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Texts for Shakespeare's Histories and Comedies: Home

ENG 355 Online Reading Materials

Comprehension Help

Shakespeare can be intimidating; however, there are so many resources out there to help you understand his works. If you feel you are struggling with the written word alone, please remember that his plays were written to be performed--viewed and heard. I'm including here several topic and work overviews that will help you understand Shakespeare's texts. I encourage you to read them before you read the works, but you are welcome to dip into them any time or not at all. It's important to remember that it's NOT cheating to find out what's going on in a play. Once we are unencumbered by confusion, we can really enjoy the language and begin to engage the ideas. 

Introduction to the Sonnets
Introduction to A Midsummer Night's Dream
Introduction to Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, and 3
Introduction to the Merry Wives of Windsor
Introduction to the Taming of the Shrew
Introduction to Much Ado About Nothing
Introduction to Twelfth Night
Introduction to Macbeth

If you're interested in reading more about genre, please feel free to explore widely. Here are a few links from the same resource as above:

History (and Succession, if you're interested)

And, finally, if you'd like some more basic information about the bard, here is a link to the eponymous entry:


Required Readings

Alternate Media Options

Audio Books

1 Henry VI
3 Henry VI

Film Productions

Please note that it's very rare for a film production to reproduce all of the play. You should use your study guide and the actual text to prepare for your quizzes, but these films and shows may help you get a better idea of what is going on in the play.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival through Labor Day Weekend)
Shakespeare in Perspective: Henry VI, Part 1 (Films On Demand)
Henry VI, House of Lancaster (Films on Demand)
Henry VI, House of York (Films on Demand)
Shakespeare in Perspective: Merry Wives of Windsor (Films on Demand)
Taming of the Shrew
Twelfth Night
Much Ado About Nothing
Macbeth (Folger Theatre)

Secondary Sources

I highly encourage you to do your own research on Shakespeare! We have a lot of resources to help with research, including Peer Research Tutors, the ability to chat with Research Librarians, and our own dedicated liaison, Jake Vaccaro. If you're just diving in on your own, this amazing resource collaboration between the Folger Library and JSTOR is a wonderful place to start.

The JSTOR Understanding Series: Shakespeare

I suggest working towards articles that have been published in this millennium, and we can talk more about why in class. I'm going to break that rule all over the place.

Works for Assignments

(You may choose your own criticism, but please run it by me first.)

The Sonnets

Swan in Love: The Example of Shakespeare's Sonnets

A Midsummer Night's Dream

'I know a Bank …': A Midsummer Night's Dream, fairies, and the erotic history of England
'For her sake': Queer Pregnancy in A Midsummer Night's Dream
Early Modern Intertextuality: Post Structuralism, Narrative Systems, and A Midsummer Night's Dream

Henry VI, Part 1

Joan of Arc: Soldier, Saint, Symbol--Of What?
Fearful Smile: Stealing the Breech in Shakespeare's Chronicle Plays
Shakespeare's Henry VI and Depression

Henry VI, Part 3

A Tragedy of Good Intentions: Maternal Agency in 3 Henry VI and King John
'And Men Ne'er Spend Their Fury on a Child': Killing Children in Shakespeare's Early Histories
Bloodlines and Blood Spilt: Historical Retelling and the Rhetoric of Sovereignty in Shakespeare's First Tetraology

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Pageantry, Queens, and Housewives in the Two Texts of The Merry Wives of Windsor
Revising Jealousy in The Merry Wives of Windsor
'I Am Made an Ass': Falstaff and the Scatology of Windsor's Polity

The Taming of the Shrew

Taste and Touch as Means of Coercion in The Taming of the Shrew
Performing Marriage with a Difference: Wooing, Wedding, and Bedding in The Taming of the Shrew
Domestic Economies in The Taming of the Shrew: Amassing Cultural Credit

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado about Black Naturalism: Don John, Blood, and Caged Birds
'She Speaks Poniards': Shakespearean Drama and the Italianate Leading Lady as Verbal Duellist
The Reclamation of Language in Much Ado About Nothing
'You Were an Actor with Your Handkerchief': Women, Windows, and Moral Agency

Twelfth Night


Dr. Romanelli

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Tina Romanelli
Carlyle Campbell Library 020 or Park 117
(919) 760-8554

Librarian Jake Vaccaro

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Jake Vaccaro