This course is designed as an introduction to Shakespeare and his world, including connections to our own culture. We will read representative poems and plays and strive to work out a balance between an historically informed reading of the texts and an appreciation of their relevance today. The texts illustrate ways in which Shakespeare treated the genres of narrative poetry, comedy, history, tragedy and romance. Although these terms are not necessarily mutually exclusive, each focuses on a set of special concerns and interests. Class sessions will include detailed discussion of the plays along with analysis of contemporary productions currently on stage or available on video or film. Part of our consideration of Shakespeare's contemporary impact will treat ways in which today's plays, films, and TV programs implicitly read and interpret his work.