course
Shakespeare

Oct 2014

Professor Pfeiffer is a nice guy--energetic and enthusiastic about the subject matter. The plays we read covered most if not all of Shakespeare's genres: comedy, tragedy, romance and history. Obviously some were more enjoyable than others. The class was pretty discussion-based, although the professor definitely does most of the talking. There were some students who got away with hardly ever talking (I don't know what their grades were though) and I managed to skip reading one play, and was totally fine. I enjoyed this class, but I feel I should give others a warning about the very heavy work load and time commitment. We were required to read about 2 plays a week and there were many assignments: go to and review a play; prepare a presentation; two detailed annotations (same amount of work as an essay); a quiz; a final paper. This was all in the 5-week summer course, so it amounted to reading two plays and writing a paper each week. This class took up absolutely ALL of my time. I am not an English major, but I have been reading and studying Shakespeare since 7th grade. Because of this class, I had to drop other classes I had planned to take that summer, which was very frustrating. Even though I like the professor and it is nice to be Shakespeare-literate, I am not sure I would whole-heartedly recommend this class unless you are very interested in Shakespeare and don't mind it taking up all your time. I just needed an English credit, so I wish i had taken a less work-intensive class. I did receive an A (I do not think he is a difficult grader), so if you are willing to put in all the necessary time, you will be rewarded.

Oct 2010

A funny man who kept this class interesting with his quips and discussions that went anywhere. However there is his annoying habit of listing everything he knows about a certain subject matter--to include tangents. This could be interesting at times--since any background knowledge can be welcome--but it got tiresome as the information would not seem pertinent as the class wore on. Finally his feedback is spartan at best and it felt like he had never provided guidance to anyone in his life. Frustrating. Mind-numbing. Felt like he didn't know what he was looking for either. Should you want to take this class to actually learn something you would better to look elsewhere (though no one I knew got a bad grade--so that should give you hope) or read Shakespeare on your own.

May 2010

Professor Platt's the best English prof I've had here. He's caring, hilarious, and knows a terrifying amount about Shakespeare. He works hard to get everyone involved in and enthusiastic about the class, and seems crushed when anyone isn't. One of those professors who, bright and accomplished in Shakespeare criticism as he is, really seems here to teach. If anything, he takes the class a bit too seriously -- but it's impossible to criticize him for that. He cares about your education! If you love Shakespeare, take a class with him. If you don't love Shakespeare, take a class with him. I did not expect to study Shakespeare this intensely, but it became impossible to resist. I've taken both a seminar and lecture with him, and he's great with both. He's an entertaining lecturer, even at 9am, and even with a 70-odd person class, he manages to learn names and draw out discussion. With the seminar, he does a fantastic job of integrating plays, criticism, his take, and ours. He gives you a lot of freedom to pursue your own ideas and interests, but plenty of foundation to start you off.

Dec 2008

Platt is one of the best professors I have had (I am nearly at the end of my time here). A knowledgeable professor, good lecturer (though he really gets going when the students start chiming in with their ideas), and completely unpretentious. At times he seems like an excitable child (not immature, just able to exclaim "Yes!"). He loves discussion, i.e. "I can't wait to see what you guys think of ___", ideas he hasn't thought of before, i.e. "Ohhh. That's good.". Honestly, I see why he is so highly praised. He deserves it. Yes, it is a morning class, but it is the most packed morning class I have taken (I've taken four others.) I don't know why he doesn't yet have a gold nugget.

Aug 2007

Do not leave Columbia without taking a class with this man. If you pay attention to what he says, invest the time and energy he asks of you, and resign yourself to comprehending only a fraction of what he says, he will change your life. Tayler is the kind of professor whose mind seems to operate at a different level from the rest of us. At a certain point you have to be content to sit back and let that powerful mind wash over you, comfortable in the knowledge that if you absorb even a fraction of the knowledge he offers, you will be a better person for it. That said, don't get too comfortable. Tayler doesn't allow anyone to drift through his lectures. He will call on you. He will ask you to explain a passage from a play, and while he won't push you too hard he does expect a certain level of familiarity with the play and a certain ability to prise apart Shakespeare's thematic and poetic strings. But remember that Tayler is a kindly old gentleman who genuinely cares about and respects his students. He'll call you by your last name (Mr. or Miss. So-and-so), he'll listen when you talk, and above all he will read every single word that you write. I don't have to tell you guys how rare that is. A word to the wise: brush up on your Lit Hum before you take this class. Realistic or not, he expects you to remember what you read in Lit Hum and to be able to apply it to Shakespeare.

