A History of English Literature
by Robert Huntington Fletcher
Preface | How to Study | Tabular View | Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | Assignments
Assignments For Study
These assignments must of course be freely modified in accordance with actual needs. The discussions of the authors' works should sometimes, at least, be made by the student in writing, sometimes after a day or two of preliminary oral discussion in class. In addition to the special questions here included, the treatment of the various authors in the text often suggests topics for further consideration; and of course the material of the preliminary chapter is assumed. Any discussion submitted, either orally or in writing, may consist of a rather general treatment, dealing briefly with several topics; or it may be a fuller treatment of a single topic. Students should always express their own actual opinions, using the judgments of others, recorded in this book or elsewhere, as helps, not as final statements. Students should also aim always to be definite, terse, and clear. Do not make such vague general statements as 'He has good choice of words,' but cite a list of characteristic words or skilful expressions. As often as possible support your conclusions by quotations from, the author or by page-number references to relevant passages.
1. Above, Chapter I. One day.
2. 'BEOWULF.' Two days. For the first day review the discussion of the poem; study the additional introductory statement which here follows; and read in the poem as much as time allows. For the second day continue the reading, at least through the story of Beowulf's exploits in Hrothgar's country (in Hall's translation through page 75, in Child's through page 60), and write your discussion. Better read one day in a prose translation, the other in a metrical translation, which will give some idea of the effect of the original.
The historical element in the poem above referred to is this: In several places mention is made of the fact that Hygelac, Beowulf's king, was killed in an expedition in Frisia (Holland), and medieval Latin chronicles make mention of the death of a king 'Chocilaicus' (evidently the same person) in a piratical raid in 512 A. D. The poem states that Beowulf escaped from this defeat by swimming, and it is quite possible that he was a real warrior who thus distinguished himself.
The other facts at the basis of the poem are equally uncertain. In spite of much investigation we can say of the tribes and localities which appear in it only that they are those of the region of Scandinavia and Northern Germany. As to date, poems about a historical Beowulf, a follower of Hygelac, could not have existed before his lifetime in the sixth century, but there is no telling how far back the possibly mythical elements may go. The final working over of the poem into its present shape, as has been said, probably took place in England in the seventh or eighth century; in earlier form, perhaps in the original brief ballads, it may have been brought to the country either by the Anglo-Saxons or by stray 'Danes.' It is fundamentally a heathen work, and certain Christian ideas which have been inserted here and there, such as the mention of Cain as the ancestor of Grendel, and the disparagement of heathen gods, merely show that one of the later poets who had it in hand was a Christian.
The genealogical introduction of something over fifty lines (down to the first mention of Hrothgar) has nothing to do with the poem proper; the Beowulf there mentioned is another person than the hero of the poem. In the epic itself we can easily recognize as originally separate stories:
- Beowulf's fight with Grendel.
- His fight with Grendel's mother.
- His fight with the fire-drake.
- The various stories referred to or incidentally related in brief.
Subjects for discussion:
- Narrative qualities, such as Movement, Proportion, Variety, Suspense. Do the style (terse and suggestive rather than explicit) and the tendency to digressions seriously interfere with narrative progress and with the reader's (or listener's) understanding?
- Dramatic vividness of scenes and incidents.
- Descriptive qualities.
- Do you recognize any specifically epic characteristics?
- Characterization, both in general and of individuals.
- How much of the finer elements of feeling does the poet show? What things in Nature does he appreciate? His sense of pathos and humor?
- Personal and social ideals and customs.
- The style; its main traits; the effect of the figures of speech; are the things used for comparisons in metaphors and similes drawn altogether from the outer world, or partly from the world of thought?
- The main merits and defects of the poem and its absolute poetic value?
Written discussions may well begin with a very brief outline of the story (not over a single page).
3. Above, chapter II. One day.
4. 'SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT' (in translation). One day. Preliminary. The romance combines two stories which belong to the great body of wide-spread popular narrative and at first had no connection with each other:
- The beheading story.
- The temptation. They may have been united either by the present author or by some predecessor of his.
Subjects for discussion:
- Narrative qualities--Unity, Movement, Proportion, Variety, Suspense. Is the repetition of the hunts and of Gawain's experience in the castle skilful or the reverse, in plan and in execution?
- Dramatic power--how vivid are the scenes and experiences? How fully do we sympathize with the characters?
- Power of characterization and of psychological analysis? Are the characters types or individuals?
- Power of description of scenes, persons, and Nature?
- Character of the author? Sense of humor? How much fineness of feeling?
- Theme of the story?
- Do we get an impression of actual life, or of pure romance? Note specific details of feudal life. 8. Traits of style, such as alliteration and figures of speech, so far as they can be judged from the translation.
5. THE PERIOD OF CHAUCER. One day.
6. CHAUCER'S POEMS. Two or three days. The best poems for study are: The Prolog to the Canterbury Tales. The Nuns' Priest's Tale. The Knight's Tale. The Squire's Tale. The Prolog to the Legend of Good Women. The text suggests topics for consideration, if general discussion is desired in addition to reading of the poems.
7. THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY AND THE POPULAR BALLADS. One day. Study above, and read as many ballads as possible. A full discussion of the questions of ballad origins and the like is to be found in the 'Cambridge' edition (Houghton Mifflin) of the ballads, edited by Sargent and Kittredge. In addition to matters treated in the text, consider how much feeling the authors show for Nature, and their power of description.
8. MALORY AND CAXTON. Two or three days. Study above, and read in Le Morte Darthur as much as time permits. Among the best books are: VII, XXI, I, Xlll-XVII.
Subjects for discussion:
- Narrative qualities.
- Characterization, including variety of characters.
- Amount and quality of description.
- How far is the book purely romantic, how far does reality enter into it? Consider how much notice is given to other classes than the nobility.
- The style.
