As you might have noticed, Kennedy’s play includes a strong dose of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, and a few of you have expressed dismay at not feeling quite up to speed on your nineteenth century lit.
Rest assured, you can read Kennedy’s play without the Hardy (otherwise I wouldn’t have assigned it!), but it is also good to seek out more information. In fact, this is the kind of seeking-out you should do whenever you are reading literature. When you don’t know something, pause. Ask yourself: is this something I could learn a little bit more about? If the answer is “yes,” then of course go for it. If the answer is no, file it away. At some point your analysis of the text might be tripped-up by this thing you do not know– but knowing that you do not know it will make recovery easier.
And there is almost always a middle-space. It often has a name: wikipedia. Again, as I’ve said in class, the wik is not a great primary source, but when you need dates, geographies, or plot summaries, it is a nice place to start. If you are going to write a paper on the function of the Hardy text in Kennedy’s play, then wikipedia is not enough; you must read the book. But if you need to get the gist of the Hardy, so as to consider why Kennedy has chosen this text… you get my point.
So here are some links to get you started. I will likely not give you this much information again. This is just to give you a sense of the kinds of things you might look for while reading any book.