Shakespeare's Tragedies

Course No. 2752
Professor Clare R. Kinney, Ph.D.
University of Virginia
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Course No. 2752
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Course Overview

Shakespeare's contributions to stage and language are unequaled. In what Professor Clare R. Kinney calls the "power and audacity of his poetry and stagecraft," Shakespeare has left audiences breathless these past four centuries.

His artistry is as evident in moments of insensate rage, as when King Lear dares Nature to do her worst—

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples,
drowned the cocks!

as it is in moments of heartbreaking tenderness, as when Othello steals a few last kisses from the sleeping and innocent wife he is about to murder for the adultery he imagines—

Ah balmy breath, that doth almost persuade
Justice to break her sword! One more, one more. …

But beyond his astonishing feats of language and dramatic impact, Shakespeare also left us a legacy, crafted from his experiences and explorations, of suffering and transgression in his six great mature tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus.

Questions and Dilemmas of Tragedy

Experienced students of Shakespeare, those new to his work, and those who may be returning after many years away, will all find it makes an optimal addition to their libraries of books and of other Teaching Company literature courses.

Professor Kinney's aim is to take you deep within each play. You'll observe Shakespeare's protagonists struggling to make choices in the face of competing social, moral, and psychological pressures and "clawing [from] their pain and horror," as she puts it, "a kind of insight."

Professor Kinney supplies a series of insights that teach a nuanced understanding of each play's meaning—a gift that will increase the dramatic impact of every Shakespearean tragedy you see on the stage or screen, or visualize as you read them, as well as enhance your ability to form insights on your own with each reading or performance.

As Professor Kinney works through the plays, you'll see how Shakespeare returns again and again to a set of themes that resonate through his work.

What can happen when the desires of an individual are at odds with the constraints or demands of the society around him? How do love, hatred, and ambition sever loyalties in what would today be called a "dysfunctional family"?

How is power used and felt, whether it be political and erotic power, the power of language and imagination, or even the power of theater itself, as in Hamlet's "play within the play," or in the kind of public theatrics required of, and rejected by, the title character of Coriolanus?

These are only some of the themes Professor Kinney explores in Shakespeare's Tragedies, a 24-lecture look at the astonishing body of work produced by Shakespeare from 1600–1608. It is a body of work made all the more astonishing by considering that it was not written to be the timeless dramatic art it has become, but as commercial theater in a competitive marketplace that placed excessive demands on its writers and performers.

While today's greatest hits run for months, perhaps even years, the theatrical world of Shakespeare's time was very different.

A Theatrical Reality Far Different from Today's

With theaters closed only on church holidays, in bad weather, or in time of plague, theater companies had to have enormous repertories, and a very long run lasted only 10 days. Professor Kinney talks about one theater company, for instance, whose records from the 1594–95 season have survived. The records show 38 plays performed—21 of them newly written—which indicates that a new play was added about every two weeks.

Yet even working under those conditions, Shakespeare was able to produce works that probed the human condition with extraordinary perception.

Moving from play to play, following Shakespeare's recurring themes, Professor Kinney also devotes particular focus to two themes that surface repeatedly in his tragedies.

The first of these issues, that of agency, concerns those who actually get to make choices about the roles they take in their own lives, acting freely, and confronting the consequences of their actions.

Is Macbeth, for example, acting on his own by murdering Duncan to ascend to the throne? Is he responding to half-suppressed forces of ambition that have been unleashed by Lady Macbeth? Or is he the witches' pawn, acting out the tragic script that they have set in motion? The play suggests all of these things, and learning to see and evaluate the evidence for diverse interpretations of a complex drama is one of the many intellectual pleasures offered by these lectures.

A second topic that echoes through these plays is that of transgression, when characters—especially women—make a choice that is perceived as violating a social or moral boundary.

When Desdemona marries the Moor, Othello, for example, she has crossed a racial barrier, committing what her father calls an "unnatural" act. And when she crosses the boundary that demands a wife's silence and submission, she transgresses yet again, daring to dispute her husband's allegations with a denial that earns her his wrathful epithet, "strumpet."

