Shakespeare's Dysfunctional Families

Defiant daughters and wayward sons, domineering dads and absent mothers-the typical Shakespearean family is anything but functional, characterized by all manner of problematic and contentious relationships. In the comedies, family disputes are eventually resolved and estranged relatives reconcile with one another, with the help of a little theatrical magic, but in the tragedies, dysfunctional family relationships have dire consequences: filial duty leads to murder and suicide, and overzealous fathers and husbands suffocate (literally and metaphorically) their wives and daughters. This seminar explores contentious family dynamics in Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and The Tempest. We will explore the ways in which familial conflicts intersect with the larger social and political contests within the plays, considering how family dynamics reflect, shape, and conflict with the plays' gender and racial politics, their explorations of governance and loyalty, and their representations of the role of the theater.