Shakespeare’s Language (F13)

Wilfrid Laurier University
Waterloo, Ontario

English 400a:
Shakespeare’s Language


Andrew Bretz Fall 2013
Office: 3-129
Phone: 519-884-0710, ext. 4461
Office Hours: 12.30-13.30 Fridays
Skype ID: andrewbretz
Skype Office Hours: TBA

Course Description:

In this course we will examine Shakespeare’s dramatic poetry and prose from the perspective of actors playing roles in his plays. We will have a look at the Shakespeare plays being performed during the 2013 season at the Stratford Shakespearean Festival, as well as one or two more texts to be selected in connection with local performances of Shakespeare or Shakespeare related conferences and events. This co-ordination will allow students to select the option of reporting on a live performance of a play we’ve studied, though attendance at performances will not be a required component of the course. Topics for consideration in discussions and seminars will include the text in context, metaphor and emotion, language and characterization, and the challenges of performing Shakespeare in the modern theatre.

This class will be built around four pillars. Each pillar represents just one of the ways in which scholars, artists, and professionals approach the language of Shakespeare. They are a representative, not a comprehensive list. The pillars are:

    1. Textual Criticism
    2. Acting Choices
    3. Production Choices
    4. Inheritance

We will approach every text with an eye to each of these four pillars and the final projects must address themselves to these forms of analysis.  This course is a project based seminar, meaning that for much of the time, students will be expected to work independently or in small groups rather than attending a regular lecture. Only those students who are capable of, or interested in developing, independent learning should take this course.


Course Objectives:

By the end of the course, you will have

  1. Shown a familiarity with the basic structural and plot elements of six Shakespeare plays;
  2. Independently developed a summative project that shows an expertise in at least one of the four pillars;
  3. Through the summative project, strengthened your independent time management skills as well as your personal leadership and group work skills.


Required Texts:

Students may choose between any one of the following combinations:

  1. Shakespeare, William. The Norton Shakespeare, Based on the Oxford Edition. Gen. ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: WW Norton, 2008.
  2. The Arden 3 editions of the plays. (This is especially useful, should you choose an editorial project. Note that Measure for Measure does not have an Arden 3 edition yet.)
  3. The texts that have been ordered into the Bookstore, which are a combination of OUP and Arden texts.


Plays to Read:


  • Othello
  • Measure for Measure
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • The Tempest
  • Hamlet



Description of Assignments & Value, Due Dates:

Quiz 15% Friday October 4, 2013
Midterm 360° Evaluation 15% Wednesday October 30, 2013
Summative 360° Evaluation 20% December 2, 2013
Final Project 50% December 2, 2013
Total 100%



The majority of this class is centred on the Final Project, yet in order to do that project, students need to have a firm knowledge of the primary texts of analysis.  In this case, the primary texts of analysis are the six plays listed above (Othello, Measure for Measure, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, Hamlet).  The quiz, on October 4, will be a half hour knowledge based test on those six plays. You are expected to have read all of the plays by the quiz date and to be familiar with the basic characters, plot points, and elements of the play. Material discussed in class may be on the quiz.



Midterm 360° Evaluation

Group composition will be finalized on October 4th, the same day as the quiz. Later in the month, after the group has worked together for some time, students will get the opportunity to evaluate fellow group members, themselves, and the professor.  The evaluations will be available to fill out online. Students should receive the evaluations within a week.

  • Merely completing the evaluation will grant you half of the available marks (7.5/15). The other half will be determined by the student and me in one on one conferences from Nov 1-6.
  • Should any group have not done any work towards the project’s stated goal, or if the progress of the group is found to be insufficient, that will be reflected in the mark for the midterm evaluation.

360° Evaluation is a fairly common human resources tool, designed to help create group cohesion, foster teamwork and collaboration, and build communications skills.  On a creepy note, it was first used by the Nazis in World War Two.  There’s some trivia for you!


Summative 360° Evaluation

At the end of the course will be another 360° Evaluation, allowing you to evaluate fellow group members, yourself, and me.  This will take the form of an online survey, like the Midterm Evaluation. As this evaluation will be due on the final day of class, individual consultations will not occur unless specifically requested beforehand.  Simply completing the whole evaluation will grant you half of the available marks.

Added to this will be an evaluation of another group.  Each group will assess the work of another group. Questions you should ask yourself might be (but are not limited to):

  • How did the other group’s final project speak to the four pillars of the course?
  • Did the other group’s final project oversimplify the subject matter? Did it reveal hidden complexities?
  • Did the other group’s final project overemphasize either performance or analysis at the expense of the other (see below)?
  • Did the other group’s final project step above and beyond and do they deserve special consideration for that exceptional work?

