In this course we will undertake an intensive study of Shakespeare by reading some of his plays side-by-side with plays by other contemporary dramatists on the same subject. This approach will help us not only to put Shakespeare back into his historical context and into his collaborative, rivalrous conversations with fellow dramatists, but also to “isolate” Shakespeare’s distinctive contribution to Renaissance discussions of such issues as travel and exploration, racial and religious difference, English history and the politics of kingship, war and rebellion, love and marriage. Our readings will include Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta; Shakespeare’s The Tempest and John Fletcher’s The Sea Voyage; Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and Fletcher’s The Woman’s Prize, or Tamer Tamed; Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Thomas Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy. No prior experience with Shakespeare or Renaissance drama is necessary, as the course will introduce students to the exciting range of plays produced in the period, to the sorts of critical questions scholars ask of these plays, and to the research methods they use to study them. Assignments will include explorations in the rare book library and Early English Books Online; a brief class presentation; and a couple papers.