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ENGL 3000 Shakespeare for Nonmajors


Instructor: Dr. Rachael Deagman



In this course we will read six of William Shakespeare’s plays written over the span of his career. While there are many approaches to studying the work of this great early modern playwright, we will focus on Shakespeare’s astonishingly rich and complex use of language and on his clever experimentation with genre. Whereas the early comedies celebrate the conventions of courtship and the capriciousness of love, the late romances are less about lovers wooing one another and more about patterns of disorientation, recognition, and the possibilities of forgiveness. The histories contemplate England’s national identity through investigations of family, friendship, power and kingship. The later tragedies also connect human relationships to political power but do so with tremendous skepticism and ambiguity. We will learn to recognize how these genres differ from one another and also how Shakespeare invokes these forms only to then blur the lines among them. Most of all, we will keep in mind that drama is a genre that moves from page to stage; that is to say, Shakespeare’s plays were not merely written to be read but rather to be performed by embodied actors in time and space.


Students who read closely and carefully and who actively participate in the work of the course will have the ability to do the following by the end of term:

  • Interpret and analyze the assigned plays with a particular emphasis on language, genre, historical context and performance;
  • Identify important cultural contexts of early modern drama such as antitheatricalism, religious reform, theater history, and theatrical space;
  • Describe the link between page (written text) and stage (performance);
  • Write clear, concise, analytical prose.


The course text is available for purchase in the CU Bookstore:

Greenblatt, Stephen, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard and Katharine Eisaman Maus, eds. The Norton Shakespeare: Essential Plays and the Sonnets. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2009. Print.

Please do not substitute with other editions of Shakespeare’s plays. The reading assignments for this class will not make sense to you if you’re working from another edition. You may also order the book from an online bookseller or check to see if the library has a copy.

Online Resources

  • Oxford English Dictionary:
  • Purdue OWL (online writing lab) includes a guide for proper MLA citation:
  • Shakespeare’s Globe Virtual Tour offers a panoramic view of the interior and exterior of the reconstructed Globe theater in London: us/virtual-tour
  • Blackfriars Playhouse Virtual Tour provides a view of the interior and exterior of the reconstructed Blackfriars theater in Staunton, VA: do believe that summaries can be useful if you need help with plot and characters. However, these summaries should offer supplemental guidance for you rather than serving as a substitute for a careful reading of the play. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. offers responsible summaries of the plays in addition to other interesting and useful links:


Naturally your final grade for this course will reflect the quality of reading and writing you produce; it also depends on the quality of your participation in the work of the course. Thus, your thoughtful responses to the texts, your active participation in discussion posts, and your overall level of effort will greatly contribute to your final grade.

The percentage breakdown is as follows:

Syllabus Quiz 5%
Discussion Posts 25%
Short Writing Assignments 35% (7% each)
Final Project 35%


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