Love, Lust and Leadership in Shakespearean Tragedy

Ref: C3741595

A course which reveals S not as an ancient monument but as our contemporary, a dramatist whose works resonate through epochs and cultures unto the present. Students will explore the conflict in Mark Antony - one of the two most powerful men in the Roman Empire - as he balances his duties to the state with his infatuation with the Egyptian queen. They will contrast the models of leadership shown by Mark Antony, Cleopatra and Octavius. Students will consider the effect of the leaders' choices not only on themselves but on the people they serve. Students will consider the extent to which was writing about his times in these historical plays, and the extent to which he speaks to our times. In Coriolanus, students will focus on the attributes of the main character, attributes which give him greatness but which are also the cause of his downfall. There will be consideration of how S's poetic imagery illuminates and reinforces the themes of the respective plays.

Course aim

To explore themes in Shakespearean tragedy such as conflicts between private desires and public duties, fulfilment of family responsibilities against those of the state, and maintenance of personal integrity against the pursuit of compromise.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • A little knowledge of Shakespeare is an advantage but not essential. A preparedness to be excited by great writing is a definite asset.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Understand the concept of tragedy as a form of writing.
  • Understand the theme of the conflict between love/fulfilment of sexual appetite and duty in "Antony and Cleopatra"
  • Understand how Shakespeare uses the theme of leadership and statecraft in "Antony and Cleopatra" and "Coriolanus"
  • Identify how the attributes of pride, integrity and pragmatism are in tension in "Coriolanus" leading to the downfall and disintegration of the main character.
  • Appreciate how the poetic imagery of the speeches reinforces the main themes of the plays

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions

What else do I need to know?

  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)
  • You will need to have either a hard copy of each of the plays being studied or have them on an e-book.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • Helpful to find out a little about each play, possibly see current RSC production of "Antony and Cleopatra" either at Stratford or DVD of the live screening on 24 May, and also 2011 film of "Coriolanus" (Ralph Fiennes directs and stars).

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • The course will be a good stepping-stone to the Spring Term course - "Shakespeare's final plays - chaos and disintegration and new life".

Download full course outline

Love, Lust and Leadership in Shakespearean Tragedy Course Outline


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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