course
Shakespeare II

May 2020

Yes, believe the hype. Shapiro lives and breathes these plays, and hopefully, you will too by the end of this class. He's a wonderful pedagogue and his performance-driven approach to these plays really emphasizes how Shakespeare presents the complexities of all sorts of human relationships.

Dec 2016

This is a great class, and Professor Platt is absolutely wonderful. Definitely recommended for anyone who wants Shakespeare to feel accessible and not too strenuous. Platt is the nicest guy, and his enthusiasm for the material is contagious, so you're motivated to do well and get deeper into the texts (though you can skate by with the minimum if you want, since participation isn't mandatory). But he really encourages class discussion and gets to know everyone's names and creates a great rapport within the class and makes people feel comfortable contributing without letting the discussion spiral in random directions. He's very good at guiding peoples' comments towards relevant points, and he's not afraid to steer the conversation when it's off track, but he genuinely gets excited when someone shares a new idea. He just knows a lot about Shakespeare and really wants to make everyone care as much as he does, and it's a lot of fun to be in a class like that. He also brings out the confusing or funny aspects of the text that might be harder to understand. Overall, highly, highly recommended -- Platt is just a really nice person (he brought us cookies to the final) and genuinely wants everyone to do well and will try to accommodate you as much as possible (extra credit options for people who did poorly on the midterm) and generally make your experience in his class as positive as it can be.

May 2015

Unlike the previous reviewer I rather enjoyed this class. every two sessions was devoted to another play: measure to measure, troilus and cressida, king lear, antony and cleopatra, the tempest, etc. I thought her lectures were generally good although she seemed to enjoy explaining shakespeare's references to human sexual behavior the most. I'll admit the only reason I took the class was because I read most of the plays already being a drama-dork, and being lazy, signed up for the class to do less work. 'Twas an easy A.

Jul 2014

I’m not wasting my time writing an in depth review of this class, this is just meant to serve as a warning to any future students because I feel they deserve some insight into this course before signing up and getting stuck with it. This is probably the worst course I have ever taken in anything. Ever. In four years. This isn’t even really a course, it’s getting together twice a week to listen to the self-deluded, proto-feminist interpretations of Jean Howard. This was one of the single most maddening experiences of my life. Jean’s comments are sexist at times, racist at others, and highly inappropriate for a classroom setting. Let me be clear about something: I love Shakespeare’s work. I was raised on it as a child, both my parents have taught Shakespeare in their careers; I have performed his works since I was a child. While Jean Howard is no doubt accomplished in the scholarly realm she is sadly not able to grasp the humanity of the work, and it makes for a pathetic semester. You basically sit in class and listen to her read the plays, or orchestrate students to read them aloud. Seems like a waste of time if you’d read it on your own like you were supposed to. There is no deep insight offered, there is no examination of context or of the poetry of the language, no character analysis. There isn’t anything beyond Jean’s tepid analysis of how it relates to her specific interest in, some would say unhealthy obsession with, all things sex. Here’s an example, verbatim: “She poured poison into his ear. Ear=orifice. Orifice=vagina. She was reversing the normative gender roles and sexually assaulting him.” Mind=blown. The depth of her analysis! The nuance! The psychological probing for universal truth or why the works have lasted 400 years! It’s amazing how she can reduce it all to so simple a binary! (Sarcasm.) Everything in Jean Howard’s class is representative of the vagina. EVERYTHING. Now, all that aside, she’s just not a good teacher. When confronted she’s incapable of engaging in a conversation about the work beyond her prepared remarks. She throws temper tantrums (and I mean at the level of a child) whenever anyone comes in even one minute late. She pounds her little fists on the podium and screams at the student. It’s fairly comical. If you want people to show up on time give them a reason to. Beyond that she doesn’t even use the English language properly. I feel like I can move past all the other failings of this course, but to be paying as much as we are to be here it is inexcusable that a professor would confuse invoked with evoked, and, worse than that, misuse the word ‘literally’ CONSTANTLY. Yes, she is one of those people who use the word ‘literally’ when what they are describing didn’t literally occur at all. Such as “It will literally boil your blood.” Did you ever wonder why the dictionary now has an entry for the word ‘literally’ defining it’s use as sometimes meaning not literal? It’s because people like Jean Howard kick and scream until they get to the front of the rat race and then rewrite the texts to conform to their own personal failings. You should take that as a metaphor for this course. You’ve been warned.

May 2007

This was a good class. Prof. Stewart did a good job of approaching the works from one or two different angles rather than trying to cover them from all angles. He was interesting and a good lecturer, and he kept a good sense of humor despite the class' slight lack of enthusiasm (myself included). I would recommend this class.

