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Course Materials

Course Learning Outcomes

When you have completed this course, you should be able to do the following:

  1. Explain the historical and literary contexts, genres and themes, and ethical dimensions of Shakespeare's representative works.
  2. Develop familiarity with key secondary scholarship about and critical perspectives of Shakespeare's works.
  3. Develop reading strategies that explore how texts are constructed to present a set of arguments (historical, aesthetic, etc) and use those critical reading skills to interpret the texts' concerns and to trace interrelationships among them.
  4. Perform scholarly research on Shakespeare's works by identifying and evaluating primary and secondary sources, by formulating arguments conversant with these sources, and by articulating those arguments in formal academic writing.

Course Materials

The following textbook is required for this course:

This book should always be near at hand during your study sessions. The book is a valuable and easily used dictionary of terms, giving you excellent working definitions with examples.

Note: the publication information is provided here only to help you should you need to order the book individually. Older editions of the text are adequate as will be future publications. It is a valuable reference work, but owning the newest edition is not a requirement.

You are also encouraged to own copies of Shakespeare’s plays—texts that you can mark and retain. You may find the following text helpful for this course:

However, this text is only suggested and not required because it is very expensive. No specific questions or requirements will come from any specific Shakespeare text, permitting you to save money by using any available edition. As you make your decision, consider the advantage of owning a volume that has all of Shakespeare’s works. Also note that some of the paperback editions such as those from the Signet Press have wonderful collections of critical essays that you’ll find rewarding long after the requirements for this course have been completed.

Should you opt for these less expensive and easily carried books, you’ll need to buy (in addition to a volume of Shakespeare’s sonnets):

You may want to save text expenses and borrow all materials from a library. All assignment and test questions will come from the easily found lines of the plays and the sonnets; a serious disadvantage in this approach, however, lies in your not retaining an annotated text.

Secondary Sources

As your interest in Shakespeare increases, you will want to surround yourself with materials “about” the Bard—especially critical essays about his works. However, for our purposes in this course, you will best utilize your time carefully analyzing the assigned texts. Rather than worrying about what your responses “ought” to say or about what others “probably” would say, relax and collect your own evidence in support of your discoveries within the lines of the plays and the sonnets. The best study of Shakespeare is the primary experience of reading and analyzing his lines.

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There are ten written assignments in this course that count toward your grade.  As you will note at once, about half of the lessons include writing assignments to be submitted for grading, and the other half require that you formulate responses that you do not submit for grading but that help you prepare for the midcourse and final examinations. Be cautious here! You must be as thorough in completing the responses that are not to be submitted as you will be for those sent in for grading. While you will not need to polish written responses for the assignments that are not submitted (a savings in time, for certain), do not rely upon your memory to provide all the details you’ll need for the examinations. If you are very thorough in formulating complete answers for all the assignments that are not submitted, you will find that you’ll have wonderfully complete notes for reviewing for the exams. Should you skim over these assignments, you’ll undoubtedly find that your exam responses are rushed and shallow, leaving you with disappointing grades.

You may submit up to three assignments in a seven-day period. Do not submit more than this. (I suggest you save a copy of each of your assignments or keep rough drafts of them.) Please set a schedule that will allow you to finish in time to meet any deadlines you may have. You may not submit partially completed assignments nor combine assignments from different courses.

Content vs. Style

Your study of Shakespeare during this course may give you your best opportunity ever to improve your own writing. As you watch the Bard masterfully control matters of rhythm and rhyme as he constructs word-pictures to emphasize important ideas, his examples ought to serve as a model for your own writing. In fact, you ought to demand of yourself certain improvements in your writing. Brigham Young University strongly supports the program of “Writing Across the Curriculum,” which emphasizes the improvement of writing skills in every course. Consequently, your responses will be analyzed for both content and style. Brilliant responses marred by serious grammatical and punctuation errors will simply fall below the level of excellence of any university course and certainly below what BYU expects from a Shakespeare course. Be at ease in this, however; we’re all in this experience to learn together, and if your earliest work should have blemishes, they can be forgiven if later work demonstrates that any weaknesses in style no longer exist.

You’ll notice that your work will greatly improve if you will formulate drafts at least two days prior to submitting, allowing your material to “chill” for final proofing. Even most skilled writers find that much of what they intend to say remains inside the head to be joined with the printed material during subsequent readings.

Hints for Revising Assignments to Be Submitted

Upon completing the reading assignments for each lesson, analyze the entire work to gather your evidence. Resist the urge to randomly gather bits and pieces of information to form hasty responses. Ensure that your responses cover as many facets of the question requirements as the examples you find will permit. Make certain that each example is fully discussed.

