Why was Middle English poetry influenced by French literary traditions, both in content and style?

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Why was Middle English poetry influenced by French literary traditions, both in content and style?




Тип Тема Пособия, наглядность УСРС Формы контроля
1. Л02 Рассказы и легенды средневековой Англии (1066 – 1476)   Основная литература, текст лекций, отрывки из произведений Работа с источниками 2 – 6 Индивиду-альный опрос на семинаре
Л05 Жизнь и творчество Шекспира     Основная литература, текст лекций, отрывки из произведений Работа с источниками 2 – 6, 7, 9, 11 Индивиду-альный опрос на семинаре
3. Л06 Произведения Шекспира отражение национального духа   Основная литература, текст лекций, отрывки из произведений Работа с источниками 2 – 6, 7, 9, 11 Взаимоопрос на семинаре
4. Л09 Острова и островитяне: литература зрелого Про-свещения (1736 – 1776)   Основная литература, текст лекций, отрывки из произведений Работа с источниками 2 – 6 Взаимоопрос на семинаре
5. Л 15 Литература Англии 1956 – 1996     Основная литература, текст лекций, отрывки из произведений Работа с источниками 1 – 6 Индивиду-альный опрос на семинаре
6. Л16 Мы, народ… (1620 – 1836) Основная литература, текст лекций Работа с источниками 1 – 6 Коллоквиум
7. Л 18 “Позолоченный век” в американской литературе (1876 – 1916)   Основная литература, текст лекций, отрывки из произведений Работа с источниками 1 – 6 Взаимоопрос на семинаре

МАТЕРИАЛ 1 (2 часа)


1. Study the following lecture on mediaeval English literature. Explain why Chaucer is considered to be the father of English poetry. Answer the questions below.


1066 – 1476


The first four hundred years of the second millennium were hard for England. It remained a backyard of Europe, and was torn apart by greedy lords and rival feudal families. The written work of the period is much better documented than that of the earlier period. At the beginning though, it was largely written in French or Latin.

Most of the literary pieces are religious in character. Material in English appears as a trickle in the 13th century, but within 150 years it became a flood. There was a marked increased in the number of translated writings during the 14th century. Guild records, proclamations, proverbs, dialogues, allegories, and letters illustrate the diverse range of new styles and genres. Middle English poetry was influenced by French literary traditions, both in content and style. Later works include romances in the French style, secular lyrics, bestiaries, ballads, biblical poetry, Christian legends, hymns, prayers, and elegies.

Drama also begins at that time. Because the manuscripts of medieval English plays were usually short-lived performance scripts rather than reading matter, very few examples have survived from what once must have been a very large dramatic literature. What little survives from before the 15th century includes some bilingual fragments, indicating that the same play might have been given in English or Anglo-Norman, according to the composition of the audience. From the late 14th century onward two main dramatic genres are discernible, the mystery or Corpus Christi cycles and the morality plays.

The mystery plays were long cyclic dramas of the Creation, Fall, and Redemption of mankind, based mostly on biblical narratives. They usually included a selection of Old Testament episodes (such as the stories of Cain and Abel and Abraham and Isaac) but concentrated mainly on the life and Passion of Jesus Christ. They always ended with the Last Judgment. The cycles were generally financed and performed by the craft guilds and staged on wagons in the streets and squares of the towns. Their literary quality is uneven, but the York cycle (probably the oldest) has a most impressively realized version of Christ's Passion by a dramatist influenced by the alliterative style in verse.

The morality plays were allegorical dramas depicting the progress of a single character, representing the whole of mankind, from the cradle to the grave and sometimes beyond. The other dramatis personae might include God and the Devil but usually consisted of personified abstractions, such as the Vices and Virtues, Death, Penance, Mercy, and so forth. The single most impressive piece is undoubtedly Everyman, a superb English rendering of a Dutch play on the subject of the coming of death. Both the mystery and morality plays have been frequently revived and performed in the 20th century.

The most puzzling episode in the development of later Middle English literature was the sudden reappearance of unrhymed alliterative poetry in the mid-14th century. Debate continues as to whether the group of long, serious, and sometimes learned poems written between about 1350 and 1410should be regarded as an "alliterative revival" or rather as the late flowering of a largely lost native tradition stretching back to the Old English period.

Among the poems central to the movement were three pieces dealing with the life and legends of Alexander, the massive Destruction of Troy, and the Siege of Jerusalem. The fact that all of these derived from various Latin sources suggests that the anonymous poets were likely to have been clerics with a strong, if bookish, historical sense of their romance "matters." The "matter of Britain" was represented by an outstanding composition, the alliterative Morte Arthure, an epic portrayal of King Arthur's conquests in Europe and his eventual fall, combining a strong narrative thrust with considerable density and subtlety of diction. The poem was later used by Sir Thomas Malory as a source for his prose account, Le Morte Darthur (completed c. 1470).

The alliterative movement would today be regarded as a curious but inconsiderable episode, were it not for other poems now generally attributed to a single anonymous author. One of them is the chivalric romance Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knight, miraculously preserved in a single manuscript dated c. 1400. The poet of Sir Gawayne far exceeded the other alliterative writers in his mastery of form and style, and though he wrote ultimately as a moralist, human warmth and sympathy (often taking comic form) were also close to the heart of his work. It is likely that alliterative poetry, under aristocratic patronage, filled a gap in the literary life of the provinces caused by the decline of Anglo-Norman in the latter half of the 14th century. Alliterative poetry was not unknown in London and the southeast, but it penetrated those areas in a modified form and in poems that dealt with different subject matter.

William Langland's long alliterative poem Piers Plowman (c.1370) begins with a vision of the world seen from the hills in Worcestershire, where, tradition has it, the poet was born and brought up, and where he would have been open to the influence of the alliterative movement. If what he tells about himself in the poem is true (and there is no other source of information), he later lived obscurely in London as a cleric. The poem takes the form of a series of dream visions. Realistic and allegorical elements are mingled in a phantasmagoric way, and both the poetic medium and the structure are frequently subverted by the writer's spiritual and didactic impulses. Passages of theological reasoning mingle with satire, and moments of sublime religious feeling appear alongside political comment. This makes it a work of the utmost difficulty, but at the same time Langland never fails to convince the reader of the passionate integrity of his writing. His bitter attacks on political and ecclesiastical corruption (especially among the friars) quickly struck chords with his contemporaries.

