In this course we'll study the first half
of Shakespeare's career, paying special attention to his work in
comedy and history. We'll bridge comedy and history by reading
two history plays one of which contains the character of
Falstaff, one of Shakespeare’s great comic creations. In our
readings we'll trace Shakespeare's deepening understanding of
the conflicts between the inner personal world and the outer
social one. We'll follow Shakespeare's exploration of the limits
of comedy as he shows us how comedy and tragedy sometimes blend
into each another. We’ll then finish our reading with Hamlet,
a tragedy written in the same year as Twelfth Night,
paying special attention to the ways in which these plays are
different yet alike. Our overall approach will involve a close
look at Shakespeare's humanized villains, as well as at his
comic heroes and heroines. Hopefully, we'll learn to enjoy these
plays as the creations of one of the most brilliant minds in the
history of Western culture.
Assignments will be given on a
class-by-class basis. We’ll read a few selected plays closely
rather than a large quantity of them superficially. I prefer to
keep the reading schedule flexible, since much that happens in a
course like this involves discovery and surprise. Often a
discussion of a particular play or issue will take several class
sessions, since new ideas will lead to new insights and require
more class time than originally planned for the material. My
goal is to have discussions which are open to possibilities
neither I nor my students can anticipate. The amount of reading
done on this basis will be the same as the amount the class
would do on a set schedule. The plays to be read include The
Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The
Merchant of Venice, Much Ado about Nothing,
The First Part of Henry the Fourth, The Tragedy of
Richard the Third, Twelfth Night, and The Tragedy
of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. I reserve the right to modify
this list as we go along, depending on time constraints.
1. General participation and attendance
(10%). Students are expected to attend every class and actively
contribute to discussion. There are no general unexcused
absences; attendance will be taken at all classes, and the
instructor should be notified by e-mail or telephone or in
writing if an absence is unavoidable. Students who do not
participate in discussion tend to place a burden on those who
do, since only a few viewpoints are expressed. All students are
therefore required to participate in class discussion. Students
with personal reasons for classroom non-participation should
contact me at the start of the semester.
Class contribution takes several forms.
Students may ask questions at any point during a class; students
and teacher may engage in question-and-answer dialogue; the
class as a whole may engage in open discussion, sharing ideas
and attempting as a group to deepen our understanding of the
material. Students should work at participating effectively in
all these formats.
Several films will also be scheduled for
class viewing. Attendance will be required; advance notice will
be given as to time and place.
2. Written work (70%). Two critical papers
will be assigned on themes and topics to be discussed; the focus
of these papers will be on a conceptual understanding of
Shakespearean comedy. The length of the first paper will be
approximately five pages, the length of the second paper between
eight and ten pages. Both papers will involve research (the use
of at least two off-line sources in addition to the primary
works discussed). The final paper will due on the final exam
date. These papers are to be well organized and thoroughly
The format of the first sample student
paper in The Little, Brown Handbook in the chapter
entitled “Two Research Papers in the MLA Style,” is to be
followed; bibliographic and “Works Cited” formats are to be
found in the chapter entitled “Using MLA Documentation and
Format.” Any paper that has not been spell-checked or does not
follow format guidelines will receive an automatic “F.” All
corrections and editorial changes indicated by the instructor
must be made before the next paper is submitted, otherwise the
grade on the following paper will be "F." As above, no
All papers submitted for a grade must be
kept in a plain tab folder in which each assignment will be
placed and handed in with new work. For example, when the second
paper is submitted, it must be accompanied in a plain tab folder
by the first paper, along with all previous graded work. All
papers are due at the start of class from the author on the
specified due date; papers not handed in on time will be
penalized one letter grade per day.
3. Preparations and quizzes (20%). There
will be quotation quizzes on the plays we read. These quizzes
will be given on the second day after each reading assignment is
due. There will also be class preparation materials due the
first day of each reading assignment. (See attached example.)
You should be aware that evidence of preparation will be
important in this class.
4. Grades on the papers (and in the course)
will not necessarily be averaged; much weight will be given to
improvement. Each student's written and oral work will be
assessed on an individual basis, with emphasis on consistency
and the achievement of higher standards as the course proceeds.
In addition to the assigned work, each
student may do extra assignments based on the course reading
(vocabulary lists, for example), campus events (films, plays,
etc.), as well as outside reading. This work will be read and
graded and included in the above-mentioned folder. Thus, much
work in this class may well be individually generated. I call
this process making the case for the “A.”
Note: it is course policy that all assigned
work (papers, preps, quizzes, exams, etc.) must be completed in
order for a student to pass this course.
Further note: An optional final exam is
available for those who select it. In my opinion, only those
students who feel they are between grades should select this
option. The grade on this exam will be used to determine which
of two grades (higher or lower) the student will receive.
Another note: the averaging method may be
elected by a student if that student so chooses; this must be
done at the start of the course. Notify me within a week of the
start of the semester. After one week, there can be no changes
in the grading system.
5. The Mercer Honor Code is in effect at
all times in this course. The consequences of violating this
code are serious, and all students should be aware of this.
6. Students with a documented disability
should inform the instructor at the close of the first class
meeting or as soon as possible. If you are not registered with
Disability Services, the instructor will refer you to the
Student Support Services office for consultation regarding
documentation of your disability and eligibility for
accommodations under the ADA/504. In order to receive
accommodations, eligible students must provide each instructor
with a Faculty Accommodation Form from Disability Services.
Students must return the completed and signed form to the
Disability Services office on the 3rd
floor of the Connell Student Center. Students with a documented
disability who do not wish to use accommodations are strongly
encouraged to register with Disability Services and complete a
Faculty Accommodation Form each semester. For further
information please contact Disability Services at 301-2778 or
visit the web site at
ENGLISH 332 CLASS
FULL TITLE & DATE OF PLAY
Ten points total.
1. PICK TWO EXAMPLES OF INTERESTING OR
ORIGINAL USE OF LANGUAGE IN THIS PLAY. EXPLAIN IN DETAIL WHY YOU
HAVE CHOSEN THESE PASSAGES.
2. IDENTIFY THE COMIC HERO OR HEROINE.
THEN BRIEFLY EXPLAIN WHY THE AUDIENCE MIGHT WANT THIS CHARACTER
TO SUCCEED. IF YOU DO NOT THINK THERE IS A COMIC HERO OR HEROINE
IN THIS PLAY, EXPLAIN WHY.
3. IS THERE A VILLAIN IN THIS PLAY? IF
SO, WHO IS IT AND WHY DOES THE CHARACTER SEEM TO PLAY THIS ROLE
TO YOU? IF THERE IS NO VILLAIN, OFFER AN EXPLANATION FOR THIS IN
TERMS OF THE PLAY AS A WHOLE.
GENERAL REFLECTIONS ON ANY ISSUE (THIS MAY INCLUDE LANGUAGE,
IMAGERY, CHARACTER, THEME, ETC.)THAT SEEMS OF INTEREST TO YOU IN
THIS PLAY. CONNECTIONS WITH OTHER PLAYS? DIFFERENCES?
SIMILARITIES? THIS QUESTION IS OPTIONAL.