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How to Read and Understand Shakespeare | [The Great Courses]

How to Read and Understand Shakespeare

Shakespeare's works are among the greatest of humanity's cultural expressions and, as such, demand to be experienced and understood. But, simply put, Shakespeare is difficult. His language and culture - those of Elizabethan England - are greatly different from our own, and his poetry, thick with metaphorical imagery and double meanings, can be hard to penetrate.
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Publisher's Summary

Shakespeare's works are among the greatest of humanity's cultural expressions and, as such, demand to be experienced and understood.

But, simply put, Shakespeare is difficult. His language and culture - those of Elizabethan England - are greatly different from our own, and his poetry, thick with metaphorical imagery and double meanings, can be hard to penetrate.

Yet the keys to understanding Shakespeare are written into the plays themselves. If you can learn to recognize the playwright's own clues, you'll become able to engage meaningfully with his language, to follow the plot structures and themes that drive his plays, and to track the development of his characters.

Over the course of 24 lectures, this innovative and penetrating exploration of Shakespeare's plays reveals how to enter Shakespeare's dramatic world, how to grasp what's happening in any of his plays, and how to enjoy them fully both on the page and the stage.

Under Professor Conner's expert guidance, shaped by decades of studying and performing Shakespeare, you learn more than 40 interpretive tools, drawn from the texts themselves, that give you direct insight into the plays. These guiding principles allow you to follow the narratives of the plays as they unfold, with a clear understanding of how the plays function and fit together.

The professor also reveals fascinating details of Shakespeare's era, which shed further light on the plays and the way his contemporary audiences perceived them.

This course builds the skills that allow you to reach your own understanding of the plays - to deeply comprehend Shakespeare's transcendent poetic language, the spellbinding world of his great characters and stories, and his revelatory reflections on human experience.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2013 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2013 The Great Courses

What Members Say

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  •  
    MR Hub of the Universe 08-29-13
    MR Hub of the Universe 08-29-13 Member Since 2002

    mr_1

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "understanding the Bard"
    Any additional comments?

    as this was a non-fiction lecture series - the helpful review questions don't really apply.

    The lectures were short enough to listen to in one sitting without being overwhelming. Each built on the previous, but could stand alone should you be more interested in one play/type of play than the others.

    I found the lectures to be useful in understanding how the plays are structured - and what elements I should pay attention to in order to understand the story line. Often there are multiple stories within the play - being able to sort them out for comparison/contrasting helps grasp the overall theme.

    I would recommend to anyone wanting to learn more or better appreciate Shakespeare.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    BethAnn Denver, CO, United States 01-19-14
    BethAnn Denver, CO, United States 01-19-14 Member Since 2008
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    "Helpful prior to teaching"
    What did you love best about How to Read and Understand Shakespeare?

    I have read Romeo and Juliet before, but wanted to brush up on it before my first time teaching it. First I listened to the play using the SmartPass audio from Audible, and then I listened to parts of this lecture. This was a perfect way to get more insight into the play, which really helped me plan my unit.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I really did want to hear all of the parts of this lecture, even though I only needed a few of them.


    Any additional comments?

    I will definitely listen to this one again, and use it as I would use any teaching resource. Great find!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 08-13-14 Member Since 2014
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    2
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    Story
    "Doesn't Achieve Goals"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    Focusing on the techniques of understanding was a shotgun approach to understanding the plays. Too few plays were analyzed, too few were even mentioned. It appeared the author developed the techniques first, then cherry-picked the plays to fit.


    What was most disappointing about The Great Courses’s story?

    The Christian focus of the analysis seemed forced and artificial. Again, the author had a goal and bent the plays to fit his Christ analogies.


    Was How to Read and Understand Shakespeare worth the listening time?

    No. I listened to the end hoping for more depth but was disappointed.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer MANCHESTER, NH, United States 03-25-14
    Amazon Customer MANCHESTER, NH, United States 03-25-14 Member Since 2001
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    "Masterful introduction to Shakespeare"
    Any additional comments?

    I was so enthralled with these lectures that I listened to them all over a single weekend!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-4 of 4 results
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  • Farniboy
    Wirral, UK
    8/19/14
    Overall
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    "A Great Guide To Shakespeare for a Dummy (me!)"
    Would you listen to How to Read and Understand Shakespeare again? Why?

    Definitely! You could dip into each lecture separately. You could use the course as a refresher if you were going to watch one of the Shakespeare plays that the course deals with. It gives the listener "Tools" to help decipher the plays, that you can use throughout Shakespeare's plays.


    What other book might you compare How to Read and Understand Shakespeare to, and why?

    Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies by Professor Peter Saccio (also available on The Great Courses on Audible is comparable. It too, opens up the world of Shakespeare to the average person.


    What about Professor Marc C. Conner’s performance did you like?

    The Professor's performance is fantastic! He clearly loves the works of Shakespeare and he presents the lectures in a lively and engaging ways. He's acted in productions of Shakespeare, and his readings of passages from the plays reflect those experiences.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I listened to the course over a few shifts at work and really enjoyed it. I think you would get more from the course if you could listen to it one lecture at a time with a pen and paper so you could make notes and the relevant text in front of you so you can follow as Conner reads.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a really interesting course for anyone who would like to get the most from their love of Shakespeare. Its not too highbrow and anyone with a casual understanding of the Bard's work will enjoy it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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