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Othello: In Performance

Course Type

Othello: In Performance 

On this free online course, designed with A-level learners in mind, you will discover how the performances and interpretations of Othello have evolved from its first performance in 1604 to the present day. You will find out what influenced performance choices then and now, and how specific themes within the text have been addressed at different moments in history.

You will learn with leading experts, based in Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford upon Avon, from the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

The MOOC is an excellent complement to watching the production in live performance or in a UK school as part of the RSC’S Schools’ Broadcast series.

What is a MOOC?

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course - these are free, open, online courses designed to offer a taste of Higher Education to learners from across the UK and the world. The University of Birmingham is delivering new MOOCs in partnership with FutureLearn, the UK’s first MOOCs provider established by the Open University.

Delivered by world-class academics from the University of Birmingham, the courses enable learners worldwide to sample high-quality academic content via an interactive web-based platform from a leading global University, increasing access to higher education for a whole new cohort of learners.

We are excited to be working in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust on this MOOC. 

Senior academic staff from the University of Birmingham are involved in the MOOC and the content is quality-assured in line with our other programmes. The courses do not offer credits towards admission to the University of Birmingham. 

Course knowledge requirements

This course is open to anyone to join and will be ideal for 16-19 year olds in full-time education.

You can start to prepare for the course by familiarising yourself with Othello. 

Course duration and content

This is a four-week course. After an introductory week looking at Othello as a whole, we will explore different themes and ideas each week:

  • The significance of race
  • The role of women
  • The form of tragedy

Ultimately, you will analyse the Royal Shakespeare Company’s most recent production of Othello, informed by your learning over the four weeks and exploring three specific scenes.

Academics and educators

You will learn with leading experts from the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. 

  • Jacqui O’Hanlon, RSC Director of Education, will offer an overview of Othello, with insights from: Professor Michael Dobson of the Shakespeare Institute; RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran and Director Iqbal Khan; and members of the 2015 RSC Acting Company, including Hugh Quarshie, Lucian Msamati and Joanna Vanderham. As part of this, we will explore what Othello is ultimately about, looking at people, places and perspectives. 
  • Dr Nick Walton from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will discuss the issue of race in Othello, exploring critical responses to this idea, both in original performance and through its performance history before focussing on Act 1 Scene 1. 
  • Dr Abigail Rokison-Woodall from the Shakespeare Institute will look at the role of women in the play, uncovering the treatment of those roles in performance from 1604 to the present day, with an emphasis on Act 4 Scene 3, also known as the “Willow Scene”. 
  • Dr Anjna Chouhan from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will explore Othello as a tragedy, looking in detail at the tragic journeys of the play’s characters and discussing the conclusion of the drama in Act 5 Scene 2. 

How to apply

This free online course ran in March 2016; future start dates are currently to be confirmed. Please register your interest in participating at the FutureLearn website.

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