Shakespeare’s Comedies and Romances: Gender and Genre (S14)

Wilfrid Laurier University
Waterloo, Ontario


English 233:
Shakespeare’s Comedies and Romances: Gender and Genre


Andrew Bretz                                          Spring 2014

Office Hours: TBA
Skype ID: andrewbretz
Skype Office Hours: TBA
Twitter ID: @andrew.bretz001

Course Description:

 This course will study the interconnectedness between gender and genre in a selection of plays from all stages of Shakespeare’s development as a dramatist.  Though it may be hard for us today to believe, Shakespeare during the 1590s was primarily known as a playwright of comedies and not of tragedies.  His eventual shift away from the bawdy comedy of Two Gentlemen of Verona and Comedy of Errors and towards a more romantic, sensitive, and heightened vision of the world in Cymbeline and The Tempest will be explored throughout this course.


Course Objectives:

By the end of the course, students will be able to

  1. Correctly deploy the terminology of dramatic analysis in reference to early modern drama (e.g. correctly defining “revenge tragedy”);
  2. Recognize and apply a number of analytical or critical positions that can be taken vis-à-vis the texts (e.g. New Historicism, Performance Studies);
  3. Demonstrate awareness of some of the major themes of early modern drama (e.g. sexuality, God’s providence, royal authority) and create an argument based on that awareness.

Students will experience community in this course through the workshopping and peer editing components.  They will have to learn to read each other’s work with a critical and respectful eye.  Further, such peer editing will help to prevent incidents of plagiarism and maintain academic integrity.


Required Texts:

Shakespeare, William. The Norton Shakespeare, Based on the Oxford Edition. Gen. ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: WW Norton, 2008.

Description of Examinations and Major Assignments:

The entire assignment structure of this course is geared towards making the final papers as strong as possible. The final paper must be presented in accordance with MLA guidelines.  The final grade will be weighted as follows:

Unit Quizzes (Five Quizzes at 3% per Quiz)

At the end of every unit, where a unit is to be understood as the period of study of a particular play, there will be a short unit quiz.  The quizzes will comprise 3 questions from a bank of questions.  Some of the questions will be multiple choice, some will be short answer.  The questions will be both knowledge based and require analysis or application of knowledge gained from course content.  Each student’s final mark on the quiz will be based on their first attempt at the quiz.  Should a student fail a quiz, their mark will be recorded, but they will have to take the quiz again and get at least a 60% to move forward into the next unit.  Students may retake the quizzes as many times as necessary to move forward into the next unit.

Notebook (25%)

Students will keep an electronic notebook throughout the course.  In each lesson there will be a number of writing prompts (They will be bolded and often of the form “Stop and Reflect”).  Students will be expected to keep up with the writing prompts and hand in those notebooks at the end of each lesson period.  These notebooks are not intended to be polished works, but your thoughts as they come to you.  Please try to keep the profanity to a minimum, but I won’t be marking for tone or grammar, just to make sure that you engage with the text and the questions.  What I will be looking for is evidence that you are genuinely engaging the text and genuinely addressing yourself to the questions.  Notebooks will be due once a week – every Saturday evening at 23:59.  Students are expected to keep their notebooks electronically (of course) and to hand them in via the dropbox on the website.  (Accepted formats: .doc, .docx, .pdf)

Term Essay (35%)

This assignment will be scaffolded throughout the semester.  The paper is not to be any more than 6-8 pages in length and must be handed in through the dropbox online to be checked through TurnItIn.  This assignment is, in fact, several assignments in one:

      • Thesis Statement (5%)
        • The thesis statements will be due by the end of the fourth week of classes.  These statements will be vetted by the professor.  I will be asking ”Is it provable?  Does it make sense?  Have you shown a comprehension of the texts and the contextual material offered in the lectures?”
        • These will be returned before the end of the 5th week
      • Sample Paragraph & Introductory Bibliography (10%)
        • The Sample Paragraph and Introductory Bibliography will be due at the end of the sixth week of class.  In this case, I will be marking students based on:
  • Grammar
  • Style
  • Argumentation
  • Grasp of Text
  • Appropriateness of Sources/Research
  • Peer Edited Draft (5%)
    • Drafts of the completed paper will be due at the end of the ninth week, to allow for a two week turn around.  Students will be asked to grade each other’s work according to the rubric for the final draft, as well as to offer helpful advice on how to make the paper better.  For instance, a student may recommend a source to another student or suggest reorganization of the paper.
  • Final Draft (15%)
    • This will be due the final day of class, to allow students ample time to rework their papers based on the peer editing process.