Women as Tragic Protagonists

Professor Kinney plays close attention to the roles of women in these tragedies, considering whether women can indeed be tragic protagonists—all but one of these plays are named after males. She addresses the significance of just who, in a play, gives the soliloquies that make the audience privy to their reflections on their feelings or actions.

But she also looks at the ways women can and do exercise power in the plays, as in the example of Coriolanus's mother, Volumnia, whose belief system has shaped her son's psyche and whose climactic re-enactment of the control she wields over him destroys him.

One of the extra delights of the course comes from the sheer pleasure of hearing Professor Kinney present it. British by birth, she is also an occasional actress, reading not only Shakespeare's lines with emotion and understanding, but also imbuing her own statements during the lectures with high dramatic impact.

Her background as a director of student scenes also stands her in excellent stead as she offers perceptive comments about the choices directors must make in intelligently staging these plays. She ensures that dramatic impact is maximized without diluting the compelling intellectual questions that make Shakespeare's plays so rich and that Professor Kinney's lectures so eloquently bring out.

  • In Hamlet, Professor Kinney introduces you to the play's fascination with secrets and disclosure, explores its treatment of the morality of revenge, and examines the emotional violence Hamlet permits himself when the focus of his rage is female instead of male. She asks whether the "unfolding" (laying bare of identity) that one character demands of another in the very first moments of the play ever quite extends to the mysteries that lie at the heart of Hamlet himself.
  • In Othello, you'll encounter the "motiveless malignity" of the villainous Iago's manipulations, the racial and gender barriers its characters violate, and the "poisoned sight" that brings down a character unable to negotiate the demands of his identities as both a warrior and a lover.
  • In King Lear, you'll see the consequences of a rash choice unfold in one of Shakespeare's most harrowing tragedies, wondering, as generations of critics have, where—or whether—consolation can ever be found in its shattering events.
  • In Macbeth, you'll journey through the darkest corridors of ambition, conscience, and self-knowledge, where a strong-willed woman shares with her husband the role of tragic protagonist. Lady Macbeth finds that reshaping her husband's "manliness" ironically splits their partnership apart.
  • In Antony and Cleopatra, you'll meet two protagonists engulfed by the complexities of Rome's imperial history. One is torn between two aspects of his own identity, and the other is determined, even in the face of Rome's armies, to control the means of her death, and to choose the part of her conflicted lover's identity that will survive them.
  • In Coriolanus, you'll meet a war-scarred aristocrat questing for heroic independence in the midst of a world of "politics as usual." Unable to compromise his principles and, as a result, alienated from his own community, he cannot understand what has doomed him.

As Professor Kinney notes, "Shakespeare's tragedies often unfold in geographically distant places, or are set in a far-off past—but they are often shaped and inflected by matters surprisingly close to home." That is no less true of the course itself. Shakespeare's Tragedies, in Professor Kinney's words, persists in asking "what kind of significance we, in the 21st century, might wrest out of Shakespeare's tragic spectacles."

