This course offers an introduction for students who want to become familiar with Shakespeare’s works. This class does not require any prior knowledge about Shakespeare, nor assumes any. The dynamic worlds Shakespeare brings to the stage are populated by clashing armies, ill-fated lovers, ambitious schemers, unruly servants, and many more who reflect upon and question the social orders they inhabit. Together we will explore these worlds and broach the social and political questions and themes operating in these plays. We will consider how Shakespeare related to his own historical moment, as well as meditate on how we read him through the lenses of our own present-day perspectives and expectations. What might Shakespeare’s plays and poems bring to bear on our modern categories of identity and difference, of race and class, gender and sexuality? What insights can we still glean from now-canonized literature, written during a historical period of rapid social and economic transformation, global, colonial expansion, and so-called early modernization? Should we apply pressure on Shakespeare’s canonical status, and what would that pressure look like? Throughout the course we will tackle these questions as we read a variety of plays Shakespeare composed for the English Renaissance theater as well as some selections from his sonnets. In our readings and class discussions we will also pay special attention to the language of the plays, dramatic genres, and the history of the English Renaissance theater and its technical conventions.
Requirements for the course include participation in class discussion, short weekly canvas discussion posts, staging your own short version of a scene from one of the plays we have read, a 5–7-page paper, and a final exam. Note that this is an accelerated course that runs for five weeks throughout Summer Session II, 2022.