To gain a fuller understanding of Shakespeare's work, we will
study some major plays. All classes will be entirely in English.
In the first class hour each week, beginning on the 4th week, students will present to the class, for about 10 minutes each, ideas about the questions below, with a handout to help students follow the presentation. After that there will be a lecture. Students will then discuss the main themes of the play. The handouts must not be simply material copied from books. Each handout should be a brief critical essay, quoting various critical opinions then presenting the student's own ideas. The handouts will be graded.
The Arden editions will be used and each student must have read the play set for study each week. The section in the Introduction dealing with the play itself, and the section on the sources, should be read before any other critical studies.
A plot-summary of each play is available through the links below.
Week 1 Introduction: Critical approaches to Shakespeare
Week 2 A Midsummer Night's Dream
Week 3 Much Ado About Nothing
Week 4 Richard II Does Richard grow or diminish?
Week 5 Henry V How great a hero is Henry?
Week 6 As You Like It What does the Forest do to people?
Week 7 Twelfth Night How many kinds of comedy?
Week 8 Hamlet Acts 1 - 3 How does the play develop?
Week 9 Hamlet Acts 4 & 5 How does the play find resolution?
Week 10 Macbeth How can a multiple murderer be a 'tragic hero'?
Week 11 King Lear What changes did Shakespeare make to his source-story?
Week 12 Antony & Cleopatra The relative attractions of Rome and Egypt
Week 13 Othello How black is Othello?
Week 14 The Winter's Tale What themes unify this play?
Week 15 The Tempest What is Prospero's magic?
Students must read the chapter on Shakespeare in Brother Anthony's "Renaissance" book during the vacation, and should also read the most important parts of the Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare Studies.
Dieter Mehl's Shakespeare's Tragedies: an Introduction (Cambridge) is most helpful on the tragedies. Equally helpful as an introduction is Alexander Leggatt's English Drama: Shakespeare to the Restoration, 1590-1660 (Longman) and The Cambridge Companion to English Renaissance Drama edited by Braunmuller and Hattaway.
When we watch a video, the following questions will help relate the
film with Shakespeare's text:
1. Which aspects of the original did the film mainly focus on?
2. Which aspects did the film ignore?
3. In which ways (if any) did the film add to or depart from the original play?
Written Assignments: each student will write
(1) a thoughtful report with good critical references on one comedy or history play.
(2) a similar report on one or more of the Major Tragedies.
The first report must be submitted at the 10th week class,
second is due at the end of the semester.