ENG 256 Shakespeare

William Oram, M W F 11:00 AM-12:10 PM
Naomi Miller, T Th 10:30 AM-11:50 AM

William Oram

Shakespeare only rarely made up the stories dramatized in his plays.  Usually he took his material from other writers and transformed it, giving it meaningful shape.  The class will focus on the means by which Shakespeare builds these meanings, including his densely suggestive language, his use of stage action, and his organization of speeches, scenes and plays.  While the class is run by discussion, there will be a good deal of lecturing about the historical, religious and cultural backgrounds of the works.  

 We’ll read Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, the first part of Henry IV, King Lear, Macbeth, Coriolanus and The Tempest. (One play may be dropped in order to concentrate on the others.)  We’ve chosen the plays to represent the various genres with which Shakespeare experiments, and we’ll consider how and why he mixes comedy and tragedy in particular works..

 There is a lot of writing in this course. The class will write three 5-8 page papers over the semester, of which the first two will be submitted first in draft and then rewritten.  In addition roughly once a week students will turn in ungraded one-or-two page papers before class to prepare for discussion.  There will be a final exam.  The class is limited to 25; seniors have priority. 

 Naomi Miller

We study a selection of sonnets and seven major plays: A Midsummer Night's DreamHenry IV Part I, As You Like ItMeasure for MeasureKing LearMacbeth, and The Tempest. 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; Renaissance 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 primary 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 quality as a theatre experience, mediated through different interpretive angles in production. To achieve these objectives, we'll rely on close reading and discussion. Bi-weekly response log entries, a group presentation of a scene, two papers, a final exam, and active class participation will be required; a written review of a performance can be handed in for extra credit. The required edition of Shakespeare's plays is The Riverside.




Limited to 25.