Shakespeare–one of the towering figures of world literature–is usually considered the greatest dramatist of all time and universally regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. But he is not just a ‘writer for all times’: he is emphatically a writer for our time, with the transgressive, gender-bending world of the comedies matched by the focus on the deceptions, violence and theatricality of politics found in the histories and tragedies. Themes of race, colonialism, imperialism and the nature of power–especially patriarchal power–are a focus throughout. Shakespeare is our contemporary, as is shown by the myriad of updatings of his plays in every conceivable genre.
In this course, we will read about a quarter of Shakespeare’s plays, with selections from all four of his genres, comedy, tragedy, history and romance, though comedies predominate as they speak to us most directly today. The course will be run as a seminar, with a focus on discussion, not lecture. This is a zero textbook cost courses as we will be using electronic versions of the plays available from the Folger Shakespeare Library.
The written work for the class will include a series of short papers, a final exam, and a final paper in which you discuss a contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare in any genre (anything from film to manga) of your choice.