Aug 2007

A modern day Socrates. If you have the opportunity to take a course with Professor Tayler and don't, either for fear of the time you will have to spend on his assignments or of the grade you will receive if you do not put in that time, life--and with it a fresh perspective on art and the world--will have passed you by. You will receive a good grade if you work for it, and you will learn more in this class than anywhere else. Professor Tayler will make you use your own mind to ask the deepest questions there are about literature and life. Why else are you in school?

May 2007

Only take a class with Tayler if you can prioritize learning something remarkable and potentially life-changing over getting a perfect grade. You might manage it anyway, but if you go into the class preoccupied with your GPA, youÂ’ll make yourself crazy. Tayler is truly a great professor, among the best that IÂ’ve had here. HeÂ’s also very approachable if youÂ’re struggling, and does seem to genuinely care about his students.

Apr 2006

Ferociously challenging. At times it is difficult to understand what you're supposed to be writing about, but then that's part of what you're being tested on. "Look at these lines" he'll say and write a page for monday. This is a man who knows his shakespeare though, and you will come out of his class a much better critic of art. Don't take his class if you can't put in the work-- this from someone made the mistake of thinking he was up to it when he (I) wasn't. But if you can hack it, Tayler's well worth the time. You'll understand stuff like Richard II begins with a discussion of cain and abel, ends with "a second fall of man" and has a garden scene in the center that you just don't get elsewhere. As to entertainment: some people have called him dry, others think he's hillarious, and i think in like situations you have to assume that the difference is that one group gets the joke and the other doesn't. A lot of laughter this year. I look forward to class weekly.

Dec 2003

I'm not sure what all the fuss about Prof. Shaprio is for; sure, his class is enjoyable, but his lectures tend to be pretty lightweight, as he seems more concerned with making grandiose statements about what he intends to do ("I'm using each lecture to show you a different way to read these plays..I want to strip away all the stuff that you've learned and really have you read this stuff, etc) than really doing it. His approach emphasizes discussion, and while this may minimize unnecessary note-taking and boring lectures, it isn't always particularly educational. Shapiro's Shakespeare certainly isn't a bad class, but its reputation may be more a result of his own ego and posturing than the actual substance of the course itself.

Jul 2003

I went to half of the classes; I aced the midterm and final. I spent time and effort on the first paper, and the TA hated it; I wrote the second one in two hours the day before it was due, and Howard loved it. This is NOT A HARD CLASS, it's a class where you have to play by the instructor's rules. With a few notable exceptions, Howard expected certain, mostly predictable interpretations of the plays, and she wasn't discreet either about them or about the passages she thought were important. Almost everyone else seems to love Howard and to have loved this class - I wish I could see it, but I don't. I genuinely hated this class that I haven't hated anything I've taken in six semesters at Columbia - especially in the English department, where I've mostly had fantastic, challenging, and rewarding experiences. I'm sure all the positive reviews are going to outweigh this one, but I figured it was worth another opinion.

May 2003

I was amazed to learn that every single aspect of the 7-9 plays which we studied over the course of the semester had to do with sex. Suffice it to say that some of Prof. Howard's insights struck me as incredibly pat and cliched, but it was always an enjoyable class. She definitely didn't ruin Shakespeare for me.

Apr 2003

If good professors are called golden nuggets, this is the largest lump of coal I have ever encountered at Columbia. I want to second the warning from the other review of this class. Beware Howard mentions nothing that one couldn't pick up in spark/cliff notes. In fact, spark notes are far more comprehensive, they mention the language. Howard lectures are dedicated almost exclusively to the plot. And it really isnÂ’t an absurd or radical notion to want to look at language in Shakespeare!! When she runs out of things to say, which happens a lot, she shows long clips from movies.

Oct 2002

Why do people like this man so much? I took the class on a friend's recommendation and was horribly disappointed. Platt's lectures are dry -- you don't need to pay attention, in fact, since he outlines each one on the board before class begins. Yes, he lets you read aloud in class -- in my opinion if he likes you. In my class, the same ten people read every single damn play. The man notices if you're absent, so do show up -- pillow firmly in hand. If the lectures were a mixed bag, the papers were even worse. Show a shred of intellectual curiosity or creativity that deviates from Platt's rather unoriginal standard and prepare to be run over the coals unmercifully. Grading on the papers is excessively harsh; especially if you dare to try something new. The exams were exactingly difficult, which would have been fine if they had been graded fairly, but again, I found that favoritism played a large role when the essay portions of the exams were graded. Look, if you want to kiss up to someone who seems to be "a nice guy", take this class. But if you want to learn something about Shakespeare, the real stars of the field are at Columbia. Take a class with Shapiro or Kastan. I sure wish I had.