You will produce traditional academic essays as well as creative work. You will have the opportunity to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) by working as part of an ensemble of creative artists – actors, directors, writers, designers and technicians – to produce a new piece of creative work in response to Shakespeare’s work.
You will also attend weekly Thursday Seminars at The Shakespeare Institute (term-time only), which feature papers presented by a range of established visiting scholars as well as Institute and University of Birmingham staff.
You will study three core modules.
Research Skills and Methods
This module will provide students with essential research skills training applicable in the fields of Shakespeare studies. It will train students in the use of databases, resources, and methods related to literary, historical, performance, and educational analysis. The work undertaken in this module will help inform the direction and methodology of student research during the MA, particularly in the dissertation stages
Assessment: 1,500 word reflective learning journal and 1,500 word essay
The Shakespeare Ensemble
In this module you will work as part of an ensemble of creative artists – actors, directors, writers, designers and technicians – 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 you with a range of skills pertaining to creating a new piece of work - creative dramatic writing, devising as an ensemble, Shakespeare and adaption as well as including sessions with the RSC on new writing, the ensemble, design and lighting.
Assessment: Performance and written work
- View 'Delectable Sin' - a song composed by Shakespeare and Creativity students, inspired by their response to Othello as part of this module
- Read about Fury - a series of monologues based on characters from Shakespeare, but translated into a modern context.
Shakespeare in Society
Featuring tuition from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Library of Birmingham (which has an important Shakespeare collection), 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.
Assessment: Practical assignment and written work
- View Shakespeare Unbard – a film of work developed for performance at the Royal Shakespeare Company produced by Shakespeare and Creativity students as part of this module.
- Read about It Gets Lighter From Here - a series of one minute videos created by students to mark the shortest day of the year; a virtual day of hope and positivity.
You will also choose three optional modules from a range which typically includes:
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 Rodenburg; the second approach explores the legacy of Stanislavski in Shakespearean performance; the third approach brings the work of key movement practitioners to a creative examination of Shakespeare’s text.
Assessment: Two performance assignments and a 2,000-word research paper, or a 4,000-word research paper
The History of Shakespearean Performance, 1642-2020
This module offers an introduction to the performance history of the Shakespeare canon from the mid seventeenth century – when a wholly new theatrical dispensation turned to the now obsolete scripts which survived from the Elizabethan period in search of raw materials -- to the temporary closure of the theatres caused by the Covid pandemic. Its focus is on live performance in Britain, with an emphasis on the theatres of London and Stratford-upon-Avon, but it also considers influential theorists and practitioners from Russia, Germany, the USA, and Japan.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Shakespeare’s Bodies of Knowledge
Shakespeare’s plays often present the body as the site of competing structures of thought, knowledge and belief. This module will investigate the ways in which such ‘bodies of knowledge’ are dramatized corporeally through a range of disciplines, including anatomy and dissection; theories of gender; teratology (the study of ‘monstrosity’); natural history; witchcraft and demonology; heraldry and commemoration; post-humanism and early robotics; colonial discourse; and others.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Early Modern Drama in Context: Playhouse, Culture and Society
This module will take you beyond Shakespeare himself: to the many other remarkable plays written by men and women in the period; to the theatrical contexts for which Shakespeare and early modern dramatists wrote; to the many aspects of wider culture that drama reflects, contests, and sometimes even shapes. Taking a series of early modern plays (some familiar, some less so) as our starting point, we will investigate topics such as early staging; playhouse culture; identity, status and hierarchy; continuities and contrasts between early modern perspectives and our own. Throughout the course, we will return to the question of how – and why – we should study four-hundred-year-old texts, drawing on recent methods from critical race theory to sensory studies. Whether you are already an enthusiastic early modernist, or simply keen to take your first steps beyond Shakespeare, the module will give you the skills, knowledge and tools to investigate early modern drama in context.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Shakespeare is not just one of the most read and studied authors in the world: he is also one of the most adapted. In this module, you will study how novelists, painters, poets, musicians, playwrights, composers, filmmakers, and internet content creators have drawn on Shakespeare’s life and works to create new art for their own times. Following a roughly chronological timeline, we will explore the history of adapting Shakespeare from 1660 to the present day. While we will take note of major stage productions, our central focus will be on what happens when Shakespeare's works are wholly rewritten and reimagined by new artists, as opposed to restaged. Using adaptation theory as our guide, we will explore what is at stake when artists from diverse backgrounds translate Shakespeare into different art forms, languages, and cultural idioms. From Restoration semi-operas to Pre-Raphaelite paintings to twentieth-century arthouse films to digital memes, this module revels in the extraordinary variety of Shakespeare’s artistic legacy.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay, or 3,000-word creative writing project with 1,000-word reflective commentary
Textual Studies in Shakespeare
What do we mean when we refer to ‘the text of Shakespeare’? This module investigates the production of the text in the theatre and in print, explores controversies surrounding the interpretation of this material, and introduces students to the techniques of editing. Topics 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 usually include: 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.