The alliterative movement was over before the first quarter of the 15th century had passed. The other major strand in the development of English poetry from about 1350 proved much more durable. The cultivation and refinement of human sentiment with respect to love, already present in earlier 14th-century writings, took firm root in English court culture during the reign of Richard II (1377-99). English began to displace Anglo-Norman French as the language spoken at court and in aristocratic circles, and signs of royal and noble patronage for English vernacular writers became evident. These processes undoubtedly created some of the conditions that encouraged and gave direction to the genius of one author who eventually established English as a literary language. His name was Geoffrey Chaucer.

Chaucer, Geoffrey (1343?-1400) is one of the greatest English poets, whose masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, was one of the most important influences on the development of English literature.

The son of a prosperous London wine merchant, Chaucer may have attended the Latin grammar school of Saint Paul's Cathedral and may have studied law at the Inns of Court. Early in his teens, he was page to the countess of Ulster, Elizabeth; there, he would have learned the ways of the court and the use of arms. About 1366 he married a lady-in-waiting to the queen and afterward Chaucer served as controller of customs for London.

He traveled on several diplomatic missions to France, one to Spain in 1366, and two to Italy from 1372 to 1373 and in 1378. In the last year of his life, Chaucer leased a house within the precincts of Westminster Abbey. After his death, he was buried in the Abbey (an honor for a commoner), in what has since become the Poets' Corner.

Chaucer wrote for and may have read his works aloud to a select audience of fellow courtiers and officials, which doubtless sometimes included members of the royal family. The culture of the English upper class was still predominantly French, and Chaucer's earliest works were influenced by the fashionable French poets and by the great 13th-century dream allegory Le Roman de la Rose which Chaucer claimed to have translated. His first important original work, The Book of the Duchess, is an elegy for John of Gaunt's first wife, Blanche, who died in 1369. In a dream the poet encounters a grieving knight in black (Gaunt) who movingly recounts his love and loss of “good fair White” (Blanche). The House of Fame and The Parlement of Foules, also dream poems, show the influence of Danteand of Giovanni Boccaccio, whose works Chaucer probably encountered on his first journey to Italy.

Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde (1385?) is a poem of more than 8000 lines, and his major work besides The Canterbury Tales. It is the tragic love story of the Trojan prince Troilus, who wins Criseyde (Cressida), aided by the machinations of his close friend, her uncle Pandarus, and then loses her to the Greek warrior Diomede. The love story turns into a deeply felt medieval tragedy, the human pursuit of transitory earthly ideals that pale into insignificance beside the eternal love of God. The poem ends with the narrator's solemn advice to young people to flee vain loves and turn their hearts to Christ. Chaucer's characters are psychologically so complex that the work has also been called the first modern novel.

The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories set within a framing story of a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral, the shrine of Saint Thomas а Becket. The poet joins a band of pilgrims, vividly described in the General Prologue, who assemble at the Tabard Inn outside London for the journey to Canterbury. Ranging in status from a Knight to a humble Plowman, they are a microcosm of English society of the time. Host proposes a storytelling contest to pass the time; each of the 30 or so pilgrims (the exact number is unclear) is to tell four tales on the round trip. Chaucer completed less than a quarter of this plan. The work contains 22 verse tales (two unfinished) and two long prose tales; a few are thought to be pieces written earlier by Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales, composed of more than 18,000 lines of poetry, is made up of separate blocks of one or more tales with links introducing and joining stories within a block.

The tales represent nearly every variety of medieval story at its best. The special genius of Chaucer's work, however, lies in the dramatic interaction between the tales and the framing story. After the Knight's courtly and philosophical romance about noble love, the Miller interrupts with a deliciously bawdy story of seduction aimed at the Reeve (an officer or steward of a manor); the Reeve takes revenge with a tale about the seduction of a miller's wife and daughter. Thus, the tales develop the personalities, quarrels, and diverse opinions of their tellers. The prologues and tales of the Wife of Bath and the Pardoner are high points of Chaucer's art. The Wife, an outspoken champion of her gender against the traditional antifeminism of the church, initiates a series of tales about sex, marriage, and nobility (“gentilesse”).

Although Chaucer in this way satirizes the abuses of the church, he also includes a number of didactic and religious tales, concluding with the good Parson's sermon on penitence; this is followed by a personal confession in which Chaucer “retracts” all his secular writings, including Troilus, and those Canterbury tales that “incline toward sin.” The retraction is a reminder that Chaucer's genius was always subject to orthodox piety.

Chaucer greatly increased the prestige of English as a literary language and extended the range of its poetic vocabulary and meters. He was the first English poet to use the seven-line stanza in iambic pentameter known as rhyme royal and the couplet later called heroic. His system of versification, which depends on sounding many e's in final syllables that are silent (or absent) in modern English, ceased to be understood by the 15th century. Nevertheless, Chaucer dominated the works of his 15th-century English followers. For the Renaissance, he was the English Homer. Edmund Spenser paid tribute to him as his master; many of the plays of William Shakespeare show thorough assimilation of Chaucer's comic spirit. John Dryden, who modernized several of the Canterbury tales, called Chaucer the father of English poetry.

Another important literary figure is Thomas Malory.

Malory, Sir Thomas ( ?—1471?) is an English translator and compiler, who is generally held to have been the author of the first great English prose epic, Le morte d'Arthur (The Death of Arthur). It is believed that he was an English knight of Warwickshire, that he saw military service in France, and that he spent many years in prison for political offenses and civic crimes. Le morte d'Arthur (1469-1470) was supposedly composed while the author was in prison. It was published in 1485by the first English printer, William Caxton. It is a compilation and translation from old French sources (with additions from English sources and the compiler's own composition) of most of the tales about the semilegendary Arthur, king of the Britons, and his knights. One of the outstanding prose works of Middle English, it is divided into 21 books. The work is imbued with compassion for human faults and nostalgia for the bygone days of chivalry. The poetic prose is noted for its color, dignity, simplicity, and melodic quality.