As mentioned earlier, we are striving toward best writing, which moves echelons beyond error-free or correct writing. You are expected to capture important ideas in independent clauses and to relegate supporting elements to dependent clauses, verbals, and phrases. Once your draft is finished and you have ensured correct spelling and punctuation, test each paragraph for strong transitions. Analyze key phrases for precision of expression. Finally, rephrase less important sentences into the subordinate clauses, verbals, and phrases mentioned above. This attention to style is not intended to harass you. Instead, you are expected to dress your important ideas in their best clothes. A university course dedicated to one of the world’s most gifted authors provides the logical setting for emphasis on style. Your own style should reflect the genius of the models you are analyzing. You’ll likely never again have a better opportunity to improve your writing.

To submit your assignment,

    1. Go to the "Turnitin Lesson 1 Instructor-graded Assignment" 
    2. Click the Upload button.upload button example 
    3. Type a title for your assignment (for example, ENGL382_JaneSmith_Lesson1Assignment).
    4. Click Select a file to upload, or drag the file onto the Submit File window.
    5. When the submission is complete, preview your file, then click Accept submission-save.

To access feedback on your assignment submission, 

  1. Go to the Turnitin Lesson 1 "Instructor-graded Assignment"
  2. Click on the assignment you submitted
  3. Look through the course for comment bubbles comment bubble example left by the professor and click on them to see the notes left for you.
  4. To see the originality or grademark feedback for your submission click on the 
    Picture of GradeMark icon
    icon in the upper left-hand corner of the page

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There are two proctored, instructor-graded exams in this course. The midcourse exam has 21 questions and is open textbook. There is no time limit, and you may use any or all of the following books/plays while taking the test: A Handbook to Literature, Hamlet, Henry IV, Henry V, and King Lear.

The final exam is comprehensive. It has 20-23 questions and is open textbook. There is no time limit on the exam and you may use any or all of the following books/plays while taking the test: A Handbook to Literature, Hamlet, Henry IV, Henry V, King Lear, Othello, The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest, and The Winter’s Tale.

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Fifty percent of the course grade will be computed from the responses submitted for grading. As mentioned earlier, both idea, content, and style will be evaluated, with emphasis on the discussion of supporting examples in each paragraph. While the written assignments have no “correct” answers for you to “find,” the unique position you take must be persuasively defended with specific references (words, phrases, etc.). Note, very few paragraphs will meet the highest expectations; you are under no pressure to protract responses over several pages. Please note that if early scores are low, greater weight will be given to later submissions to give you credit for significant improvement.

Twenty percent of the course grade will come from the midcourse exam and thirty percent will come from the comprehensive final exam. While detailed helps are included in the “Hints for Preparing for the Midcourse Exam” and “Hints for Preparing for the Final Exam” sections of this course (found after lessons 1 and 9, respectively—the same information is also found under the “Preparing for the Exam” sections). Exam questions will be drawn from the lesson assignments in this  course, with emphasis given to those assignments that are not submitted for grading. Be thorough in preparing, however, by reviewing lesson introductions as well as material from the lesson reading assignments. Since the exams will be mostly based on questions you have already been asked to answer as part of your lesson work, your responses must reflect that your work has been thorough.

As mentioned above, you may submit up to three assignments in a seven-day period. Do not submit more than this. (I suggest you save a copy of each of your assignments or keep rough drafts of them.) Please set a schedule that will allow you to finish in time to meet any deadlines you may have. You may not submit partially completed assignments nor combine assignments from different courses.

Assignments and Exams Weight
Lesson 1 Assignment 5%
Lesson 3 Assignment 5%
Lesson 4 Assignment 5%
Lesson 6 Assignment 5%
Lesson 9 Assignment 5%
Midcourse Exam 20%
Lesson 11 Assignment 5%
Lesson 12 Assignment 5%
Lesson 14 Assignment 5%
Lesson 16 Assignment 5%
Lesson 17 Assignment 5%
Final Exam 30%
Total 100%
Grading Scale
A 100-93
A- 92-90
B+ 89-87
B 86-83
B- 82-80
C+ 79-77
C 76-73
C- 72-70
D+ 69-67
D 66-63
D- 62-60
E(fail) 59 or below

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Maintaining Momentum

You are encouraged to work well ahead of suggested time limits. You’ll find that regular study hours each week will establish a momentum that will keep the materials fresh in your mind. Once a play becomes dim in the mind, getting back to the polishing of a response or to preparing for an exam not only consumes valuable time, but such delay consistently produces mediocre work. Be demanding of yourself, protecting your time reserved for study against the encroachment of interruptions. Being stern with yourself will pay generous dividends.

