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
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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.
"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.
"understanding the Bard"
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.
"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.
"Helpful prior to teaching"
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.
I really did want to hear all of the parts of this lecture, even though I only needed a few of them.
I will definitely listen to this one again, and use it as I would use any teaching resource. Great find!
"A Really Useful and Enjoyable Guide"
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.
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.
Interesting question and is probably not normally suited for a "Great Courses". But in this case his many readings always illuminated Shakespeare's characters.
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.
"Masterful introduction to Shakespeare"
I was so enthralled with these lectures that I listened to them all over a single weekend!
"Doesn't Achieve Goals"
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.
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.
No. I listened to the end hoping for more depth but was disappointed.
"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.
"Engaging and informative. Highly recommended."
Dr. Conner's erudition and passion for Shakespeare is obvious in every lecture. My only "criticism" is this: I wanted him to finish discussing the remaining plays!
"A Great Guide To Shakespeare for a Dummy (me!)"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"A Highly Recommended Title..."
Like many people, whilst I can appreciate Shakespeare's impact upon the world of literature and theatre, I often find the plays themselves a bit inaccessible. In recent years I've had the great pleasure to see Kevin Spacey's Richard III, Midsummer Nights Dream with Sheridan Smith and also an amazing Henry V, starring Jude Law. All were absolutely spell-binding, and yet, here and there, I found myself getting lost in the text. If you're the same, then this is definitely a book for you.
Prof Marc Conner strips away the layers of mystique and potential confusion surrounding Shakespeare's words, to explain clearly the thread of each story, the arc of the characters and how the overall structure of each work echoes the time it was written. And he does so with clarity and a clear love and enjoyment for the subject. His presentation is very engaging and keeps you both entertained and informed at every turn.
Through reading this I've been inspired to revisit some of the plays (mostly, I'll admit, those that have been filmed) and found myself totally immersed in the rich language, instead of being confused by it.
Very highly recommended...
"Great for long car journeys. Fascinating stuff"
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.
Very engaging - varied voice and delivery, really seems to know his stuff.
No - maybe two or three lectures at a time were okay though
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