William Shakespeare

ENG445: Shakespeare

Time: Wednesdays and Fridays, 1.30pm – 2.45pm

Location: 309 Kuykendall Hall

Dr. Derrick Higginbotham


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 trans studies—overhaul our understanding of this writer and his plays. That his works endure is one of the rationales for this course: what 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 the comedy As You Like It, and the tragedy, Antony and Cleopatra, along with two plays that in different ways blend comedy and tragedy, to different ends: Othello and Cymbeline. By focusing on these two plays, we can reflect critically on the question of genre and its uses. Finally, we also will read a range of his sonnets, a popular poetic form that Shakespeare adapted for his own interests, with one of our assignments focused on this form 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. How do the insights of trans studies alter our understanding of ‘cross-dressing’ in As You Like It? What relationship does sexuality have to race in Antony and Cleopatra? How do plays like Othello and Cymbeline think through gender and/or racial conflicts? We will consider the ways that Shakespeare’s works resonate with contemporary concerns, linking the past to the present in rich ways.

This course will fulfill the Literary Histories and Genres pathway for the English major.

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

This class will be in person, or synchronous.


Book List:

Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. Juliet Dusinberre, ed. Arden Shakespeare: 2006.

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

Shakespeare, William. Cymbeline. Valerie Wayne, ed. Arden Shakespeare: 2017.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. E. A. J. Honingmann, ed. Arden Shakespeare: 2016.

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 texts critically and appreciate how genre shapes content
  • Strengthen understanding of genre and its history
  • 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 their 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 Presentation (700 – 1000 words)                           20%

Dramatic Monologue                                                                                15%

Participation                                                                                              10%

Final Take-Home Exam (1000 words)                                                 15%