Shakespeare Course Profile

October 26, 2017

Shakespeare is one of the most important literary figures in the English tradition. He has influenced countless authors over the course of several centuries—from William Faulkner, author of The Sound and the Fury, to Karen McCullah, screenwriter of the movie adaptations of many Shakespeare plays, such as She’s the Man and 10 Things I Hate About You.

English 4520.01: Shakespeare, taught by Associate Professor Alan Farmer, is a class created to provoke students to think critically about Shakespeare and his works, as well as how these works function in early modern society and remain both important and divisive today.

Part of what makes Shakespeare’s work so alluring is its ability to remain relevant as society develops. In this particular class session, Farmer dissected enduring themes—tyranny, deceit, wit, love—in large group discussion, parsing them into individual concepts found throughout Richard III. He introduced ideas to the class, then asked students to consider what they mean for the piece as a whole, for Shakespeare and for pre-Modern England. What does it mean to be a good king? What does it mean to be a tyrant? As the students around the room took turns answering questions, their ideas snowballed into an insightful, collaborative conclusion: perhaps we should reassess what we know about kings, being aware that the “winner”—whether he was a good king or a tyrant—wrote history.

To read Shakespeare is to be introduced to an age-old text, to get to know it personally, one-on-one. To analyze Shakespeare is to meet in a room with thirty other strangers and build something concrete out of each person’s understanding. The tradition of Shakespeare is the building of these microcosms of thought and comprehension—a tradition that has endured since his first play was performed in the early 1590s.

Students interested in the complex connections between Shakespeare and society have the chance to enroll in a multitude of Shakespeare classes in the Department of English, all of which will be offered in spring 2018.

  • English 2220: Introduction to Shakespeare
  • English 2220H: Introduction to Shakespeare
  • English 3378: Special Topics in Film and Literature—Shakespeare and Film
  • English 4520.01: Shakespeare
  • English 4520.02: Special Topics in Shakespeare—The Merry Wives of Windsor