William Shakespeare


William Shakespeare


Instructor:       Dr. Derrick Higginbotham

Time:               Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1.30 – 2.45pm

Location:         SAKIMAKI A103

Email:              deh2@hawaii.edu

Office Hours:  TBD

Location:         KUY 416

Course Description:

Shakespeare’s cultural impact on early modern theater is undeniable and that impact continues to be felt not only in England and America but globally, with dramatic performances and film/media adaptations of his works occurring in locations as far flung as Yemen, India, and Japan. At the same time, the study of Shakespeare’s works is undergoing a profound transformation as new methods of analysis—especially the insights of queer theory, critical race studies, and ecocriticism—overhaul our understanding of this writer and his plays. That his works endure is one of the rationales for this course: what also made his texts distinctive theatrically and thematically in his own era? What makes Shakespeare’s works resonate in our times?

To answer these questions, we will examine a selection of his published works that cover the two major genres in which he wrote: comedy and tragedy. We will read two comedies Measure for Measure and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the tragedies, Antony and Cleopatra and King Lear so that we can reflect on the way each genre works. We will also debate the ways that these plays represent sexuality, gender, race, class and the environment. Finally, we also will read a clutch of his sonnets, a popular poetic form that Shakespeare adapted for his own interests as well as one of his longer poems, “The Rape of Lucrece.”

Along the way, we will reflect upon how new methods of analysis are shifting our interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays and poems as well as consideration of performance and staging of these plays. How do gender and class interact in Measure for Measure and the poem “The  Rape of Lucrece”, especially in light of the #MeToo movement? What relationship does sexuality have to race in Antony and Cleopatra? What about the depiction of queerness and the forest in A Midsummer Night’s Dream? How does a play like King Lear have to say about humans and their relationship to the weather and the ecosystem they/we live in? We will consider the ways that Shakespeare’s works resonate with contemporary concerns, linking the past to the present in rich ways.

This course has an OC designation, so a significant portion of the assignments and work in class will build skills in presenting ideas orally.

Book List:

Shakespeare, William. King Lear. R. A Foakes, ed. Arden Shakespeare: 1997.

Shakespeare, William. Antony and Cleopatra. John Wilders, ed. Arden Shakespeare: 1995.

Shakespeare, William. Measure for Measure. A. R. Braunmuller and Robert Watson, eds. Arden Shakespeare: 2020.

Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Sukanta Choudhuri, ed. Arden      Shakespeare: 2017.

I will provide selected sonnets and the longer poem, “The Rape of Lucrece” as PDFs.


Student Learning Outcomes:

In this course, students will:

  • Practice reading literary texts critically and appreciate how genre shapes content
  • Present information orally in an organized manner appropriate for intended a) audience and b) purpose
  • Grasp the history of the theatre in early modern England and its importance as a cultural and political institution
  • Demonstrate effective verbal and non-verbal delivery techniques
  • Select and use appropriate content for oral (presentation) activity/context
  • Generate/use/develop visual aids and handouts appropriate to the rhetorical situation that promote clarity, interest, and comprehension.
  • Improve skills in incorporating and documenting secondary scholarship when crafting an argumentative essay

Methods of Assessment:

Final Paper (2000 words)                                                                      25%

Poster Presentation on Final Paper                                                      15%

Response Paper and its Presentation (700 – 1000 words)              20%

Dramatic Monologue                                                                                15%

Participation                                                                                               10%

Final Take-Home Exam (1000 words)                                                 15%