9. THE EARLIER MEDIEVAL DRAMA, INCLUDING THE MYSTERY PLAYS. Two days. Above, Chapter IV. Among the best plays for study are: Abraham and Isaac (Riverside L. S. vol., p. 7); The Deluge or others in the Everyman Library vol., pp. 29-135 (but the play 'Everyman' is not a Mystery play and belongs to the next assignment); or any in Manly's 'Specimens of the Pre-Shakespearean Drama,' vol. I, pp. 1-211. The Towneley Second Shepherds' Play (so called because it is the second of two treatments of the Nativity theme in the Towneley manuscript) is one of the most notable plays, but is very coarse. Subjects for discussion:
- Narrative structure and qualities.
- Characterization and motivation.
- How much illusion of reality?
- Quality of the religious and human feeling?
- The humor and its relation to religious feeling.
- Literary excellence of both substance and expression (including the verse form).
10. THE MORALITIES AND INTERLUDES. One day. Study the section above. Students not familiar with 'Everyman' should read it (E. L. S. vol., p. 66; Everyman Library vol., p. 1). Further may be read 'Mundus et Infans' (The World and the Child. Manly's 'Specimens,' I, 353). Consider the same questions as in the last assignment and compare the Morality Plays with the Mysteries in general excellence and in particular qualities.
11. THE RENAISSANCE, with special study of The Faerie Queene. Four days. Above, Chapter V, through page 116. Read a few poems of Wyatt and Surrey, especially Wyatt's 'My lute, awake' and 'Forget not yet,' and Surrey's 'Give place, ye lovers, heretofore.' In 'The Faerie Queene' read the Prefatory Letter and as many cantos of Book I (or, if you are familiar with that, of some other Books) as you can assimilate--certainly not less than three or four cantos. Subjects for discussion:
- The allegory; its success; how minutely should it be applied?
- Narrative qualities.
- The descriptions.
- General beauty.
- The romantic quality.
- The language.
- The stanza, e. g., the variety of poetical uses and of treatment in such matters as pauses. The teacher may well read to the class the more important portions of Lowell's essay on Spenser, which occur in the latter half.
12. THE ELIZABETHAN LYRIC POEMS. Two days. Above. Read as widely as possible in the poems of the authors named. Consider such topics as: subjects and moods; general quality and its contrast with that of later lyric poetry; emotion, fancy, and imagination; imagery; melody and rhythm; contrasts among the poems; the sonnets. Do not merely make general statements, but give definite references and quotations. For the second day make special study of such particularly 'conceited' poems as the following and try to explain the conceits in detail and to form some opinion of their poetic quality: Lyly's 'Apelles' Song'; Southwell's 'Burning Babe'; Ralegh's 'His Pilgrimage'; and two or three of Donne's.
13. THE EARLIER ELIZABETHAN DRAMA, with study of Marlowe's Tamburlaine, Part I. Two days. Above, Chapter VI. Historically, Tamerlane was a Mongol (Scythian) leader who in the fourteenth century overran most of Western Asia and part of Eastern Europe in much the way indicated in the play, which is based on sixteenth century Latin lives of him. Of course the love element is not historical but added by Marlowe. Written discussions should begin with a very brief outline of the story (perhaps half a page). Other matters to consider:
- Is there an abstract dramatic theme?
- Can regular dramatic structure be traced, with a clear central climax?
- Variety of scenes?
- Qualities of style, e. g., relative prominence of bombast, proper dramatic eloquence, and sheer poetry.
- Qualities, merits, and faults of the blank verse, in detail. E.g.: How largely are the lines end-stopped (with a break in the sense at the end of each line, generally indicated by a mark of punctuation), how largely run-on (without such pause)? Is the rhythm pleasing, varied, or monotonous?
- Characterization and motivation.
14. THE ELIZABETHAN STAGE; SHAKESPEARE; AND 'RICHARD II' AS A REPRESENTATIVE CHRONICLE-HISTORY PLAY. Three days. The historical facts on which Richard II is based may be found in any short English history, years 1382-1399, though it must be remembered that Shakespeare knew them only in the 'Chronicle' of Holinshed. In brief outline they are as follows: King Richard and Bolingbroke (pronounced by the Elizabethans Bullenbroke) are cousins, grandsons of Edward III. Richard was a mere child when he came to the throne and after a while five lords, among whom were his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester (also called in the play Woodstock), and Bolingbroke, took control of the government. Later, Richard succeeded in recovering it and' imprisoned Gloucester at Calais in the keeping of Mowbray. There Gloucester was murdered, probably by Richard's orders. According to Holinshed, whom Shakespeare follows, Bolingbroke accuses Mowbray of the murder. (This is historically wrong; Bolingbroke's charge was another, trumped up, one; but that does not concern us.) Bolingbroke's purpose is to fix the crime on Mowbray and then prove that Mowbray acted at Richard's orders.
The story of the play is somewhat similar to that of Marlowe's 'Edward II,' from which Shakespeare doubtless took his suggestion. Main matters to consider throughout are: The characters, especially Richard and Bolingbroke; the reasons for their actions; do they change or develop? How far are the style and spirit like Marlowe; how far is there improvement? Is the verse more poetic or rhetorical? In what sorts of passages or what parts of scenes is rime chiefly used? Just what is the value of each scene in furthering the action, or for the other artistic purposes of the play? As you read, note any difficulties, and bring them up in the class.
For the second day, read through Act III. Act I: Why did Richard at first try to prevent the combat, then yield, and at the last moment forbid it? Are these changes significant, or important in results? (The 'long flourish' at I, iii, 122, is a bit of stage symbolism, representing an interval of two hours in which Richard deliberated with his council.)
For the third day, finish the play and write your discussion, which should consist of a very brief outline of the story and consideration of the questions that seem to you most important. Some, in addition to those above stated, are:
- How far is it a mere Chronicle-history play, how far a regular tragedy?
- Has it an abstract theme, like a tragedy?
- Are there any scenes which violate unity?
- Is there a regular dramatic line of action, with central climax?
- Does Shakespeare indicate any moral judgment on Bolingbroke's actions?
- General dramatic power--rapidity in getting started, in movement, variety, etc.?
- Note how large a part women have in the play, and how large a purely poetic element there is, as compared with the dramatic.
