Madness, truth, honor, pity—these are a few of the concepts Shakespeare explores in his earliest plays. We will scrutinize the representations of these ideas and others that emerge in plots of political intrigue, tyranny, rebellion, and vengeance. Working within this frame, we will attempt to understand how Shakespeare’s plays confronted the political and social assumptions of his original audiences and how his writing continues to challenge similar concerns we face in our own culture. To this end, students will carefully read four plays and develop interpretive arguments using the skills of close reading and analysis to produce critical essays of varying length, totaling 8-10 pages. Students will leave the course having read extensively from the works of one of the major writers of the western tradition, and they will have acquired interpretive, analytical, and communication skills that will aid them in their future coursework in English and other disciplines. Course readings may include Richard III, Henry IV, Titus Andronicus, Hamlet, Merchant of Venice, or Midsummer Night’s Dream. You need not have prior familiarity with Shakespeare or early modern literature to succeed in this introductory class.
Shakespeare courses foster understanding of Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies. Besides introducing students to central questions in the study of dramatic art and to broader issues pertaining the study of literature in English, they enhance students’ cultural literacy by deepening their comprehension of arguably the best known writings of an English author.
Lower-division Elective courses allow students to choose (or “elect”) courses or faculty specific to their own developing interests, enabling them thereby to shape their own educational experience. Major II students can also use one lower-division elective to fulfill the Writing Requirement with ENG 209 The Craft of the Sentence.