Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

The Shakespeare Variations

ENGL 430.640
Thursday 4:30-7:30pm

In this course we will read several Shakespeare plays alongside significant adaptations and variations on them, both from Shakespeare’s own day and later. We’ll read Hamlet as well as the mysterious first version of the play, which differs in plot, character, and language from the famous version (“To be or not to be: ay, there’s the point!”). We’ll read King Lear along with Nahum Tate’s 1681 revision, with a happy ending, that dominated the stage for the next two hundred years. We’ll read Coriolanus and Bertolt Brecht’s 1950s adaptation. With these and other plays as our focus, we’ll ask: How do these variations change our understanding of “the” Shakespeare play? What can we learn about changing understandings of Shakespeare and his art from them? How can these “Shakespeare variations” help us to to teach and perform the canonical plays?