Shakespeare helped to create a new kind of theater able to address the complex and challenging times in which he lived. Sometimes praised as a poet of the stage, he was also one of the most gifted, original, and provocative masters of stagecraft and the possibilities of performance. In the centuries since his life, his plays have provided the means for later generations to think about a wide range of other complex and challenging issues, and this thinking has taken place on the stage and on the page, in performance and in a wide range of criticism, interpretation, and written reflection. In this Junior English Seminar, we will be studying a handful of his plays intensively, from all angles, with a special emphasis on the ways in which performance can embody meaning and the kinds of critical thinking and theory that have been brought to bear on Elizabethan drama over the past fifty years.
Among the specific goals of the course: learning how to watch filmed and live performances closely enough to enjoy and think about them at the same time and to recall them to write about afterwards; learning the history of late 20th and early 21th century criticism by reading and studying examples of different schools (new criticism, deconstruction, feminism, new historicism, and others); practicing their methodologies through short exercises and presentations; and finally, learning how to plan, research, draft, and revise a critical study in the form of a seminar paper (20-25 pages) that will be due at the end of the term.