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Shakespeare’s Early Plays

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Shakespeare’s Early Plays Joyce Van Dyke

ENGL E-124, Fall 2014

Tuesday 5:30-7:30 PM Office: Widener 772

Maxwell Dworkin G-115 Greta Pane (TA)

1. Schedule
Sept. 2 Introduction
Sept. 9* A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Sept. 16* A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Sept. 23* Richard III
Sept. 30* Richard III

Oct. 7* Henry IV, Part 1

Exercise 1 assigned
Oct. 14 * Henry IV, Part 1

Exercise 1 due
Oct. 21* Henry V

Oct. 28* Hamlet

Nov. 4* Hamlet

Nov. 11* Hamlet

Nov. 18* Hamlet

Exercise 2 assigned
Nov. 25 Acting Shakespeare
Dec. 2* Twelfth Night
Dec. 9 Twelfth Night

Exercise 2 due / Graduate term papers due
Dec. 16 Final exam
* Movie this week: see Movies below. Movies are optional but highly recommended.

2. Course Requirements


The only required reading is the texts of the plays. Each play should be read at least twice. Optional additional readings will be posted on the course website or handed out in class. Texts are available at the Harvard Coop in Harvard Square and online at A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III, Henry IV (Part 1), Henry V, Hamlet, and Twelfth Night. The editions ordered are Modern Library Classics by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen. If you decide to use a different edition, please be aware that all references made in class will be to the Bate/Rasmussen editions and that other editions will have different line numbers, page numbers, wording, etc.


The graded written Exercises are in lieu of exams or conventional papers. The format is short answers (one or more paragraphs) to specific text-based questions. Exercise 1 is about 5 pages; Exercise 2 is about 9-10 pages. You can see a sample Exercise from a previous course on the website:

All credit students should turn in written assignments to the Assignment Dropbox on the course website. Assignments are due by 11:59 PM on the due date.

One speech will be assigned each week to be learned by heart. The speeches will be “due” the last day of class when you will be asked to write them from memory as the Final Exam for the course. If you have special concerns about memorizing, please contact the instructor early in the semester.


The Final Exam consists exclusively of writing out the speeches you’ve learned during the semester. You have the full 2-hour exam period to do so. You will not be graded on spelling, punctuation, etc.

Special note for distance students: Extension School policy requires that if you live in one of the six New England states, you must be on campus to take the Final Exam. Otherwise, you are responsible for arranging for a proctor where you live to administer this exam. Please see For Distance Students below for further information.


Exercise 1 = 30%

Exercise 2 = 60%

Final Exam / Speeches = 10%


  • Exercise 1 (see Exercises above)

  • In lieu of Exercise 2, a 20-page term paper (topic to be chosen in consultation with the instructor)

  • Final Exam / Speeches by heart (see Speeches above)

  • Graduate seminar (a one-time meeting, TBA)


Exercise 1 = 30%

Term Paper = 60%

Final Exam / Speeches = 10%

3. Course website & lecture videos
The course website is
In addition to using the website to keep up to date with assignments, you can use it to download course handouts the day before each class, turn in written assignments, participate in conversations on the discussion board, watch the movies during a 24-hour window (see Movies below), and watch videos of the course lectures once you’ve logged in with your Harvard ID and PIN.
On the website you will find:

  • syllabus

  • videos of course lectures (live and recorded, posted within 24 hours after class)

  • discussion board (open discussion, anyone can start a new thread)

  • weekly assignments (posted after each class on the Home page)

  • class handouts (posted the day before each class on the Handouts page)

  • sample Exercise

  • movie schedule (optional)

  • current and upcoming production schedule (optional)

  • play pages, one for each play in the course, with optional resources including source material

  • and more . . .

Videos of the lectures may be watched either live or recorded. Recorded videos will be available within 24 hours after the live class. You will need your Harvard ID and PIN in order to login to watch each lecture after the second week of classes. In case of technical difficulties while watching the video, press the “Report a problem” button and fill out a form to describe what happened. Someone from the technical support staff will get back to you ASAP. (Please note that the TA and I do not have the ability to resolve technical problems.)