Yet many men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of Our Lord Jesu into another place; and many men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the holy cross. I will not say that it shall be so, rather I will say that here in this world he changed his life. But many men say that there is written upon his tomb this verse: HIC IACET ARTHURUS, REX QUONDAM REXQUE FUTURUS. (Here lies Arthur, the once and future king.)

Caxton, William (1422?-1491), first English printer, born probably in Tenterden, Kent. In 1441 Caxton moved to Brugge (Bruges), Flanders (now part of Belgium), where he opened his own textile business, and about 1471 he moved to Cologne, Germany, where he learned the art of printing. At this time Caxton was also translating into English a popular French romance, which he printed in Brugge as The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye (1474?). It is famous as the first book printed in English. Returning to England in 1476, Caxton set up a printing press at Westminster Abbey. His first publication there was an indulgence, which was distributed in December 1476. During his career Caxton printed nearly 100 publications, about 20 of which he also translated from French and Dutch. Among the more notable books from his press are The Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde by the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Caxton also wrote prefaces and epilogues to many of the works he published, notably the preface to the prose epic Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. He displayed a lively, humorous style that considerably influenced 15th-century English literature.

· Task A. Check your understanding. Prepare extended answers to the following questions.



1564 – 1616


Shakespeare, William (1564-1616), English playwright and poet, recognized in much of the world as the greatest of all dramatists. Shakespeare’s plays communicate a profound knowledge of the wellsprings of human behavior, revealed through portrayals of a wide variety of characters. His use of poetic and dramatic means to create a unified aesthetic effect out of a multiplicity of vocal expressions and actions is recognized as a singular achievement, and his use of poetry within his plays to express the deepest levels of human motivation in individual, social, and universal situations is considered one of the greatest accomplishments in literary history.

A complete, authoritative account of Shakespeare’s life is lacking, and thus much supposition surrounds relatively few facts. It is commonly accepted that he was born in 1564, and it is known that he was baptized in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. The third of eight children, he was probably educated at the local grammar school. As the eldest son, Shakespeare ordinarily would have been apprenticed to his father’s shop so that he could learn and eventually take over the business, but according to one account he was apprenticed to a butcher because of declines in his father’s financial situation. According to another account, he became a schoolmaster. In 1582 Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a farmer. He is supposed to have left Stratford after he was caught poaching in the deer park of Sir Thomas Lucy, a local justice of the peace. Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway had a daughter in 1583 and twins—a boy and a girl—in 1585. The boy did not survive.

Shakespeare apparently arrived in London about 1588 and by 1592 had attained success as an actor and a playwright. Shortly thereafter he secured the patronage of Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. The publication of Shakespeare’s two fashionably erotic narrative poems Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594) and of his Sonnets (published 1609, but circulated previously in manuscript form) established his reputation as a gifted and popular poet of the Renaissance. The Sonnets describe the devotion of a character, often identified as the poet himself, to a young man whose beauty and virtue he praises and to a mysterious and faithless dark lady with whom the poet is infatuated. The ensuing triangular situation, resulting from the attraction of the poet’s friend to the dark lady, is treated with passionate intensity and psychological insight. Shakespeare’s modern reputation, however, is based primarily on the 38 plays that he apparently wrote, modified, or collaborated on. Although generally popular in his time, these plays were frequently little esteemed by his educated contemporaries, who considered English plays of their own day to be only vulgar entertainment.

Shakespeare’s professional life in London was marked by a number of financially advantageous arrangements that permitted him to share in the profits of his acting company, the Chamberlain’s Men, later called the King’s Men, and its two theaters, the Globe Theatre and the Blackfriars. His plays were given special presentation at the courts of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I more frequently than those of any other contemporary dramatist. It is known that he risked losing royal favor only once, in 1599, when his company performed “the play of the deposing and killing of King Richard II“ at the request of a group of conspirators against Elizabeth. In the subsequent inquiry, Shakespeare’s company was absolved of complicity in the conspiracy.

After about 1608, Shakespeare’s dramatic production lessened and it seems that he spent more time in Stratford, where he had established his family in an imposing house called New Place and had become a leading local citizen. He died in 1616, and was buried in the Stratford church.

Although the precise date of many of Shakespeare’s plays is in doubt, his dramatic career is generally divided into four periods: (1) the period up to 1594, (2) the years from 1594 to 1600, (3) the years from 1600 to 1608, and (4) the period after 1608. Because of the difficulty of dating Shakespeare’s plays and the lack of conclusive facts about his writings, these dates are approximate and can be used only as a convenient framework in which to discuss his development. In all periods, the plots of his plays were frequently drawn from chronicles, histories, or earlier fiction, as were the plays of other contemporary dramatists.



Shakespeare’s first period was one of experimentation. His early plays, unlike his more mature work, are characterized to a degree by formal and rather obvious construction and by stylized verse.

Chronicle history plays were a popular genre of the time, and four plays dramatizing the English civil strife of the 15th century are possibly Shakespeare’s earliest dramatic works. These plays, Henry VI, Parts I, II, and III (1590?-1592?) and Richard III (1592-1593?), deal with evil resulting from weak leadership and from national disunity fostered for selfish ends. Richard III continues the story of England’s dynastic civil Wars of the Roses from the point where he had completed it in the last act of King Henry VI, Part III. The protagonist, Richard of Gloucester, is a Machiavellian villain: a hero who wins the crown by treachery and murder. Yet unlike playwright Christopher Marlowe's supermen, Richard is refined and developed into a more subtle character. Characteristically Shakespearean features are the presence of a nemesis that pursues and destroys Richard, and the subtle implication that Henry Tudor's victory over Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field, which initiated the Tudor dynasty, laid the foundation of the greatness and unity of England.

