Free Harvard Online Shakespeare Course - The Merchant of Venice

The course focuses on William Shakespeare’s most magnetic and ambivalent character, Shylock.
character of Shylock in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice

Once again, my wonderful connection, Jenny, from HarvardX Communications reached out to me with a great course idea for high school homeschoolers. This is a new course that could be a good fit for high school students interested in Shakespeare.

Shylock’s Bond is a new online course taught by Harvard’s Stephen Greenblatt, Cogan University Professor of the Humanities.

Course launch date: June 26 on edX.org.
Course length: 3 weeks.
Subject: Literature.
Level: Introductory.
Format: Self-Paced

Course Description

The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare's most powerful, strange, uncomfortable plays. It is a play about a piece of paper with a promise, a dangerous promise, that if money isn't repaid, the lender can get a pound of flesh. And yet it is a comedy.

Shylock’s Bond explores Shakespeare’s unforgettable character Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and his historical origins. The course introduces learners to:

  • Jewish history both in Venice and in England
  • The ways in which Shakespeare’s own audience might have responded to the play and its genre
  • The history of the play’s production through the twenty-first century

This free, 3-week, self-paced course is the part of the ShakespeareX series (see the first course, Hamlet’s Ghost), and is ideal for:

  • Homeschool students looking for a Shakespeare course or a high level English supplement
  • AP English students looking to dig deeper into the play’s content
  • Teachers looking for professional development and teaching resources connected to Shakespeare. (Teachers represent about one-third of our MOOC participants based on a recent Harvard/MIT report.)

Learning Goals

  • Appreciate Shakespearean dramaturgy and language
  • Identify historical contexts that illuminate Shakespeare’s artistic choices
  • Explore the implications of different theatrical and performance interpretations

Video Trailer

About Sarah Tippett

Sarah is the editor for Homeschool Base, a passionate writer, and teacher. When she isn't writing she is homeschooling her youngest son.

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