9:30 am to 12:30 pm
In this seminar we will consider the opening acts of some of Shakespeare’s plays. It may sound obvious that the opening of a play is important. After all, it has to introduce the audience to the characters, plot, setting (or context), and genre. Who are these people? What is the conflict? Where and when are we? No ghost need come from the grave to tell us that Shakespeare does this with consummate skill. But how do these opening acts do this? What are the structural and narrative elements that allow a world to be constructed so quickly and effectively? We will look closely at the language and structure of three plays—Hamlet, Othello, and The Merchant of Venice (two plays taught regularly in high schools and one, alas, not)—in order to explore how a play’s beginning demonstrates the playwright’s craft at its most concentrated.