, and write a
seminar paper, which will be presented in an abridged form to the class and
discussed critically. Students will have the opportunity to revise their papers
based upon the reactions and ideas presented by others in the class. As usual
with graduate seminars, attendance and participation are essential, and I will
be looking at the sessions as times of exploration and communal analysis. I
will uses pluses and minuses in the final grades. The final seminar paper
represents 50% of the course grade, the book review 25%, and the accumulated
weekly reports (which are not given letter grades), together with class
participation, will yield the final 25%. The final paper will be broken down
into several parts, including the oral presentation, all graded separately.


Bate, Jonathan. The Genius of
. Oxford Univ. Press, 2008 ISBN: 978-0-19-537299-1

Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of
, 2nd ed. Oxford Univ. Press, 1997. ISBN: 0195112210

Dobson, Michael. The Making of
the National Poet
. Oxford: Clarendon, 1994. ISBN: 0198183232

Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of
. London: Routledge, 2006. ISBN: 13: 978-0-415-96795-2

Kidnie, Margaret Jane. Shakespeare
and the Problem of Adaptation
. London: Routledge, 2009. ISBN: 13:

Marlowe, Christopher. Doctor
Faustus and Other Plays
, ed. David Bevington and Eric Rasmussen. New York:
University Press, 1995. ISBN: 0-19-9537062

Sanders, Julie. Adaptation and
London: Routledge, 2006. ISBN 13: 978-0-415-31172-4

Shakespeare, William. Titus
ed. Eugene M. Waith. New York: Oxford University Press,

     Troilus and Cressida, ed.
Kenneth Muir, Oxford, 1998. ISBN: 0199536535

     The Tempest, ed. Stephan
Orgel, Oxford, 1998. ISBN: 0199535903

     The Tragedy of Macbeth,
ed. Harold Brooks. Oxford, 1998. ISBN: 0199535835

     The Merchant of Venice,
ed. Jay L. Halio. Oxford, 1998. ISBN: 01929535859

     The Tragedy of Anthony and
, ed. Michael Neill. Oxford, 2001. ISBN: 01929535781

     Richard II, ed. Stanley
Wells. Penguin. ISBN: 0140707190