E 321 • Shakespeare: Selected Plays
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
In this course we will read some of Shakespeare's best-known works, including a few that have recently come out as films. The syllabus is still tentative but will likely include Hamlet, Othello, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night's Dream, among others.
I'm particularly interested in those moments in Shakespeare's plays that reflect on dramatic or theatrical fiction while nevertheless being a part of such a fiction. Discussions along this line will be pushed toward greater awareness of the historical conditions of Renaissance drama and particularly the conditions under which these plays were performed: during daylight, on a relatively unadorned, thrust stage, with repertory company of limited size and composed entirely of males. Every attempt will be made to see how Shakespeare and his company might work to turn these limitations to their advantage. The obvious example here is Shakespeare's fondness for disguise plots in which young women dress up as young men and which consequently encourage questions about sex roles and the constitution of gender. A related topic involves the thematically enriching possibilities that attend the necessity, in a company of limited size, of doubling roles. My hope is that this sort of speculation will lead to a finer understanding of the play as well as to a more concrete appreciation for Shakespeare's skills as a playmaker.
Please observe that under the category of quizzes is included a substantial memorization and oral recitation assignment. Also note that the category of papers includes a reading journal to which students will be expected to devote 1-2 hours per week.