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Shakespeare: His Art, Life, and Times

ENGL 226.950

Mark Rylance, the first artistic director of the Globe Theatre, has said that “we are modern Elizabethans.” This course is designed to explore just what that means by examining the live performance of Shakespeare’s plays in his own time (as far as it can be approximated) and in our time. The course will begin by exploring the social, cultural and theatrical conditions that shaped the plays of Shakespeare as he wrote them and as they were professionally performed in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century in London. We will read and discuss the plays that will be performed this summer in the reconstructed Globe Theatre on the south side of the Thames. This course is not an attempt at historical reconstruction or to rediscover an “authentic” Shakespeare or Elizabethan theatre. The Globe is a laboratory for conducting research into the dynamic relationship among the play, the performers, and their audience. The course will also examine two or three plays by Shakespeare being performed in theaters other than the Globe this summer, perhaps in aggressively contemporary or otherwise radical or unconventional productions. Our purpose will not be to set one approach to performing Shakespeare against another, but rather to expand our understanding of how his plays remain as alive for “modern Elizabethan” audiences today as they were four hundred years ago. The course work will involve historical research into the Elizabethan period and its theatre, reading of four or five plays by Shakespeare, and discussion of the performances of those plays, field trips, and a final 15-20 page essay due at the start of the fall semester. (1 CU)

fulfills requirements