Course Instructor Days Times Room

Topics Title
Shakespeare's Others

Shakespeare lived in a rapidly expanding England. London was a bustling port city, a growing metropolis full of foreign ambassadors, immigrants, merchants, and non-English inhabitants. England began trading directly with Turkey and the Middle East in 1581 through the Turkey and Levant Companies, and soon expanded to create the East India Company and the Virginia Company, bringing spices, luxury goods, pharmaceuticals, dyes, textiles, tobacco and sugar into England. This rapidly changing and expanding understanding of culture brought with it encounters with the world's diverse religions and peoples. And there was almost no more diverse urban space than the outdoor public playing spaces of London, where French merchants might rub arms with dutch African silk weavers, the Moroccan ambassador, immigrant Italian and marrano (crypto-Jewish) court musicians and composers, not to mention Irish ladies, Scotsmen and the Welsh, all inhabitants of Great Britain who nevertheless experience outsider status at crucial moments in English history and within Shakespeare's plays. 

Shakespeare's plays are full of outsiders and figures characterized by their difference. We will read a selection of Shakespeare's plays (eight or nine) and a few of his sonnets, alongside Renaissance English writings and visual representations of racial and religious difference in an attempt to understand how late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British culture defined itself with and against its own rapidly expanding understanding of humanity and the world.

Plays are likely to include: OthelloThe TempestCymbelineMacbeth, As You Like ItAntony and CleopatraHenry VThe Merchant of VeniceTitus Andronicus


The Bedford Shakespeare, edited by Lena Cowan Orlin and Russ McDonald

Race in Early Modern England: A Documentary Companion, edited by Ania Loomba and Jonathan Burton