English 339: Introduction to Shakespeare
Spring, 2015
Head of Shakespeare
              (engraving)ENGL 339-03, Fisher Science 33-289
Office: 47-35G, tel. 756-2636 
Office Hours: MW 1:10-2:00, Th 12:10-2:00; and by appt.

Woman Reader (engraving)Dr. Debora B. Schwartz 
e-mail: dschwart@calpoly.edu
Main ENGL Dept. Office: 756-2597

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Calendar of Assignments.  PLEASE NOTE that the on-line calendar (not any print-out you may make) is authoritative.  Assignments may be modified in the course of the quarter.  Check the on-line syllabus regularly (before each class) to ensure that you are completing the correct assignment.  It is accessible at http://cla.calpoly.edu/~dschwart/engl339/339sylls15.html

Course Information:

Study Guides and Plot Summaries: Video Assignments: Shakespeare Web Resources:
Online Readings: Renaissance Web Resources:

Shakespeare portaitPREREQUISITES: GE area A (esp. expository writing, e.g. ENGL 134, and reasoning, argumentation and writing, e.g. ENGL 145); AND GE area C1 (ideally a 200-level literature class, e.g. ENGL 230 or 231 or 251 or 252 or 253).  Students enrolled in this class are expected to have the basic writing, argumentation and analytic skills taught in the Prerequisite classes and to have prior experience in reading and analyzing literature at the 200-level.

A WRITING-INTENSIVE, G.E. AREA C4 CLASS.  As a writing-intensive class, ENGL 339 requires a minimum of 3000 words of writing over the course of the quarter, and 50% of the course grade must be based on writing assignments.  As a G.E. area C4 class, it provides historical perspective on a significant literary period; covers a range of literary genres and conventions; helps you understand both individual works and their relationship to the social, cultural, and historical context in which they were written, including attention to relevant issues of gender and diversity; and aims to foster an appreciation of the connections between literary works and non-verbal forms such as the visual and/or performing arts.  Course readings, lectures and writing assignments aim to help you develop the skills necessary to read with insight, engagement, and detachment; to analyze and evaluate works from cultures which are unfamiliar to you; and to write clear, efffective textual analysis that is firmly grounded in close reading of literary texts.

GWR:  As a C4 literature class, ENGL 339 may be taken by students wishing to fulfill the Graduate Writing Requirement (GWR).  However, please be aware that successful completion of the course does not guarantee GWR certification.  To achieve GWR certification, you must 1) have junior or senior standing; 2) pass the class with a grade of "C" or better (a C- is not adequate); and 3) WRITE A GWR-CERTIFIABLE ESSAY on the essay portion of either the midterm or the final exam.  A GWR-certifiable essay must conform to the standards for formal analytic writing about literature:  a valid argument (appropiate and adequate content), logical organization, appropriate and adequate textual support, and reasonably correct mechanics (grammar, spelling, sentence structure, punctuation, etc.) and style.  See Tips for Writing a GWR-Certifiable Essay; consult the Paper Writing Guidelines and Essay Evaluation Sheet if you are unsure about the conventions of formal analytic writing about literature.


ENGL 339 is designed to introduce both English or Theatre majors and G.E. students to representative plays of all genres by William Shakespeare, perhaps the finest poet ever to write in English. By the end of the course, you should:

  • know basic biographical facts about Shakespeare, including dates of major milestones in Shakespeare's life and composition and publication dates of the five plays read in class.
  • understand attitudes toward the theater and common theatrical practices during the Renaissance and early seventeenth century.
  • be familiar with terminology relevant to the plays read in class. This terminology includes but is not limited to genres (comedy, history, tragedy, revenge tragedy, tragi-comedy, romance); types of language (prose, rhymed verse, blank verse, capping couplets); figures of speech (personification, metaphor, simile, etc.); dramatic structure (rising action, falling action, turning point, subplots, foils, etc.); publication practices (quartos, First Folio, "foul" papers, copyright, base text, etc.).
  • have a basic understanding of the interpretive processes involved in the production of a Shakespearean play, and be able to scrutinize such a production critically, based upon your informed understanding of the text.
  • feel confident of your ability to read and enjoy a play by Shakespeare on your own!
  • First Folio photoREQUIRED TEXTS:  The SIGNET CLASSICS editions of A Midsummer Night's Dream; Henry V; Macbeth; Hamlet; and The Tempest.  Do NOT substitute another edition. In class discussions, we will refer to page and line numbers in these editions; BRING TEXT WITH YOU TO CLASS! Some required background reading is also found in these editions. Text of passages on Reading Quizzes and Exams will be taken from these editions.
    NOTE: As You Like It has been dropped from this class because of reduced class meetings due to university holidays.  I highly recommend this gender-bending pastoral comedy.
    Other required readings will be accessed electronically:  Online Readings are found in .HTML files accessible through links on this website and E-reserve readings in the form of .PDF files on "electronic reserve" in PolyLearn.  Please note that ALL required electronically accessed readings should be PRINTED OUT, PLACED IN A COURSE BINDER, AND BROUGHT WITH YOU TO CLASS.

