It is challenging to study Shakespeare's dramatic work in a single-semester course — he wrote so many plays, and we have so little time! We will tackle this challenge by focusing our attention on four plays that span the breadth of his career and the genres in which he worked: Richard III, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, and The Tempest. This set of four plays permits us to talk about a variety of themes that endure across Shakespeare's writing for the stage including concerns about power, relationships to law, gender identity, and constructions of "race." As we will pay very close attention to Shakespeare's use of language, consider the course a close-reading boot camp intended to build your skills as a reader and a writer, as well as your skills in literary judgment.
The assignments for the course will include four brief in-class exercises, one on each of the plays; a research paper of about 2,500 words; and a final exam. It is strongly recommended that students have already taken at least one English course at the 200-level.