Fall 2021 - ENGL 312 D100

Shakespeare and the Stage: 1570-1642 (4)

Power, Performance and Politics

Class Number: 6463

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM
    BLU 10011, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    30 units or two 200 division English courses.



Study of the dramatic works of William Shakespeare and other early modem English authors. This course may be repeated for credit if a different topic is taught.


“Shakespeare: Power, Performance and Politics"

This course will focus on four of Shakespeare’s richest political plays: Titus Andronicus, Richard III, Richard II, and Julius Caesar. We will begin by looking at a selection of chapters from Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, an early modern work that illuminates political drama as well as, or better than, any other work. Shakespeare and his contemporaries may not have had access to full and authoritative editions of Machiavelli, but they saw the importance of his insights into power, performance and politics. Then we will turn to one of Shakespeare’s first plays, Titus Andronicus, a political revenge play set in Rome. We will then read two of Shakespeare’s greatest English history plays: the justly famous Richard III and the underrated masterpiece Richard II. With our final play, we circle back to Rome, and examine one of Shakespeare’s most powerful political plays: Julius Caesar. In addition to being very entertaining, all of these plays treat the interrelated themes of scheming, ambition and the exercise of power. 

Students will be required to use David Wootton's (Hackett Publishers) online or paperback edition of Machiavelli’s The Prince, which is a superb (and affordable) translation. We will read just over one half of this short work. The course syllabus will tell you which chapters to read. I've chosen the Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare editions (in paperback) as our course texts this semester. These are among the finest editions available (kindle/e-book edition are allowed). Please acquire these online or from a local bookstore by early September. Here is the order in which we'll read these works: Wootton's Machiavelli, Titus Andronicus, Richard III, Richard II, and Julius Caesar.

Each Seminar will work together to produce a short (~15 minute) dramatic performance based on an episode or short scene from one of the plays. This is a collective assignment and a modest amount of Seminar time will be allocated to this. This will be a fun undertaking, and the assignment is a "free" 5%. If you don't wish to act, you can contribute to directing, set design, organization, etc.

The quiz is multiple choice and will be based on Lecture and Seminar material, with no surprises to trip you up. 


Comprehend Shakespearean drama at a high level. Write about the plays effectively. Read early modern texts very carefully, and develop a grounding in the relevant political thought. Analyze the key decisions taken by major protagonists. Enjoy these deep, rich plays.



Attendance and class participation                                                        15%

End of term in-class multiple choice quiz                                               20%

Short colloborative dramatic performance                                              5%

First (aka mid-term) Essay (approx. 6-7 pages)                                     30%

Second (aka end-of-term) essay (approx. 6-7 pages)                             30%



The texts for this class are widely available and my be ordered either at local bookstores or online.


The Prince, Machiavelli. Edited by David Wootton
ISBN: 978-0872203167

Richard II, Shakespeare. Ed. C. Forker. Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare.
ISBN: 978-1903436332

Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare. Ed. J. Bate (2nd edition). Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare.
ISBN: 978-1350030916

Richard III, Shakespeare. Ed. J. Siemon. Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare.
ISBN: 978-1903436899

Julius Caesar, Shakespeare. Ed. D. Daniell. Arden Bloomsbury Shakespeare.
ISBN: 9781903436219

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.