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Group Assignment

English 421: Shakespeare

taught by Hillary Nunn at Michigan State University

This assignment requires students to use the EEBO resources to gather background information on one of the plays covered in the syllabus.

EEBO-TCP Based Sample Assignment

    • Group Presentations

Together with five of your fellow students, you will be responsible for presenting background information from the Early English Books Online (EEBO) database on one play on the syllabus. Agnes Widder will give us an introduction to using the database on this coming Monday, January 24, in the North Conference room of the main library (4th floor West) during our usual classtime.

Your presentation should focus on telling the class what your EEBO search shows about early modern public perceptions of one particular concern reflected in the play you are researching. You and your classmates may present a concentrated look at any one text you discover, or you may decide to survey the works you find. Take whichever approach best suits your material. Whenever possible, show the class what you are discussing, pulling up the materials on the computer in the front of the room.

By the day before your presentation, your group should e-mail me a list of the EEBO texts you’ve found and will be discussing. My address is nunnhill@pilot.msu.edu. All members of your group should actively and evenly contribute to the researching and presenting this project. Anytime you would like to discuss your presentation, please come see me during office hours or by appointment.

Recommended keywords to use in focusing background research on each play follow. You may use other subjects to organize your search and your presentation, but please check them out with me beforehand.

As You Like It
forest
Rosalind (or Rosa?)
King Lear
King Lear (to find original texts, a valid option for all)
Twelfth Night
epiphany or epiphan?
melancholy
Winter’s Tale
statues
bear, bearbaiting
Measure for Measure
bawdy houses
nuns, convent, etc.
The Tempest
voyage
Algiers
Africa
alchemy
Othello
moor
travel
antipodes

Pollard and Redgrave’s Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640 (known as STC I and found in book form at Consulting Ref. Z 2002 .A27 and 1976), Wing’s Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and British America, and of English Books Printed in Other Countries, 1641-1700 (STC II, found in Consulting Ref. Z 2002 .W52 and 1972 and 1994) and the Thomason Tracts(Consulting Ref. Z 2018 .T49 1977), a compendium of broadsides on the English Civil War, 1640-1660. MSU Libraries owns microfilm of this material in these microfilm sets: STC I, STC II, and 14458, respectively, in Microforms/PRR. Searches can be limited by language, date, and portion of the database (STC I, STC II, or Thomason Tracts). The database can usually be accessed remotely, from your dorm room or off campus.

Since you’ll be looking for information relevant to Renaissance England, you’ll first want to narrow your search to works dated before 1640, so devote your survey to Pollard and Redgrave’s work (STC I). Though the database only allows you to do keyword searching within the titles of works, you’ll soon find that Renaissance titles are awfully long and very descriptive. Here’s just one example:

    • Bradshaw, Ellis

A vveek-daies lecture, or, continued sermon to wit, the preaching of the heavens. And how they sound forth, & declare the power and glory of God; and do visibly demonstrate his handy work, to all rationall men in all the world, of all languages, that will consider them seriously as they ought. Containing also an exhortation to the Christian readers, to put them on to a serious consideration of these unutterable things, that are here presented to their grave, deliberate, and retired thoughts; that they might understand, and have them printed in their hearts: as most infallible demonstrations, of the infinitie greatness and power of God, and that to the eye of sense, yea, to the infallible conviction, and extirpation of all atheisticall thoughts that may arise in their minds. Read if thou wilt; but if thou doest read that which hath not been told thee, shalt thou see; and that which thou hast not heard thou shalt consider: as Isa. 52.15. Written by Ellis Bradshawe of the parish of Boulton in the county of Lancaster, husbandman. London : printed by Gar: Dawson for Tho: Brewster and Gr: Moule, at the signe of the three Bibles under Mildreds Church in the Poultry, 1649.

So keyword searching will wind up giving you a wide variety of references depending on how the word is used in the early modern period. Search results will often look like they don’t pertain to your subject, and they often won’t, but keep in mind that the works you’ll find will not directly comment on the plays we’ll be reading. Instead, they’ll offer background into Renaissance thinking on subjects and concerns involved in the plays and in their performance, offering insight into the ways that performers and audiences might have reacted to the issues as presented in the playhouse.