William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest author of plays and poems in the English language. What is not widely recognized is that he was a free-thinking, skeptical radical, decades if not centuries ahead of his time. He wrote for two audiences: one was playgoers eager for diversion and entertainment; the other were those thoughtful "wiser sort" who, like many of us, were deeply concerned with the political, cultural, religious, and social questions of the day. Shakespeare had a lot to say to both audiences which, in good part, accounts for his timeless popularity. In this course, we read five of his greatest plays, and discuss and understand them as well-informed lovers of the theater and poetry. But we also sift his writings for the provocative ideas–radical and rebellious ideas–that fired the imagination of the "wiser sort" in Shakespeare’s time and now. We read and discuss the following plays: Comedy of Errors, Cymbeline, Troilus and Cressida, Romeo and Juliet, and Othello.
Mary Ann Wilson