Shakespeare is universally regarded as the greatest writer in English and usually considered both the greatest dramatist of all times and one of the towering figures of world literature. 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 political theatre and revolution found in the histories and many of the great tragedies. Themes of race, colonialism, imperialism and the nature of power are a focus throughout. Shakespeare is our contemporary in ways you will come to appreciate across the semester, as is shown by the myriad of modern updatings of Shakespeare 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 will predominant as they speak to us most directly today. The class will be run as a seminar, and the focus will be discussion, not lecture. This is a zero textbook course 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 paper on a contemporary work based on Shakespeare, and a final exam.