    Renaissance stage engravingVIDEO SCREENINGS / PERFORMANCES: Shakespeare's plays were written to be performed -- they were originally seen, not read. Because there was no such thing as "copyright" in the sixteenth century, playwrights kept their plays from publication to protect themselves (and their acting troupes) from unauthorized productions. Thus, the written text was not "sacred," as it seems to us today; variations and changes occurred from production to production and from performance to performance. Also, keep in mind that ANY production of a play -- in Shakespeare's time or in our own -- is an interpretation of the text. We will pay close attention to this interpretive layer through the analysis of selected performances (video screenings) and by performing key scenes from the plays. 

    -- VIDEOS: Video versions of all plays read in class are on reserve for ENGL 339 in the Kennedy Library; the Olivier films (and some other versions of the plays) may also be available from e.g. Netflix, Amazon.con, Hulu, and/or from local libraries and video stores. You are encouraged to see as many different versions of the plays on the syllabus as you have time for, and to think about the textual interpretation behind the differences between them.

    Three SPECIFIC video productions are REQUIRED viewing for the class: the Joseph Papp/Public Theatre A Midsummer Night's Dream (stage version dir. James Lapine; film version dir. Emile Ardolino)  and Laurence Olivier's classic film versions of Henry V and Hamlet. There will be at least two scheduled group screenings of each required video (details TBA), or you can see them on your own time.  Copies of each of these required videos are on Reserve for ENGL 339 in the Kennedy Library. For each REQUIRED video, you must submit a video worksheet electronically to your Polylearn Discussion Group and in hard copy at the class meeting devoted to video discussion.  Your three video worksheets will not be graded as Written Work, but they should be completed with care as the information they ask you to compile is covered on the midterm and final exams.  Video worksheets factor into the Participation component of your final course grade:  each missing Video Worksheet counts as an Unexcused Absence.

    -- Renaissance actors (engraving)STUDENT PERFORMANCES: the last week of class, each student will present a group scene or a monologue from a play read in class. The text should be memorized and acted with as much dramatic flair as you can muster (costumes and props are encouraged but not required). Scenes and monologues should be chosen carefully to illustrate key issues in the work; the significance of the scene must be briefly explained prior to the presentation. This REQUIRED oral exercise will be graded pass/fail. Quality of the performance (and of the memorization) will be recorded only as a plus or minus used to decide borderline grades. However, failure to present a scene or monologue will result in a zero as half of your Participation grade (5% of your final course grade).  You may not present a scene or monologue that has already been claimed by another student.  When specific speeches or scenes are claimed (first come, first served!), I will post the list here:

    For some ideas on what scene or speech to choose, follow links for the list of speeches/scenes performed in recent quarters: F13 ENGL 339-01 Performances; F13 ENGL 339-02 Performances, F13; W12 ENGL 339 Performances.

    NOTE:  Yes, seeing Shakespeare performed well is fun, but remember that performances / screenings are NOT 1) a substitute for reading the plays or 2) a free-ride that gets you out of doing "real" work.  You will be expected to ANALYZE and INTERPRET required performances with a critical eye and to fill out and post a Video Analysis Worksheet for each required video in your PolyLearn Discussion Group.  To do this assignment, you will need to note specific details from the production that reveal the textual interpretation behind it and to identify important textual passages upon which this interpretation is founded.  Remember that your opinions must always be justified textually -- based not upon whim but upon your solid knowledge of the play and informed interpretation of its meaning. Note: A SECTION ON THE REQUIRED VIDEOS WILL BE INCLUDED ON THE MIDTERM AND FINAL EXAMS!!

    Queen Elizabeth portraitCLASS EMAIL ALIAS:  Important announcements concerning this class will be sent over the class email alias.  The class email alias is automatically generated using the email address found in the Cal Poly Directory server for each enrolled student. If your Cal Poly email account is NOT your preferred email address, you must

    Remember: you are responsible for any information sent over the class email alias (e.g. changes in assignments; other class-related announcements), so be sure to check your email regularly.  You may also use the alias to send a query or comment to the whole class (including your instructor).  Please do not use the email alias for matters unrelated to class

    King James I and
        Queen Ann engravingPARTICIPATION: ENGL 339 is designed to encourage YOUR interaction with and enjoyment of Shakespeare's plays. The primary emphasis is on the text, not historical background or scholarly debate (although some familiarity with the historical context is essential to an understanding of the plays -- and will be covered on exams).  If you are looking for a passive, sit-back-and-listen lecture, please choose another course. YOUR active participation is essential to the success of ENGL 339!  For these reasons . . .

