Further information, Van Tassel: Shakespeare: Three Plays and Selected Sonnets

Expanded Course Description

In Richard the Third, an early play, we’ll witness Shakespeare’s energetic start in theater and benefit from his experimenting, especially with soliloquies, stichomythia, and dream sequences—all culminating in the victory by the Tudors in the Wars of the Roses.  In Measure for Measure, we engage a riddle of a comedy taking off as if en route to a tragedy but, with disguises and counterplots aplenty, careening to a comic curve culminating in multiple marriages.  In Hamlet, a signal work of the humanities, we plumb the tragic depth of a young prince’s grief, which leads him to seek revenge for the murder of his father.  In the wake of Hamlet’s mission, other deaths that occur include those of an elder counselor, of his sweetheart, of a close friend, and of his mother in addition to the targeted death of King Claudius, the uncle who had poisoned Hamlet’s father.  Tragically, getting even costs Hamlet his own life. 

The syllabus below pinpoints the acts and scenes of the plays and the numbers of the sonnets assigned for discussion on given dates.  A week or so prior to our first session, you’ll be emailed, as attachments, a course packet and a class roster to help you prepare for class discussions and to start getting acquainted with other members of the course.  In a way of priming the pump, the course packet includes notes, study guides, and discussion questions for each of the plays and poems.  If you don’t want the expense or trouble (involving paper, ink cartridges, and printer), you can purchase a printed course packet in advance and have it mailed to you for $8.

Any copies of the works will suit, but inexpensive Dover Thrift editions of each of the plays and the sonnet sequence have been ordered and are available at Content, the bookstore downtown Northfield, at 314 Division Street S., for a total of $12.50.

Week 1: Upon getting acquainted with each other and orienting ourselves to Zoom, we’ll turn our attention to the purposes and outline of the course as delineated in the course packet.  Book in hand and drawing on the relevant notes and discussion questions, we’ll spend the initial class discussing the assigned sonnets.

Week 2:  Armed with a copy of Richard the Third and our accompanying study guide, we’ll discuss the first three acts.

Week 3:  Today we’ll focus on the final two acts of Richard.  The relevant study questions and notes in our course packet will help inform our discussion.

Week 4:  For today’s class we’ll consider the first two acts of Measure for Measure.  Again, the study guide should serve to point up matters for inquiry and discussion.

Week 5:  In preparation for today’s discussion, read Acts III, IV, and V of Measure for Measure and address items in the pertinent study guide.

Week 6:  Today we start Hamlet, Act I.  Again, you’ll find the discussion questions helpful for gearing up for class.

Week 7:  For today, we’ll focus on Acts II and III of Hamlet, study guide in hand.

Week 8:  We’ll wrap up the course by reading and discussing the last two acts of Hamlet, connecting with the questions and observations from the study guide, the enclosed article, and any additional questions or observations you jot down to share in class.