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Public Events

Community Classes

Free community classes at the Center are offered each semester for members of the greater Amherst community and are taught by independent scholars, retired faculty, and experts in Renaissance studies. To sign up for a class please contact us at rencen@umass.edu or call us at 413-577-3600. This programming is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. See: press release


Fall 2022 Course Offerings

The Imaginary Kings: Claudius, Lear, and Prospero with Marie Roche

Course description: These plays, Hamlet, King Lear, and The Tempest, finish the year with a punch! So much ink has been spilled on them that one may wonder what is left to be talked about. Everyone is an expert on them. Here we are, however, once again but with a twist. These plays feature three kings of Shakespeare’s imagination who decide to go against divine order: Lear wants to retire from his kingly responsibilities (who can blame him), Prospero wants to pursue knowledge at the expense of his kingdom, and Claudius wants the kingdom of Denmark all for himself at the expense of his brother and family. In this course, we will bring home questions on the ramification of human intention and action: What happens when free will i.e., the desire to live the life as we see fit, comes against divine order, if we believe that there is one? Have we experienced moments in our lives when our decisions have been seen as selfish or destructive to others? What are the consequences of our actions? Do we think about them before we act? Is choosing to retire, to pursue knowledge or power of all sorts such a bad thing? How are the decisions of characters – even those that may play a smaller role – affecting others in the story, and affecting us as readers?

In addition, for those who took the history plays cycle last year, this course will be an opportunity to look at instances in which kingship appears outside of the actual historical sequence studied. It will be an opportunity to compare and contrast the kings of history and the kings of the imaginary – or is that line of distinction difficult to draw?

Mondays: September 12th, 19th, 26th
October 3rd,10th, 17th, 24th, 31st
November 7th,14th, 28th
December 5th 

5-6:30 pm
Location: Online/Zoom

Workshop Hamlet King Lear, October 24th with Hilary Dennis

Please register here.

Summer 2022 Course Offerings

Shakespeare in Translation with Marie Roche
Conversational college-level French required. The class will be conducted entirely in French. The bilingual text, translated by Jean-Michel Deìprats, will be provided to the attendees.
This class seeks to expose the attendees to Shakespeare’s texts in translation. Passages will be read together, and questions will be addressed such as: What is gained or lost in translation? How do we experience the text in another language? The translator’s choice of words and translation of humor and more. Le songe d’une nuit d’été
Thursdays: June 9th,16th, 23rd, 30th
5:30-6:15 pm
Location/Hybrid (For in-person: 650 East. Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA 01002)
(413) 577-3600

Spring 2022 Course Offerings

Community Shakespeare with Marie Roche: Shakespeare's History Plays Marathon
For the Spring of 2022 participants will be reading Shakespeare’s history plays in a historical chronology, rather than in the chronology of when the works were published or performed. 
Mondays 5:00-6:30 pm. Courses will be held on Zoom.
March 7-May 23
          For a full schedule of plays and to register please visit Community Shakespeare of New England.

Workshop: Richard III.
April 18 with Emily MacLeod (George Washington University)

         To register for these workshops, please visit Dr. Marie Roche's website.


Spring 2022

Power from the Margin 
Struggles to establish legitimacy to the throne, the bastard, and women in politics
Dates: Mondays, March 1st - May 17th, 2021. Duration 12 weeks.
Time: 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm

Three special workshops with guest scholar, Marshall Garrett, Brave Spirits Theater, will be held on Zoom.

April 19th 5:00 - 6:30 pm: Richard II
July 6th 5:00 - 6:30 pm: Reading Shakespeare Aloud
December 7th 5:30 - 7:30 pm: Troilus and Cressida
To register for these workshops, please visit Dr. Marie Roche's website.

Summer 2021

Shakespeare Aloud: Two Gentlemen of Verona
Dates: Tuesday, July 6th. Mondays July 12th - 26th
Time: 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm


Shakespeare in Translation (French): Les deux gentilshommes de Vérone
Conversational, college-level French required. Class conducted entirely in French. Bilingual text translated by Jean-Michel Déprats. The text will be provided to the attendees.
Dates: Thursdays, July 8th - 29th
5:00 pm - 6:15 pm


Shakespeare on Film: A Study of Sir John Falstaff
The Hollow Crown and Chimes at Midnight with Orson Welles
Dates: Mondays, August 2nd - 30th
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm


Fall 2021

The Grooming of a Modern Political Leader & English National Identity
Dates: MondaysSeptember 13th - December 6th. Duration 12 weeks
Time: 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm
To register please visit: https://www.communityshakespearene.org


Winter 2021 - Virtual Course Offerings

Hamlet with Tony Burton, Lifetime Center Fellow.

