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400-Level Senior Seminar Course  
UI-431      Shakespeare's Tragedies and the Human Condition
Catalog Description

An interdisciplinary study of 9 plays by Shakespeare as they relate to contemporary issues and events.

Course Content

Shakespeare's characters and his themes are timeless. Hamlet, and Brutus, and King Lear, and Macbeth still exist and may be found anywhere from Wall Street to Main Street. Shakespeare's plays provoke timely questions: What rights and responsibilities does one generation have in its relationships to other generations? What is the effect of racial prejudice? Does power corrupt? Does civilization save us or destroy us? How can modern man find harmony in an imperfect world? This class is designed to encourage students to find their own answers to these and many other questions.


The course requires close reading of the assigned plays and some use of critical material. It also requires that students be moderately well informed on current events that are newsworthy.

Nature of Course

This is a course based on discussion and performance, with students participating in both. Guest lecturers from other disciplines will present some plays from their own perspectives. For example, one lecture on Hamlet might be presented by a psychologist. Or an instructor from music might present Verdi's opera Otello as the class studies Shakespeare's Othello. Films or excerpts from films will be shown or made available to students.

Student Expectations
  1. Regular class attendance.
  2. Research paper or creative project.
  3. Close reading of material.
  4. One examination for each play, both objective and essay, with the lowest grade to be dropped.
  5. Active participation in class discussions.

Completion of any course in the Literary Expression category.



Credit Hours 3