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Frodo Baggins--A Reluctant Hero
Episode 1 of Heroes and Legends
What makes certain characters successful? Begin your study with a look at Frodo Baggins, the hobbit-hero from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In considering what makes him a hero--and how he runs counter to our notions of the traditional…
Approaching Shakespeare—The Scene Begins
Episode 1 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
Consider four points of entry for understanding what's happening in a Shakespeare play. Learn how to approach a single dramatic scene, focusing on Shakespeare's richly metaphorical use of language. Begin to grasp the playwright's use of stagecraft, and how his…
How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
Shakespeare's plays are masterworks, but they can be hard to understand for a modern English speaker. Gain direct insight into Shakespeare's writing in this course which explains how to enter Shakespeare's world, how to grasp what's happening in his plays,…
24 videos
Harry Potter--Whistle-Blower Hero
Episode 24 of Heroes and Legends
Finish your course with one of the most unexpected hits of our time--and a smash hit at that. What can the surprising success of Harry Potter teach us about successful heroes? And what do his battles against Lord Voldemort tell…
The Merchant of Venice—Comedy or Tragedy?
Episode 18 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
In this extraordinary play, Shakespeare explores the dark undercurrents of comedy to the fullest. Delve into the crisis of identity that each character faces, the theme of perilous risk, and the plot elements of loss and sacrifice that work against…
Heroes and Legends - The Most Influential Characters of Literature Series
Heroes hold a special place in our imagination. Names such as Odysseus, Beowulf, and Queen Guinevere summon up mythic legends, while Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, and Huckleberry Finn are some of the most recognizable figures in world literature. Study some of…
24 videos
Shakespeare’s Theater and Stagecraft
Episode 2 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
Here, envision theatrical London as it existed in Shakespeare's time. First, consider Shakespeare's fundamental intent to "hold the mirror up to nature"--to imitate the living world. Then learn about the colorful milieu of Elizabethan theater; its conventions of physical space,…
A Midsummer Night’s Dream—Comic Tools
Episode 3 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
In his comedic plays, Shakespeare drew on the classical Roman model of comedy. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, see how he expands the form, using the archetypal plot devices of "blocked love," its resolution at either the altar or the…
Austen - The Life and Work of Jane Austen
Jane Austen produced some of the finest novels in English literature. The film covers her life and ends with an overview of her work.
Elizabeth Bennet--A Proper Pride
Episode 12 of Heroes and Legends
Meet the charming heroine from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The story of her complicated relationship with Mr. Darcy is a realistic Cinderella story and has lent itself to numerous adaptations, including Bridget Jones's Diary. Consider the integral role that…
Romeo and Juliet—The Tools of Tragedy
Episode 6 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
Continuing with Romeo and Juliet, observe how the famous balcony scene shifts the action and sense of the play toward a new kind of character-driven tragedy. In the play's unfolding, note the role of the tension between fate and free…
Sherlock Holmes--The First Great Detective
Episode 16 of Heroes and Legends
We are familiar with Sherlock Holmes's methodology--using clues, facts, evidence, and reason to solve the case. Here, go inside the world of the 19th century and see what circumstances paved the way for such a hero. Then, turn to some…
Romeo and Juliet—Words, Words, Words
Episode 5 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
Shakespeare's primary tool as a playwright is words themselves as dramatic expressions of character and meaning. In Romeo and Juliet, see how Shakespeare ingeniously uses language to distinguish class and personality, and how he uses the poetic form of the…
James Bond--A Dangerous Protector
Episode 21 of Heroes and Legends
Thanks to novels, movies, and an array of charismatic actors, nearly everyone in the developed world knows about James Bond and how he drinks his martini--"shaken, not stirred." But who is Bond? What makes him tick? Look beyond the girls,…
A Midsummer Night’s Dream—Comic Structure
Episode 4 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
This episode explores key principles for understanding and appreciating Shakespeare's comedies. Grasp the thematic elements of a shift from friendship to romantic love and of severe testing of the characters. See how the three-part structure of the comedies leads inevitably…
The Arc of Character in The Merchant of Venice
Episode 19 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
Begin this episode by tracing the historical background of Judaism in Elizabethan London, and how the portrayal of Shylock conforms to contemporary conventions of comic villains. Then see how Shakespeare breaks free of the stereotypes of his time, developing the…
Appearance versus Reality in Twelfth Night
Episode 7 of How to Read and Understand Shakespeare Course
As one of his outstanding "mature" comedies, Twelfth Night reveals themes and elements that are keys to all of Shakespeare's plays. Discover how the comedy revolves around crises of identity, the need to distinguish external appearance from internal reality, and…
Fairy-Tale Heroines--New-Style Princesses
Episode 22 of Heroes and Legends
Cinderella. Snow White. Rapunzel. These fairy-tale heroines are imbued in our cultural consciousness. What lessons are they meant to teach? And do these lessons align with our current cultural values? Study the composite fairy-tale heroine, both in the classic fairy…
Guinevere--A Heroine with Many Faces
Episode 4 of Heroes and Legends
Trace Guinevere's adulterous affair with Lancelot and consider what effects it had on cultural values and Western history. As a powerful woman in the heart of King Arthur's court, Guinevere is an intriguing heroine--passionate, strong-willed, and complex in a way…
Winston Smith--The Hero We Never Want to Be
Episode 20 of Heroes and Legends
Winston Smith, the central figure in George Orwell's nightmare scenario, 1984, is fearful, undernourished, and oppressed by the state--not exactly the image we conjure up when we think of the word "hero." Dive into the dystopia of Big Brother and…