Queen's University

Connect with us

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • RSS


ENGL 256/6.0

A study of Shakespeare's plays in relation to the social, intellectual, and political climate of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods and with reference to theatrical production.

Learning Outcomes

The course lessons are organized by individual plays in chronological order. In addition to twelve lessons covering twelve different plays, there is a general introduction outlining the history of Shakespeare criticism and explaining the approach that is followed in this course (see "Approaches to Studying Shakespeare"). For each of the twelve lessons, you are responsible for reading the play in the Norton Shakespeare, the introduction to it in that text, and any additional readings listed at the beginning of the lesson. You should also familiarize yourself with the contents of the General Introduction to the Norton Shakespeare (pp. 1-78) and the section on “The Shakespearean Stage” by Andrew Gurr (pp. 77-99). These pages are reprinted in each volume of the four-volume set. Individual lessons will direct you to specific sections of these readings, but you are responsible for reading through both of them at some point in the course.

There is also an excellent chronological table of events in Shakespeare's time beginning on page 1092 of each book in the four-volume set.

Plays to be Studied

  • The Taming of the Shrew (1592)
  • Richard III (1592-3)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595)   
  • The Merchant of Venice (1596-7)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (1598-9)
  • Henry V (1599)
  • Hamlet (1600)
  • Twelfth Night (1601)
  • Measure for Measure (1604)
  • Othello (1604)
  • Macbeth (1606)
  • The Tempest (1611)


The principal objective of this course is to help you gain confidence in reading and understanding Shakespeare's plays. Because Shakespeare's plays are written in a largely unfamiliar idiom and literary form, and because they are the product of specific historical circumstances, the course will give equal emphasis to the development of analytical skills and to acquiring a working knowledge of the social, political, and theatrical milieu in which Shakespeare wrote.


To be determined
Course Dates: 
Exam Dates: 


  • Four essays of 1,250-1,500 word (15% each) = 60% 
  • Final Exam = 40%

**Evaluation Subject to Change**

See information about the exam format in the Start Here section of the course onQ site. You must submit all the assignments, write and pass the exam in order to pass the course.

Final Examination

Students must write their exam on the day and time scheduled by the University. The start time may vary slightly depending on the off-campus exam centre. Do not schedule vacations, appointments, etc., during the exam period


Marta Straznicky (straznic@queensu.ca)

Instructor message

Welcome to the world of Shakespeare!  Reading the early Shakespeare, of course, is a deceptive challenge because of (to us) the artificiality of the conventions and poetic language of the late 1580s and early 1590s. But take heart. You will find that an osmotic learning process will lead you, almost without recognizing it, into a familiarity with Shakespeare and a comfort level with the magic of his words and wisdom that will surprise you by the end of the course. This is because both you and Shakespeare are changing as you experience the evolution of his dramatic career. Shakespeare’s language “naturalizes” (from our point of view), as he advances through the comedies and histories toward the tragedies and late romances and holds “the mirror up to nature.

As Shakespeare reminds us and dramatizes in many ways, “All the world’s a stage,” and we quickly discover, as we read and view him, that his stage is truly a world as well, which we can easily share, because it so resembles our own. By entering his “kind nursery” and embracing Coleridge’s “willing suspension of disbelief,” we will discover in Shakespeare and his wondrous creations a world we had not known to exist. “We are such things as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep,” Prospero says poignantly in The Tempest. So “Brush Up On Your Shakespeare” and discover the magnificence of the poetry and insight into the human condition characterizing the unsurpassable “Swan of Avon.”

Time Commitment

To complete the readings, assignments, and course activities, students can expect to spend, on average, about 10 - 12 hours per week (240 hours per term) on the course.

Course Resources


SOLUS is Queen’s Student On-Line University System. You’ll have access to a SOLUS account once you become a Queen’s student. You’ll use SOLUS to register for courses, add and drop courses, update your contact information, view financial and academic information, and pay your tuition.

About OnQ

onQ is Queen's online learning platform. You'll log into onQ to access your course. All materials related to your course—notes, readings, videos, recordings, discussion forums, assignments, quizzes, groupwork, tutorials, and help—will be on the onQ site.

About Credit Units

Queen’s courses are weighted in credit units. A typical one-term course is worth 3.0 units, and a typical two-term course is worth 6.0 units. You combine these units to create your degree. A general (three-year) BA or BSc requires a total of 90 credit units.

Computer Requirements

To take an online course, you’ll need a high speed internet connection as well as a microphone and speakers to be able to watch videos, hear sounds, and participate in interactive online activities. A webcam is recommended but not necessary.

System Requirements:

  • Laptop or Desktop computer purchased within the last 5 years. (mobile devices are not supported)
  • Windows Vista SP2/Mac OSX 10.9 or higher
  • Up to date versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer or Safari. Please note that Google Chrome is not recommended for use in our courses.
  • Most recent version of Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash

 See also Getting Started.


The deadlines for new applications to Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are in our Upcoming Application Dates section.

Grading Scheme

The information below is intended for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Academic Regulations in other Faculties may differ.

Letter Grade Grade Point

GPA Calculators
Have your SOLUS grade report handy and then follow the link to the Arts and Science GPA calculators.

How does this affect my academics?
See the GPA and Academic Standing page.

Follow the link above for an explanation of how the GPA system affects such things as the Dean’s Honour List, requirements to graduate, and academic progression.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Grading Scheme
Please follow this link to the FAQ's

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for Summer Term 2017, Fall Term 2017 and Winter Term 2018 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Domestic students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $666.91; for a 6.0-unit course, $1333.82. See also Tuition and Fees.

Campus Bookstore

All textbooks can be purchased at Queen’s Campus Bookstore.

Non-Queen’s Students

All Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are open to students at other universities. Before applying as a visiting student, request a Letter of Permission from your home university that states that you have permission to take the course and apply it to your degree. See also Apply.

Academic Integrity

Please see Queen’s policy statement on academic integrity for information on how to complete an online course honestly.