ENGL 225 A: Shakespeare

Meeting Time: 
MW 11:30am - 1:20pm
SIG 224
William Streitberger

Syllabus Description:

Sig 224                                                                                                                   MW 11:30-1:20                               Autumn 2021                                           English 225a (W)                                W.R. Streitberger                           Hrs: 10:30 MW                                          Shakespeare                                                 streitwr@)

TEXTS:                                                                                                                                                               The Norton Shakespeare, Essential Plays/ Sonnets, 3rd ed.

FILMS                                                                                                                                                     -Trevor Nunn’s Twelfth Night (1996)   (you must rent this one for yourself)                                                                                                                 -Choose one of the following Hamlet adaptations to view: Laurence Olivier (1948), Franco Zeffirelli (1990), Kenneth Branagh (1996), Michael Almereyda (2000)  (some of these are free on line)                                                                                                                                             -Julie Taymor’s The Tempest (2010)    (free on line)

THE COURSE: This is a 200 level university course in Shakespeare’s plays and poetry. Early in his career Shakespeare was primarily a writer of poetry, comedies, and histories; in his later career he mainly wrote tragedies and tragicomedies. We will be concerned with close reading and discussion of works written throughout his career: selected Sonnets, Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Othello, Measure for Measure, and The Tempest. This course is listed in the UW Catalog as lecture-discussion. Our class sessions will consist of lectures and of discussions. Our focus will be both on the artistry in Shakespeare’s texts—the use of language and poetry, the ideas of dramatic construction, the understanding of genre, the conception of gender, the idea of theater, the impact of education on choice and treatment of subjects, the history of the texts, and criticism of his works—and in film adaptations.

REQUIREMENTS:                                                                                                                                        I have here provided you with reading assignments and discussion questions for each of our class sessions. Your job is to give some purposeful thought to these questions before class time. Come to class fully prepared to engage the topics.

Students will be assigned to small groups, each one tasked to report on one of the Discussion Questions listed for that particular day. I will select one speaker from each to report the groups findings/perspective to the entire class.

This is a W course. You will write two 5 page essays.

Essay 1 is focused on Trevor Nunn’s adaptation of Twelfth Night. To stimulate ideas use any of the prompts listed in the Discussion Questions for 13 October

Essay 2 is focused on whatever adaptation of Hamlet you have chosen from the list above. To stimulate ideas use any of the prompts listed in the Discussion Questions for 15 November.

There are two timed exams consisting of multiple choice and short answer or short essay questions that test your understanding of how to discuss passages from the poems and plays, the material presented in lectures, and questions for class discussion. See the Syllabus for dates. These exams will require careful and thorough preparation. I advise you to take notes in our class sessions.

Grading: Two Essays (40%), Two Exams (50%), Reports as assigned (10%)



Week 1. Sometime this week read Norton, 44-60, on Shakespeare’s life.                                         29 Sept. Introduction.                                                                                                                           

Week 2. This week read Norton, 121-35, on Shakespearean comedy.                                                          4 Oct. Read Shakespeare’s Sonnets 1-20, 30, 40, 64, 73, 97, 116, and the introduction.                  6 Oct. First hour: Read Sonnets 127, 129, 130, 135, 138, 141, 143, 144, 147, 151. Second Hour: Read Twelfth Night and the introduction

Week 3. This week read Norton, 1-44, on Shakespeare’s world.                                                     11 Oct. See the Twelfth Night adaptation before this class session                                                          13 Oct. Twelfth Night conclusion.

Week 4.This week read Norton, 65-9, on language and style.                                                       18 Oct. Read Much Ado About Nothing and the introduction. Essay 1 due                                     20 Oct. Much Ado About Nothing

Week 5.                                                                                                                                           25 Oct, Read Measure for Measure and the introduction                                                                  27 Oct. Measure for Measure

Week 6.                                                                                                                                                      1 Nov. Exam 1                                                                                                                                          3 Nov. Read Hamlet and the introduction

Week 7. This week read Norton, 957-68, on Shakespearean tragedy.                                                                                                                                                8 Nov. Hamlet. See your Hamlet adaptation before this class session.                                                       10 Nov. Hamlet

Week 8. This week read Norton, 93-118, on Shakespeare’s theater                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        15 Nov. Hamlet                                                                                                                                     17 Nov. Essay 2 due. Read Othello and the introduction

Week 9. This week read Norton, 75-92, on Shakespeare’s texts                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  22 Nov. Othello. ZOOM Lecture                                                                                                                      24 Nov. The Tempest. ZOOM Lecture. See The Tempest adapation before our next class session.