May 2007

A very kind and unpretentious man. When I had read the play, the lectures were very stimulating. And his awkward jokes are always adorable. A very good intro to Shakespeare.

May 2007

I took this class in Spring 2006, too, and I found Professor Stewart to be a very nice man, but a mediocre lecturer at best. He begins the class with Hamlet. The Shakespeare I class I took the semester before ended with Hamlet - so you get Hamlet twice if you take both classes - but I'm not complaining because it's a fantastic play. But, I found Stewart's reading of it to be significantly less insightful than my previous professor's. In general he spends a lot of time discussing the history behind the plays which is very interesting, but not very engaging, and often less than illuminating (if you have a reasonable background in English history, you can come to many of his "insights" on your own).

Nov 2006

Dr. Di Gangi is a really eager and excited professor who always comes to class with loads of really interesting handouts and anecdotes about the texts. He's also really good at breaking down the plays and explaining even the most dense passages in very straightforward, contemporary English. There is absolutely nothing pompous about this man whatsoever. If you consider yourself a big fan of Renaissance drama, you really need to take a class with this guy. He loves this stuff so much some days I think he's just gonna' pop!

May 2006

I'm not a Shakespeare know it all or anything; I just took the class because of all the rave reviews on the professor. I don't regret it. He is what everyone says he is-funny, approachable, passionate. He made Shakespeare interesting and worth it to wake up at 9am. It's a 60+ class but about 50 on average will show. He grades based on participation, midterm, final, short paper (5 pages), long paper (6-8 pages). Midterm and final same format-IDs, Close-reading essay, synthesis essay (only in final). The quotes may seem daunting, but if u go to class, he only uses quotes that have been mentioned in class so if you go, not read the play, but follow in class-quotes won't be so hard. I agree he is a tough grader, but very fair. He's still worth it though!

May 2006

Pr. Stewart is a hidden gem. I'm not sure I should even be writing this. If you're the kind of person who goes to class regularly (95%-100% of the time), who shows up on time and who reads the plays assigned, you should love his class. If you have genuine respect and interest for his class, he will know it, and your experience with him will be valuable. If you don't care, or don't try, he'll know it too, so it's not even worth trying. He values students who value his class, and who work hard. Some students felt like he simply read through the handouts during class, but I disagree. Without his explanations, the handouts were useless. They were also very well crafted. He is an extremely funny man, so sitting through class is actually quite pleasant. For those who like to suck up to professors, it will not work with him, he's far too smart, and will detect it immediately. Basically, if you do your work, show up on time regularly, and ask a couple of questions now and then, you'll be fine.

May 2006

Either Stewart has improved tremendously or the first two reviewers are full of it. I took the Shakespeare II course in spring 2006 and thought it was great. What's wrong with reciting key speeches in class? How else can you teach Shakespeare? He even gives you a handout of all the text and other material he will discuss in class, so you don't have to tote the book around or take many notes. Stewart also interweaves general topics, such as textual problems and Jacobean politics into the discussion of the particular play assigned. He leaves about 10 minutes at the end for questions and discussion, which is good or bad depending on the quality of the students' input. I enjoyed the class in its present (2006) configuration and I recommend it.

Sep 2005

Mario Di Gangi's class is a pretty fair introduction to many of the lesser known shakespeare plays, as well as an interesting review of Macbeth, Othelo, and King Lear. He is undeniably a short, adorable man who really loves his Shakespeare, but couldn't hold my attention, although he tried to encourage lots of class discussion. Unfortunately, the few individuals that actually read along with the syllabus dominated each and every class. He approaches Shakespeare with readings that focus on the historical/social events surrounding each play, which some students found fascinating, and I found boring. Was I inspired? No, but I enjoyed the class anyway.

