William Shakespeare

Shakespeare is universally regarded as the greatest writer in English and one of the towering figures of world literature, and he is usually considered the greatest playwright of all times.  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 revolution and political violence found in the histories and the tragedies.  Themes of race, colonialism, and the nature of power are a focus throughout.   Shakespeare is our contemporary, as can be seen in the myriad of modern updatings of his plays in every conceivable genre.

In this course, we will read about a quarter of his plays.  We will read examples of all four of his genres, comedies, tragedies, histories, and romances, but comedies will predominant, as I believe they speak to us most directly today.   The class will be run as a seminar, with a focus on discussion, not lecture.   This is a zero textbook cost course, as we will be using electronic editions of the plays available from the Folger Shakespeare Library.

The written work for the course will include two short papers, a final paper on an adaptation of a Shakespeare play, and a final exam.