L22001: Introduction to Shakespeare

Summer (1) 2020 Web

Our course is aimed at the novice, the student who has little or no experience with Shakespeare on the page, in the theater, or at the cinema.  We'll study four plays. Normally we would watch a film production of each. However, given the circumstances, I will try to make available an online audio version available and, if possible, video. I can also make recommendations for materials you can find on Amazon Prime, for example.

We'll have two graded exercises each week (with two exceptions),  a midterm, and a final.  


Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (the folks in Stratford, UK)

Folger Shakespeare Library (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)


L-R: Helen Mirren, Felicity Jones and Djimon Hounsou in Taymor’s “Tempest.” Photo M.S. Gordon

English L22001: Introduction to Shakespeare

Summer (1) 2020  Web

email: stapletm@pfw.edu 

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, including line and page numbers. If you choose not to buy it, you  will need to collate your version with it, since it will have different line numbers.  

You'll need access to PowerPoint to see and hear my lectures. I apologize for their quality in advance. 

Analytical Writing PowerPoint I

Analytical Writing PowerPoint II

First Week (18-22 May)

Twelfth Night

First exercise, due 20 May (W)

What do these speeches say, and what is their larger significance?

"I left no ring" (2.2.16-40)

The Clown's lines (3.1.1-48)

Second exercise, due 22 May (F)

Same instructions: what are they saying, and what's the larger significance?

The exchange between Orsino and Viola at the play's midpoint: "Once more, Cesario" to "My love can give no place" (2.4.76-121).


Welcome presentation

Reading Shakespeare

Twelfth Night  and Comedy

Video and Audio (You Tube)

Twelfth Night (1969) Sir Alec Guiness as Malvolio; Dame Joan Plowright as Viola

Twelfth Night (1986) Geoffrey Rush

Twelfth Night (1996) All-star movie cast. What we'd watch.  This is $3.99 to rent, $4.99 to buy

Twelfth Night (audio) LibriVox

Second Week (25-29 May)

Twelfth Night and Henry V

Third exercise, due 27 May (W)

"Oh, ho, do you come near me now?" (TN 3.4.60-75) Why is this speech in the play?

 "So full of shapes is fancy / That it alone is high fantastical?" (TN 1.1.14-15). How do these lines illustrate 4.3 and elsewhere?

Fourth exercise, due 29 May (F)

What happens in Act 1 of Henry V?

"The mercy that was quick in us but late, / By your own counsel is suppress'd and kill'd" (2.2.77-141). What is the point of Henry's longish speech? 

 "Once more unto the breach" (3.1.1-34). How does the language of this speech modify Henry's character, if you think it does? How does the following scene (3.2) seem to comment on it?


More Twelfth Night

Henry V, History, and Shakespeare's History Plays

King's MS 395, 16th c. family tree of kings of England

Third Week (1-5 June)

Henry V

Fifth exercise, due 3 June (W)

"Upon the king!" (4.1.180-238). How do you think Shakespeare intended us to take this speech?

"If we are marked to die" (4.3.22-69). How does this passage square with the "Upon the king" speech?

Henry's wooing of Katherine (5.2.100); does anything strike you as odd or strange?

5 June  (F): First exam due via email by 9 a.m. stapletm@pfw.edu

See below

Video and Audio (You Tube &c.)

Henry V (2019) Barn Theatre, UK. Amalgam of scenes. Begins about 10 minutes in.

Henry V (1989) Kenneth Branagh. Film version. Clips on You Tube. 

Henry V (1979) BBC version, on Amazon Prime for rent.

Henry V (1944) Sir Laurence Olivier, on Amazon Prime for rent.

Henry V (audio) LibriVox

Fourth Week (8-12 June)


Sixth exercise, due 10 June (W)

Macbeth's soliloquy "If it were done when 'tis done" (1.7). What is the significance? 

The Porter scene is hardly comic relief (2.3), though William Hazlitt insisted it was. What could be its purpose? 

Seventh exercise, due 12 June (F)

What is the point of the conversation between Lady Macduff and her son? Why is it in the play? (4.2) 

How does the Lady's soliloquy (1.5) echo in the last part of the play, Act 5? 

Video and Audio (You Tube &c)

Macbeth (2014) Len Falkenstein. Outdoor production. YouTube

Macbeth (1971) Roman Polanski. My favorite. Amazon Prime. $2.99 to rent.