    REGULAR ATTENDANCE AND PARTICIPATION IN YOUR POLYLEARN DISCUSSION GROUP ARE REQUIRED. Each absence or missing Discussion Group posting will affect the PARTICIPATION component of your final grade, reducing it from a base of 4.0.  If you have a valid reason for missing class (illness, family crisis, other unavoidable conflict), TELL ME IN WRITING.  A written explanation, signed (by you), is required for an absence to count as excused; be sure to include your full name, the class number, the date(s) missed and the reason(s) for the absence(s).  (A telephone or e-mail message is appreciated as a courtesy, but it is NOT sufficient for an absence to count as excused).  Any absence for which you do not provide a signed, written explanation will be recorded as unexcused.  Please note: work conflicts and job interviews are NOT valid reasons for missing class; you are responsible for keeping work commitments from conflicting with academic ones.  Exception:  if you are a graduating senior and must travel out of town for a final interview, ONE such absence will count as excused.  Please do not schedule local interviews or other appointments during class hours.

    PARTICIPATION GRADE CALCULATION:  "Excused" absences (generally, only for medical reasons, a family or other emergency, or circumstances truly beyond your control-- NOT for job conflicts) are weighed less heavily than "unexcused" absences or missing Discussion Group postings.  The first "excused" absence lowers the attendance component of the course grade by .1 (4.0 to 3.9); the second "excused" absence lowers it by .3 (3.9 to 3.7); thereafter, "excused" absences are calculated like "unexcused" absences.  The first "unexcused" absence lowers the attendance component of the final grade by .3 (from 4.0 to 3.7); the second by .4 (from 3.7 to 3.3); etc. Missing postings from your Polylearn Discussion Group (four required Mini-Essays; eight required Classroom Responses; three Required Video Worksheets) COUNT AS UNEXCUSED ABSENCES.

    COME TO CLASS ON TIME AND PREPARED!! Readings are to be completed before class on the date assigned. Reading Quizzes PRECEDE discussion of the play on the first day for which the full text is assigned (see Calendar). You are expected as a matter of course to read the Introduction preceding each play, the "Textual Note" and "Note on the Source(s)" following it, and all relevant online or e-reserve readings (.PDF files accessible through PolyLearn). Ideally, background material should be read BEFORE reading the play, but if you are short on time, read PLAY first (by quiz day, using the relevant Study Guide and Plot Summary as reading aids) and complete the background readings ASAP thereafter (before the last class meeting on that play).

    Shakespeare Portrait engravingONLINE STUDY GUIDES and PLOT SUMMARIES will be provided to facilitate reading the plays.USE THEM! Familiarize yourself with study questions before you begin to read, and refer to guides as you go, noting relevant passages. After completing the play, I recommend that you reread the questions and write up a summary of your ideas. (This summary is FOR YOU. It will not be collected or graded, but you may be asked to share responses in class.) Don't neglect the introductions and (especially) the notes; they will provide guidance on points that might otherwise be hard to understand.

    Remember: THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR READING THE PLAYS!! You will NOT pass this course by watching videos, reading Cliff  or Spark Notes, or merely by knowing "what happens." Plot synopses are assigned reading tools for each play, so you are ASSUMED to know "what happens" even before you begin to read the text. Plot alone will NOT be sufficient to pass reading quizzes. Finally: allow yourself enough time to read thoughtfully-- it will greatly enhance your comprehension (and enjoyment!) of Shakespeare's plays.


    Class will begin with a READING QUIZ on the first day for which the full text is assigned. Quizzes will consist of nine significant passages from the play.  You will choose six of these nine passages and answer four short questions about each.  For example, you may be asked to state if the passage is in blank verse, rhyme or prose; identify the speakers and people spoken to (know NAMES!!); identify persons/things referred to by pronouns (e.g. "he," "she," "it," "we," "they"); explain when and where the scene takes place. You will not need to know the act or scene numbers of the passage; instead, you should be able to explain in general terms what is going on (e.g. what just happened or what is about to happen). Because the Study guides are designed to draw your attention to important passages, if you use them and read with care, you should recognize most or all of the passages on the quizzes.

    -- Christine de Pizan writingWRITTEN WORK:  as a writing-intensive GE class, 50% of your course grade must be based on written work. Out-of-class writing assignments will be of two sorts:  a set of four two-page Polylearn Discussion Group Mini-Essays and a longer final paper.  Both sorts of writing will require close reading of assigned plays.

