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Examine Shakespeare’s work in English course at COS

Theo Vang

Theo Vang

Jesenia Orozco

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“O Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art thou Romeo?” – William Shakespeare

This quote is from one of the most famous romantic scenes in literature, where Romeo climbs up to the balcony, as the love of his life, Juliet, awaits him and they proclaim their true love for each other.

However, what if this infamous literary scene did not happen on a balcony at all? What if some of his greatest plays, such as Macbeth, were not originally written by Shakespeare? Well, these conspiracies are analyzed in a course that is being offered this semester: Shakespeare and His Afterlives (English 46).

This course is required for COS students who are majoring in English, and is good for those majoring in Humanities. It fulfills several GED requirements: Area C2 (for CSU) and Area 3B (for UC).

Teaching the course this semester is Professor Joseph Teller, who earned a PHD in Renaissance Work, Religion and Shakespeare Performance at the University of Notre Dame. Professor Teller’s sole focus is to teach his students interesting facts about Shakespeare that they have never known and dig deep into his works to discover secrets Shakespeare integrated into his plays and poems.

“I believe students will find that his plays and poems have a shear, aesthetic, beauty and flexible language,” Teller said.

Over the course of the semester, students will read about seven of Shakespeare’s most famous plays: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry V, Hamlet, King Leer, Macbeth, Twelfth Night and The Tempest. Students will then interpret them in two ways: by close reading and traditional reading.

“During the process of close reading, students read a literary text, whether if it is a play or a poem, and comprehend how each part of a section has an overall effect,” Teller said. “Or looking for words that are replaced which can make a difference in what the text means. Traditional reading, on the other hand, involves students reading the text and creating meaning out of what is read.”

By doing so, students can decode the elusive language and blueprints of his endless world of possibilities in playwriting. Students also learn the history of the play performances, how the audience back in Shakespeare’s era perceived his plays, compare modern films adaptations to his own scripts, how history affected the way plays were performed which included cutting some scenes out and how Shakespeare’s work has been adapted or modified over the years to please audiences.

According to students who are taking the course this semester, Professor Teller has a unique way of teaching the subjects discussed and inspiring his students to do work that is assigned.

“He goes into detail about the readings we are assigned and explains them if we do not understand,” said Alondra Cuevas, an English major. “He is actually the first professor I have had who is actually a performer, and during class he even performs some of the things we read so we can understand them better.”

“He is very enthusiastic about what he teaches,” said Angel Arturo Zavala, an English major. “Sometimes we have group seminars that are really insightful and create a new way of interpretation for the text.”

Even though Teller has not taken part in any theatrical productions since high school, he still loves to perform some of the readings done in class, which allows students to hear the play from a different angle. His favorite part about teaching the course is watching his students realize that Shakespeare’s works are not that difficult to read.

“His works are not a difficult code,” Teller said. “In reality, teaching this course results in realization for all and even myself, for students point out ideas or details I have never thought about.”

Teller hopes that when students take this course, it will offer a new perspective at how they look at Shakespeare, for his ambiguous language can make his work seem notoriously intimidating.

“I hope that when students leave the class, they will have the bravery of picking up another Shakespeare text and be able to understand it,” Teller said. “I aim to allow Shakespeare’s work to be more approachable and for students to discover more about him than others do, or in other words challenge their received notions of the plays.”

Unfortunately for all the Shakespeare readers, this three unit class is now offered every two years instead of one semester during the school year. Teller claims that this is due to low demand, which set back the availability of the course. So for any students looking to take this class will have to wait until fall of 2019, when it will be available once again. Teller encourages anyone who has any questions to email him at [email protected]

Professor Teller encourages students to grasp the opportunity of taking this course, whether if it is: “To be, or not to be” – Shakespeare.

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Examine Shakespeare’s work in English course at COS