Week 10. This week read Norton, 1625-40, on Shakespeare’s romances.                                               29 Nov. Read The Tempest and the introduction.                                                                             1 Dec. The Tempest

Week 11.                                                                                                                                                   6 Dec The Tempest                                                                                                                              8 Dec. Exam 2

Sonnet 1

Quatrain 1

A       From/ fair/ est/ crea/ tures/ we/ de/ sire/ in/ crease,/      

B       That/ there/ by/ beau/ ty’s/ rose/ might/ nev/ er/ die,/     

A       But/ as/ the/ rip/ er/ should/ by/ time/ de/ cease,/                                 

B       His/ ten/ der/ heir/ might/ bear/ his/ mem/o/ ry;/           

Quatrain 2

C       But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,              

D       Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel,         

C       Making a famine where abundance lies,                                             

D       Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.                  

Quatrain 3

E       Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament               

F       And only herald to the gaudy spring,                       

E       Within thine own bud buriest they content,                                               

F       And, tender churl, mak’st waste in niggarding.              


G              Pity the world, or else this glutton be:             

G              To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.                                 

Discussion Questions. You will need specific lines to support your arguments.

4 October. Sonnets                                                                                                                          1. How many different reasons are given to the young man to produce a child in sonnets 2, 7, 10, 12, 15, 17?                                                                                                                                                2. How does the poet in sonnets 1-18, 64, 73, and 116 deal with the effects of time on relationships?                                                                                                                                              3. What do these poems suggest about the possible range of emotions in relationships between men? What about in the relationships between men and women?

6 October. Dark Lady Sonnets/ Twelfth Night                                                                                                      (First hour)                                                                                                                                     1. What contradictions do you find in these sonnets about the lady’s complexion (127 and 130 vs. 141, 147)? About their sexual relationship (29 vs 35)?                                                                   2. How much in control of the relationship is the poet in sonnets 144, 151, and 152?                   3. What do these poems suggest about the range of emotions a man can experience in a relationship with a woman?                                                                                                            Why might Shakespeare have written these poems?

(Second hour.)                                                                                                                                1. In what ways are Olivia’s and Orsino’s attitudes alike? What is comic about them? In what way is Viola’s different from them?                                                                                              2.What kind of character is Sir Toby? What does he want to do? What is amusing about him? What is not so amusing?                                                                                                                        3. What exactly is funny about Sir Andrew’s character?

11 October. Twelfth Night                                                                                                                1. How would you describe Feste after his first encounter with Olivia in 1.5.31-69? In what way is he funny in this instance ? In what way not so funny in others?                                                                                             2. Feste’s songs almost always carry more emotional weight than their entertainment value requires. How does this work in relation to his song ‘O Mistress Mine’ (2.3)?                                         3. What is your overall response to Feste?                                                                                                                                  4. How are fantasy narratives used (2.4.105-9 ‘My father had a daughter,’ 1.5.263-71 ‘Make me a willow cabin at your gate’) to create a sense of Viola’s interiority?                                               5. Describe the comedy and pathos of Malvolio’s and Viola’s experience in 3.4.. To what extent are they funny? To what extent disturbing?

13 October. Twelfth Night                                                                                                                1. Wisdom and Folly are reversed in 4.2 To what extent do comedy, pathos, and maliciousness interpenetrate in this scene? To what effect?                                                                                    2. Follow the relationship between Antonio and Sebastian. How connected to the homoeroticism of the play? To what effect?                                                                                                                                                       3. How satisfied are you with the resolution? Does it seem that the play pushes the boundary of comedy? How?

18 October. Much Ado About Nothing                                                                                                                                                                                                                         1. What reasons does Beatrice give for not wanting to marry? What about Benedick? How valid are their reservations and concerns?                                                                                                  2. How does the interchange between Beatrice and Benedick in 1.1.108-140 relate to what happens in the ball in 2.1? What is the most striking image Benedick uses to convey his feelings about Beatrice in this speech?                                                                                                                                      3.How does Benedick react to the practical joke that convinces him that Beatrice is in love with him (  How does Beatrice (3.1.107ff)?                                                                             4. What is amusing about Dogberry, Seacoal, and the rest of the watch? Make comparisons to Bottom and his friends? Can you come to some conclusions about Shakespeare’s ideas for comic characters in his early plays?                                                                                                              5. ‘In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke.’ How often did you find references to the yoke and to horns? What do they allude to? What is the attitude of men in general toward women and marriage? Can this be connected to Borachio’s plot?

