Triangulating Shakespeare

The syllabus for English 339, Introduction to Shakespeare, structures activities and assignments around reading, viewing and performing.

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The ten week quarter is divided into five two week periods, each focussed on one play.

To promote reading on time, the second class of each period begins with a multiple-choice quiz requiring identification of ten speakers of crucial lines, questions per act.

[sample quiz in pdf format]

Students are encouraged to view one of two performances--usually the BBC full text video--to help them prepare for this quiz.

Discussion of quiz questions and answers frames an overview of plot, character, theme and language, informed by a paradigm of critical topics.

At the end of each two-week period, students write a one page paper--between 250 and 1000 words depending on fontsize and format--on a topic of their own choice. At the end of the quarter each student submits a clean copy of their favorite paper for inclusion in a class anthology, Shakespeare Boiled Down, distributed at the final exam.

Analyzing their fellow students' in-class performances and discussing them with the actors illuminates what's new, what works, what doesnt work, and why.

To assure their attendance at each week's out-of-class viewing of two performances, students submit a one-page ungraded comparison/contrast of a single element in both appended to their papers.

[Sample comparison reviews of The Winter's Tale --BBC vs. English 510 Players productions]

Each student participates in one of five in-class scenes performed during the ten-week quarter.

The scenes are videotaped and go on reserve in the library, so the players can see themselves, and also for comparison with the two filmed versions of complete productions viewed and discussed during the two weeks devoted to each play.

At the London Program, English 339 Players perform pub scenes from Henry IV Part I in the George Inn, Southwark, where Shakespeare likely went after shows at the Globe.

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