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.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
©2013 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2013 The Great Courses
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, I love to learn about a great many things, and I enjoy a wide variety of genres. Me, bored? Never!
This is the lecture series I wish existed back in high school. Prof. Conner gives us the means by which to understand the Bard on multiple levels, and at no point is he pretentious about it. The richness of the plays, the characters, the themes... it's all demystified and comes alive thanks to the tools that are offered and applied to about 2/3 of Shakespeare's repertoire.
This is a great introduction for anybody who wants to start from scratch with Shakespeare. The courses are geared towards an assumption that the reader knows very little on the subject, which ultimately makes for a clear presentation.
The professor focuses on a handful of Shakespeare's plays, going over the stories and then illustrating critical analysis tools, and putting them to work. This is the best part-- you first learn how he is going to analyze the play, then observe that very analysis at work. The idea is that you can then delve into these plays on your own with these collected analysis tools.
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.
This is a fantastic, but short, course providing techniques for understanding Shakespeare. As a precursor, I have always enjoyed the wit of Shakespeare and his command of language. Shakespeare mastered wordcraft like no one before or since, and I am awed by his ability to layer multiple meanings into a simple phrase. So, a reader of this review should understand that I am more than a little biased toward the Bard. The professor is more than a little biased too and clearly admires Shakespeare as the greatest writer in the history of the English language.
This course does not attempt to analyze all of Shakespeare's plays. Instead, this course presents interpretative techniques such as the "foul is fair and fair is foul" technique and the "block to love" technique. He explains various techniques, then selects a play where a technique works particularly well and applies the technique to that play. In that manner, the professor provides detailed analysis for about a half-dozen of Shakespeare's plays. The professor does a good job explaining the techniques and demonstrating the application. Though I was a fan of Shakespeare before this course, I feel better armed now to interpret plays. The professor shared new insights and thoughtful observations. The professor has made me even more interested in Shakespeare, and I look forward to my next opportunity to catch a play.
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.
I really did want to hear all of the parts of this lecture, even though I only needed a few of them.
I will definitely listen to this one again, and use it as I would use any teaching resource. Great find!
I originally took a college course in Shakespeare mumble years ago from a man who was a true Shakespeare scholar and fell in love with Shakespeare's plays. Professor Conner is every bit his equal and comes from a different direction. Not only did I learn new ways to see and appreciate the plays, but gained valuable tools for reading and seeing them again in a new light.
So many to choose from... I would say that his analysis of the female characters in Hamlet was quite memorable. I had never really paid attention to how strong these characters (and many other female characters in other plays) really are.
Interesting question and is probably not normally suited for a "Great Courses". But in this case his many readings always illuminated Shakespeare's characters.
If you have ever enjoyed a Shakespeare play or ever wanted to THIS is the best course on reading and understanding Shakespeare that I have ever read. It is engaging from beginning to end. I know that I will listen to it again and again.
I was so enthralled with these lectures that I listened to them all over a single weekend!
Intelligent, understated, authentic
What makes this lecture exceptional is the tone Conner strikes. He's a nice guy, with deep-seated passion, talking to reasonable, intelligent people about how to better understand Shakespeare. Shakespearean professors/lecturers often descend into the most noxious, self-involved, pretentious blather. This course helps one better appreciate just how funny, thoughtful, intelligent, emotionally complex, moving and relevant these works were and remain to this day.
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.
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.
No. I listened to the end hoping for more depth but was disappointed.
Simply put, what an excellent resource. As a thoughtful person first seriously approaching Shakespeare's work, I can say that this lecture series educated me to the contextual and aesthetic prerequisites to the deeper engagement that I sought.
"A Great Guide To Shakespeare for a Dummy (me!)"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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