5 seminars discussing Shakespeare's Hamlet. Participants should be familiar with the play and have read it recently. Come prepared for active discussion.

Dates: January 6th - February 3rd, 2021. Duration 5 weeks.
Time: Wednesdays, 3 pm to 5 pm. 

These seminars will be held via Zoom. Please contact the instructor to register and receive a link.


Fall 2020 - Virtual Course Offerings:
Marie Roche, Ph.D. UMass.

What has love got to do with it: Wars & National Conflicts?

This fall’s conversation will not be for the faint of heart, but for the warriors of ideas who will unflinchingly tackle and conquer the profound questions these plays raise. We will endeavor to explore: Romeo and Juliet; Antony and Cleopatra and Troilus and Cressida. We will explore the purpose and representation of love in these plays as the entry point to study how the personal enters the larger stage of British history (Troy and its fall; the Tyrone Rebellion), and of epics and myth (Iliad and Aeneid), and conversely how the external conflicts of titans (Priam and Agamemnon) and nations (Ancient Greece and Roman Empires) enter the realm of the private, causing the lovers’ demise and perhaps, with them, the death of a kind of ideology. How do the lovers’ relationships reveal or exemplify clashes of existential beliefs, of politics, and even the colliding of traditions; epic, historic, and romance?

Dates: September 14th - December 14th. Duration twelve weeks.
Time: Mondays : 5 pm to 6:30 pm; No meeting the week of Thanksgiving

Three special workshops with guest scholar, Jessica Bauman, director of Arden Everywhere, will be held on zoom.

October 5th 5:30 - 7:30 pm : Romeo and Juliet
November 9th 5:30 - 7:30 pm: Antony and Cleopatra
December 7th 5:30 - 7:30 pm: Troilus and Cressida

To register for these workshops, please visit Dr. Marie Roche's  website.

Spring & Summer 2020:

All courses have transitioned to remote learning while campus remains closed. Meetings will be held on Zoom.

Marie Roche, Ph.D. UMass, is offering a series of seminars.

Journeys and Discoveries. Particpants will be reading As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors, and Pericles. The class will investigate new ways of seeing and experiencing quests into uncharted territories. There are no prerequisites: participants need to bring a copy of the play and a willingness to read aloud. The class meets on Mondays, 5:00 - 6:30, March 9th - May 28th.

Special guest, Jessica Bauman, director of Arden Everywhere

Shakespeare Aloud. Would you enjoy taking on the Shakespearean role of your dreams?  Join us in Shakespeare Aloud. Each participant will take on a character and learn to read the parts. Readings for each character will rotate amongst the members. Short presentations will be offered on topics related to the play. 
Days: Monday July 6, 13, 20, 27

Time: 5 pm to 6:30 pm

Play: Much Ado About Nothing

Shakespeare in Translation. Are you curious about how Shakespeare sounds in another language? How his puns and wits carry over from English to French? What can we learn about the impact of Shakespeare's texts in other countries? Enjoy the Bard in French and explore the beauty of his language in translation. 

Bilingual edition translated by Jean Michel Déprats. Bilingual conversation as needed. All levels of French welcome.
Days: Wednesday July 8, 15, 22, 29
Time: 5 pm to 6:30 pm
Play: Beaucoup de bruit pour rien 


Shakespeare on Film. Join us in watching productions of Othello as a whole and in parts. Discussion of the play will focus performance history in film and audience reception. Along the way, we will also explore specific micro-topics with short presentations. 

Days: Monday August 3, 10, 17, 24

Time: 5pm to 6:30 pm

Play: Othello

Three productions of Othello with special features: 

Orson Welles' Othello (1952)

Laurence Olivier's Othello (1965)

Othello with Laurence Fishburne, Irene Jacob, and Kenneth Branagh. Director Oliver Parker (1995)


Summer 2019:

Marie Roche, Ph.D. UMass, is offering a seminar entitled Shakespeare Aloud: A New Experience. Participants will be reading Twelfth Night together. There are no requirements--just bring a copy of the play and be willing to read aloud. Optional extra readings, discussion, and laughter will be provided! The class meets Mondays, 5:00 - 6:30 pm, beginning July 1st and going until the play is done. ~5 weeks.

