Introduction to Shakespeare

Ann Rea, Introduction to Shakespeare, Fall 2017

Course Description:

For this introductory course we will read eight plays and work on understanding them in their historical contexts, understanding and appreciating the language and the use of verse, prose and stagecraft, as well as characterization. We will examine many of the preoccupations to which Shakespeare returns: kingship and political representation; women and authority; the regulation of sexual behavior; the growing sense of individual sensibility; acting and performance and the prevalent discomfort with dissembling, or inauthenticity. In many cases these are the preoccupations of his era, but the wide popular audience of his plays means that he also intervened on contemporary issues, for example by educating his audiences about their country’s history. Many of Shakespeare’s plays tell stories about England’s fairly immediate history, and we will explore the ways in which Shakespeare influenced contemporary opinion about political matters, perhaps to the point of propaganda, as well as helping to create a cohesive sense of English national identity after a divisive and tumultuous historical period. But his life and work straddle the end of the reign of Elizabeth I and James I’s ascension to the throne: an important political shift which entailed a change in how the theatre was viewed, as well as an increase in censorship, and many of his plays comment indirectly on social and political issues even while they appear to describe very different matters.

Required Text:

The Riverside Shakespeare or The Wadsworth Shakespeare

Syllabus: 

Ann Rea, Introduction to Shakespeare, Fall 2016

Course Description:

Shakespeare is a phenomenon unique in English literature. His plays have been read, performed, quoted, studied and written about continually since his lifetime four hundred and fifty years ago, and their influence on English speaking cultures is so enormous that we can scarcely grasp it. Our factual knowledge about Shakespeare himself has some gaps and our access to the plays’ texts sometimes relies on conflicting versions: folios and actors’ prompt books occasionally have missing words and contradictions. But we do have parish records that show that Shakespeare was born on 26th April, 1564 and died in 1616, fifty two years later almost to the day. His family was solidly middleclass and he had a good education which, in those days, consisted largely of the classics, especially Latin. We also have four hundred and fifty years of scholarship about Shakespeare, written by famous writers such as Samuel Johnson, Alexander Pope, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and contemporary scholars continue to find richness and complexity in Shakespeare’s works and to reconsider them from new perspectives.

For this introductory course we will read eight plays and work on understanding them in their historical contexts, understanding and appreciating the language and the use of verse, prose and stagecraft, as well as characterization. We will examine many of the preoccupations to which Shakespeare returns: kingship and political representation; women and authority; the regulation of sexual behavior; the growing sense of individual sensibility; acting and performance and the prevalent discomfort with dissembling, or inauthenticity. In many cases these are the preoccupations of his era, but the wide popular audience of his plays means that he also intervened on contemporary issues, for example by educating his audiences about their country’s history. Many of Shakespeare’s plays tell stories about England’s fairly immediate history, and we will explore the ways in which Shakespeare influenced contemporary opinion about political matters, perhaps to the point of propaganda, as well as helping to create a cohesive sense of English national identity after a divisive and tumultuous historical period. But his life and work straddle the end of the reign of Elizabeth I and James I’s ascension to the throne: an important political shift which entailed a change in how the theatre was viewed, as well as an increase in censorship, and many of his plays comment indirectly on social and political issues even while they appear to describe very different matters.

This class will focus on the plays, although Shakespeare was also a poet. The plays show an enormous diversity between the histories, the comedies, tragedies, and the many “problem plays” which evade these categories. Many of the plays are based on Latin texts that Shakespeare encountered during his education, others are based on old English stories, and some revise these old stories and combine them to make totally new tales.

This class requires your active participation in a way in which your other classes may not. This is not a lecture class, but one where you will engage with ideas and conversation and express your own thoughts. We get to know one another in this class. But you must prepare for class by reading the assigned plays thoughtfully and by coming to class prepared to be involved in active discussion. This can be lots of fun, and we can often have a laugh, but for it to function we need everyone to make the effort to be reflective about his or her part in it. If you tend to want to talk a lot you might need to check that you do not dominate the discussion. If you are shy and tend to leave the talking to others you might need to push yourself to speak. It is extremely important that we behave respectfully towards others in the discussions. Class participation will form part of your grade.

Required Text:

The Riverside Shakespeare or The Wadsworth Shakespeare

Syllabus: 

Catherine S. Cox, Introduction to Shakespeare, Spring 2016

Course Description

This course will focus on a number of Shakespeare's major plays from all phases of his career. Class discussion will consider the historical context of the plays, their characterization, theatrical technique, imagery, language, and themes. Every attempt will be made to see the plays both as poems and as dramatic events.

Required Texts:

-Yale/Annotated Romeo and Juliet
-Yale/Annotated A Midsummer Night's Dream
-Signet Classic Hamlet
-Ian Pollack Graphic Shakespeare edition of King Lear

Syllabus: 

Ann Rea, Introduction to Shakespeare, Fall 2015

Course Description:

This course will focus on a number of Shakespeare's major plays from all phases of his career. Class discussion will consider the historical context of the plays, their characterization, theatrical technique, imagery, language, and themes. Every attempt will be made to see the plays both as poems and as dramatic events.

Required Texts:

The Riverside Shakespeare or The Wadsworth Shakespeare

Syllabus: 

Patty S. Derrick, Introduction to Shakespeare, Spring 2015

Course Description:

This course will focus on a number of Shakespeare's major plays from all phases of his career. Class discussion will consider the historical context of the plays, their characterization, theatrical technique, imagery, language, and themes. Every attempt will be made to see the plays both as poems and as dramatic events.

Required Texts:

-The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd edition. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans.

Patty S. Derrick, Introduction to Shakespeare, Fall 2014

Course Description:

This course will focus on a number of Shakespeare's major plays from all phases of his career. Class discussion will consider the historical context of the plays, their characterization, theatrical technique, imagery, language, and themes. Every attempt will be made to see the plays both as poems and as dramatic events.

Required Texts:

-The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd edition. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans.

Syllabus: 

Patty S. Derrick, Introduction to Shakespeare, Fall 2012

Course Description:

This course will focus on a number of Shakespeare's major plays from all phases of his career. Class discussion will consider the historical context of the plays, their characterization, theatrical technique, imagery, language, and themes. Every attempt will be made to see the plays both as poems and as dramatic events.

Required Texts:

The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd edition. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans.

Syllabus: 

Patty S. Derrick, Introduction to Shakespeare, Fall 2013

Course Description:

This course will focus on a number of Shakespeare's major plays from all phases of his career. Class discussion will consider the historical context of the plays, their characterization, theatrical technique, imagery, language, and themes. Every attempt will be made to see the plays both as poems and as dramatic events.

Required Texts:

The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd edition. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans.

Syllabus: 
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