- The actual historical time is about two years. Does it appear so long?
15. 'TWELFTH NIGHT' AS A REPRESENTATIVE ROMANTIC COMEDY. Three days, with written discussion. In the Elizabethan period the holiday revelry continued for twelve days after Christmas; the name of the play means that it is such a one as might be used to complete the festivities. Helpful interpretation of the play is to be found in such books as:
- F. S. Boas, 'Shakespeare and his Predecessors,' pp. 313 ff.
- Edward Dowden, 'Shakespeare's Mind and Art,' page 328.
- Barrett Wendell, 'William Shakespeare,' pp. 205 ff.
Shakespeare took the outline of the plot from a current story, which appears, especially, in one of the Elizabethan 'novels.' Much of the jesting of the clown and others of the characters is mere light trifling, which loses most of its force in print to-day. The position of steward (manager of the estate) which Malvolio holds with Olivia was one of dignity and importance, though the steward was nevertheless only the chief servant. The unsympathetic presentation of Malvolio is of the same sort which Puritans regularly received in the Elizabethan drama, because of their opposition to the theater. Where is Illyria, and why does Shakespeare locate the play there?
First day : Acts I and II.
- Make sure you can tell the story clearly.
- How many distinct actions?
- Which one is chief?
- Why does Shakespeare combine them in one play?
- Which predominates, romance or realism?
- Note specifically the improbable incidents.
- For what sorts of scenes are verse and prose respectively used? Poetic quality of the verse?
- Characterize the main persons and state their relations to the others, or purposes in regard to them. Which set of persons is most distinctly characterized?
Second day: The rest. (The treatment given to Malvolio was the regular one for madmen; it was thought that madness was due to an evil spirit, which must be driven out by cruelty.) Make sure of the story and characters as before.
- How skilful are the interweaving and development of the actions?
- How skilful the 'resolution' (straightening out) of the suspense and complications at the end?
- Is the outcome, in its various details, probable or conventional?
- Is there ever any approach to tragic effect?
Third day : Write your discussion, consisting of: I, a rather full outline of the story (in condensing you will do better not always to follow Shakespeare's order), and II, your main impressions, including some of the above points or of the following:
- How does the excellence of the characterization compare with that in 'Richard II'?
- Work out the time-scheme of the play--the amount of time which it covers, the end of each day represented, and the length of the gaps to be assumed between these days. Is there entire consistency in the treatment of time?
- Note in four parallel columns, two for the romantic action and two for the others together, the events in the story which respectively are and are not presented on the stage.
16. 'HAMLET' AS A REPRESENTATIVE TRAGEDY. Four days, with written discussion. Students can get much help from good interpretative commentaries, such as:
- C. M. Lewis, 'The Genesis of Hamlet,' on which the theories here stated are partly based.
- A. C. Bradley, 'Shakspearean Tragedy,' pp. 89-174.
- Edward Dowden, 'Shakespeare Primer,' 119 ff.
- Barrett Wendell, 'William Shakespeare,' 250 ff.
- Georg Brandes, 'William Shakespeare,' one vol. ed., book II, chaps. xiii-xviii.
- F. S. Boas, 'Shakespeare and his Predecessors,' 384 ff.
- S. T. Coleridge, 'Lectures on Shakespeare,' including the last two or three pages of the twelfth lecture.
The original version of the Hamlet story is a brief narrative in the legendary so-called 'Danish History,' written in Latin by the Dane Saxo the Grammarian about the year 1200. About 1570 this was put into a much expanded French form, still very different from Shakespeare's, by the 'novelist' Belleforest, in his 'Histoires Tragiques.' (There is a translation of Belleforest in the second volume of the 'Variorum' edition of 'Hamlet'; also in Hazlitt's 'Shakespeare Library,' I, ii, 217 ff.) Probably on this was based an English play, perhaps written by Thomas Kyd, which is now lost but which seems to be represented, in miserably garbled form, in an existing text of a German play acted by English players in Germany in the seventeenth century. (This German play is printed in the 'Variorum' edition of 'Hamlet,' vol. II.) This English play was probably Shakespeare's source. Shakespeare's play was entered in the 'Stationers' Register' (corresponding to present-day copyrighting) in 1602, and his play was first published (the first quarto) in 1603. This is evidently only Shakespeare's early tentative form, issued, moreover, by a piratical publisher from the wretchedly imperfect notes of a reporter sent to the theater for the purpose. (This first quarto is also printed in the 'Variorum' edition.) The second quarto, virtually Shakespeare's finished form, was published in 1604. Shakespeare, therefore, was evidently working on the play for at least two or three years, during which he transformed it from a crude and sensational melodrama of murder and revenge into a spiritual study of character and human problems. But this transformation could not be complete--the play remains bloody--and its gradual progress, as Shakespeare's conception of the possibilities broadened, has left inconsistencies in the characters and action.
It is important to understand the situation and events at the Danish court just before the opening of the play. In Saxo the time was represented as being the tenth century; in Shakespeare, as usual, the manners and the whole atmosphere are largely those of his own age. The king was the elder Hamlet, father of Prince Hamlet, whose love and admiration for him were extreme. Prince Hamlet was studying at the University of Wittenberg in Germany; in Shakespeare's first quarto it is made clear that he had been there for some years; whether this is the assumption in the final version is one of the minor questions to consider. Hamlet's age should also be considered. The wife of the king and mother of Prince Hamlet was Gertrude, a weak but attractive woman of whom they were both very fond. The king had a brother, Claudius, whom Prince Hamlet had always intensely disliked. Claudius had seduced Gertrude, and a few weeks before the play opens murdered King Hamlet in the way revealed in Act I. Of the former crime no one but the principals were aware; of the latter at most no one but Claudius and Gertrude; in the first quarto it is made clear that she was ignorant of it; whether that is Shakespeare's meaning in the final version is another question to consider. After the murder Claudius got himself elected king by the Danish nobles. There was nothing illegal in this; the story assumes that as often in medieval Europe a new king might be chosen from among all the men of the royal family; but Prince Hamlet had reason to feel that Claudius had taken advantage of his absence to forestall his natural candidacy. The respect shown throughout the play by Claudius to Polonius, the Lord Chamberlain, now in his dotage, suggests that possibly Polonius was instrumental in securing Claudius' election. A very few weeks after the death of King Hamlet, Claudius married Gertrude. Prince Hamlet, recalled to Denmark by the news of his father's death, was plunged into a state of wretched despondency by the shock of that terrible grief and by his mother's indecently hasty marriage to a man whom he detested.
