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Multiple Online Series on Shakespeare - Shakespeare and Plutarch, and 
Shakespearean Marriage, Italian-Style (Mostly) - & One by Marlowe!

Agora Foundation Online Seminar Series -
William Shakespeare - Multiple Online Series

Shakespearean Marriage, Italian-Style (Mostly) - & One by Marlowe!

Almost the last detail the reader hears of Socrates at the end of Plato’s Symposium, which is Apollodorus’ recollection of Aristodemus’ account of the dinner party, is that after a night of speechmaking and drinking, Socrates was still awake near dawn, pressing Agathon and Aristophanes (tragedian and comedian, respectively), the three of them still passing the jug around, to admit that the same poet could write both tragedy and comedy.  As “dawn spread forth her fingertips of rose,”[1] the two poets, deep in their cups, nodded off to sleep, Aristophanes just before daybreak, Agathon just after.  What would one do for the encore of a Socratic lullaby! 


Fast forward two millennia: in a strange land, in a tongue that had not existed on the occasion of that Athenian sunrise, Shakespeare proved Socrates right in a very different city with a very different climate.  One can only guess at Socrates’ argument, for Aristodemus seems not to have heard or remembered it, as he was only just waking up, presumably with a hangover, but one might try surmising the logic backwards from the evidence of Shakespeare’s drama, different as it is from that of ancient Athens, and say that comedy and tragedy in the hands of the same poet can show themselves as the inside-out, upside-down mirror images of each other.  Whence comes the hypothesis that the same poet can write both if he understands the mirror and can give each dramatic form, in each of its many instances, “a local habitation and a name.”[2]  This hypothesis serves as an invitation to consider Shakespearean comedy and tragedy together, loosely grouped, all but one of the plays set in Italy, all but one by the Bard, comedies followed by tragedy, each play always standing on its own, winking perhaps at the others.

Group 1:

The Taming of the Shrew (Signet Classic - ISBN 9780451526793)

Much Ado About Nothing (Pelican - ISBN 9780143130185)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (set in Athens) (Pelican - ISBN 9780143128588)

Romeo and Juliet (Pelican - ISBN 9780143128571)


Group 2:

The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Pelican - ISBN 9780143132240)

The Jew of Malta (by Marlowe) (Penguin - ISBN 9780140436334)

The Merchant of Venice (Pelican - ISBN 9780143130222)

Othello (Pelican - ISBN 9780143128618)


[1] a translation of an expression from Homer

[2] A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Next Event in the series:

To be announced


Eric Stull

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