Jul 2005

How to Win Shakespeare II: Prof. Platt...hmmm... this was a case of too much hype, none of it his fault. Yes, Platt knows his stuff. Yes, Platt is nice, open, interested, quitely passionate. He's genuinely likeable as was the class. Just don't kill yourself trying to get in (ie sacrificing other classes). I did learn a lot about Shakespeare, but found myself trying to love the class more than it deserved. Since all of the other reviews are so scintillating, maybe it's just me-- but I have a feeling that a lot of people felt the same way. Here are a few things to maximum Platt's class. 1) 9am: I'm an early riser; no problem; but format is Monday he lectures 1 hour and starts discussion for 15 mins; Wednesday was mostly discussion. The problem was Monday morning mixed with Platt's lecture; while his lectures I (later) discovered were finely tuned, they are uninteresting simply because of his monotonous tone. You'll get over the drone eventually, but you have to dig for the meaning there. Also, nothing from the lectures was ever necessary on an exam or paper. It was basically a do it yourself course. Hint: Come 2 minutes early since he starts right on time. He's not anal about it, but irritated certainly. Don't worry if you completely miss the lecture (though you'll certainly learn more if you pay attention); just build off of others in discussion, or, better come with your own questions (he loves this, especially since Monday's are dead). 2) Discussion Style: It's easy enough to jump in or at least get your feet wet with Platt, since he's eager for new voices and opinions. At least in my section, however, there seemed to be the same group of "Shakespeare" freaks (they were well-meaning, but c'mon!) who would cite random information to prove how smart they were, I suspect, rather than to help the discussion along. They tend to dominate the class. If you're thinking I'm an angry, self-effacer, I also jumped in quite a bit and made a lot of great comments; but I know that the rigid topics he outlines combined with the shotgun-handraisers limited discussion somewhat. You won't get to know everything about the plays, but you'll get a good idea of Platt's version. Tip: offer newer insights that are somewhat on topic if you find yourself wanting to diverge; and don't worry about the "freaks;" a lot of the time their wrong anyway, and just enjoy hearing their own voices; do yourself and the rest of the class a favor and look up some obscure notes on the plays (ie. "Much Ado About Nothing" would have been pronounced "Much Ado About Noting") and then launch into an erudite tangent (to carry the example: The play deals with plenty of situation of eavesdropping or "noting".) Also, connect to other plays (from the class, of course) however strange the connection may seem, as long as you can back it up. 3) Don't stress about having to know quotes for the exams; it's not always stuff he's announced in class, and if it is, it's a random part of it that's less recognizable. It's daunting, but there are a couple of really good websites that offer Shakespeare quotes (one in particular that offers everything that ever showed up on his exams, including scene and speaker). Google it, and read through all the quotes on the site for each play, reference it back to what you read in class, and you'll get everything . 4) The plays--become an expert on one of the plays, preferably one you like, but if you don't genuinely like any of them, pick a short one. Get to know all the quotes in it, and read all the FOOTNOTES (The Arden Shakespeare is the most useful text, and made every play more interesting; 14 bucks a pop.) Platt will be excited that you're the "Macbeth" girl or the "Midsummer" guy, will like you more, and will call on you when your play relates to discussion, at which point you will be thoroughly prepared to wow. You should read all the plays, and reread the parts he hammers in class for the exams. 5) The midterm v. final: The second half of the course runs much more smoothly and enjoyably than the first half (if you've done well on the first paper, which you will as long as your a good analytical reader); plus, the big essay question requires only one play, which can be from first semester, so you really don't need to worry about all the second semester plays. You can easily miss two of them (as long as you study the quotes). Also, the final was just generally easier (quotes were more identifiable; and he handed out cookies). Final thoughts: -Do most of the work; come to know a few plays really well; don't worry about films or performances, though they can help; be eager, and he'll love you; he's a fair grader. -Platt is overated by many, but this is of no fault of his own. Don't come in expecting the best teacher in the world, but you can expect a very pleasant if sometimes slow class, and a nice guy who's trying toget everyone to love Shakespeare. And find that website with the quotes! It'll bump you from a B+ to an A- or A easily. If you're one of the freaks, tone it down, please; you're annoying as hell!

Apr 2005

It's a 9AM class but I promise you, you will still want to go. Professor Platt is amazing - he knows what he's doing and this class is a great follow-up for any critical writing class. His analysis of each individual play will get your brain churning - about energies of comedy, tradgedy, romance, tragicomedy and so forth and how this world is not in black and white but in shades of gray - ingenius stuff...you will really be missing out on something special if you have never taken a class with this gem of a professor. If you're in the English Dep. you may see him around and he's a very sweet guy - will remember your first AND your last name even if there are five other people with the same name and there are 60+ people in the class. Granted, it is a plus if you participate! Also a hint if you want to understand the text without trying too hard working through the meanings of Shakespeare's language - go and watch the films. the BBC/time-life videos. it will save you a lot of time and energy for your other classes... then for the midterm and final, and the papers, you can read through the play and understand what's going on and who's saying what because you've seen it. This is a class where it pays to watch the movie and then read the book.

