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Shakespeare & the History of the English Kings

Shakespeare & the History of the English Kings
This class is currently archived, but if you're interested in it being taught again, you can express your interest here!
08/21/2023 - 05/10/2024
Full Year
1.0 credits in Humanities & Electives
Grades 6-12

Taught by:

About the course

Shakespeare & the History of the English Kings is an English course which explores the history of medieval England through the lens of 8 plays by William Shakespeare, covering the time period between 1399 and 1485. Students will also be afforded a glimpse into Shakespeare’s own time, and the playwright’s relation to the political intrigues of his day. Envisioning these eight plays as one long saga in which the English people’s perceptions about kingship, government, and power change dramatically, this course will provide students with a vivid, vicarious experience of the complex characters of the Plantagenet dynasty and the bloody wars they waged against foreign enemies as well as each other.

This 32-week course consists of four eight-week quarters. Each quarter, students will be assigned a weekly pre-recorded lecture, reading appropriate for the week, relevant reading questions, a weekly 1.5 hour live recitation, and one 2,000-word essay. Students will also be assigned a mid-term and a final exam. In the course of the year, the students will have read all the texts listed below, listened to 32 lectures, written four essays and attended all 32 live recitations to discuss the texts in Socratic fashion.

Course Objectives

  1. To instill a love of learning and learned discussion in the mind of the student.
  2. To comprehensively explicate the themes, forms, and imagery of Shakespeare’s plays.
  3. To develop an understanding of the key figures and major events of the time period, as well as how they were informed by the time periods of the past.
  4. To compose well-documented, structured, and formatted essays about the subjects covered.
  5. To develop the ability to make connections between the past and the present and a sense of the continuity of mankind’s history.


  • William Shakespeare

    • Richard II
    • Henry IV Part I
    • Henry IV Part II
    • Henry V
    • Henry VI Part I
    • Henry VI Part II
    • Henry VI Part III
    • Richard III
  • Selections from other writers will be provided as PDFs

About the teacher

Ryan Griffiths Ryan Griffiths lives in Taylorville, Illinois and has a Master's degree in English from the University of Illinois. He has taught composition and critical reading to college freshmen, and enjoys English literature, creative writing, and film.