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Winter Registration Opens Nov 29
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LIT 23 — Shakespeare and His Elizabethan World

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Jan 26—Mar 16
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 28
Unit: 1
Tuition: $410
Instructor(s): Abigail Heald
Limit: 40
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Registration opens Nov 29, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Jan 26—Mar 16
8 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 28
1 Unit
Abigail Heald
Registration opens Nov 29, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
This course explores Shakespeare in the context of the society that shaped him. Shakespeare’s plays are often experienced outside of their historical context, watched onstage, or read from an anthology. In this course, we will put Shakespeare in his historical moment, the rich tapestry of Elizabethan England. It was a world that witnessed what has been called "the end of the old and the start of the new,” as inherited ideas clashed with new thinking and new discoveries, upending familiar ideas and institutions. We will look at Shakespeare’s plays alongside these historical and cultural shifts. For example, we will read The Taming of the Shrew alongside a 16th-century marriage manual, exploring the relationship between men and women at a time when England’s rigidly patriarchal society was ruled by an indomitable queen. We will also read The Merchant of Venice, tracking Shakespeare’s sense of the difference between Christians and Jews at a time when the Reformation had divided English Christianity against itself. Othello will give us the opportunity to examine how Islam and the world to the East were objects of fascination and revulsion for European audiences, as the two were brought together in voyages of discovery and growing international trade. And The Tempest, read with stories of the New World, will provide a window into a continent on the threshold of discovery.

No prior experience with Shakespeare is required, just a desire to understand the real historical context in which the Bard wrote his plays.

Lecturer in Literature, UC Santa Cruz

Abigail Heald teaches courses on drama and the Renaissance. She taught for three years in Stanford’s Introduction to the Humanities program. Heald received a PhD from Princeton and is writing a book on the relationship between art and emotion in Shakespeare’s work.