Shakespeare: In Love & at War

Teacher:Benjamin Gross
Extra Help:Thursdays in room 303 & by appointment

Shakespeare In Love & At War


Couse Overview:

From a first instinct, if you had to focus in on the two most opposed aspects of humanity, love & war take center stage.  The two seem to be in diametric opposition, with one, at its most basic level involving accepting another human being (love), and the other rejecting them (war), but once you scratch the surface, commonalities start to present themselves that are not there at first sight. Shakespeare, whose plays can be divided into three different groupings (comedies, tragedies, and histories) seemed to write love oriented plays (like Romeo & Juliet) and war oriented ones (like Macbeth), but anything other than a tertiary glace quickly reveals how intertwined and intertangled these two aspects of humanity are. In this class, we are going to dive into these aspects of the human condition, and see what Shakespeare makes of them, selecting a play from each of the categories (Macbeth for tragedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream for comedy, and Henry V for history) we will work on our close-reading & acting skills to come to a better understanding of what the bard had to say about love & war, how they interact with and highlight one another, sometimes for the betterment of the individuals involved, and sometimes to their mortal detriment.


Essential Questions:

1. What is love?

2. What is the difference between comedy and tragedy?

3. How does language influence meaning?

4. How does embodying a written text affect our understanding of the text?



Ÿ A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Ÿ Macbeth

Ÿ Henry V

Ÿ Various adaptations of the plays


Major Projects & Portfolio Pieces:

Ÿ Student-led performances of scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Ÿ Dramatic monologue of key speech from Henry V

Ÿ Analysis of film versions of a scene from Macbeth

Ÿ Theme based analytical paragraphs



Many of the texts we will be examining in class are difficult, often with complex themes that are not always clearly discernable. Advancing a hypothesis about a text, film, or piece of art and being ‘wrong’ is central to the learning process. I hope we can use the risk-taking of the writers and artists we are studying in class as an inspiration, and try to push ourselves in order to enhance our thinking skills and impact how we see the world around us.



Academic Honesty: Plagiarism is a serious offense in this classroom as it involves theft and dishonesty. Intellectual integrity is central to learning, so I implore you to engage in original thought and cite sources when they are used (including Sparknotes and Schmoop). Work that is plagiarized, either from a fellow student or from an online source, will receive a zero with no chance to make it up, your parent or guardian will be contacted, and the office will be notified.


Revision: Revision is central to the writing process; no one that writes professionally turns something in they have not revised themselves and had others revise for them. We will follow this same professional behavior towards the written word in class, using class time to revise what we write in order to improve ourselves as writers. Additionally, work turned in will be revisable as my feedback on it is meant to improve your abilities as a writer.


Timeliness: If a student is not able to turn in a major assignment on time, he or she must make arrangements with the teacher within 24 hours of the due date. At the discretion of individual teachers, students may be provided extra time to receive partial credit on major assignments. Make-up assignments must be submitted within 7 calendar days (1 week) from the original due date. Assignments submitted before the 7 day window will receive a lower grade in the Work Habits strand (5 points lost for every day late) but fully assessed in all other strands. Assignments turned in after the 7 day window will be graded as a zero in all strands. Late homework must be turned in by the next class.


Honors: Honor in English is an opportunity to challenge yourself and enrich your experience of the literature we will read in class. The goal of honors is to challenge you in order to advance your independence, time management, and self-direction, and to strengthen your compositional and analytical skills. It is open to all students, but there is a good deal of independent, supplemental work involved. In order to qualify for honors credit, you must:


·      Maintain a grade of 80 or higher in all strand areas.

·      Read and respond to one piece of literary criticism for each text.

·      Complete an honors version of each project.

·      Evidence the characteristics of a classroom leader, socially and academically, including: being regularly prepared for class, speaking respectfully while advancing the tone and terroir of class discussions, assist other students when appropriate, and evidence the characteristics of good scholarship in English.


The honors assessments will supplement the cumulative assessment for each unit, and will provide an opportunity to enhance your understanding of the text. Upon completion of all the honors requirements, your semester grade will be raised by 0.5 points. Should you choose to pursue honors in English and later reconsider, the honors work you do complete will be graded for extra credit, but your semester grade will receive no additional points.


Grading Policy:

Composition (25%) Composition is synonymous with writing, and will take the form of analytical paragraphs, in class responses to the text, analytical essays, and creative writing pieces.

Analysis (25%) Analysis represents critical thinking about a text and can take the form of study questions and other assessments where you have to think about and analyze a text. It is also embedded in many of the composition assignments, so when you write an analytical paragraph, the analysis is the thoughts you have about the text, whereas the composition is how you express those thoughts. How fluidly you embed a textual quotation would fall under composition while what you have to say about that quotation and how it contributes to a theme in the text is analysis.

Oral Presentation (25%) Oral presentation may take the form of student presentations, participation in class discussions, participation in small group discussions, and other forms of vocalizing one's ideas in class, formally or informally.

Work Habits (25%) Work habits are the study skills necessary to gain mastery over the curriculum. It might take the form of reading quizzes, book annotation checks, revisions of essays, and self-reflections.


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Course Documents