Beefing up on Big Willy's best.
Shakespeare walks into a bar. The bartender says, "You can’t come in here—you're bard!"
Have you ever wondered what people were actually saying when they joked about or quoted Shakespeare? Sure, you nodded along and laughed when everyone else did, but you didn't really get it.
If that was a creepily accurate description of you, this course is for you. Together we’re going to read nine of Shakespeare's most famous plays and think about everything from themes to language to "your mom" jokes. You'll analyze, reflect, and create Shakespeare-based collages like you've never done before—and by the end, you'll be chuckling along with that bartender.
And by the way: you're under 21. Stop laughing at that Shakespeare joke til you're of age, Shmooper.
Unit 1. Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare's most famous plays. In this unit, we will explore the passionate love between Romeo and Juliet, the feud between their families, and the tragic end of the star-crossed lovers.
Unit 2. Othello
Being a tragedy, Othello doesn't end in hearts and flowers and rainbows and unicorns. It ends in death and destruction and a one-way trip to Guiltville, but it's all about the journey, not the destination. So we will take the time to explore the play's themes of love, jealousy, betrayal, and trust that come up along the way.
Unit 3. A Midsummer Night's Dream
Love in Shakespeare is never easy. But by the end of this unit, you should have a better idea of how it works in our man's plays.
Unit 4. Hamlet
In this unit, we'll cozy up to our main man Hamlet and figure out what makes him tick. We'll also dig into the themes and literary techniques of the play so we can see the master (that would be Shakespeare) at work.
Unit 5. Julius Caesar
Shakespeare was a fan of writing about men in power and the ways it destroyed them. But Caesar's power is in a class of its own, and in this unit, we'll focus on the havoc that power—you might even call it tyranny—can wreak.
Unit 6. The Tempest
The Tempest, Shakespeare's final play, is full of voyages, exploration, spirits, and magic. Pack a bag and get your seasickness meds ready, because it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Unit 7. Twelfth Night
Twelfth Night has all the ingredients for a great love story—love letters, trickery and lies, confusing gender roles, and of course, parties. In this unit, we jump right in to explore all this fun and more.
Unit 8. Henry V
In this unit, we'll look at Henry V as Shakespeare's defining history play. We'll read some famous speeches of Henry's, and explore the themes of warfare and patriotism. By the end, you'll be experts in all things Henry, because whether you love a little romance or you live for a great battle scene, this play is for you.
Unit 9. Macbeth
We're guessing that you already know Macbeth's basic plot. After all, it is one of the most famous works of English literature. But in this unit, we will go even deeper into the greed, ambition, marriage, war, and even witches that appear in the play.
Sample Lesson - Introduction
Lesson 4: Party City (Act 2, Scenes 2 – 3)
Here's what's happening in Venice these days: the Turkish fleet has been defeated, and Othello is throwing a stylish shindig to celebrate. Not everyone will come away from this party with fond memories, though. We're betting there will be a fair few headaches and regrets come morning.
Of course, that doesn't mean that the party itself won't be full of awesomesauce excitement. Which is why we're gonna be flies on the wall for this lesson, where we will start to see Iago's plan take shape. We already know he hates Othello. His plan to make Brabantio angry at Othello and Desdemona getting hitched sure worked, but it didn't stick. The senators said it was fine because Othello is such a great guy.
So what's a poor guy like Iago to do? We'll find out at the party. This ain't your average celebration. It's also where the plot starts to change. So put on your party hat and get ready for some plot twists.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 2.4: Scream and Shout
We'll admit it; we totally belt out pop hits when we're in the shower. When we're driving to work in the morning, forget it. It's all Adele, all the time. We're pretty sure no one can hear us when we do that, though. We'd be a bit more shy if we sang those in public. In front of people. Yikes.
There are those among us, though, who aren't afraid to scream and shout and let it all out, no matter where they are. Cassio is one of those people. Iago knows he likes his drinks full and plays on this to get what he wants. Find out what happens by reading Act 2, Scenes 2 – 3. Then, check out Shmoop's take on it here.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 2.4a: Party Patrol
So you've read the party scene. Somehow, Othello fires Cassio after he ends up in a drunken fight. How did they get there? It's time to retrace their steps.
For this exercise, any time you see an event from Act 2, Scene 3, we want you to name the cause of that event. For each of the following events, answer these two questions:
- What leads up to it?
- Why does Iago want this to happen?
You should be able to answer each of these in one or two sentences. If you get lost along the way, check out our summaries of the play to guide you.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 2.4b: Avatar
One thing's for sure: you should never hire Iago as your next party planner. Unless you want your guests to get smashed and lose their jobs. Uh, we're guessing not. There's more to Othello's characters, though, than this detail. Who are the characters in this scene and what are their functions in the play overall?
Cassio and Roderigo are pretty minor characters who are both really important to the plot. Without them, Iago would have a whole lot of trouble carrying out his plans. Like The Initiative in Revenge or the mother in How I Met Your Mother, the significance of these two dudes is much larger than their smaller number of lines would suggest. So why are they in the play?
We want you to choose one of these guys, either Cassio or Roderigo, and draw a picture of them. No need to be fancy; just a black and white cartoon will do.
Done? Now, select three quotations from your man of choice, from scenes in the play so far, that demonstrate his character. Draw some speech bubbles to make your drawing come alive, voicing each of these quotes.
Once you're all done, write 50 – 100 words explaining how your quotes reveal or show small details about your character. Then, upload that thrilling cartoon and explanation below.
- Course Length: 18 weeks
- Grade Levels: 11, 12, College
- Course Type: Elective
- High School
Just what the heck is a Shmoop Online Course?
Common Core Standards
The following Common Core Standards are covered in this course:CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1