Jul 2004

I totally agree with the previous reviewer: this class is a waste of time. Basically, you can get away with doing nearly no work (reading about two of the plays will get you through the midterm and final), and you're not given any motivation to read anything either. Stewart doesn't lecture and spends most of the class asking people what they think. Honestly, why would you take a lecture if you wanted to only hear what the other students thought (generally the same 5 people talking) as opposed to the professor? He can't control the more obnoxious students who interrupt him and tell useless stories about their Uncle Herman or how this and that passage was really funny. He's too nice to tell them to be quiet. As for his essay instructions, it's utter rubbish. He gives single sentence instructions and docks lots of points for you not giving him what he wants. If you go see him in office hours, he'll tell you what he wants and then dock points for you giving him what he wants, claiming that it WASN'T what he wanted in the first place and that he really wanted what he originally told you he wasn't looking for. Stewart is obviously not very interested in Shakespeare or at least he displays a total lack of enthusiasm for what he teaches. Don't expect to learn anything from this class. If you take it, don't bother going to class--basically nearly half the class was missing during each lecture towards the end of the semester.

Jul 2004

This professor and his course are equally delightful. I entered the course a few classes late, without any prior interest in/knowledge of Shakespeare, and ended up really enjoying myself and learning a lot. The papers, midterm, and final are exceedingly fair (the final was even on the easy side, since it was almost exactly like the midterm) - he only asks questions on the exams about passages we went over in class. You don't have to participate, but he will really, genuinely appreciate it if you do, and he never puts down a student if she gives an answer he wasn't looking for, or rambles, etc. He always finds a way to incorporate it. And he makes it fun, which is hard for both professor and student at 9 am on a Monday in the dead of winter. I highly recommend this class.

Apr 2004

Despite the fact that the syllabus includes some of the greatest literature ever written, this class is a total waste of time. Stewart hardly lectures at all, and instead reads long passages aloud and then asks the class "So what do you make of that?" The rest of the time is filled with generally pointless and random comments from the peanut gallery, which is usually dominated by a single student. Stewart generally didn't build off the comments at all, so the class just degenerated into a free-for-all and no one learned anything about the plays. And man, were there ever a lot of old people taking up space in an overcrowded classroom. Despite some attempts to structure things more (handouts, themed discussions), no real order or substance ever evolved. The only highlight was a hand-out featuring Renaissance translations of classical texts dealing with man-boy love ( "The only true love is that of younge boies..") Perhaps the class would have been more fun if we had talked more about pederasty; after all, Prof. Stewart is the author of "Close Readers: Humanism and Sodomy in Early Modern England." You can learn more about Shakespeare by reading the plays at home with a few supplemental texts, don't bother with this class.

Mar 2004

I liked the first class so much I took the second! A little too much Shakespeare maybe, but Professor Platt is engaging and enthusiastic. Just the right amount of lecture and discussion. He won't call on you unless you raise your hand, so no surprises (in case you didn't do the reading). By far one of my favorite professors!

Oct 2003

This woman is brilliant and this course is awesome. She has a really strong passion for what she teaches and it's good because she knows all the information back and forth. The TA's were pretty weak but that changes. Anyway, the course is exactly what you think it is: you read amazing plays by Shakespeare and then go into them with more depth, learn about the background and context, examine key passages, etc. but not in such a way like in other english classes where you dissect comma usage as a metaphor for the author's personal struggles, but rather you discuss really important broad issues and learn their importance in the play. Very rewarding, there was some grumbling about it being boring among other students but if you have even a fraction of the passion for the material as she does, you will be well rewarded.

May 2003

She is an unbelieveable professor! I ended up learning so much in her class that I would want to take anything that she was teaching again. The only thing is that you should not be late. She cannot stand lateness at all. I think that she is a tough grader also, but if you go and see her she will tell you exactly what she wants. She is so helpful even when you find yourself lost with the material.

Mar 2003

This class isn't over yet, but I don't want poor unsuspecting souls to go into Fall registration without hearing another opinion. If you are a) an English major, b) not a freshman, c) possessed of even a spark of intelligence, DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS. Brilliant as Professor Howard may be, I've not heard her express a single thought that I couldn't have picked up from one of Harold Bloom's collections of critical essays on Shakespeare. Her readings of the play, which are tailored to a huge lecture class of what seems primarily to be brown-nosers, are reductive and repetitive. I went to half of the classes, spent my time in the ones that I did go to either reading other texts or trying not to stab my classmates in the eye with a pencil, and aced the midterm on recollections from high school. If you've never studied Shakespeare (or, frankly, the English language), this class might not be so bad. However, even if all you've ever read is Hamlet - or if, by chance, you want to preserve your appreciation for Shakespeare, stay away. She also has a really obnoxious policy on locking the door and kicking out people who are 30 seconds late, as well as a wardrobe composed entirely of earth tones.

May 2001

This is the one English class to take while you are at Columbia. All kidding aside, I have been moved to tears by his lectures before. Kastan makes everybody else look like a bunch of jerks and nobodies.