L41500 / L52501: Major plays of Shakespeare

Spring 2020 TR 3-4.15 LA 212

Our course is aimed at the intermediate, the student who has some experience with Shakespeare on the page, in the theater, or at the cinema.  We'll study six to eight plays, watching a film production of each. 

We'll have an early essay, a take-home midterm and final, and make several short presentations on important passages in the texts to stimulate discussion. 


Arkangel Shakespeare (audio recordings of the plays by the Royal Shakespeare Company)

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (the folks in Stratford)

Folger Shakespeare Library (the finest American resource available for Shakespeare study)

British Library (finest UK resource for Shakespeare)

Historical Editions of Shakespeare (a fairly complete run of all texts from the early quartos to the end of the nineteenth century)

Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive (all the engravings from the great nineteenth-century editions)



English L41501 / L52501: Major Plays of Shakespeare

Spring 2020  TR 3-4.15  LA 212

Office:  LA 233  Hours: please contact me

email: stapletm@pfw.edu   phone: 481.6841 (message)

webpage: www.elmlsteach.org


Greenblatt et al., eds., The Norton Shakespeare: Essential Plays. The Sonnets (vol. 3E)

Please note: this is the edition I'll be using, and some of the assigned reading for presentations is from this text. If you choose not to buy it, you are still responsible for the material. Perhaps a friendly classmate will help you out.  But you can't be lackadaisical here.  

Electronic Devices:

Yes, please. Feel free. I only ask that you use their magic powers for Good.  E. g.  don't use your phone as a textbook.

First Play

Second Play

Third Play

Fourth Play

Fifth Play


Sixth Play

Seventh Play

Eighth Play




You are allowed five (5) absences for any reason you choose. Students who miss more than this will fail the course, without exception, regardless of circumstances. I do not distinguish between “excused” and “unexcused” absences, nor am I responsible for material that you miss because you are absent. Students who miss the attendance call (the first five minutes of class) will be marked absent; students who get up and leave in the middle of class will be marked absent. Please take care of your rest room issues BEFORE class. If you must leave, give us the high sign.  DON'T JUST GET UP AND WALK OUT.

NOTE: if you signed up for the class, it is understood that you can attend it regardless of family or employment obligations. If you have emergencies, this is why you have absences allowed.  Doctors's notes, team travel letters, and other personal effects do not entitle students to extra absences. If circumstances prevent you from observing the attendance policy, drop the course.   


Your paper and take-home exams are due on the scheduled non-class dates by 9 a.m. via email. Late papers = 0. No exceptions. These will be short, 4-5 pp. for undergrads, 10-12 pp. for grads. Your paper and first exam may be revised after meeting with the instructor in the office and discussing your plans.


It should go without saying that students are also expected to do their own work; indebtedness to secondary materials (either printed or electronic) must be clearly indicated so as to avoid plagiarism: 

—(piecemeal) using someone else’s words and phrases as if they were your own, not pararphrasing or summarizing properly, even with proper documentation;
—(grotesque) using someone else’s ideas as if they were your own, without proper documentation;
—(more grotesque) allowing someone else to write your paper for you.     



The course grade will be determined by a rough averaging together of your  paper, take-home midterm, take-home final exam, and the less formal writing I will assign individually for presentational purposes. I reserve the right to take into additional factors into account; improvement, class participation, and, of course, attendance. Grades are not negotiable, personal, or subject to the influence of extracurricular academic factors. 


You may email me at any time. I will usually get back to you quickly: stapletm@pfw.edu

I always acknowledge an email submission with a reply confirming receipt. If you DON'T hear from me after a reasonable period of time, it means I didn't get the paper. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up in this case, not mine.  


To get you involved and your voices heard, we'll try and run things like a seminar for part of every class period. At first, I'll be assigning our short presentation topics ahead of time, or you can volunteer. They will sharpen your mind and engage you in the material: a line, passage, or scene germane to our class. Before you come to class, you'll write up a brief version of your presentation (one paragraph), including a picture that will help us visualize. And you'll email it to me. I will then post it on my teaching blog, which will be accessible for all to see while you're talking.  You may read notes, do a PowerPoint, or PERFORM. 

instructions for exam writing

Identify each quotation

Who said it? Where, and why? 

Explain, specifically, how it relates to the point you're making

Which words or phrases make reference to the concept you're trying to explain, and why does your evidence matter?  

Devote a solid paragraph-page to each quotation

Paragraphs should be focused on a single topic, with topic sentences, evidence, and analysis. They should not consist of a series of broad, unrelated statements.

Relate the quotations to one another

 This is where we see what you've got. Which words and phrases seem especially important in each quotation as they relate to the other quotations?  

Avoid summary or storytelling: analysis only, please

What each quotation says is fairly clear. So there's no need to rehash or summarize the Shakespeare. Assume we can all read it. Why does it matter? Why is it important? What insight can you bring to the material?

Check out the Writing page--Revision

Go up to the site menu and click on Writing. Pay special attention to the sections on analysis, lead-ins and quotations, and quoting poetry.

We cite Shakespeare in parentheses by (Play abbr. act.scene.line-numbers).  TN, H5

Your  first paper should be 3-4 pp., double-spaced.  Your second essay should be 4-6 pp., double-spaced.

You are allowed to revise your paper and first exam, provided that you meet with me in the office to discuss it first. You are welcome to turn in the revision at any time before the due date for your second exam.

First paper




Be sure that I acknowledge the receipt of your exam in responding to the email including your exam. 

Microsoft Word only

first exam

Tom Hiddleston as Henry V, The Hollow Crown (2016)


Shakespeare's conqueror is clearly not at all times the blameless "mirror of all Christian kings" (H5 2.Pr.6).  Apply the idea from the first question to Henry, but with a twist: is he aware of this discrepancy in himself?

Which words or phrases in Henry V make reference to this concept, and why does your evidence matter?   

Paragraphs should be focused on a single topic, with topic sentences, evidence, and analysis. They should not consist of a series of broad, unrelated statements. 

Late papers = 0

3-4 pp.


Be sure that I acknowledge the receipt of your exam in responding to the email including your exam. 

Microsoft Word only

second exam



"The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together."

Let's take this splendid observation and apply it to our plays.  


Be sure that I acknowledge the receipt of your exam in responding to the email including your exam. 

Microsoft Word only