20 October                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             1. What motive does Benedick have to side with Beatrice against his friend, Claudio, in 4.1.255-335? How shocked are you by this scene?                                                                                            2. There is no natural space for the characters to retreat into and experience a transformation in this play as there was in MND. Do you think that Hero’s ‘death’ and resurrection provide an emotional or psychological transformation in the action?                                                                                                                                     3.Why can’t Benedick write a sonnet for Beatrice?                                                                           4. Are you disappointed in Benedick’s and Beatrice’s declarations that they love one another ‘no more than reason’?                                                                                                                            5. Why is Don Pedro sad?                                                                                                                 6. What does Benedick mean by his comment to the Prince at the end of the play about the husband’s staff being tipped with horn? How does this affect the sense of a romantic ending?

25 October. Measure for Measure                                                                                                         1. Go online to the Bible. Call up Matthew 7: 1-5. To what does the title of Shakespeare's play refer?  Exactly what does Claudio mean by describing human nature as rat-like (1.2.124-30)? See Romans 7: 14-20.                                                                                                                                2. The Duke appoints Angelo so that “virtue” will spread throughout Vienna. What is actually spreading through Vienna in 1.2? 1. What do you make of the Duke’s justification for appointing Angelo as his Deputy in 1.3?                                                                                                                  3. What kind of character is Isabella (1.4)? What other character is she most like?                                                                    4. Angelo and Escalus discuss justice and mercy in 2.1.1-31. What for Escalus is the source of Mercy? Are you impressed by Angelo’s confidence in himself? What do we learn about extending too much mercy in 2.1 135-254? What is Pomepy’s attitude toward it?                                                                                                                                             5. Isabella (2.2.139-146) thinks that deep in our hearts we all know ourselves and that this knowledge leads us to show mercy. How like Esalus’s idea about mercy in 2.1?                                                                                                           6. Focus on Angelo’s speeches in act 2. How well does he know himself? Consider especially 2.2.169-194 and 2.4.1-17. Does Matthew 5:27-30 clarify this? Do you have any sympathy for Angelo  in 2.4.19-30? 2. In what two senses does Isabella uses the word die in her interview with Angelo? 

27 October Measure for Measure                                                                                                      1.What do you make of Claudio's attitude after his counseling session with the Friar/Duke (3.1.41-43, 83-85)? Are you horrified by Claudio's change of heart in the meeting with Isabella (3.1.119-138)? Are your horrified by Isabella's attitude toward her brother?                                                                                                                                       2. What is interesting about the description of Marianna’s love for Angelo in 3.1? Are you satisfied with the Duke's justification for the bed-trick (3.1.241-260)?  What function is Mariana intended to serve in this play?                                                                                                                   3. What is amusing about the interaction between Lucio and the Friar/Duke in 3.2.                                                        4. At the same time that Isabella is supposedly losing her virginity to Angelo, the Friar/Duke is stalking the prison for a head. What do you make of this parallel?  How do Bernadine and Ragozine fit into the play?                                                                                                                     5. To what extent might the last scene be read as the Duke’s “play”, engineered to reveal certain attitudes in the characters he judges? The Duke reiterates the idea (5.1.115-117)--for at least the fourth time-- that the source of Mercy involved recognizing faults in ourselves. Why are we reminded at this point?                                                                                                                           6. Are you satisfied with the Duke's explanation for withholding from Isabella the information about Claudio's escape from death (4.3.107-111)?  What about his willingness to execute Bernadine who is spiritually unprepared for death (4.3.64-65)?                                                                                                                                                                         7. Read Matthew 5: 43-48. Does this explain Isabella's decision to plead for Angelo's life (5.1.452-462)? Is this the source of mercy? If so, how does it impact the ending of the play?

Claudio described human nature as “rat-like” in 1.2. Are any new perspectives on this subject added during the trial?  

