William Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies : The Great Courses: English Literature

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Peter Saccio
  • Series: The Great Courses: English Literature
  • 18 hrs and 7 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Shakespeare's plays - whether a comedy like A Midsummer Night's Dream, a history like Henry IV, or a tragedy like Hamlet - are treasure troves of insight into our very humanity. These 36 lectures introduce you to Shakespeare's major plays from each of these three genres and explain the achievement that makes him the leading playwright in Western civilization.
As you'll see, the key to Shakespeare's massive achievement is his "abundance," according to Professor Saccio; not only in the number and length of his plays but in the variety of experiences they depict, the multitude of actions and characters they contain, the combination of public and private life they deal with, and the richness of feelings they express.
All the major plays are here for you to dive into, explore, and enjoy: The Taming of the Shrew (with its realistic look at bourgeois marriage customs), Measure for Measure (which shows Shakespeare breaking out of comic conventions), Richard III (the source of one of the Bard's most entertaining and frightening historical villains), Henry V (which raises questions about the morality of warfare), Macbeth (with its piercing look into the consciousness of a man hungry for power), and more. As the richness of each of these and other plays is revealed, you'll also touch upon the far-ranging philosophical and theological implications behind them. By the last lecture, you'll have a true understanding of why these comedies, histories, and tragedies endure even to this very day.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Connections across genres

What made the experience of listening to William Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies the most enjoyable?

Peter Saccio unfolds an extremely varied interpretation looking both at the structure of entire plays and sometimes at single soliloquies. He has a flair for knowing the exact amount of context needed to make his point, so that he is never far from Shakespeare's text. Thoroughly recommended for people who enjoy exercising their interpretative muscles and thinking along.

What about Professor Peter Saccio’s performance did you like?

That he obviously lives and breathes Shakespeare in that he has a lifelong relationship with and passion for the plays. He rarely gets pver-excited, though, and comes off as an intelligent man saying intelligent things about a subject he knows a lot about. If you yourself like or love Shakespeare this is the next best thing to discussing the text with like-minded fellows.

Any additional comments?

Be aware that not all of Shakespeare's plays are considered, although the big four tragedies, The Henriad, Richard III, Measure for Measure,The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice must be said to be a quite a representative selection.

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- Mikkel Lodahl

If music be the food of love, play on

Having never been a truly great fan of Shakespeare i approached this set of lectures with more then a great deal of trepidation, sometimes expanding your horizons can be more like trying to look at the midday sun rather then watching a cool sunset.

I was incredibly surprised how Prof Saccio made me fall in love with Shakespeare...not just my personal favourites like Twelfth Night but the histories the tragedies as well. The themes discussed in the lectures coupled with the performance of Saccio makes for an incredibly enjoyable, informative and thoroughly entertaining listen.

Whether you be a fan of Shakespeare or a novice you wont be disappointed.
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- Theran

Book Details

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