4. For Distance Students

Please introduce yourself to the TA and me via email at the beginning of the course so we can get acquainted, just as if you were in the classroom. We’d love to hear from you. We welcome your full participation in the course and value your feedback.

For your convenience, distance-related matters on the syllabus are summarized here in one place. Please also consult the Extension School website about taking distance courses, which includes FAQs and a “Need Help?” link:

The Final Exam consists of the speeches memorized during the course. Please consult the following link that explains your responsibilities in regard to the exam. Students living in New England must take the scheduled Final Exam on campus with the rest of the class. Other distance students are responsible for arranging for a proctor to administer the exam.


Lectures will be available to you on the website either live or recorded. Recorded lectures are posted by the video producer within 24 hours after the class. If you have technical difficulties while watching the video, press the “Report a problem” button on the video page. You can fill out a form to describe what happened and someone from the technical support team will get back to you ASAP. (Please note that the TA and I do not have the ability to resolve technical problems.)


You will be able to watch the movies online during a 24-hour window (only), Saturday 3:00 PM through Sunday 3:00 PM, the weekend after the lecture. Unfortunately I am unable to make the movies available for a longer period of time; Harvard regulations limit them to a 24-hour window. However, most of the movies can also be rented from Netflix and some can be streamed. Some are also available elsewhere online.


Weekly section meetings in this course are optional. A weekly online section meeting will be led by the TA for the course using the web-conference tool, Blackboard Collaborate (see Section). If you hope to participate in sections be sure to return the Survey to let us know your availability.


Experienced distance students advise the following:

  • Make sure you have the technical requirements in place to watch the lecture videos before the course begins.

  • Watch the lectures in a quiet setting without significant interruptions.

  • Stay on schedule with the rest of the class in reading and assignments.

5. Section
Section meetings are optional but highly recommended. There will be two section meetings most weeks: one on-campus, and one via web-conferencing. All students, whatever their registration status, are welcome to participate in sections.
On-campus section meetings will be held immediately following the lecture on Tuesdays, from 7:40 to 8:30 PM in Northwest B109 (across the street from Maxwell Dworkin).
Online sections will be scheduled after the first week of class, based on your availability as determined by the Survey (see Survey on the website.)
Please keep an eye on the Section page on the website for updates about these meetings during the semester.
Both on-campus and online sections will be led by the TA, Greta Pane (PhD, Harvard University). Greta was also the TA for Shakespeare’s Early Plays in the fall of 2013. Below is Greta’s description of how to get started with online sections.
Getting Started

On-line sections are like conversations conducted over Skype. A section lasts for about 50 minutes. For complete information on participating in the on-line sections, please see the Web-Conference Course Guidelines on the Extension School web site. (You will see, for instance, that you will need a headphone/microphone.) In addition, please visit Blackboard Collaborate’s first time users page and complete the four steps that are described on that page.
If you need help:
Contact DCE’s student computer support:

(617) 495-4024 Mondays through Fridays from 9 am to 5 pm eastern standard time

(617) 998-8571 Mondays through Fridays, 5 pm to midnight; Saturdays, 9 am to 10 pm; and Sundays, noon to 10 pm eastern standard time.

6. Movies
The movies are optional but highly recommended. The schedule is below. Movies are available on-campus at the Lamont Library Language Resource Center (4th floor), as well as during the designated weekly 24-hour window on the course website. Please

note that the 24-hour website restriction is a fixed Harvard rule. Unfortunately, I am not able to make the movies available to you on the website for a longer time.
If you are unable to watch the movies at Lamont or on the course website, you may be able to rent them from Netflix (and some can be streamed). Some of the movies are also available elsewhere online.
Watching movies at Lamont Library

To watch movies at the Lamont LRC, you need either a Harvard ID or a Lamont LRC card to gain access to Lamont Library. Registered students can obtain Lamont LRC cards from the Extension School Registrar’s Office, 51 Brattle Street, 4th floor (M-F, 9-5). The movies will be available at Lamont throughout the semester. You can screen them for yourself, or for a small group, pending availability of screening rooms (check with the LRC). Lamont LRC facilities and hours:
Watching movies on the course website

Movies will be available on the course website during a 24-hour window (only), from Saturday 3:00 PM to Sunday 3:00 PM on most weekends following the Tuesday lecture, according to the schedule below. Go to the Recorded Class Videos page of the website to watch the movies. (Again, please note that it is a Harvard rule to restrict this window to 24 hours only; unfortunately I am unable to make the movies available to you on the website for a longer time.)

