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William Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies Lecture

William Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies

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Publisher's Summary

Shakespeare's plays - whether a comedy like A Midsummer Night's Dream, a history like Henry IV, or a tragedy like Hamlet - are treasure troves of insight into our very humanity. These 36 lectures introduce you to Shakespeare's major plays from each of these three genres and explain the achievement that makes him the leading playwright in Western civilization.

As you'll see, the key to Shakespeare's massive achievement is his "abundance," according to Professor Saccio; not only in the number and length of his plays but in the variety of experiences they depict, the multitude of actions and characters they contain, the combination of public and private life they deal with, and the richness of feelings they express.

All the major plays are here for you to dive into, explore, and enjoy: The Taming of the Shrew (with its realistic look at bourgeois marriage customs), Measure for Measure (which shows Shakespeare breaking out of comic conventions), Richard III (the source of one of the Bard's most entertaining and frightening historical villains), Henry V (which raises questions about the morality of warfare), Macbeth (with its piercing look into the consciousness of a man hungry for power), and more. As the richness of each of these and other plays is revealed, you'll also touch upon the far-ranging philosophical and theological implications behind them. By the last lecture, you'll have a true understanding of why these comedies, histories, and tragedies endure even to this very day.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©1999 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1999 The Great Courses

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  •  
    Conrad Mitcham, United Kingdom 02/12/2014
    Conrad Mitcham, United Kingdom 02/12/2014 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    29
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    89
    19
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good details."
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Not really sure. I think so, but the guy reading stutters and makes mistakes over and over again.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Not really suited to this book. Hamlet.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    He stuttered and stammered the whole time. It was quite distracting.


    If this book were a film would you go see it?

    No.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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  • Amazon Customer
    19/09/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A MASTERPIECE OF SCHOLARSHIP AND DELIVERY"
    What made the experience of listening to William Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies the most enjoyable?

    Professor Saccio is mesmerizing as he delivers his towering, balanced scholarship and insight. He rolls through the boring pedants and conceited 'critics' of Shakespeare with a superb intellect and deep understanding of how the theater works from the inside.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The analysis and exposition are simply the best I've ever experienced in any audiobook on any subject. Professor Saccio illuminates the Bard and his work from all perspectives in an even-handed and completely non-ideological way.


    What about Professor Peter Saccio’s performance did you like?

    As an actor, Professor Saccio makes the illustrative passages that he quotes truly come alive. As a scholar, he surrounds those bits with a rock-solid context. His performance is truly a tour de force.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Before listening to this course, I was, as the professor terms it, an anti-Stratfordian, favoring the Earl of Oxford as the true author of Shakespeare's work. Professor Saccio demolishes the anti-Stratfordian blather and atomizes their arguments in ten minutes or so. Bravo!


    Any additional comments?

    As a result of Professor Saccio's course, I will get a dozen times more out of any performance of a Shakespeare play than I ever have before. If you have any interest in Shakespeare at all, listen to this course!

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Mikkel Lodahl
    15/08/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Connections across genres"
    What made the experience of listening to William Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies the most enjoyable?

    Peter Saccio unfolds an extremely varied interpretation looking both at the structure of entire plays and sometimes at single soliloquies. He has a flair for knowing the exact amount of context needed to make his point, so that he is never far from Shakespeare's text. Thoroughly recommended for people who enjoy exercising their interpretative muscles and thinking along.


    What about Professor Peter Saccio’s performance did you like?

    That he obviously lives and breathes Shakespeare in that he has a lifelong relationship with and passion for the plays. He rarely gets pver-excited, though, and comes off as an intelligent man saying intelligent things about a subject he knows a lot about. If you yourself like or love Shakespeare this is the next best thing to discussing the text with like-minded fellows.


    Any additional comments?

    Be aware that not all of Shakespeare's plays are considered, although the big four tragedies, The Henriad, Richard III, Measure for Measure,The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice must be said to be a quite a representative selection.

    16 of 17 people found this review helpful
  • Theran
    Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
    26/10/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "If music be the food of love, play on"

    Having never been a truly great fan of Shakespeare i approached this set of lectures with more then a great deal of trepidation, sometimes expanding your horizons can be more like trying to look at the midday sun rather then watching a cool sunset.

    I was incredibly surprised how Prof Saccio made me fall in love with Shakespeare...not just my personal favourites like Twelfth Night but the histories the tragedies as well. The themes discussed in the lectures coupled with the performance of Saccio makes for an incredibly enjoyable, informative and thoroughly entertaining listen.

    Whether you be a fan of Shakespeare or a novice you wont be disappointed.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • Kristi Richardson
    Milwaukie, OR, United States
    01/07/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "“If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle..""

