ENGL 27600: Shakespeare on Film

Fall 2011 MW 10:30-12:20 BRWN 1154


Charles Ross; Heavilon Hall 313

Office hours: MW 1:30-2:30, after class, or by appointment any time

Email: rosscs@purdue.edu; tel. 494-3729


Russell Keck: Heavilon Hall 209

Office hours: TR 1:00-2:00, after class, or by appointment any time

Email: rlkeck@purdue.edu


Course Description

In this course we read six plays by Shakespeare, watch film adaptations, and consider the differences between their presentation on the page, the stage, and the screen.


Course Objectives

In this class you will

·         Read six Shakespeare plays and compare them to movie versions: What was put in; what was left out?

·         Respond to films based on Shakespeare’s plays orally and in writing

·         Consider film as an aesthetic experience and how it differs from a stage play or a text

·         Learn about Shakespeare’s life and language, distinguish verse from prose

·         Learn to think about the genres of comedy, tragedy, history, and romance

·         Explore what aspects of human nature are timeless, which are culturally conditioned.


Required Texts:

The text formerly use for this class is out of print: Bevington, David. Shakespeare: Stage, Screen, Script. New York: Longman Pearson, 2005. Key pages from this text will be available on-line, as will texts of the plays.


We would like you to watch the films outside of class. They are available on reserve in the Hicks Undergraduate Library; all can be downloaded through Netflix or purchased through Amazon. In addition, you can borrow available copies. Most of all of the films will also be shown in class.


Suggested reading: Barton, John. Playing Shakespeare. New York: Anchor Books, 1984. This is a series of lessons on speaking Shakespeare’s verse, available also on video and DVD in the Hicks Undergraduate Library.


Web Access

We will be using “dropbox,” which you should install. Or check Blackboard, which we may use if it is working properly.


Attendance and Participation

Since this course is designed around class discussions and viewings, attendance and participation for every class session will be factored into your final grade. For every class session that you are absent, your attendance grade will be reduced by 2 points.  We will excuse only those absences which pertain directly to you and for which you can provide official documentation. If you know in advance that you will be absent, please tell us so that we can try to help keep you on schedule, though it is ultimately your responsibility to make up for any missed material and adhere to deadlines.


Participation means more than simply showing up to class; it involves active contribution to class activities and discussions. Short homework and in-class assignments are also part of your participation grade. Sleeping; using cellular phones, laptops, or other handheld devices in ways not relevant to class; or finishing homework for another class will result in an absence for the day and a reduction of your participation grade.  


Good attendance and participation are worthwhile in themselves because every class is designed to help you prepare for each exam and essay; thus, coming and participating in class will enable you to submit your best work.


Course Schedule:

8/22                 The Taming of the Shrew

8/24                 The Taming of the Shrew


8/29                 The Taming of the Shrew

8/31                 The Taming of the Shrew


9/5                   Labor Day (no class)

9/7                   The Taming of the Shrew


9/12                 Richard III

9/14                 Richard III


9/19                 Richard III

9/21                 Richard III


9/26                 Richard III

9/28                 Richard III


10/3                 First Midterm

10/5                 Romeo and Juliet


10/10               No class (October break)

10/12               Romeo and Juliet;


First Paper: compare a scene in one of the plays we have read to one or more film versions, or see us if you have another topic. Email your paper to rosscs@purdue.edu before 10:30 AM October 17. 3 point deduction for each day thereafter. 3-5 pages)


10/17               Romeo and Juliet

10/19               Romeo and Juliet


10/24               Titus Andronicus

10/26               Titus Andronicus


11/31               Titus Andronicus

11/2                 Titus Andronicus


11/7                 Midterm 2

11/9                 Macbeth


11/14               Macbeth

11/16               Macbeth


11/21               Macbeth:

11/23               No class (Thanksgiving break)


11/28               Hamlet

11/30               Hamlet


12/5                 Hamlet

12/7                 Hamlet


Second Paper. Identify a film sequence of five minutes more or less and compare it to the scene or scenes it’s based on. Due by 10:30 AM December 12.  Email to rosscs@purdue.edu. (5-10 pages)


Final exam: Tuesday, December 13, 7-9pm , same room (BRWN1154).



