Summer Shakespeare III

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2023: Wednesdays, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time
June 14 - Aug. 16

June 14:
Troilus and Cressida

June 21:
Titus Andronicus

June 28:
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Fantasy and Allegory

July 5

July 12:
King John
Outlying Histories

July 19:
Timon of Athens

July 26:
Two Gentlemen of Verona
Villainy and Purity

Aug 2:
Prejudice and Metaphor

August 9:
King Henry VIII
Contemporary Politics

August 16:
Pastoral and Romance

Course Overview

Throughout five years of course offerings in English, the Scholars Online program covers a fair amount of Shakespeare. A student who has taken World Literature, English Literature, and Senior English will have read:

I have not yet figured out a legitimate way of incorporating Shakespeare into either Western Literature to Dante or American Literature. Failing some major historical upheaval, I suspect that this will not change.

Accordingly, a student can read eight or nine plays. While this certainly represents a good deal more Shakespeare than the average high school student will study formally, still, as Harold Bloom argues, Shakespeare has a unique place at the center of the Western literary canon, and it is nearly impossible to get too much of him.

Accordingly, this course is designed to follow Summer Shakespeare I and Summer Shakespeare II, in much the same manner as the first two. We will cover, at the rate of one per week, a total of nine more plays, thus considerably augmenting the number a student has before college. Of course, at this pace, we cannot even pretend to be exhaustive — it’s intended to be a fun course in any case. But I am hoping that it will foster a cheerful familiarity with Shakespeare, and an awareness of the shape of his corpus as a whole. Taken together with the nine above, this will bring the student’s coverage to eighteen plays — more than half of Shakespeare’s total production. (Summer Shakespeare I provides another nine plays, bringing the total to twenty-eight, while Summer Shakespeare II completes the canon with another ten.)

Summer Shakespeare III covers the nine plays that haven’t been taken up anywhere else in the Scholars Online literature curriculum, and it’s a mixed bag. Some of the plays are among the weaker works of Shakespeare; a couple are of dubious authenticity (such as King John and Henry VIII); a few are among the greats, but some (e.g., Othello) contain rather strong adult themes, and should be approached with some caution.

Accordingly, this course will include:

I will strictly observe the tenth-grade cutoff for this class, but beyond that I leave determining the suitability of these works up to the student’s parents. Some of these plays deal with adult themes, and while I certainly don’t have any intention of pursuing offensive material for its own sake, I don’t want to get too wrapped up in dealing with them either.

Certainly even the strongest passages of Shakespeare are rather tame compared to what comes out of Hollywood these days, but different parents and students have different standards and tolerances, and I want to respect those. If you would like to have your student take the course but skip one or two sessions, that’s okay with me: the course is ungraded, there is nothing to pass or fail, and a student can miss a session without prejudice to any other. Please be forewarned and informed in your choices; if I can answer questions, please ask me.

Because time is at a premium during the summer, and we are trying to accomplish as much as we possibly can, I’d like to hit the ground running with a play discussion the first week. Therefore, do not delay to enroll, and get the books as soon as possible.