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 five plays that span the breadth of his career and the genres in which he worked: As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, Coriolanus, and The Tempest. This set of 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 and property, gender identity, and constructions of "race." We will study three of these plays in depth, and you will be responsible for a fourth on the final exam. As we will pay 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, while we build a sense of Shakespeare’s continuing literary and political importance.
It is strongly recommended that students have already taken at least one English course at the 200-level before taking this course.