This course will address the fundamental issues at stake in the current critique of Shakespeare's plays. It will analyze Shakespeare's ethical and political views and modernity's rejection of those views in favor of contract theories of government. The fundamental goal will be to understand Shakespeare's position as fully as possible and to watch a great thinker wrestle with the implications of that position. A secondary goal will be to understand why we moderns, precisely because we are heirs of a contract theory of government, are uncomfortable with it. Class discussion will address fundamental notions of human happiness and human dignity. Readings will focus on selected plays of Shakespeare and on the central arguments of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau."