Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE The Language of Shakespeare

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION The aim of the study-unit is to study, discuss, and evaluate the role of language, style and rhetoric in Shakespeare's work.

More specifically, it will discuss Shakespeare's use of rhetorical devices in selected plays and poems as well as the way in which his work relates to wider debates about rhetoric and its relation to truth.

The authorship question around Shakespeare’s plays and the way in which style, along with other kinds of textual evidence, has often been used as decisive for attribution of plays of uncertain authorship to Shakespeare will also be discussed within the context of the wider question of Shakespeare’s style, or styles, as well as in relation to issues faced in the ongoing task of textual editing of the plays.

The socio-political context of the language will also be considered, specifically in relation to the associated styles expected and actually adopted in his work, for example, offering a reconsideration of the prose/verse distinction, and the class connotations carried by each.

The unit will give the opportunity to students to conduct analyses of style, rhetoric and specific linguistic forms in his works, and will allow them to focus on a wide range of aspects of his dramatic and poetic language, including metaphor, metonymy, imagery, sentence structure, metrical variation, irony, and parody.

Study-unit Aims:

The key difference between this unit and other units on Shakespeare offered by the Department of English is that it aims at exposing students to a more specific discussion of Shakespeare's use of language in his works. Considering varied examples from both his plays and his poetry, it closely examines the role of style, rhetoric and a range of linguistic devices in Shakespeare’s work and in Shakespearean criticism.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Describe Shakespeare's attitude towards language within the historical context in which he worked;
- Identify characteristics of language use in Shakespeare’s works;
- Identify stylistic and rhetorical patterns dominant in Shakespeare’s use of dramatic and poetic language;
- Describe the importance of language in questions of authorship in Shakespeare studies .

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Relate Shakespeare's use of language and attitudes towards rhetoric to a historical context;
- Analyse stylistic aspects of Shakespeare’s use of poetic and dramatic language;
- Analyse the use of rhetorical devices in Shakespeare's work.
- Evaluate the significance of key issues related to the authorship question and discussions about Shakespeare’s styles.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Sylvia Adamson, Lynette Hunter, Lynne Magnusson, Ann Thompson and Katie Wales, Reading Shakespeare’s Dramatic Language – A Guide (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2001).
- Catherine Alexander (ed.), Shakespeare and Language (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
- Sister Miriam Joseph, Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language (Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books, 2005).
- Mireille Ravassat and Jonathan Culpeper (eds.), Stylistics and Shakespeare’s Language – Transdisciplinary approaches (London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2011).


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM1 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Mario Aquilina
Krista Bonello Rutter Giappone
Odette Vassallo

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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.