Benefit of the Doubt: Shakespeare, Miller, Stoppard, Mamet – SOLD OUT

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio


Who am I? Is my lover faithful? For what and for whom am I responsible? How do I know wrong from right? How do I know you understand me? We all face and seek answers to such questions. At times, perhaps too often, we claim certainty for our answers.

CERTAINTY! It’s seductive. It’s intoxicating. It can be dangerous. And, if certainty is sometimes dangerous, then what is the role of doubt in our thinking? In our decisions? In our conduct? During our week together, we will explore the benefits and hazards of doubt by reading and discussing The Crucible by Arthur Miller, Othello by William Shakespeare, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard. Prior to the seminar, participants will view film versions of these three plays. The films will supplement our discussions of the scripts. During the seminar, we will also screen and discuss David Mamet’s film, Oleanna.

The essence of drama is conflict. And the conflict in a play makes it an especially good vehicle for investigating complex issues. An audience witnesses a clash of ideas, motives, and personalities. These clashes are embodied in the characters, the action, and location of the drama. In our seminar, we will also take time to look at plays as a literary form and as a performing art by discussing the work of the actors, directors, designers, and the role of the audience.

“Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.”

– Voltaire


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Gary Schoepfel is a one-time submarine sailor, lover of beers, broken hockey player, kayaker, former stage actor, reasonably good listener, reasonably good husband of 42 years, faculty member at Harrison Middleton University, close reader, Classical Pursuits international traveller, and retired VP of the Great Books Foundation.

Plays and Films
Participants are required to obtain the specified editions in order to facilitate the group’s ability to find and cite portions of the text during discussion.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller
(Penguin Classics, 2003)
ISBN-13: 978-0142437339
The Crucible directed by Nicholas Hytner, 1996
ASIN: B00013F2S6

Othello by William Shakespeare
(Simon & Schuster, 1993)
ISBN-13: 978-0743477550
Othello directed by Oliver Parker, 1995

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
by Tom Stoppard
(Grove Press, 1994)
ISBN-13: 978-0802132758
Film directed by Tom Stoppard, 1990
ASIN: B000777I88

Oleanna by David Mamet
(Vintage, 1993)
ISBN-13: 978-0679745365
(Book only; the film will be screened during the seminar so there is no need to watch it in advance.)

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