This course will explore several of Shakespeare's plays in the context of the social, political, and theatrical life of late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century London. We will be focusing less on close textual analysis and more on issues of live performances: acting, methods of staging and theatricalization, theatre space and actor/audience relationship. We will explore Elizabethan London as a sprawling stage for the "performance" of a thriving civic and national culture, and look at the role of the theatre, acting companies, and playwrights in the creation and maintenance of that culture. Some attention will be given to Shakespeare's biography, as well as to performance forms such as civic pageants and court masques which contributed to the making of his plays. The plays we will examine will be chosen from those being performed this summer in London and Stratford, and the course will include excursions to the restored Globe, the Globe Museum, and to Stratford and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Assignments will include short response papers to productions and scene analysis from the perspective of dramatic structure, character portrayal, and staging.