The four-play cycle closes with the death of Richard III and the ascent to the throne of Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor dynasty, to which Elizabeth belonged. In style and structure, these plays are related partly to medieval drama and partly to the works of earlier Elizabethan dramatists, especially Christopher Marlowe. Either indirectly (through such dramatists) or directly, the influence of the classical Roman dramatist Seneca is also reflected in the organization of these four plays, especially in the bloodiness of many of their scenes and in their highly colored, bombastic language. The influence of Seneca, exerted by way of the earlier English dramatist Thomas Kyd, is particularly obvious in Titus Andronicus (1594?), a tragedy of righteous revenge for heinous and bloody acts, which are staged in sensational detail.

Shakespeare’s comedies of the first period represent a wide range. The Comedy of Errors (1592?), a farce in imitation of classical Roman comedy, depends for its appeal on mistaken identities in two sets of twins involved in romance and war. Farce is not as strongly emphasized in The Taming of the Shrew (1593?), a comedy of character. The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1594?) concerns romantic love. Love’s Labour’s Lost (1594?) satirizes the loves of its main male characters as well as the fashionable devotion to studious pursuits by which these noblemen had first sought to avoid romantic and worldly ensnarement. The dialogue in which many of the characters voice their pretensions ridicules the artificially ornate, courtly style typified by the works of English novelist and dramatist John Lyly, the court conventions of the time, and perhaps the scientific discussions of Sir Walter Raleigh and his colleagues.



Shakespeare’s second period includes his most important plays concerned with English history, his so-called joyous comedies, and two of his major tragedies. In this period, his style and approach became highly individualized. The second-period historical plays include Richard II (1595?), Henry IV, Parts I and II (1597?), and Henry V (1598?). They encompass the years immediately before those portrayed in the Henry VI plays. Richard II is a study of a weak, sensitive, self-dramatizing but sympathetic monarch who loses his kingdom to his forceful successor, Henry IV. In the two parts of Henry IV, Henry recognizes his own guilt. His fears for his own son, later Henry V, prove unfounded, as the young prince displays a responsible attitude toward the duties of kingship. In an alternation of masterful comic and serious scenes, the fat knight Falstaff and the rebel Hotspur reveal contrasting excesses between which the prince finds his proper position. The mingling of the tragic and the comic to suggest a broad range of humanity subsequently became one of Shakespeare’s favorite devices.

Outstanding among the comedies of the second period is A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595?), which interweaves several plots involving two pairs of noble lovers, a group of bumbling and unconsciously comic townspeople, and members of the fairy realm, notably Puck, King Oberon, and Queen Titania. Subtle evocation of atmosphere, of the sort that characterizes this play, is also found in the tragicomedy The Merchant of Venice (1596?). In this play, the Renaissance motifs of masculine friendship and romantic love are portrayed in opposition to the bitter inhumanity of a usurer named Shylock, whose own misfortunes are presented so as to arouse understanding and sympathy. The character of the quick-witted, warm, and responsive young woman, exemplified in this play by Portia, reappears in the joyous comedies of the second period.

The witty comedy Much Ado About Nothing (1599?) is marred, in the opinion of some critics, by an insensitive treatment of its female characters. However, Shakespeare’s most mature comedies, As You Like It (1599?) and Twelfth Night (1600?), are characterized by lyricism, ambiguity, and beautiful, charming, and strong-minded heroines like Beatrice. In As You Like It, the contrast between the manners of the Elizabethan court and those current in the English countryside is drawn in a rich and varied vein. Shakespeare constructed a complex orchestration between different characters and between appearance and reality and used this pattern to comment on a variety of human foibles. In that respect, As You Like It is similar to Twelfth Night, in which the comical side of love is illustrated by the misadventures of two pairs of romantic lovers and of a number of realistically conceived and clowning characters in the subplot. Another comedy of the second period is The Merry Wives of Windsor (1599?), a farce about middle-class life in which Falstaff reappears as the comic victim. Two major tragedies, differing considerably in nature, mark the beginning and the end of the second period. Romeo and Juliet (1595?), famous for its poetic treatment of the ecstasy of youthful love, dramatizes the fate of two lovers victimized by the feuds and misunderstandings of their elders and by their own hasty temperaments. Julius Caesar(1599?), on the other hand, is a serious tragedy of political rivalries, but is less intense in style than the tragic dramas that followed it.



Shakespeare’s third period includes his greatest tragedies and his so-called dark or bitter comedies. The tragedies of this period are considered the most profound of his works. In them he used his poetic idiom as an extremely supple dramatic instrument, capable of recording human thought and the many dimensions of given dramatic situations. Hamlet(1601?), perhaps his most famous play, exceeds by far most other tragedies of revenge in picturing the mingled sordidness and glory of the human condition. Hamlet feels that he is living in a world of horror. Confirmed in this feeling by the murder of his father and the sensuality of his mother, he exhibits tendencies toward both crippling indecision and precipitous action. Interpretation of his motivation and ambivalence continues to be a subject of considerable controversy.

Othello(1604?) portrays the growth of unjustified jealousy in the protagonist, Othello, a Moor serving as a general in the Venetian army. The innocent object of his jealousy is his wife, Desdemona. In this tragedy, Othello’s evil lieutenant Iago draws him into mistaken jealousy in order to ruin him. King Lear (1605?), conceived on a more epic scale, deals with the consequences of the irresponsibility and misjudgment of Lear, a ruler of early Britain, and of his councillor, the Duke of Gloucester. The tragic outcome is a result of their giving power to their evil children, rather than to their good children. Lear’s daughter Cordelia displays a redeeming love that makes the tragic conclusion a vindication of goodness. This conclusion is reinforced by the portrayal of evil as self-defeating, as exemplified by the fates of Cordelia’s sisters and of Gloucester’s opportunistic son. Antony and Cleopatra (1606?) is concerned with a different type of love, namely the middle-aged passion of Roman general Mark Antony for Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Their love is glorified by some of Shakespeare’s most sensuous poetry. In Macbeth (1606?), Shakespeare depicts the tragedy of a man who, led on by others and because of a defect in his own nature, succumbs to ambition. In securing the Scottish throne, Macbeth dulls his humanity to the point where he becomes capable of any amoral act.

