How to Read and Understand Shakespeare : The Great Courses: English Literature

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Marc C. Conner
  • Series: The Great Courses: English Literature
  • 12 hrs and 10 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Shakespeare's works are among the greatest of humanity's cultural expressions and, as such, demand to be experienced and understood.
But, simply put, Shakespeare is difficult. His language and culture - those of Elizabethan England - are greatly different from our own, and his poetry, thick with metaphorical imagery and double meanings, can be hard to penetrate.
Yet the keys to understanding Shakespeare are written into the plays themselves. If you can learn to recognize the playwright's own clues, you'll become able to engage meaningfully with his language, to follow the plot structures and themes that drive his plays, and to track the development of his characters.
Over the course of 24 lectures, this innovative and penetrating exploration of Shakespeare's plays reveals how to enter Shakespeare's dramatic world, how to grasp what's happening in any of his plays, and how to enjoy them fully both on the page and the stage.
Under Professor Conner's expert guidance, shaped by decades of studying and performing Shakespeare, you learn more than 40 interpretive tools, drawn from the texts themselves, that give you direct insight into the plays. These guiding principles allow you to follow the narratives of the plays as they unfold, with a clear understanding of how the plays function and fit together.
The professor also reveals fascinating details of Shakespeare's era, which shed further light on the plays and the way his contemporary audiences perceived them.
This course builds the skills that allow you to reach your own understanding of the plays - to deeply comprehend Shakespeare's transcendent poetic language, the spellbinding world of his great characters and stories, and his revelatory reflections on human experience.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Empowering overview of Shakespeare's works and themes

This is a great introduction for anybody who wants to start from scratch with Shakespeare. The courses are geared towards an assumption that the reader knows very little on the subject, which ultimately makes for a clear presentation.

The professor focuses on a handful of Shakespeare's plays, going over the stories and then illustrating critical analysis tools, and putting them to work. This is the best part-- you first learn how he is going to analyze the play, then observe that very analysis at work. The idea is that you can then delve into these plays on your own with these collected analysis tools.

Highly recommended!
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- Andy

understanding the Bard

Any additional comments?

as this was a non-fiction lecture series - the helpful review questions don't really apply.

The lectures were short enough to listen to in one sitting without being overwhelming. Each built on the previous, but could stand alone should you be more interested in one play/type of play than the others.

I found the lectures to be useful in understanding how the plays are structured - and what elements I should pay attention to in order to understand the story line. Often there are multiple stories within the play - being able to sort them out for comparison/contrasting helps grasp the overall theme.

I would recommend to anyone wanting to learn more or better appreciate Shakespeare.

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- MR

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses