Over four hundred years after his death, William Shakespeare remains the world’s most influential and widely studied playwright. To help introduce students to Shakespeare’s richly varied body of work, we will study a comedy, a tragedy, and a romance (or tragi-comedy): Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, and The Winter’s Tale respectively. We will explore Shakespeare’s experiments with genre, his construction of character, his use of language, and his theatrical technique in order to get a better understanding of the ongoing life of his plays. But we will also look at how critics, readers, and theatre practitioners have interpreted and re-interpreted his works over the centuries. Students will be encouraged to develop their own readings of the plays as well as to connect Shakespeare’s drama to its historical, theatrical, and philosophical contexts.
The course will examine: the genres of comedy, tragedy and romance; dramatic character; poetic drama and language; early modern theatrical practice; early modern history; and the critical tradition.
The purpose of this course is to improve students’ skills of literary analysis while introducing them to Shakespeare’s dramatic works. The course is designed to heighten understanding and appreciation of Shakespeare’s language as well as to encourage students to grapple with challenging questions of textual interpretation and theatrical genre.
We will meet once a week for three hours. The class will be made up of formal lectures, group work, and class discussions. Each week different students will present a short discussion paper on a particular aspect of a play. There will also be one or two short in-class written exercises throughout the semester.
Class Attendance and Participation – 10%
In-Class Exercises and Presentations – 20%
Mid-Term Paper – 25%
Final Paper – 45%
The plays we will be looking at are Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, and The Winter’s Tale. These texts will be available at the HKU Bookstore and I recommend you purchase them at the start of the semester. I will also upload secondary reading onto Moodle.