MA Shakespeare and Creativity

This programme offers a unique approach to the study of Shakespeare’s life and work, fusing traditional scholarly approaches with the thrill of being involved in new creative work. It is delivered by and taught at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon.

It makes the most of the unrivalled resources of Shakespeare’s Stratford and involves expert tuition from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Library of Birmingham. The programme is particularly enhanced by the Institute's collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), offering unique and extensive opportunities to work on its premises with RSC artists.

This programme will attract aspiring academics, actors, writers, directors, arts administrators, as well as anyone with a lively interest in Shakespeare. 

rsc-collaboration

 

Susannah Eig

MA Shakespeare and Creativity 2016/17

“I decided to attend this course because it was the only program that offered side-by-side academic and practical study of Shakespeare. To my great happiness, the course delivered many times over. From fresh academic study with a brilliant introduction to creative criticism to ensemble collaboration partnered with RSC-led performance work, the course is diverse, engaging, intellectually stimulating, yet grounded in the actualities and practicalities of the creative process. There is nowhere else I know of where students of Shakespeare can pursue such a range of approaches while continually developing their own creativity.”

This programme brings together academic, theatrical and civic interests in Shakespeare and creativity, generating a comprehensive and forward-looking conversation about what Shakespeare is and can be in today's world.

You will produce traditional academic essays as well as creative work, all of which will explore Shakespeare’s potential in the modern world.  You will make new creative work with and at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and benefit from unique and exciting access to the RSC's studio theatre, The Other Place.

You will study four core modules: [full descriptions available below]

  • Shakespearience
  • Shakespeare and Theatre Practice (formerly Shakespeare and Creative Practice)
  • The Shakespeare Ensemble
  • Shakespeare and Society

You will choose two optional modules from a range of Shakespeare Institute modules.

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.

Assessment

Shakespearience and optional modules are each assessed by written assignment; Shakespeare and Theatre Practice is assessed by either two performance assignments and a 2,000-word research paper, or a 4,000-word research paper; Shakespeare Ensemble and Shakespeare and Society both combine shorter written assignments with creative work. 

You will complete the MA with a 15,000-word dissertation. For your dissertation, you will have the chance to work intensively on an RSC project at The Other Place theatre.

Explore the Shakespeare Institute

Why study this course

  • Location – studying at the Shakespeare Institute in the heart of Shakespeare's Stratford-upon-Avon offers you an academic experience unequalled by any other university. You will study within walking distance of Shakespeare's birthplace, school and grave, and the theatres of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
  • Shakespeare Institute and Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) collaboration – you will benefit from our exciting five-year collaboration with the RSC at The Other Place which has seen the reinstatement of the iconic studio theatre. You will be able to access creative and teaching spaces at The Other Place, as well as the expertise of RSC artists and practitioners. To find out more, you can listen to some of our students talking about their experiences of the collaboration. 
  • Access to fantastic resources – you will be surrounded by a number of resources. The Shakespeare Institute’s own library is a renowned collection of international importance and you will also have access to the outstanding picture collections, records and library holdings of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
  • Be a part of a vibrant and active community – the Institute provides an intense learning experience in the study of Shakespeare from a range of perspectives, with the support and encouragement of the Institute’s staff, who are all respected in their own field.
  • Attend postgraduate conferences – the Institute plays host to a number of national and international conferences. The highlight of the academic year is the annual Britgrad conference organised by students for students. You will be able to join postgraduate students from all over the world to give and hear short papers on all aspects of Shakespeare and early-modern drama. Britgrad provides a unique opportunity for graduate students to share their work with their peers and to hear what other graduates in similar and related fields are working on.

Modules

You will study the following four core modules:

Shakespearience

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. “Shakespearience” will be about reading as process rather than product, and as such, at least potentially, experientially exciting and adventurous. 
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Shakespeare and Theatre Practice (formerly Shakespeare and Creative 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.
Assessment: Two performance assignments and a 2,000-word research paper, or a 4,000-word research paper

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 you 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.
Assessment: Performance and written work

  • View 'Delectable Sin' - a song composed for 2014/15 Shakespeare and Creativity students, inspired by their response to Othello as part of this module

Shakespeare in Society

Featuring tuition from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the new Birmingham Library (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: Performance and written work

  • View Shakespeare Unbard – a film of work developed for performance at the Royal Shakespeare Company produced by Shakespeare and Creativity students in 2013 as part of this module.

You will also choose two optional modules from a range which typically includes:

Early Modern Drama: Middleton and Jonson

This module will introduce and contextualise two of the most significant dramatists working in the same period as Shakespeare. Seminars will focus on informal introductory lectures, student presentations, and group discussion. Student presentations will place one of the plays in a broader dramatic and/or cultural context, and/or engage in close analysis of key passages. 
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

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.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Shakespeare and Early Modern Playhouse Culture

Early modern dramatists typically wrote with particular companies, performance spaces and audiences in mind. This module therefore approaches Shakespeare through the culture of the early modern playhouse. Our central aims will be to ask how the social, cultural, spatial, professional and technological make-up of venues such as the Globe and Blackfriars shaped early modern drama by Shakespeare and others, and to consider the significance of the playhouse to wider early modern culture and society. Using a range of methods drawn from literary criticism, cultural history, theatre history, sensory and affect studies, textual studies and material theatre, we will examine plays in relation to the conditions of playing at outdoor amphitheatres and indoor candlelit venues, always keeping in mind the social dimensions of play-making, involving countless interactions amongst playgoers, actors, musicians and other company members. We will give particular consideration to playhouse sensations, stage technologies, effects and spectacle, audience expectations, actorly skill, company practices, music, documents of performance, and repertory, among other topics. A range of plays by Shakespeare will be studied in direct conjunction with other early modern drama both canonical and less familiar.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Shakespeare’s Craftsmanship

