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Approaching Shakespeare—The Scene Begins
Episode 1 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
Consider four points of entry for understanding what's happening in a Shakespeare play. Learn how to approach a single dramatic scene, focusing on Shakespeare's richly metaphorical use of language. Begin to grasp the playwright's use of stagecraft, and how his…
Elizabeth Bennet--A Proper Pride
Episode 12 of Heroes and Legends
Meet the charming heroine from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The story of her complicated relationship with Mr. Darcy is a realistic Cinderella story and has lent itself to numerous adaptations, including Bridget Jones's Diary. Consider the integral role that…
A Midsummer Night’s Dream—Comic Tools
Episode 3 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
In his comedic plays, Shakespeare drew on the classical Roman model of comedy. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, see how he expands the form, using the archetypal plot devices of "blocked love," its resolution at either the altar or the…
Harry Potter--Whistle-Blower Hero
Episode 24 of Heroes and Legends
Finish your course with one of the most unexpected hits of our time--and a smash hit at that. What can the surprising success of Harry Potter teach us about successful heroes? And what do his battles against Lord Voldemort tell…
Austen - The Life and Work of Jane Austen
Jane Austen produced some of the finest novels in English literature. The film covers her life and ends with an overview of her work.
Shakespeare’s Theater and Stagecraft
Episode 2 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
Here, envision theatrical London as it existed in Shakespeare's time. First, consider Shakespeare's fundamental intent to "hold the mirror up to nature"--to imitate the living world. Then learn about the colorful milieu of Elizabethan theater; its conventions of physical space,…
The Tragic Woman in Macbeth
Episode 14 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
Shakespeare's great tragic women are central to the functioning of his tragedies. Here, encounter the powerful figure of Lady Macbeth and observe how her arc of development as a character inversely mirrors her husband's. Grasp how Macbeth poignantly sounds the…
Frodo Baggins--A Reluctant Hero
Episode 1 of Heroes and Legends
What makes certain characters successful? Begin your study with a look at Frodo Baggins, the hobbit-hero from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In considering what makes him a hero--and how he runs counter to our notions of the traditional…
The Wife of Bath--An Independent Woman
Episode 5 of Heroes and Legends
Chaucer worked harder on the Wife of Bath than on any other character in The Canterbury Tales, leaving us not one but four separate perspectives on one of literature's most memorable female characters. Discover what Chaucer reveals about her, the…
The Tempest—Shakespeare’s Farewell to Art
Episode 23 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
Begin this episode by investigating the spiritual significance of The Tempest's island setting as a testing ground for humanity's nobler nature. Then grasp how Shakespeare seems to speak directly to us through the figure of Prospero, whose final renunciation of…
How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
Shakespeare's plays are masterworks, but they can be hard to understand for a modern English speaker. Gain direct insight into Shakespeare's writing in this course which explains how to enter Shakespeare's world, how to grasp what's happening in his plays,…
24 videos
Sherlock Holmes--The First Great Detective
Episode 16 of Heroes and Legends
We are familiar with Sherlock Holmes's methodology--using clues, facts, evidence, and reason to solve the case. Here, go inside the world of the 19th century and see what circumstances paved the way for such a hero. Then, turn to some…
The Merchant of Venice—Comedy or Tragedy?
Episode 18 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
In this extraordinary play, Shakespeare explores the dark undercurrents of comedy to the fullest. Delve into the crisis of identity that each character faces, the theme of perilous risk, and the plot elements of loss and sacrifice that work against…
Romeo and Juliet—Words, Words, Words
Episode 5 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
Shakespeare's primary tool as a playwright is words themselves as dramatic expressions of character and meaning. In Romeo and Juliet, see how Shakespeare ingeniously uses language to distinguish class and personality, and how he uses the poetic form of the…
Staging Hamlet
Episode 15 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
Discover how Hamlet's opening scene reveals many of the crucial themes of the play. Then delve into the use of acting as a major dynamic of the story, as Hamlet ultimately takes action through the devices of theater, staging a…
Don Quixote--The First of the Wannabes
Episode 10 of Heroes and Legends
Turn next to Don Quixote, a wannabe knight-errant whose infamous exploits mark a pivotal moment in the history of literature. Explore his fantastic adventures and meet Sancho Panza, who is perhaps literature's first antihero. See why this novel is so…
The Religious Drama of Hamlet
Episode 16 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
A deep look at the religious and theological issues at work in Hamlet unlocks the meanings in Shakespeare's most celebrated play. Study three important moments of religious contemplation within the play, and see how Hamlet's hesitance to avenge his father's…
Measure for Measure—Is This Comedy?
Episode 20 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
With Measure for Measure, you enter the world of Shakespeare's "problem plays"--dramas that seem neither truly comic nor tragic. Here, observe how Shakespeare creates Vienna, the play's setting, as a place of hypocrisy, deception, and trickery, where nothing is what…
A Midsummer Night’s Dream—Comic Structure
Episode 4 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
This episode explores key principles for understanding and appreciating Shakespeare's comedies. Grasp the thematic elements of a shift from friendship to romantic love and of severe testing of the characters. See how the three-part structure of the comedies leads inevitably…
Macbeth—“Foul and Fair”
Episode 13 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
In Macbeth, Shakespeare reveals a world in which everything becomes its opposite. Study how reversals of reality and meaning dominate the play, seen vividly in the recurring dynamic of betrayal and the politically charged tension between appearance and reality. See…