Assessments of other groups must be handed in to me as the other groups complete their final projects.  For example, if your group is assessing a group that has chosen to launch a collection of essays, your group will have to read all the essays and attend the launch party. Only then can you assess the other group. You will have access to the rubric provided by the other group to aide in your assessment of their project.


Final Project

I hope that this will be more like the upper graph and less like the lower.

This course is designed such that the seminars all help the students shape and further complicate the final project that they have chosen to undertake.  The projects can take any form, though I have provided a list of possibilities below to act as guides or suggestions.

Projects are to be done in groups. As there will be approximately 20 students, there will be 4 groups of approximately 5 members each. Please remember that your grade is determined with input from other group members. That is, the 360⁰ Evaluations will help me gauge who has done what work, including those who disappear until the last minute and swoop in, seeking all the marks and the glory.

Students can either choose a project prompt from any of the suggestions below or you can come up with your own project that speaks to the four pillars of this course. Once you have come up with a project idea, you should let the class know what your idea is. Other members of the class can then join your group, and we can work together to make sure that the project is of an appropriate level of challenge. The final projects should try to draw from the six texts assigned, but other possibilities will be entertained on a case by case basis.

Project Possibilities:

  • Papers on a theme (Anthology – must launch)
  • Presentations on a Theme (Conference-style)
  • Mediatized Analyses (Must “perform”)
  • Edition with an Introduction (Must publish – launch)
  • Perform a Play (with Introductory notes)
  • Suggest your own idea


All projects must contain an analytic element and a performative element.  For example, one of the suggested projects is to put together an academic-style conference that would take place near the end of the semester. In that case, the analysis would be in the papers, but the performance would be in the presentations.  Another suggested project would be editing a section of one of the plays under study and launching/publishing that edition. In that case, the analysis would be in the editing and introduction, while the performance would be in the launching of that edition.

As each group project will be radically different, no universal rubric will suffice to evaluate all the projects. Instead, students will work with the professor to determine how they want to be evaluated. These rubrics must be handed in before the group “presents” the final project.

The final project is designed such that it is more akin to what you will be doing in the workplace than a more traditional essay or exam. As such, if your group does well in your project, I will be happy to write you letters of recommendation based on the project for future employment. Of course, that all depends on you doing well…


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. Do not hand in papers to administrative offices.  If you hand in a paper under my door, or in my mailbox, then your paper will be docked marks until such time as I retrieve it, which could be up to a week later.


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.

Special Needs

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


University Examination and Deferrals

Please refer to the most recent version of the undergraduate calendar regarding the university’s policy on examinations and exam deferrals. (Refer to the examination section of the calendar under – University Undergraduate Regulations – Academic Regulations – Examinations found at Note also the dates for the final exam period. Students are required to reserve this time in their personal calendars for examinations. Students considering registering to write MCAT, LSAT, or GMAT or a similar examination should select a time for those examinations that occurs outside the University examination period.  


FOOT Patrol

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


Counselling Services, and the Student Food Bank



Monday Wednesday Friday
September 9


September 11

Four Pillars of the Course

September 13

Pillar One: Textual Criticism

Day One – Fundamentals of Textual Criticism

September 16

Pillar One: Textual Criticism

Day Two – Editing Practice

September 18

Pillar Two: Acting Choices

Day One – Building a Character

September 20

Pillar Two: Acting Choices

Day Two – Shakespeare in Performance

September 23

Pillar Three: Production Choices

Day One – Sight

September 25

Pillar Three: Production Choices

Day Two – Sound

September 27

Pillar Four: Inheritance

Day One – Theatre History

September 30

Pillar Four: Inheritance

Day Two – Directing and Tradition

October 2

Flex Day

(Topic to be Defined by Students)

October 4

  • Quiz
  • Final Project Teams Finalized
October 7

Student/Group Meetings

October 9


October 11


October 14

Thanksgiving – NO CLASSES

October 16

Pillar One: Textual Criticism Intensive

October 18

Pillar Two: Acting Choices Intensive

October 21

Pillar Three: Production Choices Intensive

October 23

Pillar Four: Inheritance Intensive

October 25

No Class

October 28

No Class

October 30

  • Midterm 360° Evaluation
  • Mandatory Group Consultations
November 1

Mandatory Individual/Group Consultation

Fortieth Day of Class – Drop Date

November 4

Mandatory Individual/Group Consultation

November 6

Mandatory Individual/Group Consultations

November 8

Case Studies: Pillars One and Two

November 11

Case Studies: Pillars Three and Four

November 13

Mandatory Group Consultations

November 15

Mandatory Individual/Group Consultation

November 18


November 20


November 22


November 25

Present Group Work

November 27

Present Group Work

November 29

Present Group Work

December 2

  • Conclusions
  • Final Project “Due”
  • Summative 360° Evaluation Due