This course examines why, some four hundred years after his death, Shakespeare remains the world’s most influential and performed dramatist. Students will be asked to closely examine some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays (Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, The Tempest) in order to think about his ongoing global renown. What has allowed his plays to become ‘global’ phenomena? Why do they still matter? What can they offer in radically new cultural contexts? And what new possibilities might arise through their translation? To help answer some of these questions – and thereby reach a better understanding of the ongoing life of his plays – the course will introduce a variety of critics and theorists who have addressed Shakespeare’s cultural, political, and philosophical influence over the centuries. We will explore the possibilities (and limitations) of Shakespeare’s imaginative freedom, including in his experiments with genre, his construction of character, his use of language, and his theatrical technique. But we will also look at how critics, readers, and theatre practitioners have re-interpreted his work in new ways, including through postcolonial perspectives. Students will be encouraged to develop their own readings of the plays during the course, as well as to connect Shakespeare’s drama to its historical, theatrical, and philosophical contexts.
We will meet for two hours per week. 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.
The course seeks to help students to:
· Analyse Shakespeare’s plays by paying close attention to their language and theatrical form;
· Analyse the plays in a historically and theoretically informed manner;
· Improve their literary analysis and writing;
· Understand the ways in which Shakespeare’s plays may already be “global” in their outlook, sources, and imaginings; and
· Examine some of the ways the plays have been translated and adapted in vastly different cultures.
Class Attendance and Participation – 10%
Exercises and Presentations – 20%
Mid-Term Paper – 25%
Final Paper – 45%
We will examine Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, and The Tempest. These texts will be available at the HKU Bookstore and I recommend you purchase copies before semester begins.
I will also upload various secondary readings onto Moodle that will help us think about the global legacy of Shakespeare’s drama