Summary

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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Farniboy on 19-08-14

A Great Guide To Shakespeare for a Dummy (me!)

Would you listen to How to Read and Understand Shakespeare again? Why?

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.

What other book might you compare How to Read and Understand Shakespeare to, and why?

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.

What about Professor Marc C. Conner’s performance did you like?

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.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

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.

Any additional comments?

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.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Dylan on 13-04-17

An impressive course

Any additional comments?

This is an impressive series of lectures, which gives much insight into Shakespeare's plays, ideal for those, like me, who've avoided the playwright since being put off him at school. Prof. Connor's enthusiasm and knowledge makes me want to listen to many plays.

If you want an informative, insightful, intelligent and enjoyable introduction to Shakespeare, this is a good pick.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Ark1836 on 13-10-15

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.

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29 of 29 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Troy on 25-11-14

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.

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21 of 22 people found this review helpful

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