This movie schedule is also posted on the website’s Movies page. The left-hand dates below are the class lecture dates. At the end of each entry are the dates when the movies are available online, from Saturday 3:00 PM to Sunday 3:00 PM.
Sept 9 A Midsummer Night’s Dream (RSC production dir. Peter Hall, w/Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Diana Rigg, Ian Richardson, Ian Holm, David Warner,

124 min.) Sept 13-14.

Sept 16 A Midsummer Night’s Dream (dir. Michael Hoffman w/Kevin Kline, Calista Flockhart, Michelle Pfeiffer, Stanley Tucci, 120 min.) Sept 20-21.
Sept 23 Richard III (w/Laurence Olivier who also directed & produced, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, Claire Bloom, 158 min.) Sept 27-28.
Sept 30 Richard III (w/Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Robert Downey, Jr., Nigel Hawthorne, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, 104 min.) Oct 4-5.
Oct 7 Henry IV (Part 1) (BBC “An Age of Kings” mini-series production w/Robert Hardy, Sean Connery.) Oct 11-12.
Oct 14 Henry IV (Part 1) Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre production (dir. Dominic Dromgoole, w/Jamie Parker, Roger Allam, 167 min.) Oct. 18-19.
Oct 21 Henry V (dir. and starring Kenneth Branagh, Paul Scofield, Derek Jacobi, Judi Dench, Emma Thompson, 138 min.) Oct. 25-26.
Oct 28 Hamlet (RSC production dir. by Greg Doran, w/David Tennant, Patrick Stewart, 182 min.) Nov 1-2.
Nov 4 Hamlet (dir. and starring Laurence Olivier, 153 min.) Nov 8-9.
Nov 11 Hamlet (dir. Grigori Kosintsev, w/Innokenti Smoktunovsky, in Russian with English subtitles, trans. Boris Pasternak, 140 min.) Nov 15-16.
Nov 18 Hamlet (dir. and starring Kenneth Branagh, w/Julie Christie, Derek Jacobi, Kate Winslet, Billy Crystal, 4 hours.) Nov 22-23.
Dec 2 Twelfth Night (dir. Trevor Nunn, w/ Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Kingsley, Imogen Stubbs, 134 min.) Dec 6-7.

7. Other resources
The following resources are all optional.
Grossman Library on the 3rd floor of Sever Hall is the Extension School’s reserve library.

Books may be read at Grossman only.

John Barton, Playing Shakespeare

Charles Boyce, Shakespeare A to Z

Northrop Frye, Northrop Frye on Shakespeare

Michael Pennington, Hamlet: A User’s Guide

Michael Pennington, Twelfth Night: A User’s Guide

Peter Saccio, Shakespeare’s English Kings

Antony Sher, Year of the King

The following superb series are available from Netflix, and Playing Shakespeare is also available on YouTube.
Slings & Arrows, fictional Canadian TV series about a Shakespeare theatre company.
Playing Shakespeare, Royal Shakespeare Company Artistic Director John Barton directs RSC actors (including Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart) as they explore features of Shakespeare’s language and dramaturgy. The text of this series is on reserve at Grossman Library: see above.

Shakespeare’s Words online: a glossary and more:
David Crystal’s site on Original Pronunciation (OP), with a few recordings you can listen to:
Shakespeare concordance
Folger Shakespeare Library
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (the new Globe in London)
Shakespeare’s Restless World
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
For iPad users, an app for Shakespeare’s sonnets:
Please bring to our attention other online resources you find helpful.

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