Macbeth (1979) Judi Dench, Ian Mackellen. Amazon Prime

Macbeth (2011) Patrick Stewart. Amazon Prime

Macbeth (audio) Paul Scofield and Peggy Ashcroft (1966)

Fifth Week (15-19 June)

Macbeth and The Tempest

Eighth exercise, due 17 June (W)

How does the most famous speech in Macbeth, "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" (5.5.17), connect to the rest of the action? 

How justified is Malcolm's joint epithet for Macbeth and the Lady? "this dead butcher and his fiendlike queen" (5.7.99)?

Ninth exercise, due 19 June (F)

In The Tempest, the speech beginning "Abhorred slave, / Which any print of goodness wilt not take" (1.2.350-61) was assigned to Prospero for two centuries of Shakespeare editions, though the original text, the First Folio, gave it to Miranda. Do you think it should be Miranda's or Prospero's? Explain specifically.

 "Be not afeard: the isle is full of noises" (3.2.138-46) could be described as the play's most moving speech, even though it is delivered by a character who is flawed, to say the least. What could Shakespeare's reasoning have been in assigning it to Caliban? 

Video and Audio (You Tube &c)

The Tempest (2014) Savage Rose Theatre. You Tube

The Tempest (1980) BBC version on Facebook

The Tempest (2010) Helen Mirren as Prospero. On You Tube.

The Tempest (audio) Free Audiobooks


Sixth Week (22-26 June)

The Tempest   

Tenth exercise, due 22 June (M)

One of the ten most celebrated speeches in the Shakespeare canon, Prospero's farewell, "Ye elves of hills"

(5.133-87) has been subjected to a number of interpretations, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Here's a challenge for you: how could it be interpreted as the manifesto of the artist, whether a painter, poet, playwright, or maker of comic books? 

26 June (F): Second exam due via email, 9 a.m.  stapletm@pfw.edu

See below


Ellen Terry by Julia Margaret Cameron


Since our course is virtual, there is no formal attendance. Your participation by turning in your  work on time is the equivalent. 

I'll create lectures on PowerPoint with sound to help you negotiate the plays. Please note that I detest the sound of my own voice and am not as competent in computer technology as you are.  I'll either post the material on this page or send it via email.

If you signed up for the class, it is understood that you will turn in your assignments on the due dates and respond to queries or email from me, and that you are able to do so regardless of personal circumstances. If circumstances prevent you from participation in this rudimentary way, drop the course.   


Your exercises and take-home exams are due on the scheduled  dates by 9 a.m. via email. Late papers = 0. No exceptions. The exercises will be 2 pp., the exams 4 pp.   

Your first exam may be revised after meeting with me via Zoom or some other platform.


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  1) midterm, 2) final exam, both graded on a 100 pt. scale; and 3) 10 exercises, each graded on a 5 pt. scale.  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.  


Follow instructions

Follow instructions

Follow instructions

Please pay attention to the instructions for each assignment. This tends to be the most significant factor in your success.

There is no need for introductory paragraphs for your exercises. Get right to the material. Please include your name at the top of the page. 

Summary v. Analysis

Follow instructions

Follow instructions

Summary: the basic and least important component of each exercise. Identify the speaker, explain the situation, and briefly narrate what the speech is about.

Analysis:  the opposite of summary, the most important and least basic component of each exercise. What is the significance of the character's speech? Word choice, tone, larger significance for the rest of the play? 

For more detail, see the sections Analytical Writing and Writing Summaries on this website's WRITING page.  

Formatting Basics

Follow instructions

Formatting Basics

Play titles or abbreviations are italicized, not in "quotation marks."

Our way of quoting is "blah blah blah" (TN 3.1.1-4). In-text, parenthetical cite follows the closing quotation mark, and final punctuation follows the closing parenthesis. That's play abbreviation, act, scene, line-numbers. 

Since we are not British or Canadian, we do not use 'single quotation marks' except in exceptional circumstances. If you want to use a word as a word example, use "quotation marks." 

Lines in block quotation do not need quotation marks. Honor line-divisions in Shakespeare's poetry. 

Lines in-text need quotation marks, with slash marks to separate lines, e.g., "blah blah blah, / blah blah blah" (AB 3.1.22).