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Defining Tragedy
    This lecture explores the persistent popularity of tragic drama. It includes discussions of Shakespeare's interest in the complicated relationships among protagonists, family and community, and the particular challenges and satisfactions offered by his language and idiom. x
  • 2
    Shakespearean Tragedy in Context
    After introducing performance conditions and attitudes toward the theater in Shakespeare's England, this lecture explores two contexts for thinking about Shakespearean tragedy: earlier 16th-century experiments in tragic writing, and the preoccupations and anxieties of the playwright's own historical time. x
  • 3
    Hamlet I—"Stand and unfold yourself"
    Hamlet begins with a sentry's command to "Stand and unfold [identify, disclose] yourself." This lecture addresses the work's fascination with secrets, with disclosure, and with things that cannot be put into words. x
  • 4
    Hamlet II—The Performance of Revenge
    This lecture discusses the multiple perspectives Hamlet offers on the figure of the revenger and analyzes the play's complex exploration of the morality of revenge. It also discusses Shakespeare's interest in the relationship between "heroic" action and acting-as-performance. x
  • 5
    Hamlet III—Difficult Women
    Hamlet is capable of extraordinary emotional violence against his mother and the young woman he claims to have loved. This lecture explores his confrontations with Gertrude and Ophelia and discusses why—although the "transgressions" of the women trigger so much of the action of the play—it is difficult to think of them as being tragic protagonists in their own right. x
  • 6
    Hamlet IV—Uncontainable Hamlet
    Hamlet is at once a sprawling and encyclopedic play, but it is also filled with silences and mysteries. We look at the difficulty of determining what lies at its center and the near impossibility of ever containing its multifarious events within a single interpretation. x
  • 7
    Othello I—Miscegenation and Mixed Messages
    This lecture considers attitudes toward race in the world of the play and Shakespeare's own treatment of the black/white opposition. It analyzes in detail Othello's and Desdemona's defense of their love, Shakespeare's highly nuanced treatment of Desdemona's "errant" marriage, and Othello's uneasy negotiation of his double identity as warrior and lover. x
  • 8
    Othello II—Monstrous Births
    We look at the character Iago, his plots against Othello, and the longstanding mystery of his "motiveless malignity," including his capacity to manipulate other characters through his skillful use of loaded language and his exploitation of the unexamined assumptions and biases of their culture. x
  • 9
    Othello III—"Ocular Proof"
    What aspects of Othello's psyche lead him to choose an unholy alliance with Iago over a resolute belief in his wife's fidelity? We look at the gender dynamics of this play and also analyze Shakespeare's finely nuanced representation of Othello's poisoned sight and corrupted imagination. x
  • 10
    Othello IV—Tragic Knowledge
    This lecture focuses on the play's final act, beginning with a close reading of the soliloquy in which Othello contemplates the murder of his sleeping wife and positions himself as both her judge and her executioner. The lecture goes on to examine his subsequent horrified enlightenment. x
  • 11
    King Lear I—Kingship and Kinship
    We begin our study of King Lear by discussing the love test Lear devises to divide his kingdom among his daughters, moving on to address the implications of the protagonist's double identity as king and father, and of the play's entanglement of political action with family strife in its interweaving of the "Lear Plot" with the "Gloucester Plot." x
  • 12
    King Lear II—"Unaccommodated Man"
    This lecture focuses on Shakespeare's interest in the stripping and refashioning of identities in act 3, exploring the idiosyncratic dramatic juxtapositions and oppositions out of which Shakespeare creates his new society of fools and madmen. x