Unlike these tragedies, three other plays of this period suggest a bitterness stemming from the protagonists’ apparent lack of greatness or tragic stature. In Troilus and Cressida (1602?), the most intellectually contrived of Shakespeare’s plays, the gulf between the ideal and the real, both individual and political, is skillfully evoked. In Coriolanus (1608?), another tragedy set in antiquity, the legendary Roman hero Gnaeus Marcius Coriolanus is portrayed as unable to bring himself either to woo the Roman masses or to crush them by force. Timon of Athens (1608?) is a similarly bitter play about a character reduced to misanthropy by the ingratitude of his sycophants. Because of the uneven quality of the writing, this tragedy is considered a collaboration, quite possibly with English dramatist Thomas Middleton.

The two comedies of this period are also dark in mood and are sometimes called problem plays because they do not fit into clear categories or present easy resolution. All’s Well That Ends Well (1602?) and Measure for Measure (1604?) both question accepted patterns of morality without offering solutions.



The fourth period of Shakespeare’s work includes his principal romantic tragicomedies.Toward the end of his career, Shakespeare created several plays that, through the intervention of magic, art, compassion, or grace, often suggest redemptive hope for the human condition. These plays are written with a grave quality differing considerably from Shakespeare’s earlier comedies, but they end happily with reunions or final reconciliations. The tragicomedies depend for part of their appeal upon the lure of a distant time or place, and all seem more obviously symbolic than most of Shakespeare’s earlier works. To many critics, the tragicomedies signify a final ripeness in Shakespeare’s own outlook, but other authorities believe that the change reflects only a change in fashion in the drama of the period.

The romantic tragicomedy Pericles, Prince of Tyre (1608?) concerns the painful loss of the title character’s wife and the persecution of his daughter. After many exotic adventures, Pericles is reunited with his loved ones. In Cymbeline (1610?) and The Winter’s Tale (1610?), characters suffer great loss and pain but are reunited. Perhaps the most successful product of this particular vein of creativity, however, is what may be Shakespeare’s last complete play, The Tempest(1611?), in which the resolution suggests the beneficial effects of the union of wisdom and power. In this play a duke, deprived of his dukedom and banished to an island, confounds his usurping brother by employing magical powers and furthering a love match between his daughter and the usurper’s son. Shakespeare’s poetic power reached great heights in this beautiful, lyrical play.

Two final plays, sometimes ascribed to Shakespeare, presumably are the products of collaboration. A historical drama, Henry VIII (1613?) was probably written with English dramatist John Fletcher, as was The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613?; published 1634), a story of the love of two friends for one woman.



Until the 18th century, Shakespeare was generally thought to have been no more than a rough and untutored genius. Theories were advanced that his plays had actually been written by someone more educated, perhaps statesman and philosopher Sir Francis Bacon or the Earl of Southampton, who was Shakespeare’s patron. However, he was celebrated in his own time by English writer Ben Jonson and others who saw in him a brilliance that would endure. Since the 19th century, Shakespeare’s achievements have been more consistently recognized, and throughout the Western world he has come to be regarded as the greatest dramatist ever.

Shakespeare’s plays can even help establish better relations between feuding nations. Think of modern Israel where Jews have made a conscious effort to create a unique artistic tradition. Israeli Arabs maintain a rich heritage of music, theater, dance, and art that draws on traditions of the wider Arab world. Although the majority of Arabs and Jews of Israel remain separated socially and culturally, there has been significant collaboration between Arab and Jewish artists and writers in recent years. For example, a 1994 production of Romeo and Juliet by Jewish and Arab actors received international acclaim.




Hamletis atragedy of revenge and probably written in 1601. Hamlet is generally considered the foremost tragedy in English drama. Numerous commentaries have been written analyzing every aspect of the play, and interpretation of Hamlet’s character and motivation continue to be subjects of considerable interest. The story of Hamlet originated in Norse legend. The earliest written version is Books III and IV of Historia Danica (History of the Danes), written in Latin around 1200 by Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus. Shakespeare's source for Hamlet was either an adaptation of Saxo's tale, which appeared in Histoires Tragiques (1576) by Franзois Belleforest, or a play, now lost, which was probably written by English dramatist Thomas Kyd. The lost play is referred to by scholars as Ur-Hamlet, meaning “original Hamlet.”

Hamlet opens at Elsinore castle in Denmark with the return of Prince Hamlet from the University of Wittenberg, in Germany. He finds that his father, the former king, has recently died and that his mother, Queen Gertrude, has subsequently married Claudius, his father's brother. Claudius has assumed the title of king of Denmark. Hamlet’s sense that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” is intensified when his friend and fellow student Horatio informs him that a ghost resembling his dead father has been seen on the battlements of the castle. Hamlet confronts the ghost, who tells him that Claudius murdered him and makes Hamlet swear to avenge his death. In order to disguise his feelings, Hamlet declares that from now on he will demonstrate an “antic disposition.” His behavior appears to everyone but Claudius to be a form of madness.

To satisfy his growing questions about whether Hamlet is feigning madness, Claudius makes three attempts to verify Hamlet’s sanity. In his endeavor he makes use of Ophelia, the daughter of the lord chamberlain, Polonius; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, university friends of Hamlet; and finally Polonius himself. Polonius, sure that Hamlet's madness is the result of disappointed love for Ophelia—for Polonius has instructed her to keep aloof from the prince—arranges a “chance” encounter between the lovers that he and the king can overhear. Hamlet is not deceived. He bitterly rejects Ophelia and uses the occasion to utter what Claudius alone will recognize as a warning.

In the meantime, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have arrived at court. They talk about the company of players that has followed them to Elsinore. This suggests to Hamlet a means for eliminating all doubts about the king's guilt. He has the players perform a piece, “The Murder of Gonzago,” that reproduces the circumstances of his father's murder. Claudius interrupts the performance, and Hamlet and Horatio interpret this as a betrayal of his guilt.