Marie Roche, Ph.D. UMass, will teach Shakespeare in Translation: Le Roi Lear/French King Lear. Bilingual texts will be provided before the first meeting. Some fluency in French is required to best enjoy the class. The class meets Tuesday, 5:00 - 6:30 pm, beginning July 2nd and going until the play is done. ~5 weeks. Please note that class on July 9 and 16 will be held at alternative times. Details TBD.

Spring 2019:

Marie Roche, Ph.D. UMass, is offering a twelve-week seminar, entitled: The Body Deciphered, which will involve reading Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra with a particular focus on the body. What is fascinating, says Jennifer Edwards, "about the presentations of these texts are the ways in which they interact with the body, and vice versa; with bodies presented as texts in need of deciphering, and texts that in their very fabric and construction recall the body." The class will not then dwell on the gruesome details present in these plays, but rather explore Shakespeare's presentation of the body and its manifestations as text, history, politics, character, etc. This class meets Mondays, 5:00 - 6:30 pm, February 18th - May 6th.

Fall 2018:

James van Luik, Professor Emeritus, from UMass Amherst will teach Science in the Renaissance, focusing on scientific developments during the Renaissance. This class meets on Wednesday, September 12th - October 24th.

Marie Roche, Ph.D. UMass, is offering a twelve-weeks seminar entitled: Shakespeare's Badass Mothers, which will look at three mothers in particular and the context of political power: Volumnia (Coriolanus), Gertrude (Hamlet), and Margaret of Anjou, the She-Wolf of France (Henry VI). Classes meet Monday, September 10th - December 3rd.

Tony Burton, Independent Scholar & Lifetime Center Fellow, is teaching Shakespeare's The Tempest, focusing on Shakespeare's last play from the perspective of actors and character development. Classes meet Tuesday, September 11th - November 13th.


Hampshire Shakespeare Summer Performances

Every summer, we welcome the Hampshire Shakespeare Company's "Shakespeare Under the Stars": outdoor performances that take place on the Great Meadow of the Renaissance Center. HSC is a community-based organization with part-time seasonal professional staff. The Company brings together professional, amateur and student performers, offering audiences and actors a range of theatrical experiences from the most profound to the most playful.

The 2019 season includes: Henry V, directed by Mount Holyoke College’s Noah Tuleja (June 26 - 30 and July 3 - 7); and The *Annotated* Taming of the Shrew, adapted and directed by Toby Vera Bercovici, with music and lyrics by Old Flame (July 17- 21 and 24 - 28). The Young Company's presentation of Measure for Measure, directed by Hannah Simms, will run the weekend of August 16 - 18. All shows begin at 7:00 p.m.

For more information about this season visit https://hampshireshakespeare.com/

More on performances at the Center

Renaissance Harvest Festival

Our annual Renaissance Harvest Festival showcases local artisans and performance groupsin conjunction  with a celebration the harvest of our Renaissance garden and orchard. The Harvest Festival puts the Center’s research and teaching interests into practice by inviting the Pioneer Valley community to join us for a day of thrilling entertainment, educational demonstrations, and fine crafts. Connecting the rich variety of local production on offer in the Valley to its past in Renaissance history, the Harvest Festival promises fun and entertainment for the whole family!

Check our Calendar of events for details in the Fall.

Garden Opening

Every summer the Center holds an official garden party to celebrate and enjoy the growing sixteenth-century Kitchen Garden. Music and light refreshment are provided, as are tours of our Renaissance Kitchen Garden. Check our Calendar of events for details.

Renaissance Wednesdays 

A series of hour-long informal talks on wide-ranging topics by local or visiting scholars held in the Center Reading Room. Lecture topics are of general interest; discussion and refreshments follow each talk. Co-sponsored by the Amherst Woman's Club. Check our Calendar of events for details.

First Sunday Concerts

The First Sunday Series presents two concerts each semester at 2:00 pm on Sunday afternoons. These performances feature regional musicians and early music groups. Announcements regarding our schedule can be found under the Events tab. Check our Calendar of events for details.

Community Reading Groups

The community reading group meets to discuss new fiction on or set in the renaissance. New members are always welcome. To join our conversation, please contact us at rencen@umass.edu.