Literature: Shakespeare and Comedy

Ref: C3675837

We will look at three Shakespeare comedies: 'The Merchant of Venice', 'As You Like It', and 'The Merry Wives of Windsor', and consider how each both satisfies and challenges the established dramatic genre of 'comedy', with a view both to other Shakespeare plays and to Shakespeare's contemporaries. We will consider how each play works, both on the page and on the stage, and how each contributes to Shakespeare's achievement as an early modern dramatist.

Course aim

The course aims to introduce students to three of Shakespeare's comedies, focusing on how each of these challenges generic expectations - in ways which enrich our interpretations and stretch the boundaries of 'comedy' itself.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

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

  • evaluate how each of the plays relates to (and challenges) the dominant conventions of 'comedy'.
  • analyse each of the plays in terms of plot, character and theme.
  • place each play in its historical and social context.
  • critically interpret how the plays work, both on the page and on the stage.
  • explain how the plays relate to other works by Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

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 will be expected to read the next sections of each play, ready for the next class, as instructed.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion

What else do I need to know?

  • You will be expected to bring along your own copy of each play, using one of the standard annotated editions of Shakespeare (the Arden, New Cambridge, or Oxford editions are particularly recommended).

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful

What can I do next?

Download full course information sheet

Literature: Shakespeare and Comedy

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This course has been cancelled.


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  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
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