HENKF2502U English - Free topic B: Shakespeare

Volume 2024/2025

Lock: How to succeed: Shakespeare and Succession

For Shakespeare —and thus for general historical perception across the western world—the question of royal succession is a theme of extreme contention and unlimited dramatic potential.  That things are different today has been amply demonstrated by the untroubled acts of succession witnessed in recent months in both Britain and Denmark—Europe’s two oldest monarchies. Democracy has seldom had problems of the sort so long associated with monarchy: democratic elections have not been the theme of drama. Yet in January 2020 we saw scenes, around and inside the Capitol, of Shakespearean resonance.

Shakespeare’s two sequences of English historical plays (eight in all) and three of the great tragedies (Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear) are directly concerned with the question of succession.  Indirectly they reflect the widely shared anxiety in Elizabethan England regarding the succession to the Virgin Queen. That one of the tragedies is set in Scotland, another in Denmark, is hardly coincidental; the next king of England was likely to be James, king of Scotland, and his Queen Consort, Anne, was a princess of Denmark and sister to Christian IV.

We shall devote the first half of this course to Richard II, Henry IV Part Two, Richard III and Henry VI Part Three, in the light of political theories of succession—both monarchical and republican, whether by heredity or election—while remaining always attentive to the theatrical potential of conflict and its anticipation.  The second half of the course will be devoted to a close study of Macbeth and Hamlet, the most far-reaching of all treatments of “success”. 


Lene Østermark-Johansen: Shakespeare’s romantic comedies – from the shrew to the fool

The other part of the course focuses on Shakespeare’s representation of love in the five romantic comedies produced between 1590 and 1602: The Taming of the Shrew (1590-91), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595), Much Ado About Nothing (1598), As You Like It (1600), and Twelfth Night (1600-1602). Laying bare the battle between the sexes, the rhetoric of love, love’s madness, cross-dressing, changed identities and confusion, Shakespeare lovingly and mercilessly maps that most vitalizing of human energies, holds up a mirror to ourselves to show us how we are all fools in love, irrespective of age, gender, social rank and status. We shall look at the language of love, the performativity of love and consider whether the invention of romantic love is really only a feature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as is so frequently claimed.

Shakespeare plays and relevant criticism.

Close reading with regular participation and analytical presentations by all students. Group work, informal lectures, student presentations.
This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • Total
  • 409,5
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Type of assessment
Portfolio, A joint portfolio uploaded in digital exam: Deadline June 6th 2025
Type of assessment details
(if portfolio, please indicate all activities, including page numbers and approximate deadline. Total number of pages should always be 21-25.)

LOCK: One mid-term outline of 2 pages, followed by a final essay submitted after the teaching has finished, in 10 pages.
ØSTERMARK-JOHANSEN: One mid-term outline of 2 pages, followed by a final essay submitted after the teaching has finished, in 10 pages.
Exam registration requirements

This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.

Criteria for exam assesment