English 117J

Upper Division Coursework: Shakespeare

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2005 Booth, Stephen
Booth, Stephen
TTh 5-6:30 109 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"One - or, better - two OF THE FOLLOWING ONE-VOLUME SHAKESPEARES: William Shakespeare (ed. Alfred Harbage, et al.): The Complete Works [the old Pelican Shakespeare]; Orgel, S. and A. R. Branmuller, eds.: The Complete Pelican Shakespeare; Evans, G.B., ed.: The Riverside Shakespeare; Bevington, David, ed.: The Complete Works of Shakespeare; Barnet, Sylvan, ed.: The Complete Signet Classic Shakespeare; [only the one-volume version of the Signet Shakespeare will be practical for classroom purposes. It's out of print, I think, but there should be second-hand copies around.]; Greenblatt, Stephen, ed.: The Norton Shakespeare; McDonald, Russ: The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare

I want you to read the McDonald book in such a way as to get a general sense of what kinds of things one needs to bear in mind when reading or seeing Shakespeare--needs to look up or look out for but need not commit to memory. "


"I expect the course to do all the basic work of a Shakespeare survey and also to have seminar-like intellectual crossfire. I will take up all the topics that concern Shakespeare scholars, but I will not take them up systematically. I find that presenting a topic like ""Establishing Shakespeare's Texts"" causes people to try to memorize a lot of distinguished guesswork and understand nothing. Instead of organizing the communal and active ignorance of the last 300 years of scholarship, I will wait for particulars of classroom discussion to invite comment and background on printing-house practices, Shakespeare's stage, the composition of his audience, and stuff like that. If we work from stray particulars, you are less likely than you might otherwise be to come away with ""knowledge"" of matters about which we have--and have only evidence enough for--pure but immensely detailed guesses.

I don't yet know how I will want to use in-class time, but I will certainly concentrate on Shakespeare's language and on the plays as plays--experiences for audiences--and on what it is about them that has caused the western world and much of the eastern to value them so highly. The last time I gave a small Shakespeare course I asked people to read Richard II, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, Henry V, Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Love's Labor's Lost, All's Well That Ends Well, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, The Tempest, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, and The Winter's Tale; the order given here will not be the--or much like the--order in which I will ask that you read the plays. Moreover, I may substitute one or another play for something in the old list; for instance, I am currently--for the first time in my life--interested in The Taming of the Shrew and will add that if my interest holds up. I'm also thinking some about Measure for Measure.

I will give spot passage quizzes daily--or almost daily. Their purpose will be to make certain that you keep up with the reading and that you understand the surface sense and the syntactic physics of all the sentences you read.

Three papers, each of a length determined by how much you have to say and how efficient you are in saying it. The third paper will be in lieu of a final examination. "

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