  • 13
    King Lear III—The Stage of Fools
    We continue to follow the physical and metaphysical journeys taken by Lear and Gloucester, including Gloucester's journey to Dover with his disowned son Edgar, Edgar's thwarting of his father's suicide, and an analysis of the encounter between blind Gloucester and mad Lear on Dover Beach. x
  • 14
    King Lear IV—"Is this the promised end?"
    We discuss the heartbreaking reunion between Lear and his banished daughter, along with the almost immediate shattering of Lear's newfound peace and his subsequent regression into madness. What kinds of catharsis or consolation might an audience find in the play's apocalyptic ending? x
  • 15
    Macbeth I—Desire and Equivocation
    After offering some contexts for Macbeth within early 17th-century English political history, we explore the play's preoccupation with the workings of ambiguous and duplicitous language and the equivocal nature of protagonist Macbeth's own language and desires. x
  • 16
    Macbeth II—"Dispute it like a man"
    This lecture turns its focus to Lady Macbeth, the first female character we have encountered who might be called a tragic protagonist. A consideration of her strategies in manipulating her husband leads to a larger meditation on what manhood might mean in the world of Macbeth. x
  • 17
    Macbeth III—Bloody Babes and Bloody Ends
    Children are at once both utterly vulnerable and supremely powerful in the world of Macbeth. This lecture explores the link between the children (real and metaphorical) of this play and a future that Macbeth cannot ultimately control. x
  • 18
    Antony and Cleopatra I—Epic Desires
    The protagonists of Antony and Cleopatra are power brokers enmeshed in the complexities of imperial history. We look at the historical context in which the play's events unfold, discuss the Romans' fascination with Cleopatra, and consider how the play's leisurely beginning suggests darker things to come. x
  • 19
    Antony and Cleopatra II—Identity Politics
    We look at Antony's crisis of identity as he tries to reconcile his notion of "Roman" honor with his "Egyptian" appetites, and propose that the stoic and martial Roman ideal that Antony is perpetually called on to represent is not as clearly differentiated from "Egyptian" flux and cunning as Rome would believe. x
  • 20
    Antony and Cleopatra III—The Art of Dying
    We continue our discussion of the staging of identity in Antony and Cleopatra, focusing on the protagonists' highly performative suicides, the ironies that complicate Antony's bungled attempt to die a stoic Roman death, and Cleopatra's resurrection of the "heroic Antony" in her eulogy for her lover. x
  • 21
    Coriolanus I—The Loner and the Mob
    Coriolanus focuses on the public life of republican Rome, with most of its major scenes unfolding in the marketplace. We begin by looking at its protagonist's troubled relationship with the social contracts underpinning the relationship among Rome's patricians, plebeians, and tribunes. x
  • 22
    Coriolanus II—The Theater of Politics
    In this lecture, we begin by examining the implications of the protagonist's horror at accommodating himself to his society's public rituals before analyzing the clash between Coriolanus's absolutism and the politically expedient (and theatrical) dissimulation preached by his mother. x
  • 23
    Coriolanus III—Mothers and Killers
    This lecture looks more closely at the relationship between Coriolanus and his mother, examining their traumatic final encounter as it relates to the destructive contradictions that lie within the system of values she nurtured in him. x
  • 24
    Conclusion—Beyond Tragedy?
    In this final lecture, we address the elusiveness of Shakespearean tragedy as a descriptive category, and discuss Shakespeare's most striking preoccupations as a tragic dramatist, concluding with an account of what happens when our playwright moves beyond tragedy in the final works of his career. x