3 November. Hamlet                                                                                                                         1. How does Hamlet describe his ‘interiority’ in 1.2.76-86?                                                                2. Pay careful attention to the imagery of the first soliloquy in 1.2. What is at the root of Hamlet’s anguish here? How would you describe his mental state after reading this passage?                     3. How would you describe Hamlet’s character—his sense of humor, his behavior, the state of his mental health?                                                                                                                             4. Pay careful attention to the imagery in the ghost’s description of his death in 1.5. Is it significant that it takes place in an orchard? With poison? What happens to the king’s body?  By the end of act 1 how certain is it that the king was actually murdered?                                           5. In 2.163-69 Polonius explains how he goes about discovering ‘directions.’ Give examples of instances in the play in which other characters use ‘indirections’ to find directions.                                   

8 November                                                                                                                                     1. Characterize Hamlet’s relationship with R &G. Do you think they understand his speech in 2.2.296-311?                                                                                                                                      2. In 2.2 Shakespeare begins to make many references to drama and theatre. A group of players come to Elsinore. They are traveling because companies of boy players are getting all of the audiences in the city. Polonius talks about the various genres they can perform. Hamlet asks the chief player to perform several speeches from a play he admires. In act three the players will perform a play that comments directly on this play. How do all of these meta-theatrical devises affect your engagement with the play?                                                                                              3.. Hamlet admires the play describing Pyrrhus’s revenge but it also includes the murder of Priam and the horrified reaction of Hecuba (2.2.432-520). Does it seem that revenge is more complicated than it initially appeared?                                                                                            4. How does Hamlet relate thought and action in the ‘To be or not to be speech’ (3.1.57-92)? How does he relate word and action in his advice to the players (3.2.1-45)? In what way might they be connected?

10 November                                                                                                                                 . 1. Can you think of anything that might justify Hamlet’s behavior toward Ophelia in 3.1.116-52. 2. What does the Player king tells the Player queen about the relationship between purpose and memory (3.2.184-213)? How connected to the relationship between thought and action, word and action? If human nature is constructed as the Player King says, then how can anyone be expected to remain faithful to a partner? And what does the Player King mean by saying that our wills and fates run contrary to one another?                                                                                      3. Is it fair to say that when Claudius attempts to pray in (3.3.35-72) that he seems caught between thought and action? How does Hamlet define revenge it in this scene? What is the great irony?                                                                                                                                                4. To what extent is Hamlet in control of his emotions in the interview with his mother in 3.4?              5. In 3.4, 4.2.31-2 and 4.3.16-39, how is Polonius’s body treated? To what effect?                                          6. Compare Laertes as a revenger to Hamlet. How does Laertes commit himself to revenge?             

15 November                                                                                                                                      1. In what way might it be argued that the introduction of the pirates in 4.6 is appropriate in a play so concerned with the importance of individual responsibility for action?                               2. Read the description and debate about Ophelia’s death, 4.7.167-191, 5.1.1-25. What do you make of the ambiguous outcome?                                                                                                               3. Why such a cheerful gravedigger? Why so much concern about how long it takes for a body to decay? What conclusions does Hamlet reach after his confrontation with Yorick’s skull?  Do you think that Hamlet’s reaction to Ophelia’s death illustrates the philosophical conclusions he has just come to?                                                                                                                                           4. What final conclusions does Hamlet come to about the relationship between thought and action?                                                                                                                                                5. Does Hamlet succeed in taking revenge for his father’s death? Or, is he a victim of Claudius’s plot to kill him?

17 November. Othello                                                                                                                        1. By the end of Act 1 we hear of the relationship between Desdemona and Othello from three different perspectives. We first hear of it in the low comments made by Iago and Roderigo in their attempt to incite Brabantio's anger (1.1.88-94, 111-116, 118-120, 123-143). We then hear about it from Brabantio (1.1.173-178; 1.2.63-81). Finally, we hear about it from Othello and Desdemona (1.3.130-172, 251-262). Explain these perspectives. How do they contradict one another? How do they complement one another?                                                                             2. Iago's values and his conception of human nature are clearly stated by the end of Act I (cf. especially 1.3.322-405.                                                                                                                                          3.  Describe Iago’s character and list the motives you find for his hatred of Othello. See also 2.1.287-313.                                                                                                                                        4. Describe Othello--his background, his experience, his character--as it appears from reading Act 1.                                                                                                                                                     

