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ENGLISH 2CR3 Shakespeare: Comedy, Play, Rom (C01)

Academic Year: Fall 2019

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Mary Silcox


Office: Chester New Hall 330

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27314

Office Hours: Monday 10:30-12:00, Thursday 10:30-12:00, & by appointment

Course Objectives:


In this course on Shakespeare’s comic genres, we will read plays ranging from farce and romantic comedy through to late romances. Shakespeare’s comedies are often described as festive, in contrast to the darker tragedies. But as we will explore, the plots and themes of these plays often revolve around revenge, jealousy, violence, and betrayal. What sorts of pleasures might these plays have offered to audiences in Shakespeare’s own time? What sorts of pleasures might they offer now? To explore such questions, we will read closely, with particular attention to Shakespeare’s dramatic language. We’ll also consider Shakespeare’s comedies as scripts for theatrical performance, both on the early modern stage and today.


By the end of this course:

  1. You will develop a range of tools for engaging closely with Shakespeare’s dramatic language.
  2. You will gain an introductory knowledge of the historical contexts that shaped plays written for performance on the early modern London stage.
  3. You will learn to think about and analyse possible stagings of scenes/plays and understand the relationship between staging and interpretation.
  4. You will learn to trace the larger themes, motifs, issues and questions expressed through the plays.
  5. You will analyze Shakespeare’s plays and formulate plausible interpretive arguments about them, rooted in evidence from the texts.
  6. You will communicate your ideas and analyses clearly and effectively, both orally and in writing.


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ed. Barbara Mowat, Paul Werstine. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Shakespeare, William, The Merry Wives of Windsor. Ed. Barbara Mowat, Paul Werstine. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. Ed. Barbara Mowat, Paul Werstine. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Shakespeare, William. Much Ado About Nothing. Ed. Barbara Mowat, Paul Werstine.  Folger Shakespeare Library.

Shakespeare, William. The Winter’s Tale. Ed. Barbara Mowat, Paul Werstine. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Additional readings will be available via our Avenue to Learn course site.

NB: We will be attending The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Stratford Festival on Sun. Oct. 6 at 2 pm. Please see “Important Notes” on p. 4 of this document for details regarding how to book your ticket and reserve your bus seat. If the cost of attending this production poses undue financial hardship, please speak to Dr. Silcox as soon as possible; help may be available.

Method of Assessment:


Tutorial Participation (discussion, tutorial exercises, recitation)                        10%

Lecture Participation                                                                                           5%

Close Reading Assignments #1 & # 2                                                                 5%

Discussion Group Questions #1 & #2                                                                 5%

Position Paper for Discussion Group Meeting #3                                               5%

Performance Analysis (1,000 words), due October 24                                       15%

Essay (1500-1800 words), due December 2                                                       25%

Final Exam (2.5 hours)                                                                                        30%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Assignment submission and late policies:

(a) Students are expected to retain a copy of each assignment they submit.

(b) Discussion Questions and Close Reading Assignments are due in tutorial on the dates indicated in your tutorial schedule. The Performance Analysis Assignment and the Essay are due in lecture on the due date indicated in this document. You are also required to submit an electronic copy of each assignment (in .doc or .docx format only please) to the relevant Avenue submission folder. Emailed copies will not be accepted. If you do not submit both a hard copy and an electronic copy uploaded to Avenue, your assignment will be assigned a mark of zero and will forfeit written feedback.

(c) Late Discussion Questions and Close Reading Assignments will not be accepted for a mark. All other late assignments will be penalized 5% per day (including weekends), up to a maximum of 7 days. Late work will not receive comments, and assignments submitted later than 7 days after the due date will be given a grade of zero.

(d) Exceptions regarding due dates will be made in cases of documented illness or family emergency, or for religious commitments.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Please note: You are expected to read each play in advance of the first day it appears on our schedule. As you read, take notes, moving scene by scene, pausing to summarize the action in your own words, jotting down questions and thoughts. Be sure to bring copies of the plays with you to lectures and tutorials: we will be taking turns reading passages aloud and you will also need to mark down specific passages discussed in lecture in preparation for passage identification and analysis exercises in tutorials, as well as the final exam.

Th Sept. 5    Introduction to our course and the teaching team

M Sept. 9     Introduction to Comedy plays              

Th Sept. 12  A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Payment for Stratford Festival trip due.

M Sept. 16   A Midsummer Night’s Dream cont’d

Th Sept. 19  A Midsummer Night’s Dream cont’d

M Sept. 23   The Merry Wives of Windsor

Th Sept. 26  The Merry Wives of Windsor cont’d

M Sept. 30   The Merry Wives of Windsor cont’d

Th Oct. 3     The Merry Wives of Windsor cont’d

Sun Oct. 6   Class Trip to Stratford Festival to see The Merry Wives of Windsor

M Oct. 7      Twelfth Night

Th Oct. 10   Twelfth Night cont’d

M Oct. 14 - F Oct. 18 Mid-Term Recess

M Oct. 21    Twelfth Night cont’d

Th Oct. 24   Twelfth Night cont’d. Performance analysis due in lecture.

M Oct. 28    No regularly scheduled lecture hour (in lieu of trip to Stratford on Oct. 6)

Th Oct. 31   Much Ado About Nothing                    

M Nov. 4     Much Ado About Nothing cont’d

Th Nov. 7    Much Ado About Nothing cont’d                     

M Nov. 11   Much Ado About Nothing cont’d                     

Th Nov. 14 No regularly scheduled lecture hour (in lieu of trip to Stratford on Oct. 6)                   

M Nov. 18   The Winter’s Tale

Th Nov. 21  The Winter’s Tale cont’d                  

M Nov 25    The Winter’s Tale cont’d

Th Nov 28   The Winter’s Tale cont’d

M Dec. 2      The Winter’s Tale cont’d. Essay due in lecture. Course wrap-up; overview of final exam format and preparation tips

Dec. 2-4       Tutorials cancelled.


Our class will be attending the 2 pm showing of The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Stratford Festival on Sunday Oct 6. In recognition of the extra time involved in travel to Stratford, lectures will not be held on Mon. Oct. 28 and Thurs. Nov. 14. Tutorials will still take place on those days.

            Tickets: Discounted student tickets for our group are $25 each (including tax, handling fees, and the actor chat) and must be reserved, via cash payment, no later than Thurs. Sept. 12 (our payment is due this day). To reserve a ticket, please bring your $25 to lecture and give it, along with your name, to our senior TA Megan Suttie.

            Transportation: Buses will take students to the Stratford Festival and return after the show. We will leave from outside the McMaster Student Centre (by the parking lot) at 11:15 am, and you will be dropped off at the same place at approximately 7-7:15 pm. The cost for return bus transportation is $15. Please confirm your seat on the bus with payment of the fee in cash to Megan no later than Mon. Sept. 16.

            Scheduling conflicts: If for some unavoidable reason you are unable to attend the group trip on our scheduled date, you must contact our Senior TA, Megan Suttie, no later than Thurs. Sept. 12 to discuss alternate performance dates and/or an alternative performance-oriented assignment.