ENGL 225 A: Shakespeare

Meeting Time: 
MW 4:30pm - 6:20pm
ECE 003
Joseph Butwin
Joseph Butwin

Syllabus Description:

Instructor: Joseph Butwin    joeyb@uw.edu

Class Schedule:  MW  4:20 - 6:20  EEB 003 Office: Padelford A-419 MW 12-1:00 & by Appt.


Shakespeare: The Last Laugh

In the past I have taught Shakespeare as the solemn prophet of the History plays and the great Tragedies where pompous monarchs are brought down to earth with the rest of us and, incidentally, reminded of their mortality. It may be time to lighten up. Let’s try comedy. We will read (and watch parts of) As You Like It, Midsummer Night’s Dream, , Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice (yes, it’s listed with the Comedies), and—just to test the outer limits of the genre—King Lear. When the “rude mechanicals” insert the tale of Pyramus and Thisby into the wedding festivities that conclude A Midsummer Night’s Dream, they call their offering a piece of “tragical mirth.” Theseus, the wise Duke of Athens, is perplexed by the term. “Merry and tragical?” he asks (MND V i 57-9). He calls it “hot ice”; that is, he invokes what we might call an oxymoron. Our job is to iron out the apparent contradiction and come to terms with the thin distinction that separates comedy and tragedy. The “mechanicals” might be right.


As You Like It. Pelican Shakespeare  97801 431 30 239

Midsummer Night’s Dream. Pelican Shakespeare  97801 431 28 588

Twelfth Night.  Pelican Shakespeare. 97801 431 28 595

The Merchant of Venice. Pelican Shakespeare 97801 431 30 222

King Lear. Pelican Shakespeare 97801 431 28 557



Week I

26 Sept. Introduction: Why Comedy?


Week II

1 Oct. As You Like It

3 Oct. AYL


Week III

8 Oct. Midsummer Night’s Dream

10 Oct. MND


Week IV

15 Oct. Midsummer Night’s Dream

17 Oct. MND [ESSAY A-G]


Week V

22 Oct. Twelfth Night

24 Oct. 12N


Week VI

29 Oct. Twelfth Night

31 Oct. 12N [ESSAY H-L]


Week VII

5 Nov.  Merchant of Venice

7 Nov.  MV



12 Nov.  Armistice/Veterans Day NO CLASS

14 Nov.  MV [ESSAY M-Z]


Week IX

19 Nov. King Lear

21 Nov. Lear


Week X

26 Nov. King Lear



Week XI

3 Dec. [Selections from] The Tempest [CANVAS]

5 Dec. Conclusion



Tasks and Grades: Do the reading, come to class, be prepared to discuss what you have read. Notice that I do not divide our discussions into Acts I, II, III, IV and V though we will, for the most part, discuss the plays in that order on succeeding days. Point is: read the entire play before the first discussion. Then review the material (along with the study questions) as you prepare for each meeting.

            You will write two 3-page papers which I will read (and grade) with equal attention to composition and the validity of your argument. For the second essay, I have divided the class into 3 groups, each focused on a different play. Note that everyone will write a final essay on King Lear. You should be prepared to make a brief oral representation of your essay on the day they are due. Feel free to send me a tentative first paragraph down to the Monday evening before your essays are due. I will return a prompt response with any suggestions that come to mind. You are not obliged to send these preliminary paragraphs. This is one of several ways to use the obligatory W-course for the improvement of your skill as a writer.

            In addition to the 3-page papers there will be impromptu (and unannounced) responses written in class from time to time, from play to play. Thus everyone (apart from the three groups) will have the chance to write (as well as speak) about every play. You will be given 15 minutes to write these miniature essays. Your written response will then we incorporated into the discussion that follows. Thus I will count what you write in class as part of Class Participation. Impromptu—unannounced—essays cannot be made up should you miss class without pre-arrangement.       

Grading: 50% Essays written outside class; 50% Class Participation


Course Policies

Absence/Presence: University policy quite reasonably prevents fixing grades on absence or presence in the classroom. That’s reasonable because it is entirely possible to exist in the room without participating in the class. You have to do more than simply show up. It is also true that absence from the room automatically prevents discussion and writing in class which account for ½ of your grade.

Disability Accommodation: To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, 543-8924 (voice / TTY).  If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating that you have a disability which requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so we can discuss the accommodations you might need in this class.

Deadlines: For written assignments deadlines fall at the beginning of class on the assigned day.  Assignments turned in after the deadline will receive an automatic two tenths deduction (on a 4.0 scale).  They will lose a further two tenths off for each additional day late and will not be accepted more than a week overdue. Any necessary extensions must be cleared with me in advance to avoid a penalty. 

Incompletes:  Incompletes will only be granted in truly exceptional cases, and only if you have been making substantial progress up until the last two weeks of the quarter. 

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is a very serious kind of academic misconduct.  You should know what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.  If you haven’t done so already, please read “Academic Honesty:  Cheating and Plagiarism,” a statement prepared by the Committee on Academic Conduct in the College of Arts and Sciences that can be found at http://depts.washington.edu/grading/issue1/honesty.htm.  If after consulting this statement you still have any questions on the subject, please ask me. 




Catalog Description: 
Introduces Shakespeare's career as dramatist, with study of representative comedies, tragedies, romances, and history plays.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
October 19, 2018 - 10:30pm