You will study the following four core modules:
This module considers the ways in which Shakespearean language and drama bears on experience, with a view to making the experience of Shakespeare more available to contemporary Shakespeare scholarship and creative practice. It is, above all, a shared experiment in experientially alert and susceptible close reading. In a series of intensively collaborative workshops, on the special course blog and in seminars, it will dwell and linger in Shakespeare’s language and stagecraft in order to explore how its complexity produces experiential meanings, in readers, audience members and in characters. “Shakespearience” will be about reading as process rather than product, and as such, at least potentially, experientially exciting and adventurous.
Shakespeare and Theatre Practice
This module will provide you with experiential knowledge that will inform the way that you interrogate and interpret performance evidence in a variety of media. Through a series of workshops and performance assignments, you will explore three different systematic approaches to performing the language of Shakespeare: the first approach is rooted in the verse and text work of John Barton, Peter Hall, Cicely Berry and Patsy Rodenberg; the second approach explores the legacy of Stanislavski in the Shakespearean work of 20th/21st century practitioners including Katie Mitchell and Mike Alfreds; the third approach brings the devising techniques of prominent physical theatre practitioners to a creative examination of Shakespeare’s text.
The Shakespeare Ensemble
In this module you will work as part of an ensemble of creative artists – actors, directors, writers, designers – exploring and testing the theory and practice of performing Shakespeare today. You will participate in workshops with key RSC practitioners, and produce an assessed performance of a re-imagined Shakespearean text, in The Other Place theatre. The module seeks to equip students with a range of skills pertaining to creating a new piece of work - creative dramatic writing, devising as an ensemble and music in the ensemble as well as including sessions with the RSC on new writing, the ensemble, design and lighting.
Shakespeare and Society
Featuring tuition from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the new Birmingham Library (which has an important civic Shakespeare collection and premises), this module explores and tests the scope for bringing Shakespeare into the world beyond the academy and the theatre. You will undertake focused study of Shakespearean civic creativity from Garrick's 1769 Jubilee onwards before producing your own piece of civic creativity inspired by Shakespeare at the RSC.
You will also choose two optional modules from the following:
History of Shakespeare in Performance
This module will consider trends of acting and directing Shakespeare from the Restoration to the present day, and will exploit the Stratford archives to undertake studies of individual actors and directors from the eighteenth century onwards. Subjects of study might include Colley Cibber, David Garrick, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, Laurence Olivier, Peter Brook, John Barton and Sam Mendes. There will be opportunities to analyse and interpret primary evidence and to consider the cultural context(s) of performance. Plays studied include some or all of Richard III, Hamlet, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
This module considers the adaptation and appropriation of Shakespeare’s plays, persona, and possessions from the seventeenth century to the present day. It pays special attention to how changes in theatre practice, aesthetic tastes, politics, and commercial markets have shaped the history of Shakespeare’s ‘afterlife’. Plays studied include some or all of King Lear, The Tempest, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Measure for Measure.
This module is intended to convey, from a variety of standpoints, a sense of how Shakespeare worked. We will explore a selection of plays from across his career in order to highlight the fluidity of his creativity in terms of such elements as language, structure, mood, adaptation of source material, and how they are made to function in innovative ways alongside the more pragmatic considerations of live performance in the early modern theatre. Alongside these historical, textual, and dramaturgical issues we will also consider how such questions of craft may influence performance practice today.
The module will develop a critical awareness of the textual foundations of Shakespeare's plays. Topics covered include: the relationship between a modern edition of a play and the earliest printed texts, the nature of the printing process that first made the plays available to readers of books, the characteristics of Shakespeare's dramatic composition, the treatment of the text in the theatre (including censorship, revision and adaptation), and Shakespeare as a collaborator. Plays studied include some or all of Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida, Sir Thomas More, Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, King Lear, Measure for Measure, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Timon of Athens.