Final Exam (10%)

The final exam will be structurally like the unit quizzes, yet will be 20 questions long, with questions at least in part suggested from students and in part drawn from the same bank of questions as the unit quizzes.  This exam is cumulative and the final mark will be taken the first (and only) attempt.

Participation (15%)

This will comprise two parts.

  • Online discussion boards (5%)
    • Which can include suggestions for the final Exam Questions
  • Peer Editing (10%)
    • Have the students caught most of the grammatical errors?
    • Do the students show an understanding of the concepts in the papers they are reading?
    • Are they being supportive and constructive?
      • Are they asking questions about the paper/concept in the paper/idea?
      • Do they offer suggestions on what to revise and how?

Grade Distribution:

Unit Quizzes 15%
Notebook 25%
Term Essay 35%
Final Exam 10%
Participation 15%


Weekly Reading Schedule


Text to Read Modules of Course to Complete Assignments Due
Genre and History
Week One The Comedy of Errors 1.1 – Introduction
2.1 – The Beginnings of Western Comedy

  • Notebook
Week Two The Comedy of Errors 2.2 – Eros, Agape, Philia, and Redemption
2.3 – Language and Humor

  • Quiz
  • Notebook
Week Three The Taming of the Shrew 3.1 – The Terms of Analysis
3.2 – Genre

  • Notebook
Week Four The Taming of the Shrew 3.3 – Gender
3.4 – Performance and Adaptation

  • Quiz
  • Notebook
Week Five Midsummer Night’s Dream 4.1 – Performance as a Form of Analysis
4.2 – Performance History

  • Thesis Statements Due
  • Notebook
Week Six Midsummer Night’s Dream 4.3 – Language and the Erotic
4.4 – Intergenerational Friction

  • Quiz
  • Notebook
New Historicism
Week Seven Measure for Measure 5.1 – New Historicism and Shakespearean Comedy
5.2 – Authorship and the Cult of Shakespeare

  • Sample Paragraph Due
  • Notebook
Week Eight Measure for Measure 5.3 – Panopticism and Governance
5.4 – Prostitution and State Violence

  • Quiz
  • Notebook
Rhetoric and Romance
Week Nine Cymbeline 6.1 – The Rhetoric of Romance
6.2 – History Meets Fantasy

  • Paper due for Peer Editing
  • Notebook
Week Ten Cymbeline 6.3 – Generic Shift
6.4 – Myth, Universalism, and Romance

  • Quiz
  • Papers back from Peer Editing
  • Notebook
Post Colonialism
Week Eleven The Tempest 7.1 – Post-Colonial Analysis
7.2 – Prospero and Magic

  • Notebook
Week Twelve The Tempest 7.3 – Race
8.1 – Conclusion

  • Notebook
  • Final Paper
  • Final Exam



An assignment is considered “late” if the student and I have not agreed at least 24 hours beforehand to an alternate deadline to the one noted on this course outline.  Students handing in essays late will be docked 5% per calendar day until the essay is handed in or until 10 calendar days have passed, at which time the assignment will receive 0%.  Extenuating medical circumstances will, obviously, be grounds for compassionate waiver of late penalties.


Accessible Learning

Students with disabilities or special needs are advised to contact Laurier’s Accessible Learning Office for information regarding its services and resources.  Students are encouraged to review the Calendar for information regarding all services available on campus.


Academic Misconduct

Wilfrid Laurier University uses software that can check for plagiarism,  Students may be required to submit their written work in electronic form and have it checked for plagiarism.


FOOT Patrol


After evening classes call 886-FOOT for a walk or drive home – No Walk is Too Short or Too Long!!!@