Shakespeare wrote his history plays for an audience living in a newly nationalistic England. It was a realm constructing the idea of Britain as the natural inheritor of Roman glory. But what, precisely, was this new “British” identity? In this course, we will follow the construction of British identity in history and literature. We will study the history of Britain from the Romans to the Tudors, and we will read and watch seven of Shakespeare’s history plays (two Roman and five English). We will examine the historical background of each play, the sources from which Shakespeare drew his material, and a range of critical responses to the plays. Classes will include discussion, written responses, memorization, and additional mandatory film screenings. Students will write two essays.