Although Shakespeare's plays are usually studied as high canonical literature, they were originally written as playscripts designed for the entertainment of a disorderly, socially heterogeneous crowd and the financial profit of the players. This course will attempt to resituate the plays in their original theatrical setting. We will study a representative selection of Shakespeare's comedies, tragedies, and histories ( to be chosen by the class at the first meeting) along with background material on Shakespeare's theater and his culture. There will be one or two hour-exams, one or two short papers, and a final exam. In addition, students are expected to meet in study groups outside of class and to make thoughtful, well-informed contributions to the class listserv and class discussions. Students who are not Benjamin Franklin Scholars will be admitted only with the instructor's permission.