Studying the Bard

April 14th, 2014

And since you know you cannot see yourself,

so well as by reflection, I, your glass,

will modestly discover to yourself,

that of yourself which you yet know not of.

~ William Shakespeare

A bedrock foundation of any literature curriculum is William Shakespeare, who is still considered the greatest English-language author even over 400 years after his birth (the date of which is not known, but generally celebrated on April 23 – also the date of his death).  Shakespeare plays a huge role in the IU East curriculum – and not just in ENG-L 315, Major Plays of Shakespeare.  His work touches literature courses including ENG-L 297, English Literature to 1600, ENG-L 225, Introduction to World Masterpieces, ENG-L 308, Elizabethan & Seventeenth-Century Drama, ENG-L 309, Elizabethan Poetry, and ENG-L 317, English Poetry of the Early Seventeenth Century.  If you take literature courses here, you are very likely to experience his work.

And although that work still resonates, parts of Shakespeare can be hard to understand.  While his plays added numerous now-common words to the English language (bedroom, critic, torture, hurry, scuffle, amazement, hobnob, gossip, swagger, zany, bump, rant – even academe), some of his phrases and allusions can be difficult for modern audiences to fully appreciate.  But fortunately there is a wealth of information on the Bard.  IU East subscribes to dedicated databases like The Shakespeare Collection and Editions and Adaptations of Shakespeare, as well as general ones like Early English Books Online, Humanities International Index, and Literature and Language.  And whole books have been dedicated to exploring every one of his plays, from Hamlet and Macbeth to Measure for Measure and Twelfth Night.

But since a play should be seen, we have videos of his works, including the BBC-Time/Life productions of 37 of them.  Experience comedies like All’s Well That Ends Well or The Merry Wives of Windsor, tragedies like Othello or Titus Andronicus, and histories like Richard II or Henry V, starring distinguished actors like Derek Jacobi, Patrick Stewart, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Claire Bloom, Ben Kingsley, John Gielgud, Alan Rickman and even John Cleese.  Up to three DVDs can be checked out at a time, for three days each.

And if you want to experience Shakespeare in person, a great local opportunity is the Richmond Shakespeare Festival.  They’re holding a series of sonnet-writing workshops on April 19th, with sessions being taught by local Shakespeare experts including IU East professor TJ Rivard.  The RSF will perform both Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing later this summer.  There’s also an open-house in the Starr Gennett Building in the Gorge at noon on April 23rd, the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s observed birthday.

‘There are more things in heaven and earth’ to learn about Shakespeare than you can dream of! Want to know more? Ask us! iueref@iue.edu

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