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Literature 6B: Introduction to Shakespeare


Admission requirements

Successful completion of Literature 1A, 1B, 2 and 3 or equivalent.


This is a general introduction to the work of William Shakespeare. We will study the following 8 plays: A Midsummer Night’s Dream; The Merchant of Venice; Hamlet; King Lear; Macbeth; Winter’s Tale; The Tempest, and The First Part of King Henry IV. (It might be necessary to set a ninth play, so that we can attend a theatre production of a play that we have discussed in class beforehand).
We will look at Shakespeare’s use of language, dramatic structures and genre conventions, while also reading his work in its original historical and cultural context. Finally, we will consider the history of Shakespeare scholarship.

Course objectives

-Students will learn to analyse a selection of Shakespeare’s Comedies, Tragedies, Romances, and History Plays, focusing on language and the chief literary aspects of his work.
-Students will learn how to place Shakespeare’s work in its original historical and cultural context.
-Students will reflect on the history of Shakespeare criticism.


The timetable will be available by June 1st on the website

Mode of instruction

  • two-hour seminar per week

  • Excursion: a visit to the theatre

Assessment method

Paper (40%), written test (60%).


This course is supported by Blackboard, which will give the weekly reading schedule. Students will upload their essays via SafeAssign. See Blackboard

Reading list

-Margreta de Grazia & Stanley Wells eds, The New Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare (New York: Cambridge UP, 2010 – 2nd ed)

Paperbacks of the following editions:
-Holland, Peter ed., A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Oxford World’s Classics)
-Mahood, M.M. ed., The Merchant of Venice (New Cambridge Shakespeare)
-Hibbard G.R. ed., Hamlet (Oxford World’s Classics)
-Foakes, R.A. ed., King Lear (Arden Shakespeare: Third Series)
-Braunmuller, A.R. ed., Macbeth (New Cambridge Shakespeare)
-Orgel, Stephen ed., The Winter’s Tale (Oxford World’s Classics)
-Orgel, Stephen ed., The Tempest (Oxford World’s Classics)
-Bevington, David ed., The First Part of King Henry IV (Oxford World’s Classics)

-DVD – Hamlet directed by Michael Almereyda starring Etan Hawke
-DVD – Hamlet directed by Franco Zeffirelli starring Mel Gibson


Students should register through uSis. Exchange students cannot register through uSis, but must see the director of studies and register with her. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Departmental Office English Language and Culture, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144; mail:
Co-ordinator of Studies: Ms T.D. Obbens, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103C.


Students must read A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the first seminar. Students are required to study particular editions of the individual plays (specified above), and not an anthology of Shakespeare’s Collected Works, as the information given in the introductions to the individual plays is part of the reading material.