This course will examine Shakespeare's plays in relation to the culture of early modern England. Discussions will investigate such issues as gender and sexuality, printing house practices, popular traditions, and religious and legal institutions. Particular emphasis will be placed on how the plays were originally staged and on their relationship to other kinds of spectacle such as public executions and royal pageantry. We will also interrogate the meaning and nature of performance itself from both a historical and a theoretical perspective. In addition to written work, active class participation and at least one oral presentation will be required. Students may also be expected to perform scenes in class.