William Shakespeare is the most performed playwright on the globe; this course brings his play The Merchant of Venice into the 21st century by comparing multiple recent performances, from film and television stagings to an international production that marked the first performance of the play in the former Jewish Ghetto of Venice, Italy. Students will:
Learn how to read and perform Shakespeare
Investigate the historical and contemporary context of Shakespeare’s works, including why and how they continue to be read and performed
Gain insight from Shakespeare scholars, historians, theater professionals, and actors
Produce and Perform selected scenes using the knowledge and techniques they have learned
This course provides a rare opportunity to see how artists and performers today grapple with a play that is dramatically challenging in its mixture of comic and tragic elements, as well as its portrayal of gender relations and ethnic and religious prejudice. Along the way, Students will learn to read and understand Shakespeare with the help of recorded vignettes on historical and theatrical context by scholars and theater professionals, as well as performance tutorials and reflections delivered by the actors themselves.
Students will also put into practice what they have learned, recording and producing short performances of selected scenes or speeches, and will be asked to consider and reflect upon how their choices foreground questions of historical context, gender relations, and/or the variability of dramatic modes.
This course is of interest to anyone interested in Shakespeare and the theater, those who want to learn about the history of Shakespeare’s life and times, or those who desire a greater understanding of dramatic performance and their own creative process. This module may also function as an instructional aid for educators at the high school and university level with a focus on adapting Shakespeare for the theater or screen.
Image by: Cathleen Nalezyty
Part 1: Reading Drama and Poetry
Part 2: The Merchant of Venice and Close Reading
Part 3: Production Choices and The Merchant of Venice