Literature: Tragedy and Tragicomedy

Ref: C3742859

In the first term we will consider two plays which create a mixture of comedy and tragedy. Shakespeare’s 'The Winter’s Tale' shows the consequences of a King’s violent jealousy, and explores a long process of healing which transforms the sufferings of winter into hope. In 'The Wild Duck' Ibsen investigates a conflict between self-absorbed dreamers and characters who nurture life; he shows us how comedy can develop into tragedy. After Christmas we will consider Shakespeare’s 'Romeo and Juliet' and its portrayal of love, sex, honour, and the roles of men and women. We will then discuss Arthur Miller’s 'A View from the Bridge' and its dramatisation of obsessional love and concepts of honour and 'family'. As well as considering the themes and characters in the four plays, we will explore key features of comedy and tragedy, the importance of the language, imagery and symbolism, and the social and cultural contexts.

Course aim

We will consider the themes, style and structure of four outstanding plays. These include 'A Winter's Tale', 'The Wild Duck', 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'A View from the Bridge'.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • Although the course will be taught at Level 3, there are no entry requirements apart from an interest and enthusiasm for English Literature.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Discuss the psychological, cultural and moral themes.
  • Analyse key features of comedy and tragedy.
  • Comment on the characters and their conflicting attitudes and values.
  • Discuss the use of language, imagery and symbolism.
  • Gain confidence in discussing ideas and in listening to differing points of view.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • Your tutor will ask you to take part in discussion. You will have the opportunity to introduce a topic, but this is not required. Each week you will be given questions and issues to think about in preparation for the next week’s session.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • The tutor will give you informal feedback on your progress. You can contact the tutor by email if you need advice or feedback.The tutor will give you advice about how to build up your confidence if you feel shy about participating.

What else do I need to know?

  • Please bring a copy of 'The Winter's Tale'. At the first session we will discuss the themes, contrasts of character, and key aspects of the poetry in Act One of the play.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • It would be helpful if you could read the whole of 'The Winter's Tale' during the summer', and then look closely at the themes, characters and style of Act One of the play.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information

Download full course information sheet

Literature: Tragedy and Tragicomedy

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This course is not available for online enrolment.


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  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2018
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