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Your professor

Clare R. Kinney

About Your Professor

Clare R. Kinney, Ph.D.
University of Virginia
Dr. Clare R. Kinney is Associate Professor of English at the University of Virginia. She earned her B.A. in English at Cambridge University. Under a Paul W. Mellon Fellowship, she attended Yale University, where she earned her Ph.D. Professor Kinney served as Director of Undergraduate Studies in the UVA English Department and is in charge of its Distinguished Majors Program. In 2007 Professor Kinney was the recipient of a...
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Reviews

Shakespeare's Tragedies is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 81.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful study of 6 tragedies by sharp professor! What a super professor! This course is so much more than I anticiated. Professor Kinney sure knows her stuff and how to get the message across. It concerns me that when I wrote this review, only 85% of reviewers recommended the course ~~ I don't understand the 15%. I noted criticism of the lecturer's accent in some reviews, but it is a fairly light British accent with slight influence of Northern English regional pronunciation. She does not speak quickly: this is appropriate I feel, not a disadvantage, for this is a course that could not be taught competently in a quick manner, but Dr Kinney's presentation is particularly moderately-paced, agreed. I would add that Dr Kinney's many readings from the plays are strong, finely interpretive, whether of a male or female part. The first two lectures comprise a perfect prologue to the selected six "mature" tragedies. Dr Kinney explains carefully why she made those choices and why she omitted the other tragedies. Although Romeo & Juliet and Titus Andronicus are two of my favourites, I understood her logical reasoning for leaving them out ~~ but perhaps the omissions are a real problem for some reviewers. A suggestion: if you are not familiar with some of the plays, it will benefit you hugely to read or view the play/s before running the lecture/s. I needed to refresh myself re the complicated play Coriolanus (the great soldier hero of Rome, primary source Plutarch's The Lives of Noble Grecians and Romans). The four lectures on the mighty work Hamlet prove what a masterful command Dr Kinney has over the material. The professor explains word usage, most helpful, noting, for example, that "nunnery" meant "brothel" in Elizabethan slang; this puts a rather different spin on "Get thee to a nunnery" than many people think. It is resoundingly clear how deeply the lecturer loves and appreciates Shakespeare: I found that newly-inspiring ~~ and I've adored and read the Bard since I was a young school lad, even have a DVD set of all of Shakespeare's plays. I share Professor Kinney's feelings about Othello. I loved her expression that Othello had "a foot in two cultural camps". The lecturer's excellent, sensitive and insightful treatment of the remaining four plays selected continues at an admirably high level. Worth mentioning that she gives special attention to a study of the women in all these tragedies. This is a prized course, a "keeper" which should form a permanent part of your library I submit. Thank you Clare Kinney, you're a gem.
Date published: 2012-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Done! Bravo! Even if you are a scholar of Shakespeare, the theories and insights Professor Clare Kinney brings to this subject are well worth the course. I recommend that you read the plays together with the lectures.
Date published: 2012-01-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Shakespeare's Tragedies I listened to this in parallel with prof. Saccio's content-wise more extensive but less focused main course on Shakespeare and listening to them side-by-side was particularly fruitful. That said, I'll proceed with my review point by point: 1. Like Saccio's, and unlike what many other reviewers have said, I thought prof. Kinney's presentation was heartlfelt and poignant (she's genuinely in tears in the final lecture). 2. Kinney gives a set of interesting facts and trivia about Shakespeare's context prior to embarking on the analysis of the major tragedies. This includes important (but all-too-short) discussions ranging from the place and meaning of the theater in Shakespeare's time, to a passing analysis of the contemporary playwrights of Shakespeare. Obviously, being a prof. of medieval English literature, Kinney has a lot to offer, and it shows and I hope she'll find space to do so. 3. Kinney discusses both Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus (Saccio does not talk about either in his course) and I particularly liked her intelligent reading of the former. 4. Her analysis of Hamlet and Macbeth had things to offer, but was less than earth-shattering. For the other plays, Saccio had pretty much covered the same ground (or more) for me, so it was a tad redundant. 5. My major complaint concerns Kinney's somewhat annoying method of going through the text of the play point-by-point. Actually, since she claimed otherwise in the opening lectures, but was disillusioned later on. This bothered me all the more in cases where I could imagine she'd have been able to carry her discussion much further had she focused on the bigger picture. 6. While I'm complaining, I should mention that the final lecture (titled "conclusion") could've been summarized by the last 3-4 minutes of it. She only scratches the surface where there is a possibility unifying (or varying) themes, underlying theories or worldviews pertaining to the plays. 7. This relates to anything I've read on Shakespeare and it still baffles me; there does not seem to be a single flaw in any of his plays that are discussed, or at least these scholars claim so. Is this literary criticism at its best though? ...I recommend this to people who are interested in Shakespeare studies, but have only just begun (like me) especially if you want to focus on the tragedies only.
