Shakespeare’s Finest Comedies: A Three-Part Course with Dr. Joseph Luzzi

Shakespeare’s Finest Comedies: A Three-Part Course with Dr. Joseph Luzzi


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He was first published 400 years ago, so why are the works of William Shakespeare still considered essential literature in curriculums worldwide today? What moral lessons can his theatrical universe impart upon the crucial socio-political conflicts that we all face in modern times?

Together we will explore the factors which make Shakespeare's anthology so timeless as we discuss how and why they have become one of the most celebrated authors in the history of literature. We will also closely examine his stunning contributions to the English language, our understanding of human psychology, and the capacity of literature to astonish and enchant.

During this three-part course, we will focus on three of Shakespeare’s brilliant comedies, works that continue to captivate audiences throughout the globe: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, and The Tempest. 

Lecture One: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Our first session will explore the magical, enchanted world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of the best-known and most performed of all of Shakespeare’s comedies. We pay special attention to how the language of A Midsummer Night’s Dream reveals Shakespeare’s lyrical brilliance and capacity to combine entertainment with literary art in his comic masterpieces.

Lecture Two: Twelfth Night
Our session on Twelfth Night will discuss the play’s extraordinary analysis of the psychology of “grief” and its compelling creation of powerful female characters. We will also discuss how the linguistic brilliance of Shakespeare in Twelfth Night makes it one of the most enduring of all his comedies.

Lecture Three: The Tempest
Our final session on The Tempest will consider the brilliant themes and complex political issues in this deeply autobiographical “farewell” by Shakespeare, his last major work for the stage before his retirement. We will consider the key issues of magic, power, and “romance” that make the play relevant to our understanding of the world today.

Joseph Luzzi received his Ph.D. from Yale University and is a Professor of Comparative Literature and Faculty Member in Italian Studies at Bard College, where he has taught since 2002 after being a visiting faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania. A frequent contributor to publications including the New York Times, TLS, and Chronicle of Higher Education, he is the author of 5 books, including My Two Italies, a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection and In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love, a Vanity Fair “Must-Read” selection. His work has been translated into multiple languages and his many awards include a Yale College Teaching Prize, Dante Society of America Essay Prize, and Wallace Fellowship at Villa I Tatti, Harvard’s Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. In 2017 he was named Cittadino Onorario/Honorary Citizen in Acri, Calabria, his Italian parents’ birthplace. His next book is Botticelli’s Secret: The Lost Drawings and the Rediscovery of the Renaissance, which will be published by W. W. Norton. Professor Luzzi is the founder of the Virtual Book Club, an online community of readers dedicated to exploring some of the best books ever written. Learn more at JosephLuzzi.com.

How does it work?
This is a three-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture

When will I receive the Zoom link?
Your link to enter the Zoom room will be the same for all three sessions. It will be sent to the email address used to place your order 30 minutes prior to each lecture's start time.

Is there a reading list in advance?
Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. While not required, we do suggest reading the following book either before, during, or after this course.
  • Four Great Comedies: The Taming of the Shrew; A Midsummer Night's Dream; Twelfth Night; The Tempest (Signet, 1998).
How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.
How much is the course?
The course is $105 USD for three lectures.

Is a recording available?
Yes. All registered participants will be sent a recording link within 48 hours of each session's conclusion.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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