Today I get a chance to enter the classroom of my History Dept. colleague Dr. Nathan Martin and talk about the Elizabeth tragedy Gorboduc. I read this play in grad school, but I’ve certainly never taught it before, and I was eager to get 20 minutes to talk about this weird political-theory-heavy play.
My worksheet for the students has two sides: one about the basic relationship between the theater and the world during this period and the other with some more specific details on the play itself. Dr. Martin is interested in the play as an example of representation in Elizabethan culture. I think it’s a fascinating way of thinking about how theater offered a space for clarifying real political problems and diagnosing potential motives of escape in rulers. This play is hopelessly alarmist in dealing with a kingdom’s disintegration. The work’s dramatic structure has no positive polarity. Everything gets worse and worse. This play calls out worst-case-scenario thinking as much as it does warn rulers about splitting up their kingdoms.