Date published: 2011-12-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Better as a book Odd how the sound of a professor's voice and the style of his/ her delivery can have such impact on the how enjoyable a course is. In this case, I have only listened to a few of the lectures so far, and am debating whether or not to continue due to how annoying I find the speaker's voice and delivery. She speaks unusually slowly, often stretching out the sibilance of words ending in "s," and at times her accent seems somehow contrived, as she pronounces the ending "ee" sound of words in two different ways. I have listened to many a TCo lecturer, and I have to say that this is the first one who sounds as though she is reading directly from written notes; there's a disappointing lack of conversational engagement in her style. Perhaps she is merely trying to sound precise, but the effect is, to my ears, pompous. As for the content--well, yes, so far I would agree with the "politically correct" label, but again, I have listened to only a few of the lectures. Because of what I find an annoying lecture style, I'm more inclined to read (or recommend that others read) a scholarly text on Shakepeare (even one of Prof Kinney's own) than to continue with Prof Kinney's audio course--at least that way, one doesn't have to deal with the tediously slow, over-enunciated delivery.
Date published: 2011-11-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Professor's Accent Difficult Material fascinating and well outlined. I am ashamed to say that I found the professor's accent annoying and unpleasant to my ears. It should have been the least important factor, but I found myself almost repulsed by it.
Date published: 2011-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Lecturer While Shakespeare doth leave his audiences breathless...so doth Professor Kinney. Methinks it a tragedy that Devouring Time doth not allow the good Professor to produce but one course. Perchance she is labouring mightily upon a new series; alas, I fear the Lion's Paw may yet be blunted, the Earth may devour its own sweet brood, and the long-lived Phoenix burn within its blood before we shall yet see her fine work again... Alas! Alas! Alas!
Date published: 2011-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exquisite! A retired teacher, I know these plays almost verbatim and have explored them from countless angles. Prof. Kinney's presentation of each was a savory re-illumination of their inexhaustible delight. Her clarity and sensitivity to characters and themes, her wonderful readings, and the pleasure of her lovely voice in its responses to scansion & meter made these among the most outstanding of all the many Teaching Co. courses I've received. Thank you!
Date published: 2011-03-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from absolutely brilliant Professor Kinney is an extraordinary teacher. Her presentation is flawless, and exceptionally well-organized. She knows just when more detail is necessary, and provides it with clarity and wit. I was lucky enough to study Shakespeare with J. L. Styan, and I approached these lectures with the idea that they would offer a review of what I already knew. I did not imagine I would learn so much and be so thoroughly entertained at the same time. I would buy any course taught by Professor Kinney.
Date published: 2011-01-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from How I wanted to like this course I just purchased this course, and really wanted to like it. Unfortunately, my lack of indepth knowledge of Shakespeare probably doomed me from the start. To me the best part of the course were the opening lessons on drama, and when Dr. Kinney read the actual lines from the tragedies during her lectures. I am sure she is a great professor, and for those of you who have more of a Shakespeare background I am sure you will enjoy it. I did like her intepretations of Shakepearean plays, but many times the lectures just could not keep my attention during the commute. Considering I do most of the listening during that time, this is the first course I truly felt overmatched with.
Date published: 2010-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating! I enjoyed every lecture in this course because I never had a deep appreciation for Shakespeare's work. I did not have enough life experience to understand the plays when I studied them in high school. Professor Kinney provided the background information that made these plays meaningful for me. I loved hearing her describe the living conditions of the time including the way that women were treated in society. This brings a whole new meaning to the plays. I love the way the the professor read parts of the plays. Her accent and tone brought the plays alive for me. She also described the nuances of the language used in the plays.
Date published: 2010-09-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointing There is far too much of the politically correct criticisms fashionable in academia and far too little intellectual rigor. The discussion of Othello is nothing but claims of racism and sexism without providing the slightest depth of analysis. Hamlet is similarly framed as sexist and mysoginistic with no discussion of the ideas that make it Shakespeare's greatest tragedy. In a particularly egregious example of this academic silliness, in a discussion of King Lear the lecturer rants against "destructive competition and the profit motive." What?? I enthusiastically second the recommendation by another reviewer of Professor Saccio's lectures. They are much more insightful and engaging. I would recommend staying away from this course.
