Political Shakespeares


Winter 2015 quarter

Taught by

English literature, theater studies

Shakespeare’s plays are in many ways notoriously conservative. Women dress up as men, only to be railroaded into marriage at the end of the play; Jews and people of color are regularly treated horribly by otherwise likeable characters; servants are routinely sidelined into supporting roles. Early in the 20 th century, E.M.W. Tillyard went so far as to argue that the plays were written expressly for the purpose of maintaining the Elizabethan social order. Since the 1960s, however, scholars and theater professionals have been working to draw out the subversive content of the plays, arguing that Shakespeare’s representation of oppressive social norms can be read as a critique of those norms—as well as a prefiguration of our own contemporary political struggles.

This program is designed for students who want to engage in the project of reading literary texts against the grain. Liking Shakespeare is not a prerequisite. Rather, our focus will be on studying and practicing various modes of literary criticism—Marxist, feminist, psychoanalytic, and post-colonial, as well as methodologies informed by queer theory and disability studies. Students will read one play (primarily histories and tragedies) per week, along with sample pieces of literary criticism, and will write essays applying particular modes of literary theory to the plays. At the end of the quarter, students will write a dramaturgical analysis informed by at least one mode of literary criticism, and will perform sample scenes that embody their interpretation of the play. Our central question is a simple one: “What, if anything, can Shakespeare’s plays DO for us? What kind of social work can we make them perform?”

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

graduate study in literature or other humanities disciplines, and careers in theater. This program is ideal for students considering graduate study in the humanities, or for student actors who are interested in creating performances informed by research and analysis.

Academic Website

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$25 fee for theater tickets


Date Revision
March 13th, 2014 New opportunity added.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 25


Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16 credits): 20157
So - Sr (1-16 credits): 20369

Go to my.evergreen.edu to register for this program.

Need Help Finding the Right Program?

Contact Academic Advising for help in answering your questions, planning your future and solving problems.