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How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Lecture

How to Read and Understand Shakespeare

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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.

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

What Members Say

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  •  
    Troy 11-25-14
    Troy 11-25-14

    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!

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    "Shakespeare Made Easy"

    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.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 12-22-14
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 12-22-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Empowering overview of Shakespeare's works and themes"

    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.

    Highly recommended!

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MR Hub of the Universe 08-29-13
    MR Hub of the Universe 08-29-13 Member Since 2005

    mr_1

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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.

    17 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 10-13-15 Member Since 2013
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    "To Listen or Not to Listen…"

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    BethAnn Denver, CO, United States 01-19-14
    BethAnn Denver, CO, United States 01-19-14 Member Since 2016
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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!

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patrick 09-23-15
    Patrick 09-23-15 Member Since 2009
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    "A Really Useful and Enjoyable Guide"
    What made the experience of listening to How to Read and Understand Shakespeare the most enjoyable?

    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.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare?

    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.


    Which character – as performed by Professor Marc C. Conner – was your favorite?

    Interesting question and is probably not normally suited for a "Great Courses". But in this case his many readings always illuminated Shakespeare's characters.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    3 of 3 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!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 08-13-14 Member Since 2014
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    "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.


    11 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ricefun McPherson, KS 09-23-16
    ricefun McPherson, KS 09-23-16 Member Since 2016

    Thoughtfully Christian

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    "Best Shakespeare tool kit I've heard"

    Professor Conner did an amazing job helping to unpack themes and contexts that undergird all of Shakespeare's plays. By choosing a core group of plays and focusing closely on them, I was also given tools to apply to all of the other plays as well. If you have an inclination to read Shakespeare at all, I highly recommend this lecture series. If you are well read in Shakespeare already, these lectures are still completely worth your time and attention as they will highlight new ideas or remind you of things you've noticed in the past. Very easy to list to and simple to digest his comments.

    I'm looking forward to trying a read-along where I read the play and then listen to his lectures that specifically address that play.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Tony Hernandez Phoenix, AZ USA 08-30-16
    Tony Hernandez Phoenix, AZ USA 08-30-16 Member Since 2013
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    "One of the most important lectures for Shakespearean novice and old hat alike"

    Professor Connor uses what he calls "tools" into understanding Shakespeare and his plays. These tools, some more frequent than others depending on the play, help the reader and viewer alike to better understand and appreciate Shakespeare.
    There are two camps in the world of Shakespeare. Those that think that his work can only be appreciated on stage and those that think that only through reading one can truly grasp the meanings that much better. Professor Connor rejects that and proves that both are great ways, indeed, different angles to see and understand the plays.
    He also makes it very fun! This lecture is brought on in a calm, relaxed manner that is very approachable.
    Whether you know Shakespeare forward and back or have yet to hear a word, this is a great lecture.
    My only concern. It doesn't help too much on understanding Shakespeare's flowery language, in as, it doesn't tackle too much Shakespeare's use of poetry and how to better comprehend it.
    Connor is sort of a victim of his own success here as, he probably touches on how to understand the poetry of Shakespeare better than anyone out there, it still seems to fall a bit short because the masterful way he teaches on understanding theme.
    All in all, a must for anyone of any level interested in understanding the Bard's theatrical works.
    Highest of recommendations.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Farniboy
    Wirral, UK
    8/19/14
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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.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Terry Allen
    Brighton, United Kingdom
    7/12/16
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    "Great for long car journeys. Fascinating stuff"
    Would you listen to How to Read and Understand Shakespeare again? Why?

    Yes, I think I will eventually listen to this all again, maybe in a year of two. I really enjoyed the explanations of the different elements within the various works.


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

    Very engaging - varied voice and delivery, really seems to know his stuff.


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

    No - maybe two or three lectures at a time were okay though


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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