Shakespeare and Games

English 210W: Major Authors

Callaway Center S101

Tuesday, Thursday 8:30-9:45

Instructor: Dori Coblentz

Office Hours: Thursdays 10:00-11:00 a.m.

Online, and by appointment

Woodruff library basement coffee shop


Course Description

It is a familiar complaint that today’s youth are wasting their time playing games when they should be working. The refrain that equates play time to wasted time goes back even before the famous “Protestant work ethic” to Petrarch and the early Renaissance. In this class, we will chart changing ideas of games, sports, and plays in relation to the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. We will use popular early modern poetry and prose to evaluate the role of playing in comedies and tragedies such as The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, and Doctor Faustus. We will also read more recent work by game theorists like Jane McGonigal. Students will complete a substantial amount of written work, including a game proposal, ten in-class writing exercises, an analysis paper, and a research paper. Since this class is part of the Domain of One’s Own project, students’ work will include a web component. Students will complete a small personal website project (no prior web design experience needed) with a link to a group website that showcases a Shakespeare-related game. Each student group will be responsible for designing, making, and presenting on the game.

Learning Outcomes:

LO1: Ability to make an original contribution to a discourse after researching existing contributions (game project and research paper)

LO2: Ability to recognize and analyze how texts and performances make meaning. (in-class essays, final research paper)

LO3: Ability to recognize and reproduce generic conventions (in-class essays, research paper, websites and game project)

LO4: Ability to identify and adapt to audience, presenting arguments persuasively and engagingly (research paper, game project, and presentation)

LO5: Ability to analyze how texts influence and are influenced by their historical context (Exams, research paper)

LO6: Familiarity with major literary movements and works of early modern drama, poetry, and prose (Exams, research paper)


  • Participation and Attendance (10%)
  • Personal Website and Individual Portion of Game Project: (10%)
  • Group Portion of Game Project Including Group Presentation: (10%)
  • In-Class Essays: (10%)
  • Paired Presentation (5%)
  • Midterm Exam (10%)
  • Final Exam (15%)
  • Midterm Paper: (10%)
  • Final Research Paper: (20%)

Required Texts:

The Comedy of Errors (Folger Shakespeare Library)  ISBN:   9780743484886

The Merchant of Venice (Folger Shakespeare Library) ISBN:   9780743477567

As You Like It (Folger Shakespeare Library) ISBN:    9780743484862

Doctor Faustus (New Mermaids) ISBN:   9780713673760

Romeo and Juliet (Folger Shakespeare Library) ISBN:   9780743477116

Arden of Faversham (New Mermaids) ISBN: 9780713677652

Reading and Writing About Literature, 3rd edition. (Bedford/St. Martin’s) ISBN:   9781457606496

Participation and Attendance:

I will gauge your participation in large part on the basis of the three reading questions you will submit each class. The questions are due on my desk at the beginning of each class period. They are designed to help you think about the texts under discussion that day as well as let me know if you understand them. I will collect, read, and return your questions usually without comments except for a check mark at the bottom to indicate credit. You must attend class to receive credit for that day’s questions.

Note: being well prepared for class means doing all of the readings, thinking about them, and having something to say about them. Summarizing each reading’s main argument and highlighting a few questions that it raises in your notes is a good way to come up with worthwhile things to say. The ability to participate in class discussion is an acquired skill, not a personality trait.

Website and Individual Portion of Game Project

This class is part of the Domain of One’s Own project. As such, you will be expected to create a website (no prior web design experience needed) to serve as a professional portfolio. Students will be required to make a site with a home page, coursework page, and a third page determined by the student (i.e. blog page, hobby page, etc.) Under the “Coursework” page, students will post a description of the game they make during the semester and an abstract of their final research paper.

Students will research games related to Shakespeare. They will cite at least two games that already exist, and propose a new game. The format will be: “In contrast to the existing Shakespeare games, my game does/teaches/explores x.” You will read everyone else’s proposal and decide which proposal to back. The five most popular games will form the basis of the game working groups.