There has been much discussion as to whether or not Shakespeare means to represent Hamlet as mad, but very few competent critics now believe that Hamlet is mad at any time. The student should discover proof of this conclusion in the play; but it should be added that all the earlier versions of the story explicitly state that the madness is feigned. Hamlet's temperament, however, should receive careful consideration. The actual central questions of the play are:
- Why does Hamlet delay in killing King Claudius after the revelation by his father's Ghost in I iv?
- Why does he feign madness?
As to the delay: It must be premised that the primitive law of blood-revenge is still binding in Denmark, so that after the revelation by the Ghost it is Hamlet's duty to kill Claudius. Of course it is dramatically necessary that he shall delay, otherwise there would be no play; but that is irrelevant to the question of the human motivation. The following are the chief explanations suggested, and students should carefully consider how far each of them may be true.
- There are external difficulties,
a. In the earlier versions of the story Claudius was surrounded by guards, so that Hamlet could not get at him. Is this true in Shakespeare's play?
b. Hamlet must wait until he can justify his deed to the court; otherwise his act would be misunderstood and he might himself be put to death, and so fail of real revenge. Do you find indications that Shakespeare takes this view?
- Hamlet is a sentimental weakling, incapable by nature of decisive action. This was the view of Goethe. Is it consistent with Hamlet's words and deeds?
- Hamlet's scholar's habit of study and analysis has largely paralyzed his natural power of action. He must stop and weigh every action beforehand, until he bewilders himself in the maze of incentives and dissuasives.
- This acquired tendency is greatly increased by his present state of extreme grief and despondency. (Especially argued by Professor Bradley.)
- His moral nature revolts at the idea of assassination; in him the barbarous standard of a primitive time and the finer feelings of a highly civilized and sensitive man are in conflict.
- He distrusts the authenticity of the Ghost and wishes to make sure that it is not (literally) a device of the devil before obeying it. Supposing that this is so, does it suffice for the complete explanation, and is Hamlet altogether sincere in falling back on it?
In a hasty study like the present the reasons for Hamlet's pretense of madness can be arrived at only by starting not only with some knowledge of the details of the earlier versions but with some definite theory. The one which follows is substantially that of Professor Lewis. The pretense of madness was a natural part of the earlier versions, since in them Hamlet's uncle killed his father openly and knew that Hamlet would naturally wish to avenge the murder; in those versions Hamlet feigns madness in order that he may seem harmless. In Shakespeare's play (and probably in the older play from which he drew), Claudius does not know that Hamlet is aware of his guilt; hence Hamlet's pretense of madness is not only useless but foolish, for it attracts unnecessary attention to him and if discovered to be a pretense must suggest that he has some secret plan, that is, must suggest to Claudius that Hamlet may know the truth. Shakespeare, therefore, retains the pretense of madness mainly because it had become too popular a part of the story (which was known beforehand to most theater-goers) to be omitted. Shakespeare suggests as explanations (motivation) for it, first that it serves as a safety-valve for Hamlet's emotions (is this an adequate reason?); and second that he resolves on it in the first heat of his excitement at the Ghost's revelation (I, iv). The student should consider whether this second explanation is sound, whether at that moment Hamlet could weigh the whole situation and the future probabilities, could realize that he would delay in obeying the Ghost and so would need the shield of pretended madness. Whether or not Shakespeare's treatment seems rational on analysis the student should consider whether it is satisfactory as the play is presented on the stage, which is what a dramatist primarily aims at. It should be remembered also that Shakespeare's personal interest is in the struggle in Hamlet's inner nature.
Another interesting question regards Hamlet's love for Ophelia. When did it begin? Is it very deep, so that, as some critics hold, when Ophelia fails him he suffers another incurable wound, or is it a very secondary thing as compared with his other interests? Is the evidence in the play sufficiently clear to decide these questions conclusively? Is it always consistent?
For the second day, study to the end of Act II. Suggestions on details (the line numbers are those adopted in the 'Globe' edition and followed in most others):
- I, ii: Notice particularly the difference in the attitude of Hamlet toward Claudius and Gertrude respectively and the attitude of Claudius toward him. At the end of the scene notice the qualities of Hamlet's temperament and intellect.
- Scenes iv and v: Again notice Hamlet's temperament, v, 107: The 'tables' are the waxen tablet which Hamlet as a student carries. It is of course absurd for him to write on them now; he merely does instinctively, in his excitement and uncertainty, what he is used to doing.
- 115-116: The falconer's cry to his bird; here used because of its penetrating quality.
- 149 ff.: The speaking of the Ghost under the floor is a sensational element which Shakespeare keeps for effect from the older play, where it is better motivated--there Hamlet started to tell everything to his companions, and the Ghost's cries are meant to indicate displeasure.
- II, ii, 342: 'The city' is Wittenberg. What follows is a topical allusion to the rivalry at the time of writing between the regular men's theatrical companies and those of the boys.
Third day, Acts III and IV.
- III, i, 100-101: Professor Lewis points out that these lines, properly placed in the first quarto, are out of order here, since up to this point in the scene Ophelia has reason to tax herself with unkindness, but none to blame Hamlet. This is an oversight of Shakespeare in revising.
- Scene ii, 1 ff.: A famous piece of professional histrionic criticism, springing from Shakespeare's irritation at bad acting; of course it is irrelevant to the play.
- 95: Note 'I must be idle.' Scene iii: Does the device of the play of scene ii prove wise and successful, on the whole?
- 73 ff.: Is Hamlet sincere with himself here?
Fourth day: Finish the play and write your discussion.
