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Four centuries on, Shakespeare still challenges us. How should we weigh the respective claims of our own era’s concerns–with matters of gender, sexuality, race, class, or materiality, for instance-against historicist attention to the cultural, political and theatrical circumstances in which his plays were actually written? And when it comes to realizing the text in dramatic performance, such challenges–and opportunities–multiply further. Critical fidelity to Shakespeare’s times, language and theatrical milieu prioritizes a historical authenticity that can be constraining or even sterilizing, while, at the other extreme, staging the plays with the primary aim of making them “speak to our times” risks revisionary absorption in our own interests. We will focus on six Shakespeare plays, from different genres and periods of his career: Romeo and Juliet, Henry V, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Proceeding with each from close reading of the text, we will attend to the demands and opportunities of performance, and assess a range of recent film and stage productions.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
class participation, regular reading responses, three longer papers
Theatre and English majors, and prospective majors
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
Four two-page readings response papers; three longer papers rising from 4 to 6+ pages. Students will receive from the instructor timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.
ENGL Literary Histories A