Group Portion of Game Project

Throughout the semester, you will work with a group to create a game based on the proposal you chose. Games may be of any format such as a party game like Charades, a board game like Settlers of Catan, a card game like Magic the Gathering, or a D&D module like “The Temple of Elemental Evil.” A successful game will engage closely with the reading material and teach the people who play the game something about Shakespeare. An unsuccessful game will be simplistic (“take a shot every time this play uses the word ‘love’”) or not engage with the play (i.e. a Shakespeare Monopoly game that just changes the names of all the properties to generic Renaissance-y sounding ones.)

Your finished game must be playable and reproducible. You will put the components of the game onto a group website so that people can print, download, or do whatever is necessary to play the game for themselves. At the end of the semester, you will present your project to the class. On the date of your presentation, the group website for the game must be completed.


You will complete seven in-class writing exercises over the course of the semester, totaling 10% of your final grade.

Paired Presentation

Most class sessions will start with a student-led presentation. We will be using the PechaKucha format in which you play 20 slides continuously through while you speak for 20 seconds about each slide. Students will present in pairs, with each partner speaking for 10 slides. Presentations are of three types: a look at a play’s performance history, a historical exploration of a pastime featured in one of the plays, or a review of a Shakespearean game.

Midterm Paper

In this 1500-2000 word (5-6 page) paper, you will pick an image or motif that recurs in one of the plays we study. Then, you will draw some broader conclusions about the author’s use of the trope. Examples include: the moon, time, the forest, a particular animal, a season, etc.

Final paper

In this 2,500-3,000 word (8-9 page) paper, you will build on one of the insights you turned up either in one of the writing exercises or in the midterm paper. You will look to the existing discourse to see what other people have made of the trope, and you will find a way to make an original argument that builds on the research of others.

Grading scale

A+ (98-100%) B+ (88-89%) C+ (78-79%) D+ (69-70%)
A (93-97%) B (83-87%) C (73-77%) D (63-68%) F (50-59%)
A- (90-92%) B- (80-82%) C- (70-72%) D- (60-62%)

“A” papers have an original and compelling thesis that is clearly articulated and supported effectively with relevant evidence. The structure is logical and engaging, and the paper is free from grammatical and mechanical errors.

“B” papers meet the requirements of A papers, but in fall short in one or two respects

“C” papers have a thesis of average quality, an argument that is fully presented to the reader, but obscured by problems with grammar, mechanics, or organization.

“D” papers have a poor thesis or do not have a thesis at all, lack organization and clarity, and contain many stylistic, grammatical, or proofreading errors.

“F” papers have no thesis, poor organization, and many grammatical, stylistic, and proofreading errors.

Policies and Resources


Essays should be submitted by email to before class on the days they are due. Please use .doc or .docx format and enable “Show Markup” under the “Review” ribbon. We will review and use MLA format for your essays. Essays should be in 12-point, double-spaced Times New Roman font.

Late Policy

Because this is a writing-intensive and discussion-oriented course, it is important for you to be at every class meeting with your readings completed and your discussion question written. If you cannot meet a deadline you must contact me before the class in which it is due to discuss the situation. For each class period late, a full letter grade will be lowered (i.e. by 10%) unless you have made prior arrangements with me.

Classroom and Online Environment

Arrive on time – excessive tardieness will affect your participation grade. You are welcome to use your laptop, but only use it for notes and other class-related things. Lower the screen during discussion. Exercise common courtesy such as paying attention when others are talking and not interrupting.

As a Domain of One’s Own class, we will be composing in multimodal environments throughout the course. I encourage you to bring a laptop to every class. Laptops are required on Writing Workshop and In-Class Essay days. If this requirement poses a hardship, please talk with me about possible accommodations.

Academic Integrity

Obviously, cheating will not be tolerated in this class. Cheating in any part of the course may lead to failing the course and suspension or dismissal from the university. If in doubt, please consult me.

