Approaching Shakespeare

Approaching Shakespeare

By Oxford University

Each lecture in this series focuses on a single play by Shakespeare, and employs a range of different approaches to try to understand a central critical question about it. Rather than providing overarching readings or interpretations, the series aims to show the variety of different ways we might understand Shakespeare, the kinds of evidence that might be used to strengthen our critical analysis, and, above all, the enjoyable and unavoidable fact that Shakespeare's plays tend to generate our questions rather than answer them.


Love's Labour's Lost

Emma Smith continues her Approaching Shakespeare series with a lecture on the play Love's Labour's Lost.
12/02/2448m 6s

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Professor Emma Smith gives the last of her 2017 Shakespeare lectures on his early comedy, Two Gentlemen of Verona.
15/12/1744m 47s

Henry VI, Part 2

Professor Emma Smith continues her Approaching Shakespeare series with a 2017 lecture on the early history play, Henry VI, Part 2.
09/11/1747m 48s

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Professor Emma Smith lectures on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor.
25/10/1748m 29s

All's Well That Ends Well

Professor Emma Smith lectures on Shakespeare’s comedy All's Well That Ends Well.
25/10/1748m 19s


Professor Emma Smith continues her Approaching Shakespeare series with a lecture on one of Shakespeare’s later plays, Cymbeline.
25/10/1750m 28s

Timon of Athens

Emma Smith finishes her Approaching Shakespeare series with a lecture on the play Timon of Athens.
23/06/1554m 49s

Julius Caesar

This lecture on Julius Caesar discusses structure, tone, and politics by focusing on the cameo scene with Cinna the Poet.
18/05/1549m 34s

Romeo and Juliet

This lecture on Romeo and Juliet tackles the issue of the spoiler-chorus, in an already-too-familiar play. This podcast is suitable for school and college students.
05/05/1544m 15s


This lecture takes up a detail from Shakespeare’s late Roman tragedy Coriolanus to ask about the representation of character, the use of sources and the genre of tragedy. This podcast is suitable for school and college students.
05/05/1552m 32s

The Merchant of Venice

This lecture on The Merchant of Venice discusses the ways the play's personal relationships are shaped by models of financial transaction, using the casket scenes as a central example.
20/11/1243m 34s

Taming of the Shrew

Emma Smith uses evidence of early reception and from more recent productions to discuss the question of whether Katherine is tamed at the end of the play.
09/11/1243m 57s

A Midsummer Night's Dream

This lecture on A Midsummer Night's Dream uses modern and early modern understandings of dreams to uncover a play less concerned with marriage and more with sexual desire.
05/11/1240m 37s

Much Ado About Nothing

Emma Smith asks why the characters are so quick to believe the self-proclaimed villain Don John, drawing on gender and performance criticism to think about male bonding, the genre of comedy, and the impulses of modern performance.
30/10/1241m 58s


The fact that father and son share the same name in Hamlet is used to investigate the play's nostalgia, drawing on biographical criticism and the religious and political history of early modern England.
23/10/1246m 8s

As You Like It

Asking 'what happens in As You Like It', this lecture considers the play's dramatic structure and its ambiguous use of pastoral, drawing on performance history, genre theory, and eco-critical approaches.
23/10/1249m 6s

King Lear

Showing how generations of critics - and Shakespeare himself - have rewritten the ending of King Lear, this sixteenth Approaching Shakespeare lecture engages with the question of tragedy and why it gives pleasure.
22/02/1247m 25s

King John

At the heart of King John is the death of his rival Arthur: this fifteenth lecture in the Approaching Shakespeare series looks at the ways history and legitimacy are complicated in this plotline.
10/02/1245m 11s

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Pericles has been on the margins of the Shakespearean canon: this fourteenth lecture in the Approaching Shakespeare series shows some of its self-conscious artistry and contemporary popularity. This podcast has been re-recorded due to technical problems with the original recording. There is no accompanying eBook for this lecture as Pericles is not included in the First Folio.
01/02/1240m 42s

Richard III

In this thirteenth lecture in the Approaching Shakespeare series the focus is on the inevitability of the ending of Richard III: does the play endorse Richmond's final victory?
25/01/1245m 9s

The Comedy of Errors

Lecture 12 in the Approaching Shakespeare series asks how seriously we can take the farcical exploits of Comedy of Errors, drawing out the play's serious concerns with identity and selfhood.
23/01/1246m 50s

Henry IV part 1

Like generations of theatre-goers, this lecture concentrates on the (large) figure of Sir John Falstaff and investigates his role in Henry IV part 1. Lecture 11 in the Approaching Shakespeare series.
16/11/1150m 35s

The Tempest

That the character of Prospero is a Shakespearean self-portrait is a common reading of The Tempest: this tenth Approaching Shakespeare lecture asks whether that is a useful reading of the play.
14/11/1148m 58s

Antony and Cleopatra

What kind of tragedy is this play, with its two central figures rather than a singular hero? The ninth lecture in the Approaching Shakespeare series tries to find out.
10/11/1146m 50s

Richard II

Lecture eight in the Approaching Shakespeare series asks the question that structures Richard II: does the play suggest Henry Bolingbroke's overthrow of the king was justified?
01/11/1145m 16s

Twelfth Night

The seventh Approaching Shakespeare lecture takes a minor character in Twelfth Night - Antonio - and uses his presence to open up questions of sexuality, desire and the nature of romantic comedy.
20/10/1147m 16s

Titus Andronicus

Focusing in detail on one particular scene, and on critical responses to it, this sixth Approaching Shakespeare lecture on Titus Andronicus deals with violence, rhetoric, and the nature of dramatic sensationalism.
19/10/1149m 44s

The Winter's Tale

How we can make sense of a play that veers from tragedy to comedy and stretches credulity in its conclusion? That's the topic for this fifth Approaching Shakespeare lecture on The Winter's Tale.
09/11/1042m 58s


In this fourth Approaching Shakespeare lecture the question is one of agency: who or what makes happen the things that happen in Macbeth?
02/11/1046m 0s

Measure for Measure

The third Approaching Shakespeare lecture, on Measure for Measure, focuses on the vexed question of this uncomic comedy's genre.
26/10/1040m 47s

Henry V

The second lecture in the Approaching Shakespeare series looks at King Henry V, and asks whether his presentation in the play is entirely positive.
20/10/1046m 13s


First in Emma Smith's Approaching Shakespeare lecture series; looking at the central question of race and its significance in the play.
18/10/1047m 2s
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