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

To Listen or Not to Listen…

This is a fantastic, but short, course providing techniques for understanding Shakespeare. As a precursor, I have always enjoyed the wit of Shakespeare and his command of language. Shakespeare mastered wordcraft like no one before or since, and I am awed by his ability to layer multiple meanings into a simple phrase. So, a reader of this review should understand that I am more than a little biased toward the Bard. The professor is more than a little biased too and clearly admires Shakespeare as the greatest writer in the history of the English language.

This course does not attempt to analyze all of Shakespeare's plays. Instead, this course presents interpretative techniques such as the "foul is fair and fair is foul" technique and the "block to love" technique. He explains various techniques, then selects a play where a technique works particularly well and applies the technique to that play. In that manner, the professor provides detailed analysis for about a half-dozen of Shakespeare's plays. The professor does a good job explaining the techniques and demonstrating the application. Though I was a fan of Shakespeare before this course, I feel better armed now to interpret plays. The professor shared new insights and thoughtful observations. The professor has made me even more interested in Shakespeare, and I look forward to my next opportunity to catch a play.
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- Ark1836

Book Details

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