Disability Statement

If you are in need of a classroom accommodation, please make an appointment with me to discuss this as soon as possible. For more information, please visit

Domain of One’s Own

This class is part of the Domain of One’s Own project. As such, major assignments or portions thereof will be published to the web and available to audiences beyond the class and university. More information and documentation can be found at


Week 1 What is a Game?
T Introductions

“Theater and Society”

Jane McGonigal: “Reality is Broken” from Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

Week 2 Games of Self-Presentation

Jan 19

End of add/drop/swap period

Creative Commons: “About,” Licenses,” “Projects”

Jonathan Coulton: “Re: Your Brains” on Thing a Week Two

WordPress documentation: “Getting Started

WordPress workshop


Jan 21

Reading and Writing about Literature pages 1-20; 96-110

Personal Website Due

Shakespeare’s sonnets 1-3: “motives to procreation as the way to outlive time”

Signup for paired PechaKucha presentations opens at 7 a.m. on class forum

In-class essay 1

Week 3 The Early Modern Stage

Jan 26

Folger introduction to As You Like It, pages XV-LV

Jan 28

Deadline for letter grade/Satisfactory-Unsatisfactory Changes

As You Like It, Acts I-II

Reading and Writing about Literature, Chapter 7: “Writing about Plays”

Week 4 Courtly Pastimes

Feb 2

As You Like It Acts III-IV

In-class essay 2

Paired Presentation 1 (Gillian on performance history)


Feb 4

As You Like It V

Paired Presentation 2 (Jasmine and Jessica on performance history)

Week 5 Fun in Faversham

Feb 9

Arden of Faversham appendix pages 113-123

Scene I

Paired Presentation 3 (Solah and Sam performance history)


Feb 11

Arden of Faversham scenes II-IX

Paired Presentation 4 (Kimani and Natalia, pastime history)

In-class essay 3

Week 6

Feb 16

Arden of Faversham  X-epilogue

Gina Bloom: “‘My Feet See Better Than My Eyes’: Spatial Mastery and the Game of Masculinity in Arden of Faversham’s Amphitheatre”

Paired Presentation 5 (Skyler and Akash game review)


Feb 18

Reading and Writing about Literature, Chapters 3 and 4: “The Writing Process” and “Common Writing Assignments”


Paired Presentation 6 (jau4 and Andrew – game review)

Week 7 Gambling and Gondolas

Feb 23

Merchant of Venice I-III

Paired Presentation 7  (Daniel and aelaure, performance history)


Feb 25

Merchant of Venice IV-V

Paired Presentation 8  (Emmy and Selina – pastime history)

Paper 1 due

Week 8

Mar 1

Midterm Review

In-class essay 4


Mar 3

Week 9 Break

Mar 8

Spring Break

Mar 10

Spring Break
Week 10 Pranks on the Pope and other Practical Jokes

Mar 15

Game proposal forum posts due

Doctor Faustus scenes 1-6


Mar 17

Doctor Faustus scenes 7-12

Game Group work

Paired Presentation 9 (mavilla and Hiba performance history)

Votes for proposed games due

Week 11

Mar 22

Doctor Faustus 13-epilogue

Paired Presentation  10 (Yirong and Ricky, game review)

In-class essay 5

Reading and Writing about Literature, Chapter 8: “Writing a Literary Research Paper”


Mar 24

Asynchronous Virtual Class – email group members or meet in person to develop your game
Week 12 Ephesian Entertainments

Mar 29

Comedy of Errors I-III

Paired Presentation 11 (ablower and Jose on performance history)


Mar 31

Comedy of Errors IV-V

In-class essay 6

Presentation on pastime history, Linh

Week 13 Vengeance in Verona

Apr 5

Romeo and Juliet I-III

Paired Presentation 12 (Devan and Mashal – pastime history)


Apr 7

Game drafts due in class for playtesting
Week 14

Apr 12

Romeo and Juliet IV-V

In-class essay 7


Apr 14

Group Presentations
Week 15  

Apr 19


Exam review


Apr 21

Play games! Extra credit for game voted best.

Final Paper Due


May 2nd

Final Exam 3:00-5:30