22 November                                                                                                                                   1. How often does Iago confide in the audience (1.3.last speech)? The effect?                                                    2. Examine the conversations between Othello and Desdemona in Acts 2 and 3. How does Shakespeare capture the qualities of an inexperienced relationship? What are the best examples? 3. What reasons does Othello offer to explain Desdemona’s supposed betrayal?                                4. The handkerchief (3.3.306-315; 3.4.57-70) has ‘magic’ in its web. It is associated with the "magic" of love which is capable of transforming in positive ways. Here it becomes the "ocular proof" that convinces Othello of Desdemona's guilt. In what way is Shakespeare playing with reason and passion? Look back at the control Othello demonstrates in Act 1 (1.2.17-28, 30-32, 60-63, 82-86; 1.3.263-277) and compare this to his behavior in Cyprus (e.g., 4.1.35-43).                             5. Why references to the wedding sheets (4.2.106-110; 4.3.25-27)? What contrast is Shakespeare trying to point up?                                                                                                                                              6. Explain the dramatic effect of Emilia’s character.

24 November                                                                                                                                               1. Evaluate Othello's reasons for killing Desdemona (4.1.208-210, 5.2.1-22). Compare also the emotional effect of the dramatized murder scene to these justifications. What effect is Shakespeare trying to achieve?                                                                                                          2. How does Othello behave after the murder? Does this intensify the tragic pity Shakespeare develops for his protagonist?                                                                                                              3.. Othello thinks he was fated to this end (5.2.274) and looks forward to punishment that seems very much like a Christian version of hell. Are these two notions compatible?  How does Othello finally assess what he has done (5.2.348-366)?                                                                                         4. In what way is this play tragic?

29 December. The Tempest                                                                                                                     1. In 1.1 what do the characters think is happening to them?                                                            2. In 1.2 we learn that the tempest was produced by Prospero. What else does he tell us about himself and Miranda? How did he get his powers?                                                                           3. What does he tell us about the island? What was it like when he arrived? Who inhabited the island before him? How was it governed? What kind of life did Ariel live?                                   4. Follow the development of the Gonzalo, Alonzo, Sebastian, Antonio plot (2.1, 3.3, 4.1). What would Gonzalo like to do with the island? What would Antonio and Sebastian like to do with the island? (Any similarities to what happened to Prospero twelve years before? How difficult a problem has Shakespeare set for himself by creating a character like Antonio?                                                                                   5. In 3.3.53-82 Ariel in the shape of a harpy confronts Sebastian, Antonio, and Alonzo and delivers a speech written by Prospero. Paraphrase this speech. What does he mean by "Destiny"? What is the "lower world"? Describe the view of nature presented in this speech. What does he mean by "heart's sorrow/ And a clear life ensuing"? What kind of charm does Prospero put on them at the end of the scene?

1 December                                                                                                                                              1.In what way does the Caliban, Trinculo, Stephano plot (2.2, 3.2, 4.1. 165-263) complement the Alonzo, Sebastian, Antonio plot? What characteristics do Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo share in common?                                                                                                                                        2. Look closely at the development of the relationship between Ferdinand and Miranda (1.2.442-45, 455-502; 3.1.1-92; 4.1.1-56; 5.1.173-187). How do these actions (many of them symbolic) relate to what you know about the structure of romantic comedy?                                                 3.. Look up the term "masque" in a literary dictionary. Write out a definition. Who are Juno, Ceres, and Iris? In what way is the entire play masque-like?                                                              4. Why do you think Prospero wants Ferdinand and Miranda to remain virgins before their marriage? What is the theme of the masque (4.1.57-139)?

6 December                                                                                                                                        1. After Prospero is reminded of Caliban’s plot against his life he delivers one of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches: ‘our revels now are ended … .’ What does Prospero mean by saying that ‘we are such stuff as dreams are made on.’?                                                                                       2. In what way does the Prospero plot subsume and organize the other plots?. How should betrayal and attempted murder of a brother and his daughter by a brother be dealt with? What if the brother is a sociopath? How does Prospero handle this?                                                              3. How does the epilogue, spoken by the character of Prospero, recapitulate the themes of the play? What decisions/choices are you asked to make?

Look up the term masque online. In what way is The Tempest masque-like? What implications for interpretation.





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: 
April 13, 2021 - 7:52am