ENG 257 Shakespeare

Eric Reeves, M W 2:40 PM-4:00 PM

We study eight major plays that illustrate the variety of things Shakespeare could do in the theatre: Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Troilus and Cressida, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, The Winter’s Tale. Our basic objectives are two. One is to develop fluency in understanding the playwright’s means of getting in touch with his intended audience: conventions of figurative language and verbal patterning; early modern vocabulary of social, natural, and religious knowledge; shared traditions and myth and symbol; conventions of scene construction and staging, and shared ways of distinguishing among kinds of play (tragedy, comedy, history, and romance). 


The other and more basic objective is to grasp as clearly as we can what each play has to show and tell us once we’re fluent: its distinctive slant on the human predicament, and its total quality as a theatre experience. To achieve these objectives, we’ll rely mainly on close reading and discussion. In addition to some informal writing, there are likely to be two papers on assigned topics and a final examination. The Riverside edition of Shakespeare’s plays is required.  Limited to 25.