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Succeeding in This Course

This course has been very carefully designed to trim bulking requirements and permit you to give your attention efficiently to the genius of Shakespeare. You will find that the major ideas of each play are as relevant to your life as are the late-breaking headlines on CNN, and you will see that Shakespeare’s word-pictures are as attractive today as anything recently celebrated on New York’s Broadway or London’s West End. Simply put, you will be working with the finest pieces of literature of all time and in any language.

Further, this home-study approach to Shakespeare allows you to work within a time frame of your own choosing and without any pressure from peers bent upon retaining their scholarships at any cost to you. In many ways you are in competition only with yourself, for all of the requirements are laid out clearly, and even the exam questions are present in the lines chosen for emphasis and in the questions phrased in the assignments that are not submitted for grading. Admittedly, the standards for performance in an upper-division Shakespeare course are high; we all agree they must be. If you don’t cut corners and if you take each of the assignments seriously, you will find that a high grade will be your reward. Go for it!

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Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism is defined as the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work. This may also include when a student copies and pastes directly from another source and passes it off as his or her own, copies computer-generated text from a translation tool and uses it as his or her own, or fails to cite a source after loosely summarizing its content in his or her own words.

As determined by your instructor or the BYU administration, if evidence of academic misconduct on assignments or exams is established, one of the two following consequences will apply to each incidence:

First Offense of Plagiarism

Second Offense of Plagiarism

Copyright Notice

The materials used in connection with this online course are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated. Any copying or further dissemination of these materials may be subject to applicable U.S. Copyright Laws. For questions or more information, please visit the BYU Copyright Licensing Office website.

“Members of the BYU community who willfully disregard this Copyright Policy or the BYU Copyright Guidelines place themselves individually at risk of legal action and may incur personal liability for their conduct. The unauthorized use or distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject individuals to civil and criminal liabilities, including actual and statutory damages, costs and fees of litigation, fines, and imprisonment

Violations of the Copyright Policy may result in university disciplinary action including termination of university enrollment or employment.” (Emphasis added. Excerpt taken from the BYU Copyright Policy)

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University Policy - Title IX Statement

Preventing & Responding to Sexual Misconduct

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Brigham Young University prohibits unlawful sex discrimination against any participant in its education programs or activities. The university also prohibits sexual harassment—including sexual violence—committed by or against students, university employees, and visitors to campus. As outlined in university policy, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are considered forms of "Sexual Misconduct" prohibited by the university.

University policy requires all university employees in a teaching, managerial, or supervisory role to report all incidents of Sexual Misconduct that come to their attention in any way, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Incidents of Sexual Misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at or 1-888-238-1062 (24-hours a day).

BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by Sexual Misconduct, including the university’s Victim Advocate, as well as a number of non-confidential resources and services that may be helpful. Additional information about Title IX, the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, reporting requirements, and resources can be found at or by contacting the university’s Title IX Coordinator.

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Accessibility Notice

BYU is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to participate in BYU's programs and activities. In this spirit, BYU Independent Study aspires to improve web accessibility for users. While not required by law, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Levels A and AA provide a wide range of helpful recommendations to make Web content more accessible. BYU Independent Study strives to apply WCAG 2.0 recommendations where feasible, but may deviate from any recommendations that would result in an undue hardship to BYU Independent Study or alterations to program and course content and objectives. If you have questions about accessibility, or if you need to report problems with any accessibility features please see our Accessibilities and Accommodations Web Page.

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Course Policies

These policies are specific to this course. For additional information about general policies, please refer to Independent Study Course Policies page.


10 written assignments. Each assignment turned in via Turnitin. No resubmissions allowed.


2 proctered exams (short-answer questions and essay questions), may retake each once for a fee, must pass the final exam with a 60% to earn credit for the course.

When you are ready to take the midcourse examination, request it from Independent Study. If you are taking your exam in a paper format, allow two weeks’ mailing time for your exam to reach your proctor, and three weeks from the date your proctor returns your exam for grading to be completed. You are responsible for monitoring your own deadlines.

Retake an exam for a fee.

Getting Help

Please use the help menu in this course to contact Independent Study or your instructor. You can find a list of free tutors available to BYU Independent Study students on the Free Tutoring Services website.

Note: The Harold B. Lee Library website provides a number of online resources and librarians are available via phone, chat, and email to answer questions about library-related issues.

Inappropriate Use of Course Content

All course materials (e.g., outlines, handouts, syllabi, exams, quizzes, media, lecture content, audio and video recordings, etc.) are proprietary. Students are prohibited from posting or selling any such course materials without the express written permission of BYU Independent Study. To do so is a violation of the Brigham Young University Honor Code.

Copyright © 2016 Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.

Published by the
Department of Independent Study
Division of Continuing Education
Brigham Young University
120 MORC
Provo, Utah 84602-1514