- V, i: Why are the clowns brought into the play?
- ii, 283: A 'union' was a large pearl, here dissolved in the wine to make it more precious. In the old play instead of the pearl there was a diamond pounded fine, which constituted the poison. Why is Fortinbras included in the play?
Your discussion should include a much condensed outline of the play, a statement of its theme and main meanings as you see them, and a careful treatment of whatever question or questions most interest you. In addition to those above suggested, the character of Hamlet is an attractive topic.
17. The Rest of the Dramatists to 1642, and the Study of Jonson's 'Sejanus.' Three days, with written discussion of 'Sejanus.' Above. Preliminary information about 'Sejanus:' Of the characters in the play the following are patriots, opposed to Sejanus: Agrippina, Drusus, the three boys, Arruntius, Silius, Sabinus, Lepidus, Cordus, Gallus, Regulus. The rest, except Macro and Laco, are partisans of Sejanus. In his estimate of Tiberius' character Jonson follows the traditional view, which scholars now believe unjust. Sejanus' rule actually lasted from 23-31 A.D.; Jonson largely condenses. Livia Augusta, still alive at the time of the play, and there referred to as 'the great Augusta,' was mother of Tiberius and a Drusus (now dead) by a certain Tiberius Claudius Nero (not the Emperor Nero). After his death she married the Emperor Augustus, who adopted Tiberius and whom Tiberius has succeeded. The Drusus above-mentioned has been murdered by Tiberius and Sejanus. By the Agrippina of the play Drusus was mother of the three boys of the play, Nero (not the Emperor), Drusus Junior, and Caligula (later Emperor). The Drusus Senior of the play is son of Tiberius. In reading the play do not omit the various introductory prose addresses, etc. (The collaborator whose part Jonson has characteristically displaced in the final form of the play may have been Shakespeare.)
For the second day, read through Act IV. Questions:
- How far does Jonson follow the classical principles of art and the drama, general and special?
- Try to formulate definitely the differences between Jonson's and Shakespeare's method of presenting Roman life, and their respective power and effects. Does Jonson's knowledge interfere with his dramatic effectiveness?
- The characters. Why so many? How many are distinctly individualized? Characterize these. What methods of characterization does Jonson use?
- Compare Jonson's style and verse with Shakespeare's.
- Effectiveness of III, 1? Is Tiberius sincere in saying that he meant to spare Silius?
For the third day finish the reading and write your discussion. 6. Excellence in general dramatic qualities, especially Movement, Suspense, Variety. Is the act-division organic? 7. State the theme. 8. Locate the points in the line of action, especially the central climax. 9. Specific points of influence from Greek and Senecan tragedy. Begin your discussion with a summary of the story (but do not merely copy from Jonson's own preliminary 'argument').
18. Francis Bacon and his Essays. One day. Above. Read half a dozen of the Essays, including those on Studies and Friendship. The numerous illustrations from classical history and literature were of course natural to Bacon and his readers. The main matters for consideration are suggested above. It would be interesting to state definitely, with illustrations, those characteristics of Bacon's mind which make it impossible that he should have written Shakespeare's plays. Or you might compare and contrast his essays with others that you know, such as those of Emerson, Addison, Macaulay, or Lamb.
19. The King James Bible. If circumstances permit any number of hours may be devoted to the style of the Bible or its contents--literary form, narrative qualities or a hundred other topics. Comparison with the Wiclifite or other earlier versions is interesting. Above.
20. The Seventeenth Century Minor Lyric Poets. Two days. Above. Read as many as possible of the poems of the authors named. Consider the differences in subjects and tone between them and the Elizabethan poets on the one hand and the nineteenth century poets on the other. Form a judgment of their absolute poetic value.
21. Milton. Above. Every one should be familiar with all the poems of Milton mentioned in the text. Suggested assignments:
- The shorter poems.
- In the 'Nativity Hymn,' 'L'Allegro,' and 'Il Penseroso' note appeals to sight (especially light and color), sound, and general physical sensation, and cases of onomatopoeia or especial adaptation of metrical movement to the sense.
- Of Lycidas write a summary outline, indicating thought-divisions by line numbers; state the theme; and consider Unity.
- Does the conventional pastoralism render the poem artificial or insincere?
- Respective elements of Classicism and Romanticism in the shorter poems?
One of the most suggestive essays on Milton is that of Walter Bagehot.
22. Bunyan and 'Pilgrim's Progress.' Above. Many students will have read 'Pilgrim's Progress' as children, but most will gain by critical study of it. Perhaps two days may be devoted to Part I. Subjects for discussion, in addition to those above suggested:
- The allegory. Compare with that of 'The Faerie Queene.'
- The style. Compare with the Bible and note words or expressions not derived from it.
- Bunyan's religion--how far spiritual, how far materialistic?
- His personal qualities--sympathy, humor, etc.
- His descriptions. Does he care for external Nature? Any influence from the Bible?
23. THE RESTORATION PERIOD AND DRYDEN. Above, Chapter VIII. One day.
24. DRYDEN'S 'ALEXANDER'S FEAST' AND ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL.' Part I. How does the lyric quality of 'Alexander's Feast' compare with that of the best lyrics of more Romantic periods? Compare 'Absalom and Achitophel' with the source in II Samuel, Chapter XIII, verse 23, to Chapter XVIII.
- How cleverly is the ancient story applied to the modern facts? (The comparison of Charles II to David was not original with Dryden, but was a commonplace of the Court party. Of the minor characters: Ishbosheth, line 58, is Richard Cromwell; Zimri, 544 ff., the Duke of Buckingham; Corah, 632 ff., Titus Dates; Bathsheba, 710, the Duchess of Portsmouth; Barzillai, 817, the Duke of Ormond; Zadoc, 864, Archbishop Bancroft. The 'progress' of 729 ff. is that which Monmouth made in 1680 through the West of England. Who or what are the Jebusites, Egypt, Pharoah, and Saul?)
- Power as a satire?
- Qualities and effectiveness of the verse, as you see it. How regularly are the couplets end-stopped?
- Is it real poetry?