1) Taming of the Shrew, directed by Franco Zeffirelli; starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (1968; 122 minutes)

2) The Tragedy of Richard III, starring Ian McKellen (1995; 104 minutes)

3) Romeo&Juliet, directed by Baz Lurhmann, starring Claire Danes and Leonard DiCaprio (1996; 120 minutes)

4) Titus, directed by Julie Taymor; starring Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Alan Cumming  (2000; 162 minutes)

5) Macbeth, directed by Roman Polanski (1971, 139 minutes)

6) Hamlet, directed by Franco Zeffirelli; starring Mel Gibson (1990; 135 minutes)


Note: Purdue’s policy on film courses is to schedule them for four hours instead of three. That means an extra 750 minutes of class time per semester. Scheduled screenings for this class take up 716 minutes of this syllabus. That leaves a standard course of three full hours of class time.  DVDs are on reserve in the Hicks Undergraduate library.





Read the six plays corresponding to the films. You may find most of the Playing Shakespeare video material in text form in Playing Shakespeare. To review for exams, pay special attention to:


First exam:

            “Shakespeare’s Life” (pp. 7-11)

“Shakespeare and Comedy” (pp. 73-76)

“Varieties of Verse and Prose” (pp. 28-31)

“Page to Stage” (pp. 48-49)

“Screenplay to Screen” (pp. 55-68)

“Fathers and Daughters” and “Role Playing” (pp. 81-82)

 “More Recent Film Versions” (pp. 386-389)

“Olivier” (pp. 634-636)

Second exam:

            “The Sonnets” (pp. 25-28)

 Baz Luhrman” (pp. 559-563)

“Page to Stage” (pp. 48-49)

“Screenplay to Screen” (pp. 55-68)

Final exam:

“Page to Stage” (pp. 48-49)

“Screenplay to Screen” (pp. 55-68)



  1. 3-5 page paper: Compare and contrast a scene of a play we’ve looked at with a film version and discuss the implications.
  2. 5-10 page paper: Identify a film sequence of five minutes more or less and compare it to the scene or scenes it’s based on. Due by 10:30 AM December 12.  Email to rosscs@purdue.edu. (5-10 pages)
  3. Contribute to class discussion and activities.
  4. Two midterm exams.
  5. Final exam (not cumulative).
  6. Video project on Macbeth


Study Hints:

1) Read the assigned pages from the required texts.

2) Read and outline each play: for each scene, list the characters, summarize what is happening, then write a one-sentence “action statement” that states in the main clause of the sentence the most important action that one character takes in that scene. This exercise is for your benefit to help you realize the structure of the plays.

3) Bring a copy of the text to class. Take notes.

4) Lectures are available on Boilercast: http://boilercast.itap.purdue.edu:1013/Boilercast/


The Digital Learning Collaboratory (DLC):

The DLC (HIKS B853) is full of outstanding resources that you may wish to utilize for your multimedia projects. http://www.dlc.purdue.edu.


Grading: Points possible for assignments are as follows.  

Midterm #1                                                     200

Midterm #2                                                     200

Final Exam                                                      200

Video Project, Attendance, Participation       100

Essay #1                                                          100

Essay #2                                                          200

Final grades will be based on the following percentage scale, out of 1000 points: 100-94 A; 93-90 A-; 89-87 B+; 86-84 B; 83-80 B-; 79-77 C+; 76-74 C; 73-70 C-; 69-67 D+; 66-64 D; 63-60 D-; 59-0 F



Please be aware of the penalties for doing otherwise, as set forth in Purdue University’s “Academic Integrity: A Guide for Students” [http://www.purdue.edu/ODOS/osrr/integrity.htm.].


Classroom behavior: See the Purdue University “Student Code of Conduct” available at: http://www.purdue.edu/usp/acad_policies/student_code.shtml. Also, given the stationary seating of the Brown Hall 1154, please do not eat or drink during class. Do not annoy your neighbors by texting or doing email during class. Phones should be off.


In the event of a major campus emergency, course requirements, deadlines and grading percentages are subject to changes that may be necessitated by a revised semester calendar or other circumstances. Changes in this course will be announced via email.


On Monday of the fifteenth week of classes, you will receive an official email from evaluation administrators with a link to the online evaluation site.  You will have two weeks to complete this evaluation. Your participation in this evaluation is an integral part of this course. Your feedback is vital to improving education at Purdue University.  I strongly urge you to participate in the evaluation system.