02.115DH Global Shakespeares

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In this class, we’ll be reading four of Shakespeare’s plays alongside modern global adaptations for stage and film. In our first unit, we’ll read Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice alongside the 2004 film adaptation by the Indian-born English director Michael Radford. In doing so, we’ll explore what it means to be a racial and religious outsider—both in Shakespeare’s era and in our own. In our second unit, we’ll read Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night alongside a Hawaii-based adaptation of the play by the actor and standup comic James Grant Benton. As we read, we’ll think about what Shakespeare’s plays mean for communities who speak a range of global Englishes, including Singlish speakers living in Singapore. In our third unit, we’ll read The Tempest alongside an English translation of the Martinican poet and playwright Aimé Césaire’s Une Tempête, which reimagines the setting of the play in a postcolonial Caribbean context. We’ll also consider questions of gender and power in the play in the American director Julie Taymore’s 2010 film The Tempest, which reimagines the lead character Prospero as a woman. In our final unit, we’ll read Shakespeare’s otherworldly tragedy Macbeth alongside Joel Coen’s 2021 The Tragedy of Macbeth, which stars Denzel Washington as Macbeth and was one of President Obama’s picks for best films of 2021.

As with think about Shakespeare in global adaptation on stage and in film, you’ll have the opportunity to creatively adapt sections of Shakespeare. In addition to traditional argumentative essay options, you’ll be able to opt to do a creative translation project, or a creative dramaturgy or cinematic adaption for stage or film. Working either individually or in groups, you’ll get to reimagine a section of Shakespeare’s original play text within a global context of your own choosing.

Course Requirement

Assessment Percentage
WEC – Participation (Attendance) 20
WEC – Participation (4 Weekly Responses) 10
WEC – Midterm paper or creative translation (1000-1200 words) 30
WEC – Final paper or dramaturgy assignment (1300-1500 words) 35
WEC – Individual or group presentations 5

Course Policies
• Attendance is required and will be factored into class participation. Please email me beforehand to inform me of absences so that I may excuse you. Medical absences require a doctor’s note. Unexcused absences will lower your course participation grade.

• No extensions. Late papers will be docked by 1/3 of a grade (A to A-) for every late day.

• Short responses are to be turned in the day that they are due and are meant to contribute to
the day’s discussion about the readings. To this end, no late responses will be accepted since
this means they will no longer contribute to that day’s discussion. You can turn in your
responses for either the plays or the films. If you’re writing on the films, you can turn in the
responses the day after class once the film is over. Only one response per day is allowed (e.g.
don’t turn in all four on the last day of class.)

Weekly Schedule

Week 1: Introduction; The Merchant of Venice, Acts 1-2

Week 2: The Merchant of Venice, Acts 3-4; Merchant of Venice, Act 5

Week 3: Michael Radford, Merchant of Venice (2004) (with Al Pacino as Shylock); Michael Radford, Merchant of Venice

Week 4: Twelfth Night, Acts 1-3; Twelfth Night, Acts 4-5

Week 5: James Grant Benton, Twelf Nite O Wateva! (1984)

Week 6: Performing Shakespeare in Hawai‘i in Hawaiian Pidgin; Shakespeare in Singlish: Teaching Shakespeare in Singapore


Week 8: The Tempest, Acts 1–3; The Tempest, Acts 3–5

Week 9: Julie Taymor, The Tempest (2010), with Prospera as Helen Mirren

Week 10: Aimé Césaire, Une Tempête (1969)

Week 11: Macbeth, Acts 1–2; Macbeth, Acts 3–4

Week 12: Macbeth, Act 5; Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021), with Macbeth as Denzel Washington

Week 13: Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth; Performances, Shakespeare’s birthday party

Week 14: Final Assignment

Rhema Hokama