    -- Polylearn Discussion Group postings: Each student will be assigned to a Polylearn Discussion Group of 6-8 students.  You must post four two-page Mini-essays on assigned plays to your Polylearn Discussion Group by no later than midnight on the dates indicated on the Calendar of Assignments.  Mini-Essays must also be turned in to your instructor in hard copy, preferably printed on two sides of a single page, at the first class meeting after the Discussion Group due date.   Each mini-essay will consist of a textually-based argument exploring an aspect of the assigned play that goes beyond plot summary, e.g. a response to a study question or an exploration of a key theme in the play.  Mini-Essays (and your final paper) must be grounded in close reading and analysis of specific speeches and scenes.  For fuller details, see the Mini-Essay Assignment Guidelines.

    -- scribe at workIMPORTANT: in order to receive credit for  your Mini-Essays, you must post at least two short (but thoughtful) Classmate Responses to Mini-Essays on the same play posted by two other members of your Polylearn Discussion Group (with whom you may agree or disagree, as long as you do so respectfully and back up your response with your own textual support).  Classmate responses must including at least one ADDITIONAL quotation from the play in support of your observations.  Classmate responses are due no later than midnight on the the dates indicated on the Calendar of Assignments (generally, 2-3 days after Mini-Essays are due).  Your eight classmate responses will not be graded as Written Work, but they are required to get credit for your Mini-Essays and they  factor into the participation component of your final course grade:  each missing Classmate Response counts as an Unexcused Absence.

    -- The longer formal paper (4-5 pp., due at the last class meeting) is a literary analysis, supported by close reading of the plays, which focuses on ONE play read this quarter (or, if you wish, a comparison of a play and one or more filmic interpretations of that play, provided that you incorporate close textual reading into your film analysis as well!)  You are encouraged, but not required, to expand and develop an idea you have already explored in one of your Mini-Essays or the midterm exam essay.  It is not recommended that you write on more than one play.  As you choose a topic, bear in mind that the play which is the focus of your out-of-class paper is off-limits for the essay section on the Final Exam.

    -- EXAMS:

    You MUST take the final exam at the scheduled time. 

    Both exams will cover readings, lectures, and required videos; they will include passages to identify (from several plays) and objective questions on background materials (including online readings and e-reserves). There will be two chances to earn GWR certification: for the essay question on the midtermand final exams. Please note that because this is a writing-intensive course, 50% of the course grade must be based on writing assignments. For this reason, the essay on each exam will be worth 50% of the exam. The Final Exam (only) will include an obligatory memory passage: 20 or more (consecutive!) lines from one play read in class.  The Final will be cumulative, but with emphasis on work since the Midterm.
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    Woman Reader (engraving) 10%: Participation, based on attendance (19 class meetings) and your participation in your assigned Polylearn discussion group (submission of 4 graded MEs, 8 ungraded Classmate Responses, and 3 ungraded video worksheets).  Failure to present the required (but ungraded) Student Performance will result in a "0" counting as 1/2 of your Participation grade, i.e. 5% of your final course grade.
    15%: quizzes (lowest score dropped; bonuses of .05 to .3 added to the normally top score of 4.0 for students whose quiz average is more than 6 pts.)
    15%: Polyearn Discussion Group Mini-Essays (best 3 of 4)
    10%:  4-5 page Final Paper
    50%: Exams (Midterm= 20%; Final = 30%; equal weight to essay and objective components on each exam).
    NOTE: Final course grades is this class are not based on a specific number of course "points" and cannot be computed directly from the percentage scores earned on quizzes and exams.  Scores earned in each graded component of the class are converted to a 4.0-scale (like GPA: 4.3=A+, 4.0=A, 3.7=A-, 3.3=B+, etc.) and weighted as outlined above prior to the calculation of the final course grade.


    Sure you can -- if you will take the time to read the plays carefully and thoughtfully.  And -- this being Shakespeare -- if you DO put in the time, you WILL enjoy them!  The Bard will amply reward your efforts (they don't call 'em "Great Books" for nothing!)  And remember . . . I LOVE teaching this stuff, and I'm told that my enthusiasm makes classes more fun!

    However. . . DON'T assume that the class will "take care of itself."  If you have a heavy course- and/or work-load, please be sure to budget time for this class . . . or save it for another quarter.


    Rest assured, we'll take a break each day.  Feel free to bring along a caffeinated (or non-caffeinated) drink--whatever it takes to keep you alert through two hours.  If there is sufficient interest, rotating cookie duty will be arranged!

    Contents of this and all linked pages Copyright Debora B. Schwartz, 1996-2015 Another
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