You will study two core modules:
Shakespeare's Theatre (on-site and distance learning)
There are three components of this module. The first is a close reading of text that will lead to a consideration of the theatrical function and distinctive qualities of Shakespeare's language. The second is a study of Elizabethan and early Jacobean stages and performance; and the third is an extension of the historical perspective, including Shakespeare's medieval inheritance, that will inform inquiry into the contemporary and continuing theatrical life. Plays studied include some or all of Hamlet, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, Richard II, Titus Andronicus, Henry V, Cymbeline and The Tempest.
Research Skills (on-site and distance learning)
This module provides you with essential research skills training applicable in the fields of Shakespeare studies, with a particular emphasis on performance studies. You will actively assess the different kinds of evidence and methods used in these fields and critically evaluate the epistemological assumptions that underline them.
You will then choose four optional modules from a range of Shakespeare Institute modules:
Shakespeare's Craftsmanship (on-site and distance learning)
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.
Shakespeare's Legacy (on-site and distance learning)
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.
Shakespeare’s Text (on-site and distance learning)
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.
History of Shakespeare in Performance (on-site and distance learning)
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.
Shakespearience (distance learning only)
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, 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 character. “Shakespearience” will be about reading as process rather than product, and as such, at least potentially, experientially exciting and adventurous.
Shakespeare and Theatre Practice (on-site only)
This module will provide you with experiential knowledge that will inform the way you interrogate and interpret performance evidence in a variety of media. Through a series of practical workshops and performance assignments, you will explore 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, and Giles Block; the second approach explores the legacy of Stanislavski in the Shakespearean work of 20th/21st century practitioners in Europe and the United States; the third approach brings the devising techniques of prominent physical theatre practitioners to a creative examination of Shakespeare’s text.
This module is assessed either by two performance assignments and a 2,000-word research paper, or by one 4,000-word research paper. (Please note: because of the nature of this module it cannot be delivered via distance learning.)
History of Shakespeare Criticism (on-site only)
The course will combine a historical overview of the main developments in Shakespeare criticism from the 1590s to the present with detailed investigation of key texts, covering: the canonisation of Shakespeare; character criticism; biographical criticism; imagery and symbolist criticism; critical study of the plays as created artifacts; the relationship between criticism and performance; historicist criticism; and new critical approaches. Students will read weekly set texts for discussion in seminar, and a weekly lecture will place these texts in their historical context. You will be expected to undertake independent reading around the topics after the seminar discussion, guided by topic‐specific reading lists which are circulated each week.
Plays and Poems A (on-site only)
This module encourages you to engage with most of Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories and Poems. Each class will cover a topic relating to one or more texts, using individual student input, and group discussion and analysis. This module can be studied as a standalone module or with Play and Poems B.
Plays and Poems B (on-site only)
This module encourages you to engage with most of Shakespeare's Problem Plays, Tragedies and Late Plays. Each class will cover a topic relating to one or more texts, using individual student input, and group discussion and analysis. (Plays and Poems A is the pre‐requisite module for Plays and Poems B).
Social and Cultural History of Renaissance England A and B (on-site only)
These two modules will provide a broad introduction to the social and cultural history of the period, but also focus more specifically on issues relevant to Shakespeare's life and drama and the two local societies of which he had experience, Stratford upon‐Avon and London. Among the principal topics will be social mobility and crises in social relations; social disorder and agrarian discontent; changing notions of honour; the impact of the Reformation and the nature of Catholicism and Puritanism; and rebellion, authority and the royal court. Please note these modules are taught in the History Department at the University of Birmingham main campus in Edgbaston. The modules can be studied individually or together.
Shakespeare, the Playwright and his Drama A and B (on-site only)
Shakespeare's life and career are examined as a case study in the position of professional playwrights in early modern England. You will examine the way the theatre for which Shakespeare was writing worked - how plays were written, how play texts were circulated and the impact censorship had upon them. You will then be able to consider the relationship between Shakespeare's plays and the issues affecting his society, and to analyse the intervention the plays made in important social debates. These two modules can be studied individually or together.
Early Modern Drama: Middleton and Jonson (on-site only)
This module will introduce and contextualise two of the most significant dramatists working in the same period as Shakespeare. Each week you will focus on a pair of plays, usually one by Jonson and one by Middleton. Seminars will focus on student presentations, usually two in each class, each of which will place one of the plays in a broader dramatic and/or cultural context, and/or engage in close analysis of key passages. Special classes will identify the plays as intersections between dramatists and theatre companies, engage with issues relating to dramatic language and technique, and explore issues of textual circulation and canon formation.
Please note that availability of optional modules may vary from year to year.
- On successful completion of the six taught modules, MA students will enrol on the dissertation:
Dissertation (on-site and distance learning)
In this module you will undertake a substantial piece of independent research. This may be based on but will extend work undertaken for previous modules in the programme. There should be some element of originality in the research and the research may make a contribution to the field of study. You will report your research in a dissertation of 15,000 words in appropriate academic English. In designing, carrying out and writing up the study, you will be supported by a supervisor.