Teaching Shakespeare!

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Thee, thou, and you: Pronouns in the Sonnets Day 5 of TSI

During this month’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute, some of our Summer Scholars have chosen to blog their experiences on their own sites, and have given permission to share some of them here. Today we’ll look back on yesterday’s very full day of activities with Greta Brasgalla:

And we are back for another week!  Today was a bit strange because we had lectures all day including an extra one in the evening.

Morning Lecture:  David Schalkwyk on The Sonnets

David is the epitome of the Shakespearean professor–suit, tie, errant hair, and British accent.  In short, completely charming to listen to.  He discussed the sonnets and some of the themes that are present.  He framed his lecture by saying his son was getting married and he wanted to read a sonnet at the wedding.  He soon discovered that none of them are appropriate.

Helen Vendler says that unlike a play, the lyric is empty of any particular voice.  Any person who speaks them, becomes them.

We learned the importance of pronouns in the sonnets.  For those of you who have no idea about this (as I did), here is a summary

  • thee and thou are used for close family, for God, and from Master to servant
  • you is more formal
  • this is similar to the use of tu and usted in Spanish

As one looks through the sonnets ( we looked at 13, 57, 58, 121, 135, 126) you see Shakespeare making use of these pronouns to emphasize his intimacy with the subject and his displeasure with their relationship.

Interesting fact:  The phrase “Do you love me?” is only used once in Shakespeare (the Tempest). “Dost thou love me?” is used many times.

Independent Research and Lunchtime Colloquium on LUNA database

We had some time after lecture to go into the Reading Room and begin research, or work with Stephen [Dickey] and Margaret [Maurer, two of TSI’s resident instructing scholars] on EEBO (Early English Books Online).  Both of them really helped me find some items on my research topic:  Venice as another  “other” in Merchant and Othello.

At lunch, we learned about the LUNA database which is accessible to the public.  It hold digital images of everything the Folger has photographed over the years.  You can search “Hamlet” and find pics of costumes and renderings of productions as well as pics of the Folio.  Really great for showing your students different ways of staging a play.  Click on the link and check it out!

Curriculum Presentation:  Mary Ellen Dakin “Reading Shakespeare with Young Adults”

MaryEllen had us doing some video projects today using her idea of the relationship between the Literary/Theatrical/Cinematic connection.  MaryEllen calls this “transmediation.”

Our assignment was to film a scene, but add in scenes of us planning, expert advice, and other tidbits.  MaryEllen used the sample of Al Pacino’s “Looking for Richard” for this.  We filmed our scene and my friend Melanie did some speed editing on Moviemaker.

After dinner, we went back to the Folger for a great lecture by Ralph Cohen about the Blackfriars Theater.  Interesting that the seating in the BF was exactly the opposite of the Globe:  rich people were onstage and in the front of the theater to be seen.

A great day today made even better by the mild weather over here!

Greta heads the English Department at El Dorado Ninth Grade Academy in El Paso, TX.  She holds a Master of Arts degree in English and American Literature and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Theatre Arts from the University of Texas at El Paso, and now has 20 years of classroom experience.

Check back during the month of July for more “TSI Experiences” from participants and staff!

One Comment

  • As with everything Shakespearean, “thou” and “you” are more complicated than they might seem. A wonderful guide to this complexity is the 2007 book by Penelope Freedman, Power and Passion in Shakespeare’s Pronouns: Interrogating ‘You’ and ‘Thou’ (Ashgate). The respective meanings of these pronouns was undergoing a shift– including some reversals– just as Shakespeare was writing. According to Freedman, “you” could sometimes be more intimate than “thou”– just the opposite of “tu” and “vous” in French.

    Professor Freedman wrote me in 2008, “A feeling for the complexities of tu/vous in French does help enormously with appreciating you/thou use. The same applies to German speakers. I find when I am lecturing to groups of French or German students that they grasp you/thou much better than Anglophone groups, who can’t quite believe that there is a significant distinction between the two. I worked in the School of European Languages at the University of Kent and my colleagues in the French Dept. used to send me interesting snippets relating to tu/vous. My favourite was a letter
    from Napoleon to Josephine, in which he expressed his fears that she no longer
    loved him because she had not tutoyed him in her last letter.”

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