Assessment: 1,000 word textual analysis and 3,000 word essay
Plays and Poems A
You are encouraged to engage with, and to see the relationship between, the plays and poems Shakespeare wrote in the sixteenth century, in which the dominant genres were comedies and histories, with tragedy an emergent presence towards the end. The module will cover the first half of Shakespeare’s career in chronological order, from 1591 to 1600. Learning is via student presentation and response, with a preliminary lecture on each study day. This module can be studied as a standalone module or with Play and Poems B.
Assessment: 1,000 word assignment and 3,000 word essay
Plays and Poems B
You are encouraged to engage with, and to see the relationship between, the plays and poems Shakespeare wrote in the seventeenth century, in which the dominant genres were tragedies and tragicomedies. The module will cover the second half of Shakespeare’s career in chronological order, from 1601 – 1613. Learning is via student presentation and response, with a preliminary lecture on each study day.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Shakespeare on Screen
Since the advent of the moving image over a century ago, countless screen versions of Shakespeare’s plays have emerged across the globe in different forms of media: from film, television and recorded theatre, to internet videos and live streaming. ‘Shakespeare on Screen’ will consider these filmed productions of Shakespeare as an area connected to, but distinct from, Shakespeare’s work as theatrical performance or literary text, drawing on literary criticism, film theory and adaptation studies to consider the connection between imagery and moving image; the imagined world of a bare stage the fully realised world on screen; the liveness of the stage and the repeatability of filmed media. We will approach motion picture versions of Shakespeare historically and internationally, but also through hands-on practical filming to think about the way technology, industry values, and cultural backgrounds influence the production of silent film, feature films, television, live streams, and screen versions of Shakespeare’s plays from all around the world.
Shakespeare’s Worlds/The World’s Shakespeares
How did Shakespeare become a global phenomenon? How have his works historically been enmeshed in colonial projects, empire-building, political ‘soft power’, and the imposition and exploitation of racial stereotypes and biases? How has Shakespeare more recently been used to promote cultural diplomacy, international collaboration, the circulation of post-colonial discourses, and the proliferation of critical race studies? And how did Shakespeare’s plays themselves provide the origin-points for their later appropriation in socio-cultural figurations of race, religion, ethnicity and cross-national diplomatic exchanges?
This module takes you on a global journey through the worlds and races conjured by Shakespeare in his works, as well as the ‘Shakespeares’ created in and owned by numerous countries into the modern age. The first part of the module will explore Shakespeare’s representation of differing nations and ethnicities in some of his best-loved plays, throwing a spot-light on the delineation of national spaces, the peoples who inhabit them, the stories told about them, and the prejudices these narratives both reflected and fuelled. The second part will focus on how practitioners, directors and adapters from a varied range of countries and rich cultural traditions have appropriated, re-interpreted and fashioned their own unique Shakespeares, sometimes as responses to colonial pressures and injustices, and at other times as reactions to war, civil unrest, political oppression, and crises of national identity in tumultuous periods. Join us as we visit Shakespeare’s own worlds and the worlds that have made their own Shakespeares.
Assessment: 2 x 2,000-word essays
If you choose Practice as Research, Research in Practice you will complete a 12,000-word dissertation. If you choose Praxis: Practical & Embodied Research Methods you will complete an Independent Research Project, where you will develop a performance project assessed by documentation and a 500-word piece of copy framing the work (75%), and a viva (25%).
Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.