In Hamlet the pompous counselor Polonius—famous for advice to his college-age son (“Neither a borrower nor a lender…”)—announces the advent of some actors at the court in Elsinore, “the best actors in the world,” he says, “either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral. . .” Polonius is a fool, but he seems to know his drama; he did a little acting himself in college. His prodigious list suggests that these actors—like Shakespeare himself—can do anything; meanwhile, his hyphens tend to undermine the distinctions that he means to make. Pastoral fantasy penetrates comedy; history penetrates pastoral. Comedy contains elements of tragedy; tragedy seems to require a clown. En route to the dignity of kingship, the little prince may pause for some fun at a pub. Hamlet, like Polonius, has a weakness for the theatre. “The play’s the thing,” he says, as he launches an attack on the King, his uncle. We will focus on the porous boundaries of comedy, tragedy, and history in a close reading and viewing of four plays. Twelfth Night, I Henry IV, Hamlet and Othello with the added attraction that Othello will be performed in the parks of Seattle during our session. Lecture, discussion, short essays written in and out of class.