Global Shakespeare

ENGL 259/3.0

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This course is a study of the dissemination of Shakespeare's plays across a range of cultures and sites from the early seventeenth century to the present, with a focus on the development of Shakespeare as a "global" author. Selected plays will be studied in historical context and in geographically diverse adaptations in theatrical, print, and electronic media.

Please note: This course is typically offered in the fall term

ENGL 259 will engage students in a detailed study of selected Shakespearean plays across a range of geographical locales and in at least four overlapping historical and cultural contexts:  1) the intersection of Shakespeare's plays with early modern 'global' culture (including the representation of non-English cultures on the London stage, the attendance at the early modern theatre of international spectators, some of whom provide our earliest eye-witness accounts of staging practices, and the performance of Shakespeare's plays by touring companies in early modern Europe); 2) live stagings of Shakespeare's plays outside early modern London (including detailed analysis of the theatrical networks in which these plays were performed and the shifting meanings of text and context with each performance); 3) the textual network in which Shakespeare's plays have been disseminated (including scholarly and teaching editions, translations, illustrated adaptations, screenplays, etc.); and 4) the electronic networks which have facilitated the dissemination of Shakespeare's plays to unprecedented numbers of people worldwide (radio and TV adaptations, films, internet editions, social media, websites such as the Global Shakespeares Video and Performance Archive at MIT, etc.).  Virtually any play of Shakespeare's that has been produced, published, or otherwise disseminated outside early modern London would be an appropriate text for this course, and it is to be expected that individual instructors will modify the content according to their own interests and understanding of the field. Particularly rich and multifarious examples of the globalization of Shakespeare are to be found in the dissemination of Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and of course The Tempest. In this course, the focus will be on the following plays: Hamlet, Macbeth and The Tempest.

In addition to acquiring a close understanding of the plays both in their earliest and selected subsequent cultural moments, students will be introduced to the appropriate historical, theoretical and methodological issues attendant on a study of Shakespeare and "global" culture: the relationship between the spread of English as a global language and the development of Shakespeare as a global author; the tension between the purportedly "universal values" expressed in Shakespeare's plays and the local meanings and motivations of their staging or refiguring; the shifting economies and ideologies of cultural production and transmission; the conceptual and practical challenges of transferring content from one language to another (through translation, adaptation, rewriting, bilingual editions, supertitles, etc.); and the transfiguration of linguistic to visual, musical, and other media, as well as the relationship among these media in the production of meaning in a given cultural moment.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

1)    describe the international nature of the literary and theatrical culture in which Shakespeare wrote and explain the relationship between his plays and that culture.

2)    summarize the performance history of selected plays in a range of geographic locales.

3)    define the theoretical and methodological issues related to the study of Shakespeare and ‘global’ culture.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

1)    explain the relationship between the spread of English as a global language and the development of Shakespeare as a global author.

2)    interpret Shakespeare’s plays as products of an international literary culture.

3)    explain the relationship between a wide range of productions and adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays and their cultural and political contexts. 

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

1)    analyze individual performances of Shakespeare’s plays in terms of their relationship to the play as it exists in its early modern text(s).

2)    relate individual performances of Shakespeare’s plays to the history of reception of a given play.

3)    assess the shifting economies and ideologies of cultural production and transmission that are operative at the time a given play is performed.

4)  demonstrate advanced research and writing skills in textual and cultural analysis.


Fall 2024
Course Dates
Delivery Mode


15% - Written report of 500 – 700 words (production analysis) on a selected performance of a Shakespeare play
15% - Online discussion forum (x3—one for each play studied)
30% - Term essay of 1,200 – 1,500 words on an adaptation of a Shakespeare play
40% - Take-home Final exam 

**Evaluation Subject to change**

Live Sessions

This course has optional live sessions (e.g. webinars, synchronous activities).

Textbook and Materials

ASO reserves the right to make changes to the required material list as received by the instructor before the course starts. Please refer to the Campus Bookstore website at to obtain the most up-to-date list of required materials for this course before purchasing them.

Required Materials

Hamlet (Norton Critical Edition. 2nd edition)

Macbeth (Norton Critical Edition. 2nd edition)

The Tempest (Norton Critical Edition. 2nd edition)

Aimé Césaire, A Tempest: Based on Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’; Adaptation for a Black Theatre. Translated from the French by Richard Miller. New York: TCG Translations, 2002.

Note: There will be many more readings available via electronic reserve, PDF, and via web links.

Time Commitment

To complete the readings, assignments, and course activities, students can expect to spend on average, about 10 hours per week (120 hours per term) on the course.