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Introduction to Shakespeare

Gettin' cozy with Big Willy Shakes.

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to see a Shakespeare play when it was originally written? What sights and smells you would  have experienced? Okay, on second thought, maybe you're not interested in smelling people who only showered four times a year. But who would be watching a play with you? And were those plays like the latest indie films that everyone is raving about, or were they more like the reality TV shows you're embarrassed to admit you watch?

This course will try to answer just those burning questions about Shakespeare's world and plays. We will look at how he wrote them, who he wrote them for, and how they were performed. Oh, and of course we will be reading selections from his plays, too.

By the end of the course, Shakespeare will be your new best friend.

Course Breakdown

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    Unit 1. All the World's a Stage

    This unit will introduce you to the Shakespeare's world, giving you a feel for the historical and social context surrounding the Bard, and providing some deets on what it was actually like to attend the theater back in the day.

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    Unit 2. Histories: Fact or Fiction?

    In this unit, we'll discuss the difference between drama and history by looking at sections of Richard III and Henry V. We'll consider the speeches and personalities Shakespeare gives these historical heavyweights while we ponder the dramatic impact of historical fiction.

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    Unit 3. Family Feud

    In this unit, we'll be reading excerpts from different plays that focus on family relationships—The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and The Winter's Tale—and we'll think about the way Shakespeare's audience would have understood family ties.

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    Unit 4. What's Love Got To Do With It?

    Love is in the air in all of Shakespeare's plays, but we've picked just a few examples to tackle in this unit: Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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    Unit 5. All's Fair in Love and War

    This unit will look at the types of wars waged, from the personal to the political, in Shakespeare's plays, focusing on how the characters deal with the wars going on around them. We'll be looking at Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, and Titus Andronicus.

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    Unit 6. The Master of Disguise

    Shakespeare's plays have more plot twists and disguises than a Plot Twist and Disguises festival. And that's just what we'll be thinking about in this unit, by reading selections from As You Like It, King Lear, The Tempest, and Measure for Measure.

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    Unit 7. Words, Words, Words

    This unit will focus on Shakespeare's words, zooming in on his poetry and taking a closer look at all the wordy legacies he's left us today. (Spoiler alert: there are a ton.)

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