English literature, it would appear, has a designated writer. It may not be our job to account for that designation, but his status gives us an opportunity in one quarter with four plays and several poems to begin to figure out what makes Shakespeare tick. The plays vary enormously: light-hearted comedy, tragi-comedy, pure fantasy, and downright tragedy. That might suggest at least four playwrights behind the name of Shakespeare, but we will find, in fact, elements of each kind of play lurking in the others. We’ll frame three great tragedies—Hamlet, Othello and King Lear —between an early comedy, Twelfth Night, and a final play that defies all category, The Tempest. We will watch recent, innovative productions to see what’s become of Shakespeare in our time and do our best to study—and imagine—what happened on the theatrical scaffolding in London around 1600. Lecture, discussion, and short essays written in and out of class.