25. THE PSEUDO-CLASSIC PERIOD AND DANIEL DEFOE. Study Part I of 'Robinson Crusoe.' Three days. Above, and in 'Robinson Crusoe' as much as time allows. Better begin with Robinson's fourth voyage (in the 'Everyman' edition, page 27). Consider such matters as:
- The sources of interest. Does the book make as strong appeal to grown persons as to children, and to all classes of persons?
- The use of details. Are there too many? Is there skilful choice? Try to discover some of the numerous inconsistencies which resulted from Defoe's haste and general manner of composition, and cases in which he attempts to correct them by supplementary statements.
- The motivation. Is it always satisfactory?
- Characterize Robinson. The nature of his religion? How far is his character like that of Defoe himself?
- Success of the characterization of the other persons, especially Friday? Does Defoe understand savages?
- Narrative qualities. How far has the book a plot? Value of the first-personal method of narration?
- The Setting. Has Defoe any feeling for Nature, or does he describe merely for expository purposes?
- The style.
- Defoe's nature as the book shows it. His sense of humor, pathos, etc.
- Has the book a definite theme?
26. JONATHAN SWIFT. Two days. Above. In the reading, a little of Swift's poetry should be included, especially a part of 'On the Death of Dr. Swift'; and of the prose 'A Modest Proposal,' perhaps the 'Journal to Stella' (in brief selections), 'A Tale of a Tub,' and 'Gulliver's Travels.' Of course each student should center attention on the works with which he has no adequate previous acquaintance. In 'The Tale of a Tub' better omit the digressions; read the Author's Preface (not the Apology), which explains the name, and sections 2, 4, 6, and 11. Subjects for discussion should readily suggest themselves.
27. STEELE AND ADDISON AND THE 'SPECTATOR' PAPERS. Two days. Above. Read a dozen or more of the 'Spectator' papers, from the De Coverly papers if you are not already familiar with them, otherwise others. Subjects:
- The style. What gives it its smoothness-balance of clauses, the choice of words for their sound, or etc.? The relation of long and short sentences.
- The moral instruction. How pervasive is it? How agreeable? Things chiefly attacked?
- Customs and manners as indicated in the essays-entertainments, modes of traveling, social conventions, etc.
- Social and moral standards of the time, especially their defects, as attacked in the papers.
- The use of humor.
- Characterization in the De Coverly papers. Is the method general or detailed? Is there much description of personal appearance? Is characterization mostly by exposition, action or conversation? How clear are the characters?
- Is Sir Roger real or 'idealized'?
- General narrative skill (not merely in the De Coverly papers).
- How near do the De Coverly papers come to making a modern story? Consider the relative proportions of characterization, action, and setting.
- Compare the 'Spectator' essays with any others with which you are familiar.
28. ALEXANDER POPE. The number of exercises may depend on circumstances. Above. As many as possible of the poems named in the text (except 'The Dunciad') should be read, in whole or in part. 'An Essay on Criticism': (By 'Nature' Pope means actual reality in anything, not merely external Nature.) Note with examples the pseudo-classical qualities in:
- The relation of intellectual and emotional elements.
- The vocabulary and expression.
- How deep is Pope's feeling for external Nature?
- State his ideas on the relation of 'Nature,' the ancients, and modern poets; also on authority and originality.
- In relation to his capacity for clear thought note in how many different senses he uses the word 'wit.' 'The Rape of the Lock': Note the attitude toward women. Your opinion of its success? How far is it like, how far unlike, the 'Essay on Criticism'? Was the introduction of the sylphs fortunate? Pope took them from current notions--books had been written which asserted that there was a fantastic sect, the Rosicrucians, who believed that the air was full of them.
'Eloisa to Abelard': (Abelard was a very famous unorthodox philosopher of the twelfth century who loved Heloise and was barbarously parted from her. Becoming Abbot of a monastery, he had her made Abbess of a convent. From one of the passionate letters which later passed between them and which it is interesting to read in comparison Pope takes the idea and something of the substance of the poem.) In your opinion does it show that Pope had real poetic emotion? Does the rimed pentameter couplet prove itself a possible poetic vehicle for such emotion? The translation of 'The Iliad': Compare with corresponding passages in the original or in the translation of Lang, Leaf, and Myers (Macmillan). Just how does Pope's version differ from the original? How does it compare with it in excellence? The 'Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot': Note Pope's personal traits as they appear here. How do the satirical portraits and the poem in general compare with Dryden's 'Absalom and Achitophel'? In general summary consider: Pope's spirit, his artistry, his comparative rank as a poet, and the merits and defects of the couplet as he employs it.
29. SAMUEL JOHNSON. Two days. Above. 'The Vanity of Human Wishes': How far does it illustrate the pseudo-classical characteristics (above) and Johnson's own traits? How does it compare with Pope's poems in artistry and power? The prose reading should consist of or include the letter to Lord Chesterfield, a few essays from 'The Rambler,' one or more of the 'Lives of the Poets' and perhaps a part of 'Rasselas.'
- The style, both absolutely and in comparison with previous writers. Is it always the same? You might make a definite study of (a) the relative number of long and short words, (b) long and short and (c) loose and balanced sentences.
- How far do Johnson's moralizing, his pessimism, and other things in his point of view and personality deprive his work of permanent interest and significance?
- His skill as a narrator?
- His merits and defects as a literary critic?
- His qualifications and success as a biographer?
30. BOSWELL AND HIS 'LIFE OF JOHNSON.' One day. Above. Read anywhere in the 'Life' as much as time allows, either consecutively or at intervals. Your impression of it, absolutely and in comparison with other biographies? Boswell's personality. Note an interesting incident or two for citation in class.
31. GIBBON AND 'THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.' One day. Above. Read a chapter or two in the history. Among the best chapters are numbers 1, 2, 3, 11, 14, 17, 24, 26, 29, 30, 35, 39, 40, 44, 50, 52, 58, 59, 68. Questions for consideration are suggested above, such as: his power in exposition and narration; how his history compares with later ones; his style.
