BLS 347: Shakespeare Off the Page

William Shakespeare’s plays are among the most widely read, studied, analyzed, anthologized, and criticized works in all of literature. His plays have been performed on stages around the globe for four hundred years without going out of fashion. Why Shakespeare? This course will examine the universality of human behavior depicted in Shakespeare’s stories, his understanding of the human psyche demonstrated by his complex characters, his contribution to modern language and rhetoric, the historical and cultural contexts in which each play was written, and the appeal of his works today. This course will examine Shakespeare’s plays including a history (Richard III), tragedies (Julius CaesarRomeo and Juliet, and Hamlet), and comedies (A Midsummer Night’s DreamThe Tempest, and The Taming of the Shrew) and analyze each play not only as a work of literature but primarily as a blueprint for the production of film and live theatre. Students will examine the performance considerations of each play and explore how Shakespeare’s ideas can be interpreted for modern audiences.


  • Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Washington Square, 1992. ISBN 074347712X*
  • — The Tempest. Washington Square, 2004. ISBN 0743482832*
  • — Richard III. Washington Square, 2004. ISBN 0743482840*
  • — A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Washington Square, 2004. ISBN 0743477545*
  • — Julius Caesar. Washington Square, 2004. ISBN 0743482743*
  • One of the following:
    • — Romeo and Juliet. Washington Square, 1992. ISBN 0743477111*
    • — Taming of the Shrew. Washington Square, 1992. ISBN 0743477574*
  • Film adaptations:
    • Hamlet. Dir. Michael Almereyda. Perfs. Ethan Hawke, Julia Stiles, Bill Murray. Miramax, 2000.
    • Richard III. Dir. Richard Loncraine. Perfs. Ian McKellan, Annette Bening, Robert Downey Jr. United Artists, 1995.
    • Shakespeare in Love. Dir. John Madden. Perfs. Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judi Dench. Miramax, 1998.
  • Computer microphone for voice recording.
  • * For those who prefer a complete anthology, this one is recommended:
    The Complete Pelican Shakespeare. Penguin, 2002. ISBN 0141000589