Shakespeare’s Tragic Royalty: Hamlet and King Lear

Course Dates: 
8 weeks: March 27, April 3, 10, 17, 24, May 1, 8, 15, 2018
Tuesdays, 2-4 p.m.
Mario DiCesare
Course Catalogs: 
2018 Spring

We will work with the texts and outstanding film versions of two of Shakespeare’s tragedies and explore how royalty is treated differently. The films are Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet and Laurence Olivier’s unforgettable King Lear. Hamlet is aware of his claim to the throne but preoccupied with life and death. He is beset by his father-murderer, his love for Ophelia and the ghostly call to revenge. Lear is an aged king who foolishly gives away his power to his two evil daughters while casting off the one who truly loves him.  We will combine scenes from the films with scenes from the printed texts as we explore these two plays that build to stunning climaxes. Recommended texts: Folger Shakespeare Library texts for the two plays: Hamlet by William Shakespeare, ISBN-13: 978-0743477123; King Lear by William Shakespeare, ISBN-13: 978-0743484954—both edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine.

Course outline

Mario DiCesare ( has been reading and thinking Shakespeare since discovering the plays during World War II and teaching them for more than a half-century. He finds them always new and always challenging. Mario has a doctorate from Columbia University. He taught at SUNY Binghamton for nearly 40 years and retired as Distinguished Professor in 1996. He has taught at College for Seniors every term since 1998, and considers teaching a great privilege.