32. EDMUND BURKE. Two days. Above. Every one should be familiar with the speech 'On Conciliation with America.' The speeches at Bristol are among the briefest of Burke's masterpieces. Beyond these, in rapid study he may best be read in extracts. Especially notable are:
'Thoughts on the Present Discontents'; 'An Address to the King'; the latter half of the speech 'On the Nabob of Areot's Debts'; 'Reflections on the Revolution in France'; 'A Letter to a Noble Lord.' Subjects for consideration are suggested by the text. It would be especially interesting to compare Burke's style carefully with Gibbon's and Johnson's. His technique in exposition and argument is another topic; consider among other points how far his order is strictly logical, how far modified for practical effectiveness.
33. THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT, THOMSON, AND COLLINS. One day. Above. The reading may include extracts from Thomson and should include most of Collins' 'Odes.' The student should note specifically in Collins respective elements of classic, pseudo-classic; and romantic spirit, in general and in details.
34. GRAY, GOLDSMITH, PERCY, MACPHERSON, AND CHATTERTON. One day. Above. The reading should include most of Gray's poems and 'The Deserted Village.' Questions for consideration are suggested in the text, but students should be able to state definitely just what are the things that make Gray's 'Elegy' a great poem and should form definite opinions as to the rank of 'The Bard' and 'The Progress of Poesy' among lyrics. These two poems are the best examples in English of, the true Pindaric Ode as devised by the ancient Greeks. By them it was intended for chanting by dancing choruses. It always consists of three stanzas or some multiple of three. In each set of three the first stanza is called the strophe (turn), being intended, probably, for chanting as the chorus moved in one direction; the second stanza is called the antistrophe, chanted as the chorus executed a second, contrasting, movement; and the third stanza the epode, chanted as the chorus stood still. The metrical structure of each stanza is elaborate (differing in different poems), but metrically all the strophes and antistrophes in any given poem must be exactly identical with each other and different from the epodes. The form is of course artificial in English, but the imaginative splendor and restrained power of expression to which it lends itself in skilful and patient hands, give it especial distinction. Lowell declares that 'The Progress of Poesy' 'overflies all other English lyrics like an eagle,' and Mr. Gosse observes of both poems that the qualities to be regarded are 'originality of structure, the varied music of their balanced strophes, as of majestic antiphonal choruses, answering one another in some antique temple, and the extraordinary skill with which the evolution of the theme is observed and restrained.' 'The Progress of Poesy' allegorically states the origin of Poetry in Greece; expresses its power over all men for all emotions; and briefly traces its passage from Greece to Rome and then to England, with Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, and finally some poet yet to be. 'The Bard' is the imagined denunciatory utterance of a Welsh bard, the sole survivor from the slaughter of the bards made by Edward I of England on his conquest of Wales. The speaker foretells in detail the tragic history of Edward's descendants until the curse is removed at the accession of Queen Elizabeth, who as a Tudor was partly of Welsh descent.
35. COWPER, BLAKE AND BUMS. One day. Above. The reading should include a few of the poems of each poet, and students should note definitely the main characteristics of each, romantic and general.
36. THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY NOVEL AND GOLDSMITH'S 'VICAR OF WAKEFIELD.' Above. Most students will already have some acquaintance with 'The Vicar of Wakefield.' Read again as much as time allows, supplementing and correcting your earlier impressions. Consider:
- The relation of idealism, romance, and reality.
- Probability, motivation, and the use of accident.
- The characterization. Characterize the main persons.
- Narrative qualities, such as unity, suspense, movement.
- Is moralizing too prominent! 6. The style.
37. COLERIDGE. One day. Above. Read at least 'Kubla Khan,' 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,' and Part I of 'Christabel.' In 'Kubla Kahn' 'Xanadu' is Coleridge's form for 'Xamdu,' the capital of Kublai Khan in Purchas's Pilgrimage, which Coleridge was reading when he fell into the sleep in which he wrote the poem. Coleridge said (though he is not to be trusted explicitly) that he composed the poem, to a length of over 200 lines, without conscious effort; that on awaking he wrote down what has been preserved; that he was then called out on an errand; and returning after an hour he could recollect only this much. How far do you agree with Swinburne's judgment: 'It is perhaps the most wonderful of all poems. We seem rapt into that paradise revealed to Swedenborg, where music and color and perfume were one, where you could hear the hues and see the harmonies of heaven. For absolute melody and splendor it were hardly rash to call it the first poem in the language. An exquisite instinct married to a subtle science of verse has made it the supreme model of music in our language, unapproachable except by Shelley.' In all the poems consider:
- Is his romantic world too remote from reality to be interesting, or has it poetic imagination that makes it true in the deepest sense?
- Which is more important, the romantic atmosphere, or the story?
- How important a part do description or pictures play? Are the descriptions minute or impressionistic?
- Note some of the most effective onomatopoeic passages. What is the main meaning or idea of 'The Ancient Mariner'? With reference to this, where is the central climax of the story? Try to interpret 'Christabel.'
38. WORDSWORTH. Two days. Above. Read as many as time allows of his most important shorter poems. Your impressions about:
- His Nature poems.
- His ideas of the relation of God, Nature, and Man.
- The application of his theory of simple subjects and simple style in his poems--its consistency and success.
- His emotion and sentiment.
- His poems in the classical style.
- His political and patriotic sonnets.
- His power as philosopher and moralizer.
- His rank as a poet. For the last day write a clear but brief outline in declarative statements, with references to stanza numbers, of the 'Ode on Intimations of Immortality.' What is its theme?
39. SOUTHEY, SCOTT, AND BYRON. Two days, with discussion of Byron. Above. No reading is here assigned in Southey or Scott, because Southey is of secondary importance and several of Scott's works, both poems and novels, are probably familiar to most students. Of Byron should be read part of the third and fourth cantos of 'Childe Harold' and some of the lyric poems. Subjects for discussion are suggested in the text. Especially may be considered his feeling for Nature, his power of description, and the question how far his faults as a poet nullify his merits.
