English 40-4 - Winter, 2022

Introductory Topics in Literature

Topic: Shakespeare and the Classics

Class Information

Instructor: Connally, Kenneth
CRN: 23326
Time: TR 3:10-4:30
Location: 1116 Hart
GE Areas: Writing Experience


Ben Jonson famously wrote that his fellow playwright William Shakespeare understood only "small Latin, and less Greek." While neoclassicists like Jonson followed ancient dramatic models strictly, Shakespeare, the "poet of nature," deviated wildly from the "rules" of Greek tragedy and comedy. Yet Shakespeare too was deeply influenced by the culture and art of ancient Greece and Rome. He set many of his most famous plays in the ancient world and heavily relied on Greek and Latin sources for his plots. The philosophical ideas we find in his writings also often derive from Plato, Aristotle, or the schools of the Epicureans, Stoics, and Skeptics. In this class, we will read Shakespeare alongside his classical sources, examining the intertextual links between the great author of the Renaissance and the literature of the ancient world.


Student-Led Discussion: 5%
Reading Quizzes: 10%
Midterm: 15%
Final Exam: 20%
Short Essays & Revisions: 20%
Term Paper: 30%


Henry V, William Shakespeare
Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare
The Comedy of Errors, William Shakespeare
Canvas Course Reader (including Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis and selections from Plato, Aristotle, Horace, Ovid, Seneca, and Plutarch)
Roman Comedy: Five Plays by Plautus and Terence