Queen Gertrude, angered at what she considers Hamlet's rudeness at the play, summons him to her chamber. On his way Hamlet comes upon Claudius kneeling in prayer. Hamlet overhears the king’s plea to heaven for forgiveness for the act that procured him his crown and his queen. No longer doubting the king's guilt, Hamlet still refrains from killing him. He reasons that the present circumstances seem too much like absolution and that he should reserve his revenge for some occasion when Claudius's death would be certain to be followed by damnation.

By the time Hamlet arrives at his mother's chamber, Polonius, with the complicity of both the king and the queen, has concealed himself behind a tapestry in the hope that Hamlet will reveal the cause of his odd behavior. The queen begins the interview in a challenging tone that infuriates Hamlet, who has long brooded over his mother’s marriage to Claudius so soon after his father's death. Hamlet’s response is so violent that Gertrude screams, causing Polonius to cry out for help. Thinking it is the king, Hamlet thrusts his sword through the tapestry and kills Polonius.

Claudius then sends Hamlet to England, escorted by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, ostensibly for the prince's safety but in fact to have him executed on his arrival. During Hamlet's absence Laertes, the son of Polonius, returns from Paris, France, to avenge his father's death. Laertes finds that his sister Ophelia, grief stricken by her father's death at the hands of the man she loves, has gone mad. Her suicide by drowning increases Laertes's desire for revenge. Meanwhile, Hamlet is attacked by sea pirates and persuades them to return him to Denmark. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, however, continue on their way to England; Hamlet has replaced their written order for his execution with another naming them as the victims. When Hamlet returns unexpectedly to witness the funeral of Ophelia, the king suggests to the vengeful Laertes that he challenge Hamlet to a fencing match in which Laertes will use an unprotected foil tipped with poison.

As a backup, should Laertes's skill or nerve fail, the king prepares a poisoned cup of wine to offer Hamlet. In the excitement of the ensuing duel, the queen insists on drinking from the cup. Hamlet and Laertes are both mortally wounded, for in the violence of the bout the rapiers have changed hands. The dying queen warns Hamlet of the poison. Laertes points to the king as the chief instigator, and Hamlet at once stabs his uncle with the poisoned foil. With his last breath Hamlet exchanges forgiveness with Laertes and asks Horatio to make clear to the world the true story of his tragedy. Fortinbras, a prince of Norway, appears on the scene. He had earlier been granted permission to lead the Norwegian army across Denmark to attack Poland and has now returned from his military campaign. With all of the claimants to the Danish throne dead, Fortinbras claims the crown.

Hamlet’s volatile character and ambivalent behavior have been the subject of much analysis. One major issue is the question of the hero's sanity. Most critics maintain that Hamlet only pretends madness and then only at certain times. They are supported by Hamlet's explicit avowal to Horatio after he has seen the ghost of his father that he plans to “put an antic disposition on.” Many critics believe that Hamlet feigns insanity to conceal his real feelings and to divert attention from his task of revenge. Other critics assert that Hamlet hopes that Claudius, thinking him mad, will lower his guard and reveal his guilt in Hamlet's presence.

Another discussion issue is Hamlet’s delay in seeking revenge. The conventions of the age during which the play was written provide one possible explanation for Hamlet’s procrastination. In Elizabethan times, a ghost was generally believed to be a devil that had assumed the guise of a dead person. These ghosts sought to endanger the souls of those nearest the deceased through lies and other damnable behavior. In Hamlet, when the ghost first appears on the palace battlements, no one affirms that it is the spirit of Hamlet's father, only that it looks like him. Hamlet waits to be convinced that the ghost is indeed the spirit of his late father. When Hamlet decides to present “The Murder of Gonzago” before the king, he states as his motive:

The spirit that I have seen

May be the devil; and the devil hath power

To assume a pleasing shape; yea and perhaps

Abuses me to damn me.

However, once he is convinced that the ghost is truly his father, Hamlet still appears to hesitate. Some critics have explained this by analyzing his situation. Because the murder of the late king took place secretly, the Danish court neither suspects nor disapproves of Claudius. His reaction to “The Murder of Gonzago” is significant only to Hamlet and Horatio, and Hamlet cannot kill the king before publicly proving him a murderer (as he is dying, Hamlet's main concern is that Denmark know his reasons for killing Claudius). Also, if Hamlet kills the king without supporters present to uphold the act, he himself might be immediately killed as a regicide. When Hamlet rushes at the king in the last scene, the whole court with one voice shouts, “Treason! Treason!” although Laertes has already exposed Claudius's villainy.

Hamlet is a tragic hero and thus largely determines his own fate. Shakespeare portrays him as an extraordinarily complex young man—brilliant, sensitive, intuitive, noble, philosophic, and reckless. He is larger than life, a great repository of emotion and intellect. This unfocused “excess” of personality is the source of his tragedy. The emotional side of Hamlet’s nature is almost immediately evident: At the play's opening he is shown consumed by anguish and shock even before he sees the ghost. He has abandoned himself to melancholy; in his first soliloquy, he expresses the wish that suicide were permissible.

Hamlet's emotions occasionally impel him to act with disastrous consequences. During his encounter with Gertrude, for example, he becomes so angry that he does not wait to determine the eavesdropper’s identity but immediately runs him through with his saber. Only after doing so does Hamlet ask, hopefully, “Is it the king?”

Hamlet has a superb mind and is able to articulate his thoughts with great precision and wit. His soliloquies reveal that he is of a highly contemplative, generalizing nature, often given to periods of agonizing introspection. The great generalizing power of Hamlet's mind is dramatically revealed in the scene at Ophelia's grave. Instead of planning how best to kill Claudius, he broods over the just-discovered skull of his father's jester, Yorick. His thoughts then wander to mortality in general and the futility of even the greatest human achievement:

To what base uses we may return Horatio! Why may

not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander

till he find it stopping a bung hole? ...