Date published: 2010-08-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from politically correct platitudes Prof. Kinney's lectures spend much time summarizing the plot, hence especially suitable to listeners who have not read the plays. In the case of Othello, Prof. Kinney's lectures seem like a string of politically correct platitudes, with predictable, superficial, and tiresome outcries against Iago's racism and sexism, but fail to search deeper. Many characters are thus reduced to 2 dimensions, as either saints or sinners. I have done a web search on Othello; and I find other pieces of analysis that are more insightful and provocative than her lectures. Her analysis seems to be bounded by categories of the late 20th century, insufficiently contextualized to the cultural mindset of the early 17th-century English society. I think we should first ask how Shakespeare's contemporaries would receive the play, to better understand Shakespeare's intentions, before asking what the play means to us. I find Professor Saccio's Shakespeare lectures deeper and more provocative. However Prof.Saccio doesn't repeat the plot as much as Prof. Kinney.
Date published: 2010-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding course This is one of the best of the more than seventy Teaching Company courses I've taken. Professor Kinney provides thought-provoking insights into these difficult plays, and her skill in bringing alive speeches and dialogue is remarkable. I would like to hear her teach more of Shakespeare's plays
Date published: 2010-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I Want More from Dr. Kinney Wow - what a wonderful course. I read the plays, watched videos of them - rented from Netflix - and then watched the DVD of this course. I learned so much and enjoyed the perceptions of Dr. Kinney that I re-read the plays and gained even more of them. Truly wonderful.
Date published: 2009-10-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Insightful content, interesting delivery Wow! I'm really impressed. The course explores several aspects of several tragedies.I gained many new insights even about the plays I had already studied, and I learnt a lot about those I didn't know. Professor Kinney's delivery is fantastic. The rhythm, the inflection, everything is clear, lively, dramatic, captivating, without ever being over the top. It's a pleasure to listen to her voice. It easily held my attention. I believe the professor's background as an actress shows. It enables her to deliver her lectures in such an interesting, audience-enchanting way. I recommend this course to anyone who wants to learn about Shakespeare, whether you're already familiar with the tragedies or not. I would like more courses from this professor.
Date published: 2009-10-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Recommended I recommend Profesor Kinney's "Shakespeare's Tragedies" lectures to everyone. They are my favorites. She is scholarly, engaging, entertaining, and informative. Unmatched delivery. I only wish she would do another Teaching Company series.
Date published: 2009-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and Phenominal Prof. Kenney provided what I truely expect from something titled "Great Courses". She sets the proper tone from the start by explaining the world and limitations (e.g. many different interpretations for Shakespeare) and then provides wonderful insight and explanations for her ideas I'd heartilly recommend this course to anyone who wants to better understand Shakespeare's Tragedies. My only negative (and not worth reducing it by a star) is that she focuses on only 6 of his Tragedies (not including the discussion on A Winter's Tale, Perecles and The Tempest in the last lecture). I would have loved to hear her explanations about Timon of Athens and Titus - but this is just me being picky and wanting more.
Date published: 2009-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant The word "mesmerizing", used by many reviewers here to describe Claire Kinney, is right on. My wife and I were transfixed from beginning to end of this course. Claire Kinney is simply the best lecturer I've experienced in the 60+ TTC courses I've taken to date. The TTC's description of Kinney's lecture style does not do her justice: "She is also an occasional actress, reading not only Shakespeare's lines with emotion and understanding, but also imbuing her own statements during the lectures with high dramatic impact.' To me, this suggests that Kinney brings theatrics to the presentation of otherwise ordinary academic analysis. Lots of Shakespeare scholars do this, the Teaching Company's other lecturer in Shakespeare, Peter Saccio, being an example. This description completely fails to capture Kinney's virtuosity. What makes Kinney extraordinary is that she can communicate her own deeply felt experience of Shakespeare in such an evocative way. Kinney "gets" Shakespeare with the soul of an artist. She does not, as TTC's course description describes, imbue academic statements with dramatic impact; rather, she explains her own feelings with beautiful language and the voice of an actress. If you want to "get" what Shakespeare is about, Kinney will do that for you. If you want to get into Shakespeare, this is the best TTC course to start with. Peter Saccio is very good, but Claire Kinney is extraordinary. And the six tragedies covered in this course are, broadly speaking, Shakespeare's most important works. With at least three, and usually four, lectures given to each tragedy, the depth of treatment is just right.
