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Shakespeare's Globe: All the World's a Stage

A First-Year Ampersand Program

Shakespeare's Globe: All the World's a Stage

Why—more than 400 years later—do we continue to read the works of William Shakespeare?  Why do we continue to stage his plays, identify with his characters, and communicate our thoughts in his language?  Why do his poems and plays retain their vibrancy and immediacy, even today?

This course invites students to answer these questions by inhabiting Shakespeare’s language from the inside and out—breathing in the words of his characters with creative and careful study, while moving out to fully engage the text in performance.  Reading plays, watching films, listening to monologues, voicing dialogue, physically enacting fight scenes, and even navigating plots with joysticks, students will develop deep appreciation for the writer who is the original GOAT—the greatest of all time.

In this two-semester course, we will read and study Shakespeare’s plays in their historical context, learning about the original practices used in performance at both the Elizabethan and Jacobean court theatres as well as the public theatres on the South Bank of the Thames.  We will also consider them as adaptable playscripts that have been rewritten over the past 400 years, reinterpreted at different times by different actors in different cultures the world over.  Students will contribute to this performance repertoire with their own 21st-century interpretations, striding the stage of the reconstructed Globe Theatre in a capstone experience that concludes the course with a summer trip to London.  If all the world’s a stage, come be a player in it! 

How to Apply

The application process for first-year programs and seminars opens on Thursday, May 12, at 4 p.m. (CT) and closes on Monday, May 16, at noon (CT). You will need your WUSTL Key to apply, so please be sure to sign up for your WUSTL Key by Tuesday, May 10 to give it 24 hours to activate. There will be a link to the application webform on the First-Year Programs homepage during this time for you to sign up. A statement of interest (no more than 500 words) is required when you submit your application online.

first year programs homepage


In the fall semester, we begin by laying the groundwork for understanding Shakespeare’s plays as actors do.  Learning how to read for character as well as narrative will come quickly as we study the language of his poetry, learning to unpack it for vital information such as spatial cues for blocking (often essential to comedy!), character motivation (in soliloquies and asides), and philosophical themes of cultural and historical import.  With a focus on Shakespeare’s craft as it develops in his sonnets and early plays, we will begin to build our acting chops with both in-class workshops and zoom lectures from the staff at the Globe Theatre in London.

In the spring semester, we will continue to build on this foundation, looking at how Shakespeare’s plays have been staged over the course of the past 400 years, but also critically reappraising that history.  What do we mean by “original practices”?  Are they necessary to understanding Shakespeare’s plays?  Is meaning contingent upon audience assumptions in the moment of production?  How do we deal with changing cultural attitudes toward gender, race, class, religion, and nation?  As we will see, one of the reasons Shakespeare’s plays continue to make meaning for audiences around the world today is because they are subtle and complex and invite new interpretations with every generation.

An optional summer trip to London will cap off the course, allowing students to stride the stage of the reconstructed Globe Theatre in scenes rehearsed throughout the year.  Workshops with professional actors, guest lectures by leading scholars, side trips to sites of interest (including Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon), along with nightly outings to professional theatre productions will make for a memorable experience to last a lifetime!


*This Ampersand Program typically has an international travel component, which could be affected by federal and local guidelines related to health, safety, and security considerations. This program's main academic component will not be affected.