This kind of imaginative but impractical mental activity helps ensure Hamlet's tragic destiny. A man who soon must pit his life against the fury of Laertes and the guile of Claudius simply does not have the leisure to philosophize about death.

Hamlet's impetuosity and emotionalism is also the source of his major weakness, impatience. In the “To be or not to be” soliloquy he asks if it is better to suffer and wait, or to put an end to doubts and scruples by acting at once:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,/ And by opposing end them?

The greatest obstacle to direct action is his own complex personality, and as the soliloquies reveal, he is constantly impatient with himself:

How all occasions do inform against me,/ And spur my dull revenge ... Now whether it be

Bestial oblivion or some craven scruple/ Of thinking too precisely on the event ...

I do not know ... How stand I then,/ That have a father kill'd, and mother stained,

And let all sleep?

Hamlet's impatience often prevents appropriate planning, so that when he does act he does not achieve his desired results. In the final scene, anxious to get on with the duel, Hamlet fails to inspect the foils and thus to notice that Laertes's foil is not blunted. This final impatience costs him his life. Hamlet is not only the most discussed but also the most quoted of Shakespeare's plays. Many of its lines have become well known. The following are among the most famous:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Brevity is the soul of wit.

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason!

How infinite in faculty! in form and moving

how express and admirable! in action how like an angel!

in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world!

the paragon of animals!



· Task A. Read more about Shakespeare from the following sources.


1. Brodey, K. Malgaretti, F. Focus on English and American Literature. – M.: Айрис-пресс, 2003.

2. Burgess, A. English Literature. – London, 1998.

3. Gower, P. Past and Present. An Anthology of British and American Literature. – Longman, 1995.

4. Пастернак Б.Л. Замечания к переводам из Шекспира. В кн.: Избранное в 2 т. Т.2. – М.: Худ. лит., 1985.

5. Шекспир В. Сонеты. – М.: Радуга, 1984.


· Task B. Explain Shakespeare's nickname, the Bard. Why is he called so?

· Task C. Prepare 10 questions on Shakespeare's life and activities to ask your group mates during a seminar.

· Task D. Write a mini-composition (200 words) explaining why Shakespeare is the very author who is quintessentially British in spirit.

· Task E. Read the following student bloopers and explain what caused them. Learn how NOT to write like this.


In midevil times most of the people were alliterate. The greatest writer of the time was Chaucer, who wrote many poems and verse and also wrote literature. Another tale tells of William Tell, who shot an arrow through an apple while standing on his son's head.


The Renaissance was an age in which more individuals felt the value of their human being. Martin Luther was nailed to the church door at Wittenberg for selling papal indulgences. He died a horrible death, being excommunicated by a bull. it was the painter Donatello's interest in the female nude that made him the father of the Renaissance. It was an age of great inventions and discoveries. Gutenberg invented the Bible. Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented cigarette. Another important invention was the circulation of blood. Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100-foot clipper.


The government of England was a limited mockery. Henry VIII found walking difficult because he had an abbess on his knee. Queen Elizabeth exposed herself before her troops, they all shouted "hurrah." Then her navy went out and defeated the Spanish Armadillo.


The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespear. Shakespear never made much money and is famous only because of his plays. He lived in Windsor with his merry wives, writing tragedies, comedies and errors. In one of Shakespear's famous plays, Hamlet rations out his situation by relieving himself in a long soliloquy. In another, Lady Macbeth tries to convince Macbeth to kill the King by attacking his manhood. Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet. Writing at the same time as Shakespear was Miquel Cervantes. He wrote "Donkey Hote".


МАТЕРИАЛ 4 (2 часа)


1. Study the following information borrowed from an electronic resource. Prepare to talk about authors and trends.

Increased attachment to religion most immediately characterized literature after World War II. This was particularly perceptible in authors who had already established themselves before the war. W.H. Auden turned from Marxist politics to Christian commitment, expressed in poems that attractively combine classical form with vernacular relaxedness. Christian belief suffused the verse plays of T.S. Eliot and Christopher Fry. While Graham Greene continued the powerful merging of thriller plots with studies of moral and psychological ambiguity that he had developed through the 1930s, his Roman Catholicism loomed especially large in novels such as The Heart of the Matter (1948) and The End of the Affair (1951). Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited (1945) and his Sword of Honour trilogy (1965) venerate Roman Catholicism as the repository of values seen as under threat from the advance of democracy. Less traditional spiritual solace was found in Eastern mysticism by Aldous Huxley and Robert Graves, who maintained an impressive output of taut, graceful lyric poetry behind which lay the creed he expressed in The White Goddess (1948), a matriarchal mythology revering the female principle.


Greene, (Henry) Graham (1904-1991), English novelist, concerned with spiritual struggle in a deteriorating world. Born in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, the son of a headmaster, Greene was educated at the University of Oxford. He worked for the London Times from 1926 to 1929 and then as a free-lance writer. In 1935 he was film critic for the Spectator, a British newspaper, and in 1940 he was named literary editor. From 1942 to 1943 he worked for the British Foreign Office in western Africa and after World War II (1939-1945) he traveled widely.

Greene's popularity came with Stamboul Train (1932), a spy thriller published in the United States as Orient Express. This and subsequent novels such as England Made Me (1935) and The Ministry of Fear (1943), Greene later categorized as “entertainments.” A Gun for Sale (1936), published in the United States as This Gun for Hire, has as a central theme man's conflict between good and evil. It may be considered a precursor to the type of book that Greene specifically labeled as “novels.” These writings are seriously concerned with the moral, social, and religious problems of the time. Greene himself had been converted to Roman Catholicism in 1926. The “novels” include Brighton Rock (1938); The Power and the Glory (1940), first published in the United States as The Labyrinthine Ways, his own favorite work; The Heart of the Matter (1948); and The End of the Affair (1951).

