Full syllabus here.
This course surveys the works of William Shakespeare from the first appearance of Hamlet to the end of the playwright’s career. The period is considered the height of Shakespeare’s artistic achievement; it includes all four of the great tragedies – Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth – as well as the belated appearance of Shakespeare’s Sonnets in 1609, a late-career turn to “romance,” and a final run of plays that Shakespeare co-wrote with other dramatists. As we explore this material, we will pay close attention to both the formal complexity of Shakespeare’s works – what makes them pleasurable or intriguing as literature – and the equally complex sociohistorical forces that gave (and continue to give) them life: humanism and philosophical skepticism; political and religious controversy; discourses of race, sexuality, and gender; cultures of public performance; and the rise and fall of empire, to name a few. Evaluation will be based on two exams, two papers, a performance review, and in-class participation.