Introducing Shakespeare: Lovers, Villains, and Kings

Dr. Michael Bryson
McGaw Hall 223


COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course will explore eight of Shakespeare's plays, drawn from early, middle, and late periods of his writing career.

EVALUATION METHOD: Discussion (including reading aloud, and group "acting" of scenes), three essays/quizzes, reading response questions.  Attendance and participation (including the scenes and response questions) will make up 25% of the grade.  The other 75% will be based on the grades of the three essays/quizzes.


In-class reading responses: Beginning with week 2, many (though not all) class meetings will start with a five-minute reading response. You will be given a question about that day’s reading assignment and write a brief response to it. An example of the kind of question you will be given is: “Are the characters in The Merchant of Venice more notable for their changeability or for their consistency?” These responses will be graded with a check-plus (done exceptionally well), check (fulfills the assignment), check-minus (should have been better), or X (does not fulfill the assignment at all).

Group assignment: You will each be asked to sign up for the play you are most interested in working with at length this quarter, and you will focus your group presentation on this play.  By the end of week 2, I will ask you to sign up into five groups of seven or eight apiece. When your group's play is up that week, half the people in the group will make an eight to ten minute class presentation on a cultural or historical topic related to the play (come talk to me during office hours about possible topics--and feel free when making the presentation to use audio or visual material if that will help).  The other half of the people in the group will choose, rehearse, and perform a five to six minute scene from the play for the class and discuss that scene’s significance and their performance choices--bring any necessary props to class on the day of your group's scene.  It will be up to the groups to decide who participates in which of the two presentations, but everyone must participate in one or the other. As with the reading responses, these presentations and performances will be graded with a check-plus (done exceptionally well), check (fulfills the assignment), check-minus (should have been better), or X (does not fulfill the assignment at all).

The Quizzes: in the range of 4-6 pages, these will be responses to essay questions (usually three), and will require you to present an analysis of characters from the blocks of plays we will have read (roughly weeks 2-3--Love, weeks 4-6--Politics and Power, weeks 7-9--Tragedy, Villainy, and Madness, and week 10, Endings). These essays will not require secondary sources, but will require you to read the plays closely, and cite evidence from the plays (using MLA citation) to back up your arguments. The final quiz/essay will be due by the end of finals week.

READING LIST: Complete Pelican Shakespeare

Weekly Preview

I. The Nature of Love

Week 1: Introductions. Selected Sonnets (1-20, 57, 93-94, 116, 121, 130, 138, 141)

Week 2: Two Gentlemen of Verona

Week 3: As You Like It

Quiz 1 (due in 1 week)

II. Politics and Power

Week 4: Henry IV part 1

Week 5: Henry V

Week 6: Richard III

Quiz 2 (due in 1 week)

III. Tragedy, Villainy, and Madness

Week 7: Othello

Week 8: Hamlet

Week 9: King Lear

IV. Endings

Week 10: The Tempest

Quiz 3 (due by the end of finals week)