Subsequent major works by Greene include The Quiet American (1955), Our Man in Havana (1958), A Burnt-out Case (1961), The Comedians (1966), The Honorary Consul (1973), The Human Factor (1978), and The Tenth Man (1985). Many of his novels have been adapted for motion pictures; The Third Man (1950), another spy thriller, was written specifically for filming. As an essayist, he compiled Lost Childhood and Other Essays (1952) and Collected Essays (1969), the latter mostly comprising studies of other writers. He also wrote books for children. Among his plays are The Living Room (1953), The Potting Shed (1957), and The Complaisant Lover (1959). A Sort of Life (1971) and its sequel Ways of Escape (1980) are his autobiographies.

Greene's works are characterized by vivid detail, a variety of settings (Mexico, Africa, Haiti, Vietnam), and a detached objective portrayal of characters under various forms of social, political, or psychological stress. Evil is omnipresent. In later novels, a dimension of moral doubt and conflict add to the terror and suspense. The 1982 novel Monsignor Quixote, which confronts Marxism with Catholicism, is gentler in tone. A World of My Own: A Dream Diary (1994), written by Greene in the final months of his life, is a partly fictitious, partly autobiographical work based on 800 pages of diaries kept over a 24-year span.


· Prose: Golding, Spark, Murdoch

The two most innovatory novelists to begin their careers soon after World War II were also religious believers—William Golding and Muriel Spark. In novels of poetic compactness they frequently return to the notion of original sin – the idea that, in Golding's words, "man produces evil as a bee produces honey." Concentrating on small communities, Spark and Golding transfigure them into microcosms. Allegory and symbol set wide resonances quivering, so that short books make large statements. In Golding's first novel, Lord of the Flies (1954), schoolboys cast away on a Pacific island during a nuclear war reenact humanity's fall from grace as their relationships degenerate from innocent camaraderie to totalitarian butchery. In Spark's satiric comedy similar assumptions and techniques are discernible. Her best-known novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), for example, makes events in a 1930s Edinburgh classroom replicate, in miniature, the rise of fascism in Europe. In form and atmosphere Lord of the Flies has affinities with George Orwell's examinations of totalitarian nightmare, the fable Animal Farm (1945) and the novel Nineteen Eighty-four (1949). This kind of fiction, it was argued by Iris Murdoch, a philosopher as well as a novelist, ran anti-liberal risks in its preference for allegory, pattern, and symbol over the social capaciousness and realistic rendition of character at which the great 19th-century novels excelled. Murdoch's own fiction, typically engaged with themes of goodness, authenticity, selfishness, and altruism, oscillates between these two modes of writing. A Severed Head (1961) is the most incisive and entertaining of her elaborately artificial works; The Bell (1958) best achieves the psychological and emotional complexity she finds so valuable in classic 19th-century fiction. Another notable author is John Fowles.


Golding, Sir William (Gerald) (1911-1993), British novelist, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1983. He was born at Saint Columb Minor in Cornwall and educated at Brasenose College at the University of Oxford, where he studied English literature. Golding spent a short time working in the theater as a writer and actor. He then trained to be a teacher, a profession he left during World War II (1939-1945), when he served in the Royal Navy. After the war Golding returned to writing. His first novel, Lord of the Flies (1954; motion picture by English director Peter Brook, 1963), was extremely successful and is considered one of the great works of 20th-century literature. Based on Golding's own wartime experiences, it is the story of a group of schoolboys marooned on a desert island after a plane crash. An allegory of the intrinsic corruption of human nature, it chronicles the boys' descent from a state of relative innocence to one of revengeful barbarism. After Lord of the Flies he wrote several novels with similar themes of good and evil in human nature, including The Inheritors (1955) and Pincher Martin (1956). Much of Golding's writing explores moral dilemmas and human reactions in extreme situations. His trilogy—consisting of Rites of Passage (1980), winner of the Booker Prize, an annual award for outstanding literary achievement in the Commonwealth of Nations; Close Quarters (1987); and Fire Down Below (1989)—reflects Golding's interest in the sea and sailing. His other works include two collections of essays and one play. Golding was knighted in 1988. His last novel, The Double Tongue, was published posthumously in 1995.


Spark, Muriel (1918-2005), Scottish-born writer, of Jewish-Italian descent, longtime resident in Rome, Italy. Her novels are wryly satiric commentaries on modern life observed in various locales, colored by her Roman Catholic faith (she converted to Catholicism in 1954). Spark traveled to South Africa and spent several years in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and married S. O. Spark in 1938. The marriage was dissolved and Muriel Spark returned to England in 1944 to work in the Foreign Office on anti-Nazi propaganda. Spark's works include The Comforters (1957), Memento Mori (1959), The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960), The Girls of Slender Means (1963), and The Mandelbaum Gate (1965), a more serious story of tensions in the Holy Land. Her best-known novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), about an eccentric Edinburgh schoolteacher who is seen through the eyes of an admiring (but later disenchanted) pupil, was successfully adapted for stage and film. Her later publications include The Hothouse by the East River (1973), Territorial Rights (1979), Loitering with Intent (1981), a discussion of good, evil, and the writer's mind, and The Only Problem (1984), a witty meditation on the Old Testament Book of Job. Spark's shorter fiction has been collected in The Stories of Muriel Spark (1985), Open to the Public: New and Collected Stories (1997), and she has also written poetry and literary criticism.


Murdoch, (Jean) Iris (1919-1999), British writer and philosopher, born in Dublin, Ireland, and educated at the University of Oxford. In 1948 she was appointed a fellow and tutor in philosophy at Oxford. Murdoch’s first published book, Sartre, Romantic Rationalist (1953), is a study of French existentialism. Her other nonfiction works include Metaphysics As a Guide to Morals: Philosophical Reflections (1992). Murdoch began a career as a successful writer of fiction with Under the Net (1954). A decade later, with Murdoch’s adaptation of her own novel A Severed Head (1961; play, written with British writer J. B. Priestley, 1963), she also became a dramatist. Her style is complex, combining naturalism and the macabre, the familiar and the magical. Regarded as a master stylist, she presents in her fiction a cast of characters who struggle with the discovery that they are not truly free but are fettered by themselves, society, and natural forces. M

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