English 360: Shakespeare
Preface to English 360
In English 360: Shakespeare, the final assignment asked students to construct an explicative essay, using a New Historicist lens. Taking Shakespeare's Richard II, and Queen Elizabeth's famous response to her hearing of the play, "I am Richard II; know ye not that?," I investigate the parallels between Shakespeare's text and the Elizabethan era to answer the essay question: "what defines a good ruler?" I use various primary and secondary sources, ensuring that I do not privilege either a primary voice, or the written Shakespearean text, to define the cultural values and customs of the Elizabethan era in order to answer the question. I discover the cultural expectation for noble people to become expert orators, highlighting the significance in the education process of young, noble children. In discovering the cultural value of education, speech, and language in the growth of noble children, I reveal the essential Elizabethan belief that the acquisition of an individual's language can be a determiner of an individual's character. The result of my discussion is incredibly reflective of not only the texts in conversation, but also of our current era. Although in my essay I don't make a connection between the Elizabethan era and my modern context, I still find it incredibly relatable, and necessary to continue the discourse on language and respectability. That is, in our society, it is common to make presumptions of a person's character based on their dialectic, inflection, tone, ability to respond within an expected time-frame, or even just the dynamic behind a person's speech. Shakespeare's language captures an imitation of life, so when students and scholars converse over fictional characters, the conversation begins to unfold aspects found in certain individuals, making the New Historicist project an ideal assignment for students expanding on their own knowledge with an examination of their cultural values.