S1705 Shakespeare’s Venice

Eisner Martin

This course explores Shakespeare’s several remarkable plays set in Venice and the Veneto (The Merchant of Venice, Othello, Romeo and Juliet) and a selection of his sonnets inspired by the Italian tradition. Although Shakespeare likely never visited Venice in person, he knew it well from the accounts of visitors and his reading of Italian works. We will read some of Shakespeare’s sources, and Italian works by Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Gaspara Stampa, and Machiavelli that shaped his world. Why was Shakespeare so attracted to the Veneto as the place to explore civic, ethnic, and commercial tensions, as well as larger social and ethical issues? To answer these questions, you will refine your critical reading skills in three short papers (45%), participate in class discussion and Venetian site visits (15%), inhabit the rhythms of Shakespeare’s language by memorizing a single sonnet (15%), and create your own adaptation as a final project (25%). 


Course work:

• Week 1: Textual analysis 1: Boccaccio and his sources

• Week 3: Venice Site Visit

• Week 4: Textual analysis 2: Poem and Prose in Dante

• Week 7: Memorize one Shakespeare sonnet

• By Week 12: Analysis of a scene from an adaptation

• Week 12: Adaptation Conference