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ENGL 432: Shakespeare Redux: Getting Started

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   Use this guide to get started with your research for ENGL 432: Shakespeare Redux  

Practice: Analyzing Shakespearean Adaptation

Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho follows the journeys of two young male hustlers - Mike Waters (River Phoenix), a narcoleptic and homeless addict searching for his mother and Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves), the privileged and rebellious son of the mayor of Portland. The film borrows some character outlines and parts of the narrative framework of Shakespeare's Henriad  (especially Henry IV Part 1) but is not a pure adaptation of the plays. 

Together, we'll analyze a scene from Idaho and identify relevant avenues for research:

1. Watch the clip from My Own Private Idaho.

2. In your group, examine and compare Shakespeare's text from Henry IV Part 1, Act I Scene 2.

  • If you're having trouble identifying which parts of this scene to pay attention to, look at Lines 1-30 (Prince Hal's initial exchange with Falstaff), Lines 71-130 (Poins's entrance and discussion of the robbery) and Lines 150-172 (Hal's closing monologue)
  • Pro tip: Read aloud - you'll notice things differently by reading this way and it's more fun!

3. Generate a list of 2-3 ideas for research. What is interesting about Van Sant's adaptation of this scene? Why? What themes or elements from Shakespeare's text does Van Sant repurpose? What would you research to support your analysis?

Before You Begin Researching

Some questions to think about before you dive in:

Primary Sources

  • Have you considered the full range of possibilities and only then selected the play and adaptation you will analyze?
  • Do you/will you have access to the primary source(s) in the editions you need?
  • Need help with identifying potential primary sources?  Start with tab for Primary Sources: Plays & Films

Historical Sources

  • Who was reading/viewing what when? Issues of readership and reception may be important!  Do you need access to these historical sources themselves?

Secondary Sources

  • The MLA International Bibliography is the obvious subject database to search, but would it be helpful to also search the databases of other disciplines, specifically theatre, film studies and history?

Critical/Theoretical Approaches

  • Will it be helpful to note reactions to various critical approaches?  For example, will you need to look at reviews of scholarly books?

The Research Process

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