Shakespeare's Life and Work
Learn to read William Shakespeare's plays
Explore relationships between Shakespeare's world and present day, and learn literary analysis tools to better comprehend and enjoy his works.
5-7 hours a week
What You'll Learn
How do we read Shakespeare? Do his plays belong to the past or the present? To a famed dramatic genius or to readers and audiences around the globe? What do his plays really mean?
Moving between the world in which Shakespeare lived and the present day, this course will introduce different kinds of literary analysis that you can use when reading Shakespeare. With short videos filmed on location in England and readings covering topics like Shakespeare's contemporaries and the politics of modern performance, you will learn a range of critical tools that you can use to unlock the meaning and relevance of Shakespeare’s plays.
Join us as we visit Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born in 1564; London, the lively city where he began as an actor; and the Globe Theater, where his first plays were performed. This journey through Shakespeare’s life will transport you to another era and will give you a new perspective on his timeless work.
The course will be delivered via edX and connect learners around the world. By the end of the course, participants will be able to:
- The cultural significance of Shakespeare's plays and their performance
- How Shakespeare’s work was considered in his own time and in the present, in his own country and around the world
- Different approaches to textual interpretation
- How to consider authorial intention, historical context, and present relevance
- How to analyze Shakespeare's plays on the page and in performance
- Foundational knowledge on Shakespeare that can be applied to his specific works
Stephen Greenblatt is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He is the author of twelve books, including The Swerve: How the World Became Modern; Shakespeare's Freedom; Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare; Hamlet in Purgatory; Marvelous Possessions; and Renaissance Self-Fashioning. He is General Editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature and of The Norton Shakespeare, has edited seven collections of criticism, and is a founding editor of the journal Representations.
Areas of expertise:
- Early Modern Literature and Culture
- Literature of Travel and Exploration
- Religion and Literature
- Literature and Anthropology
- Literary and Cultural Theory
Ways to take this course
When you enroll in this course, you will have the option of pursuing a Verified Certificate or Auditing the Course.
A Verified Certificate costs $99 and provides unlimited access to full course materials, activities, tests, and forums. At the end of the course, learners who earn a passing grade can receive a certificate.
Alternatively, learners can Audit the course for free and have access to select course material, activities, tests, and forums. Please note that this track does not offer a certificate for learners who earn a passing grade.