Part of what explains Shakespeare's growing popularity in the Renaissance--and, as some would argue, his popularity through the centuries--is his ability to capitalize on the immediacy and adaptability inherent to the theatre, a responsiveness that uniquely positions its engagement with contemporary political and cultural events. In what ways are these plays shaped by their historical moment, or even the materials of their production? Conversely, how might the plays have shaped the political, literary, and theatrical conditions of the period? This course begins with the analysis of a selection of plays Shakespeare produced in 1599, by all accounts a remarkable year in the life of the dramatist and in Elizabethan England. From there, students turn to a play and year of their own choosing, the analysis of which forms the basis of an independent project. Strategies for research and critical thinking are developed through the study of both dramatic and non-dramatic texts, and in situating work among competing theories of literary historicism. Affiliate: English.