Academics and Research / Current Issue / Magazine Feature

Students in love … with Shakespeare

Globe Theatre

DU study-abroad students learn about Shakespeare in a reconstruction of the Bard's Globe Theatre. Photo: John Tramper

It’s nothing new for Americans to study the work of Shakespeare. But it’s usually cooler to do so in the country of that famous writer. And way cooler to do so when actually at the theater in which the Bard’s famous plays were first performed.

DU students studying abroad in London can get that experience when they take Shakespeare: Text, Performance and Culture.

The course is held at Shakespeare’s Globe, a modern reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, which burned down in 1613.

“It was one of the most interesting classes I’ve ever taken,” says Callan Cobb, a senior communications major who took the class in fall 2008. “Not only was it taught in the exact replica of the Globe Theatre, but the people teaching us were so knowledgeable and in love with Shakespeare that you couldn’t help but feel the same way.”

In love with Shakespeare? Not surprising considering the ongoing popularity of a man who lived nearly 400 years ago. The course focuses on the universality of Shakespeare’s plays, which helps students relate to the issues he wrote about centuries earlier.

“We learned how to look for different meaning in his plays and poems,” Cobb says. “A lot of times what you read is not what he intended you to take away. The most significant part of the class was tying London history to the writing and using the history to make guesses as to what Shakespeare was alluding to.”

DU has partnered with Globe Education — the education program offering courses at the Globe Theatre — since 1998. The 12-week fall course is designed for liberal arts students and is especially popular with theater and English majors. During the class, students read and study some of Shakespeare’s plays and examine their language, meaning and characters. They also learn about performance space, props and clothing and the relationship between actors and audience members, says Madeline Knights, university courses manager at the Globe.

DU English Professor Eleanor McNees helped organize DU’s partnership with the Globe when she was working to develop the University’s faculty-led London study-abroad program. Students in the program are able to choose either the Shakespeare course or an art history course as part of the program’s curriculum.

“Since the [Globe’s] regular season ends in early October, students are able to actually use the stage — quite a spectacular experience for them,” McNees says.

In addition to watching plays, students perform a scene of their own to an audience at the end of the class.

Senior political science major Eliza Reed says performing was easily her favorite part of the class.

“We took lessons in acting and drama, and after spending several weeks learning the lines and the appropriate movement on stage, we got to perform a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in front of our peers,” she says.

Reed played Lysander.

“There were seven people in the course, and we were split into two plays. My group was all women, so two of us got to play the male roles, which is ironic because men played female roles in Shakespeare’s time,” Reed says.

Plays at the outdoor theater are performed as they were in the 16th century, Reed says. There are no microphones or stage lighting, and a crowd of 1,600 can pack into the theater and hear Shakespeare’s famous lines clearly through the Globe’s natural acoustics.

“The architecture and detail of the Globe is breathtaking,” says marketing and theater senior Brooke Tibbs. “It’s a marvelous theater. Standing in the middle of the theater you can look up and see the sky and wonder if it’s the 1500s or present day.”


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