For more detail, see the sections Quoting Poetry and Lead-ins and Quotations on this website's WRITING page. 


Due Dates

Formatting Basics

2 pp., double-spaced, Microsoft Word document. 


Due Dates

Due Dates

Due Dates

Although all ten exercise topics are posted on the syllabus before they are due, you are welcome to complete as many of them as you like in advance. 



Due Dates

Due Dates

The ten assignments are each graded on a 5-point scale.  Generally, 5 = A range, 1 = F, and zero is worse. These comprise one-third of your grade, and are averaged together. The maximum number of points you can earn is 50. The grade range  corresponds to the assignment points for each exercise. 45-50 = A range. 40-44 = B range. 35-39 = C range. 30-34 = D.  29 and below = F

To average these in with your two 100-point scale exam grades, I'll multiply your exercise number by 2. So, for instance, if you garner 40 pts. for your shorter assignments, 40 x 2 = 80 = B. 

instructions for exam writing


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

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

Who said it? Where, and why? Who the hell cares, and why should it matter?

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

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

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

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

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

Avoid summary or storytelling: analysis only, please

Devote a solid paragraph-page to each quotation

 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

Avoid summary or storytelling: analysis only, please

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

Avoid summary or storytelling: analysis only, please

Avoid summary or storytelling: analysis only, please

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  exams should be 4 pp., double-spaced.  

Exams are graded on a 100-point scale, i.e., 90-100 = A, and so forth. 

You are allowed to revise your first exam, provided that you meet with me via Zoom to discuss it. You are welcome to turn in the revision at any time before the due date for your second exam, 26 June, 9 a.m.

first exam: Answer both questions

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

"I am not what I am" (TN 3.1.132)

This seems like an obvious thing for the disguised Viola to say while fending off the advances of the lovesick and beguiled Olivia.

1. Can the phrase be applied to Viola ironically as well?

Is she somehow unaware of who she projects herself to be? Is there any discrepancy between what she says about herself and who she really might be? Do her actions somehow contradict her words?

Which words or phrases in Twelfth Night 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. 

2. Viola's phrase echoes in our history play.

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

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: attend to the whole thing


"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 two plays.  

Review the ten brief passages from Macbeth and The Tempest that are reproduced below. Decide for yourself which group of lines  from the Scottish play  and which from the comedy featuring Prospero would be best discussed together. 

Before you write, then, you should have five pairs of quotations made up from each drama. Devote one section of your exam to each dyad you create. There's no wrong way to do this, just as long as you stick to the two extracts you've chosen to join together.

To return to the aforementioned "splendid observation": some would say that Shakespeare rewrites his tragedies in his final phase. Do you find this occurring as you decide which sets of  lines from both works should be read together? Or have you reached a different conclusion as the result of your scholarly endeavors?

The Tempest

 Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick,
Yet with my nobler reason 'gainst my fury
Do I take part: the rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance  (5.1)

You, brother mine, that entertain'd ambition,
Expell'd remorse and nature; who, with Sebastian,
Whose inward pinches therefore are most strong,
Would here have kill'd your king; I do forgive thee,
Unnatural though thou art  (5.1)

By accident most strange, bountiful Fortune,
Now my dear lady, hath mine enemies
Brought to this shore; and by my prescience
I find my zenith doth depend upon
A most auspicious star, whose influence
If now I court not but omit, my fortunes
Will ever after droop  (1.2)

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again. (3.2)

There's nothing ill can dwell in such a temple:
If the ill spirit have so fair a house,
Good things will strive to dwell with't.  (1.2)


Whence is that knocking?
How is't with me, when every noise appalls me?
What hands are here? ha! they pluck out mine eyes.
Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas in incarnadine,
Making the green one red. (2.2)

There's no art
To find the mind's construction in the face:
He was a gentleman on whom I built
An absolute trust. (1.4)

Time, thou anticipatest my dread exploits:
The flighty purpose never is o'ertook
Unless the deed go with it; from this moment
The very firstlings of my heart shall be
The firstlings of my hand.  (4.1)

Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. (5.5)

O, never
Shall sun that morrow see!
Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
May read strange matters. To beguile the time,
Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under't. He that's coming
Must be provided for: and you shall put
This night's great business into my dispatch;
Which shall to all our nights and days to come
Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom. (1.5)



Late papers = 0

4 pp. 


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

Microsoft Word only