Shakespeare’s reputation owes much to his characters; yet well-known as they are, they remain mysterious. What did they mean in Shakespeare’s time, and how do they still succeed? What explains the charisma of Bottom, the idiot who cannot act? What can we learn from Beatrice’s banter with Benedick, or Henry V’s flirtation with Princess Katherine, about Elizabethan—and our own—understandings of gender and language? What prompted 19th century critic William Hazlitt to declare, “It is we who are Hamlet”? Addressing such questions, we will develop critical thinking and writing skills. Texts include three of Shakespeare's plays (e.g., A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and Hamlet) and contextual readings. We will also study a film of one of these plays. 3 hrs. sem.