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Shakespeare's Plays

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.

Course Breakdown

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)

An English bulldog in a party hat.
Ain't no party like a Cyprus party! (Source)

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.