Date published: 2009-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Drama Queen Dr. Kinney is an androgynous redhead, with small piercing eyes. Her teaching style is quite dramatic! It is hard to believe,she is not a classically trained actress. It is impossible to believe that she is anything short of brilliant. Her rich style of presentation, is largely a psychological and sociological analysis of the plays. Study guide reading as well as collateral material will be helpful in this course. I particularly liked Isaac Asimov"s GUIDE TO SHAKESPEARE in this regard. Highlights. A) Anthony and Cleopatra: my favorite of the bunch, and I believe Dr, Kinney's as well. B) Her reference to Coriolanus as: "Terminator in a toga". C) She becomes tearful at the end of the course. Not acting I believe, but as a result of her genuine love and passion for this material. Certainly a great course. Bravo!
Date published: 2009-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb Content; Vivacious Presentation This course made me feel I was taking a tour through Shakespeare's Tragedies at the side of an enthusiastic, witty and extremely knowledgeable guide. Anyone who has had the enriching experience of seeing a European museum or city with the benefit of a knowledgeable local guide will appreciate my meaning. Prof. Kinney also has acting talent. Her readings and renderings of the excerpts she has chosen from the plays are moving and entertaining. This is very simply a superb course and an enriching experience.
Date published: 2009-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Insightful Look at Shakespeare While Professor Saccio provides a view from inside the play - using a micorscope to show us the abundance of Shakespeare's art in the smallest detail - Professor Kinney gives us the external view showing us the overall themes and patterns - the numerous paralells of revenge themes through out Hamlet; the conflict between raw animal emotion and civility in Othello; the role of women as catalysts for action through out these works. The lectures are memorable and indispensible for anyone who loves Shakespeare. If you have listened to Saccio's course you will perceive that Kinney's presentation by comparison seems somewhat cold and perhaps a bit austere - think Lilith Sternin from Cheers and Fraiser fame. You will understand what I mean when you hear her first joke about watching "the Texas Chain Saw Massacre" - it simply doesn't work. Nonetheless, your heart will break when you hear Kinney's voice crack when she sums up the impact Shakespeare has on his audience. Despite the extraordinary control she exhibits, she obviously feels deep emotions about the work she does. How lucky she is ... and how lucky we are that she has chosen to share it with us.
Date published: 2009-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing I used this mainly for Othello and it was really good. Not only has this helped me immensely for my studies but I enjoyed it as well. This will help you understand the intricacies of the works and is well grounded in social contexts and performance aspects so as to give a wider perspective. I revised for my exams by listening to the lectures everyday and then revising from the transcript. I am very confident for my exam now so thank you. Amazing value for money too.
Date published: 2009-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from the best! i strongly encourage anyone interested in shakespeare to buy this course. i believe kinney is one of the finest professors utilized by the teaching company. imaginative, deep, solid, and fresh - she adds tremendous value to one's study of the bard.
Date published: 2009-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The best of all The best one of all Date: March 24, 2009 "My husband and I have purchased 215 courses from the Teaching Company and we spent last week listening to Professor Kinney's amazing course on the Shakespearean tragedies. Hands down, this is absolutely the best course we have listened to or seen of all of them. After the first lecture, though I am an extremely busy person, I was compelled to sit down and read (or in most cases re-read) all six of the plays as we went along, a devotion I have never applied to the other 214 courses! Dr. Kinney is thorough, entertaining, insightful, exciting, and must have been an actress herself, as she recited sections as though she were truly on the stage. And her emotional last paragraph - I swear she was in tears herself - brought us to both tears, partly because she had made her case so well, and partly because we knew the course was over. We beg for the comedies and historical plays next."
Date published: 2009-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mesmerizing I buy Teaching Company courses to learn, but I also buy them to be entertained. Professor Kinney is a mesmerizing personality, better than any movie I could put onto the player. As I watch the tapes, I am reading critics about the plays she is discussing, and her insights are in line with accepted criticism, not flakey but sometimes original.
Date published: 2009-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding! This an an outstanding course taught by an outstanding professor who demonstrated her knowledge and passion for the subject matter in 24 compelling lectures. I would love to see another course by Professor Kinney covering the comedies and later works like the Tempest. When she briefly touched on The Tempest and A Winter's Tale in the closing lecture I truly lamented that the course was at an end.
Date published: 2008-11-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The presentation skills of the lecturer make learning a joy.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding professor passionetly presented deeply thoughtful material.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Shakespeare DVDs by Soccio have more images than Kinney ones, but both would probably be greatly improved with more.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clare R Kinney is outstanding. I could purchase any other courses she gives.
Date published: 2008-10-17
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