    “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?” Shylock in Merchant of Venice

    1 Shakespeare Then and Now

    2 The Nature of Shakespeare's Plays

    3 Twelfth Night—Shakespearean Comedy

    4 Twelfth Night—Malvolio in Love

    5 The Taming of the Shrew—Getting Married in the 1590s

    6 The Taming of the Shrew—Farce and Romance

    7 The Merchant of Venice—Courting the Heiress

    8 The Merchant of Venice—Shylock

    9 Measure for Measure—Sex in Society

    10 Measure for Measure—Justice and Comedy

    11 Richard III—Shakespearean History

    12 Richard III—The Villain's Career

    13 Richard II—The Theory of Kingship

    14 Richard II—The Fall of the King

    15 Henry IV—All the King's Men

    16 Henry IV—The Life of Falstaff

    17 Henry V—The Death of Falstaff

    18 Henry V—The King Victorious

    19 Romeo and Juliet—Shakespearean Tragedy

    20 Romeo and Juliet—Public Violence and Private Bliss

    21 Troilus and Cressida—Ancient Epic in a New Mode

    22 Troilus and Cressida—Heroic Aspirations

    23 Julius Caesar—The Matter of Rome

    24 Julius Caesar—Heroes of History

    25 Hamlet—The Abundance of the Play

    26 Hamlet—The Causes of Tragedy

    27 Hamlet—The Protestant Hero

    28 Othello—The Design of the Tragedy

    29 Othello—“O Villainy!”

    30 Othello—“The Noble Moor”

    31 King Lear—“This Is the Worst”

    32 King Lear—Wisdom Through Suffering

    33 King Lear—“Then We Go On”

    34 Macbeth—“Fair Is Foul”

    35 Macbeth—Musing on Murder

    36 Macbeth—“Enter Two Murderers”

    I love Shakespeare. At the age of 9 I had read all of his plays by acting them out with my sisters because we had a complete set of his plays. That is what you did when you didn’t have hundreds of television channels or computers and it was raining outside. I am not a Shakespearean expert but more of an aficionado. When this Great Course came up on my Audible membership, I just had to get it.

    The Course is a series of 36 half hour lectures by Prof. Peter Saccio Ph.D. from Dartmouth College. It is not merely a reading and dissecting each play, but more of an overview of the themes of Shakespeare’s plays and what we should learn from them.

    I especially loved when the Professor pooh-poohed those ideas that Shakespeare didn’t write his own works as class bias and prejudice. I also enjoyed the modern takes on plays like “Taming of the Shrew” and “Merchant of Venice”.

    I know that this course has set more goals for me in retirement. I would like to see all of Shakespeare’s plays either live or on dvd/video. I have already seen the version of “Richard II” on Amazon Prime this month.

    This is what a great teacher will do for you. Challenge you to further your research and enjoyment by pursuing experiences that will continue your brain’s capacities.

    Thank you Professor Peter Saccio for inspiring me.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Joey
    Avondale Estates, GA, United States
    25/04/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Shakespeare's genius explained"
    Where does William Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    one of the very best Great Courses offerings; recorded a while ago, yet still very relevant


    What does Professor Peter Saccio bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Professor Saccio offers terrific insights into key themes, not linear narratives, and communicates his passion in his lecture. He employs just enough performance in the readings to keep the plays themselves a living part of the course, not something dead to simply be studied.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    His treatment of the histories, the part of Shakespeare's oeuvre with which I was least familiar, was particularly engaging, including his heartfelt treatment of Falstaff.


    Any additional comments?

    I would consider this relevant for the "intermediate" Shakespeare enthusiast. Enough depth for those who have read/seen a fair amount, but not assuming full fluency in the playwright. An excellent offering.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Joseph
    LONG BEACH, NEW YORK, United States
    16/01/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brilliant work by Peter Saccio"

    If you love Shakespeare you'll love these wonderful lectures. Prof. Saccio does a tremendous job explaining and interpreting the plays. The fact that he's an accomplished Shakespearean actor himself is an extra bonus for the listener. His readings from the scripts are a joy to hear. Highly recommended.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Phillip
    Dallas, GA, United States
    07/08/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Greatest of observation and insight"

    I have listened to many of the Great Courses audios, and this rates at the very top. Professor Saccio is a person I could listen to extensively.

    I studied Shakespeare as an undergraduate and found it interesting, but Professor Saccio adds a depth of understanding to these plays I have never heard. As an academic myself, I also enjoyed his occasional references to academia and student perceptions of the plays.

    The content of these 36 lectures forces us to stop and think. I may listen to this set of lectures again, but there is so much to take in, it will be awhile before I ready for another go around.

    Well done!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • BASSAM NASSER AL-OTHMAN
    24/10/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great great audiobook"

    What I liked about this audiobook is everything. The content of the lectures is insightful and entertaining and the delivery is beautifully done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • jack lichtenstein
    16/07/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "learned Shakespeare analysis"

    The Prof knows his stuff.
    A complete analysis of the comedies, histories and Tragedies. If you like Shakespeare you will love this book.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Barry Stephens
    25/12/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great Course!"
    Would you listen to William Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies again? Why?

    Yes, I am sure I will. Professor Saccio provides fascinating context, engaging analysis and even entertaining reading of excepts. He delivers all of this in an intelligent manner that does not talk down to listeners. Wonderful work!


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I have not paid much attention to them before, but his lectures on the Henry IV/V plays has inspired me to give them a closer look.


    Which character – as performed by Professor Peter Saccio – was your favorite?

    He does a great job on all of them.


    Any additional comments?

    If you enjoy or are the least bit interested in Shakespeare, you will be happy you chose this course.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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