Shakespeare: Early Poems & Plays

Course Number: ENGL 105A
Prerequisites: Writing 2 or upper-division standing
General Education Areas Fulfilled: Check on GOLD
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 105A
Quarter: Summer A 2013
Day(s): MTWR
Time: 3:30 PM - 4:35 PM
Location: GIRV 1112

This course will explore a selection of plays that make up the first decade of William Shakespeare’s career, roughly from 1591-1601, under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. In doing so, we will sample a range of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men’s work across genres—considering histories, tragedies, and comedies—and complicating the parameters of these genres as we progress. Likewise, we will experience their work across media, not only reading each play, but viewing modern—and in most cases, experimental—film adaptations. Such an approach will allow us to pay close attention not only to the literariness of Shakespeare’s work, but also to how performance itself offers an interpretation that affects our understanding of each play.

In our analysis of the selected plays, we will work closely with Shakespeare’s language in order to understand its literal and historical meaning on the one hand, but also its literary and artistic meaning on the other. By closely reading each play and becoming evermore comfortable with early modern English, we will move from basic understanding to analytic, interpretative, and theoretical thinking.

Discussions will explore Shakespeare’s treatment of English history; situate his work within the artistic, social, and economic realities of late sixteenth-century London; and understand his characters through the social, political, and psychological tensions within each play. Some questions that will guide our discussions and interpretations include: how can history be an expression of collective trauma, memory, and mourning? How does the world of our earliest attachments influence the social bonds we create and sever? How is identity performed in various social contexts? How do performances influence our understanding of the plays? And lastly, how is Shakespeare re-adapted, re-imagined, and recycled in our contemporary world?

Plays (all Pelican Shakespeare editions):

Richard III
Romeo and Juliet
The Merchant of Venice
Twelfth Night


Richard III (1995, starring Ian McKellen)
Romeo + Juliet (1996, starring Leonardo DiCaprio)
Merchant of Venice (2004, starring Al Pacino)
Hamlet (2000, starring Ethan Hawke)
Twelfth Night (1996, starring Helena Bonham Carter)


Once this course is full/closed, you can sign up to the wait list at:

Students on the wait-list must still attend the first day of lecture/section to enroll in the course.