40. SHELLEY. Two days. Above. The reading should include the more important lyric poems.
- Does his romantic world attract you, or does it seem too unreal?
- Note specific cases of pictures, appeals to various senses, and melody.
- Compare or contrast his feeling for Nature and his treatment of Nature in his poetry with that of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Scott, or Byron.
Read 'Adonais' last and include in your report an outline of it in a dozen or two sentences, with references to stanza numbers. The outline should indicate the divisions of the poems and should make the thought-development clear. (The poem imitates the Greek elegies, of which the earliest now preserved was the Lament by Bion for Adonis, the mythological youth beloved by Venus.) Shelley seems to have invented the name 'Adonais' (standing for 'Keats') on analogy with 'Adonis.' Stanzas 17, 27-29, and 36-38 refer to the reviewer of Keats' poems in 'The Quarterly Review.' In stanza 30 'The Pilgrim of Eternity' is Byron and the poet of Ierne (Ireland) is Thomas Moore. 231 ff: the 'frail Form' is Shelley himself.
- Note definitely for citation in class passages of strong appeal to the various senses and of beautiful melody and cadence.
- Just what are the excellences of 'The Eve of St. Agnes'? Is it a narrative poem?
- Consider classical and romantic elements in the poems.
42. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE VICTORIAN PERIOD, AND MACAULAY. Two days, with written discussion, of Macaulay. Above. read either (1) one of the essays, for example that on Olive or Bacon or Pitt or Chatham or Warren Hastings, or (2) a chapter in the History. Good chapters for the purpose are: 3, 5, 8, 15, 16, 20, 25. The following topics may be used for written discussions, or may be assigned to individual students for oral reports in class. Oral reports should be either written out in full and read or given from notes; they should occupy five or ten minutes each and may include illustrative quotations.
- The effect of Macaulay's self-confidence and dogmatism on the power of his writing and on the reader's feeling toward it.
- His power in exposition; e.g., the number and concreteness of details, the power of selection, emphasis, and bringing out the essentials.
- Structure, including Unity, Proportion, Movement.
- Traits of style; e.g., use of antithesis and figures of speech; sentence length and balance.
- How far does his lack of Idealism injure his work? Has he the power of appealing to the grand romantic imagination?
- His power in description.
- Power as a historian. Compare him with other historians.
43. CARLYLE. Two days. Above. Unless you are already familiar with 'Sartor Resartus' read in it Book II, chapters 6-9, and also if by any means possible Book III, chapters 5 and 8. Otherwise read in 'Heroes and Hero-Worship' or 'The French Revolution.' (The first and third books of 'Sartor Resartus' purport to consist of extracts from a printed book of Teufelsdrockh, with comments by Carlyle; the second book outlines Teufelsdrockh's (Carlyle's) spiritual autobiography.) In 'Sartor Resartus':
- Make sure that you can tell definitely the precise meaning of The Everlasting No, The Center of Indifference, and The Everlasting Yea. Look up, e. g. in 'The Century Dictionary,' all terms that you do not understand, such as 'Baphometic Fire-Baptism.'
- Your general opinion of his style?
- Note definitely its main peculiarities in (a) spirit; (b) vocabulary and word forms; (c) grammar and rhetoric.
44. RUSKIN. Two days. Above. Most convenient for the purposes of this study is Tinker's 'Selections from Ruskin' (Riverside Literature Series). Everything there is worth while; but among the best passages are 'The Throne,' page 138, and 'St. Mark's,' page 150; while pages 20-57 are rather more technical than the rest. Among Ruskin's complete works 'Sesame and Lilies,' 'The Crown of Wild Olives,' and 'Praterita' are as available and characteristic as any. Subjects for written or oral reports:
- His temperament and his fitness as a critic and teacher.
- His style--eloquence, rhythm, etc.
- His power of observation.
- His power in description. Consider both his sensitiveness to sense-impressions and his imagination.
- His expository power.
- His ideas on Art. How far are they sound? (In the 'Selections' there are relevant passages on pages 164, 200, and 233.)
- His religious ideas. How far do they change with time?
- His ideas on modern political economy and modern life. How far are they reasonable? (Perhaps 'Munera Pulveris' or 'Unto This Last' states his views as well as any other one of his works.)
- Compare with Carlyle in temperament, ideas, and usefulness.
45. MATTHEW ARNOLD. Three days. Above. The poems read should include 'Sohrab and Rustum' and a number of the shorter ones. The discussion of the poems may treat: The combination in Arnold of classic and romantic qualities; distinguishing traits of emotion and expression; and, in 'Sohrab and Rustum,' narrative qualities. If you are familiar with Homer, consider precisely the ways in which Arnold imitates Homer's style. Of the prose works best read 'Culture and Anarchy,' at least the introduction (not the Preface), chapters 1, 3, 4 and 5, and the Conclusion. Otherwise read from the essays named in the text or from Professor L. E. Gates' volume of Selections from Arnold. Consider more fully any of the points treated above. If you read the 'Essays on Translating Homer' note the four main qualities which Arnold finds in Homer's style.
46. TENNYSON. Two days. Above. Special attention may be given to any one, or more, of the statements or suggestions in the text, considering its application in the poems read, with citation of illustrative lines. Or consider some of the less simple poems carefully.
- Is 'The Lady of Shalott' pure romance or allegory?
- If allegory, what is the meaning?
- Outline in detail the thought-development of 'The Two Voices.'
- Meaning of such poems as 'Ulysses' and 'Merlin and the Gleam'?
47. ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING AND ROBERT BROWNING. Two days. Above. In general consider the application of the statements in the text; and in the case of Robert Browning consider emotional, dramatic, descriptive, and narrative power, poetic beauty, and adaptation of the verse-form to the substance. Interpret the poems as carefully as possible; discussions may consist, at least in part, of such interpretations.
48. ROSSETTI, MORRIS AND SWINBURNE. Above. Students might compare and contrast the poetry of these three men, either on the basis of points suggested in the text or otherwise.
From this point on, the time and methods available for the study are likely to vary so greatly in different classes that it seems not worth while to continue these suggestions.
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