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.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Shakespeare’s Legacy

This module considers the adaptation and appropriation of Shakespeare’s plays, persona, and possessions from 1660 to the present day, paying particular attention to how changes and developments in theatre practice, aesthetic tastes, social concerns, political events, the heritage industry, and commercial markets have shaped the history of Shakespeare’s ‘afterlife’. The module looks at trends broadly chronologically, focusing on particular examples as it traces how the plays (and other Shakespeariana) were received and reinterpreted in light of different artistic, intellectual, and commercial movements from the late seventeenth to early twenty-first centuries. The distinction between ‘adaptations’, ‘appropriations’, ‘translations’, and ‘versions’ will be questioned, and you will be invited to consider the extent to which the different adaptations you read or see rely upon the original Shakespearian text for context and meaning.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay, or 3,000-word creative writing project with 1,000-word reflective commentary

Shakespeare’s Text

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.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay


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.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2018/19:

  • UK/EU: £9,000 full-time
  • International: £17,010 full-time

Fee status

Eligibility for UK/EU or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

We can also confirm that EU students who are already studying at the University of Birmingham or who have an offer to start their studies in the 2018-19 academic year will continue to be charged the UK fee rate applicable at the time, provided this continues to be permitted by UK law. The UK Government has also confirmed that students from the EU applying to courses starting in the 2018-19 academic year will not see any changes to their loan eligibility or fee status. This guarantee will apply for the full duration of the course, even if the course finishes after the UK has left the EU.

Paying your fees

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.

 

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Entry requirements

We ask that you supply evidence of either:

  • A bachelors degree (2:1) in a relevant field

OR

  • Relevant professional experience.  This should be demonstrated in a portfolio which catalogues and contextualises your work in a relevant field (e.g. catalogue of a recent art installation, actor’s CV, transcript giving indication of professional training, web-based archive of recent work, folio of published poems, etc)

In your application, you should use your personal statement to indicate your creative potential, either proposing specific creative projects you intend to pursue on the MA or reflecting on your existing creative work. This can be up to 5,000 characters in length. In particular, your statement should address the following research questions:

  • What were/are the objectives of the piece, and why? What obstacles did you/might you encounter? How might these have been/be avoided?
  • To what tradition does this piece belong? To what critical conversations or bodies of practice does it contribute? What does it contribute to them?
  • What are its implications for future work? What does/might your work initiate in the field of Shakespeare studies more generally?

All prospective students must also submit a sample of written work as part of the online application process. This must be provided when you make your application or within no more than two weeks of submitting your application to us. If this is not provided within the stated timeframe your application may be declined. This should be a sample of written work on Shakespeare of around 2,000 words. If you do not have an existing piece of writing to submit, please take a short passage of up to 60 lines from any Shakespeare play and write an essay of around 2,000 words which discusses the performance possibilities of this extract and how it contributes to the play as a whole.

Your application must also be supported by two letters of recommendation, either from academics or equivalent authorities from creative industries as appropriate.

Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Please review our Entry Requirements before making your application.

International students requiring visas

Monday 2 July 2018 is the application deadline for international students who require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2018 made after this date - a new application should be made for September 2019. Applications will reopen for 2019 entry by 21 September 2018.

Before you make your application

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

This programme will make use of the unrivalled resources of Shakespeare’s Stratford, involving expert sessions from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Library of Birmingham.  

It also particularly benefits from the Institute's collaboration collaboration with the RSC, offering unique and extensive opportunities to work with the Company and at The Other Place. Students will also have access to the Shakespeare Institute Library, the Library of the Shakespeare Centre that curates the archives of the RSC, and the Shakespeare Collection held at the Library of Birmingham.

The programmes will also draw upon the expertise of key members of the Shakespeare Institute team: co-convenors Professor Ewan Fernie and Dr Abigail Rokison-Woodall; and Director of the Shakespeare Institute, Professor Michael Dobson.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University.

The University's Careers Network provides advice and information specifically for postgraduates that will help you to develop an effective career and skills development strategy, and to make the most of your time with us at the University. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated careers and employability team to deliver tailored programmes of careers events and local support.

You will have opportunities to: meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs; attend employer presentations and skills workshops; receive individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

You will also be able to access our full range of careers support for up to two years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: Shakespeare Studies

Postgraduates at the Shakespeare Institute are able to develop a broad range of creative, research and theatre skills, as well as in-depth subject knowledge.

Over the past two years, over 93% of our postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation.

In recent years, our postgraduates have successfully entered a variety of sectors from teaching in secondary and higher education to performing arts, publishing, museums and library and archive work. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: National Trust; Royal Shakespeare Company; Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; Shakespeare's Globe, University of Birmingham and University of Oxford.

The Shakespeare Institute is situated in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon, giving you an opportunity to study within walking distance of Shakespeare’s birthplace, school and grave.

Students outside the Shakespeare Institute

Learning resources are all around you: the Shakespeare Institute library; the outstanding picture collections, records and library holdings of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; and the archives of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). We also have the theatres of the Royal Shakespeare Company on our doorstep.

The Shakespeare Institute at The Other Place

Shakespeare Institute students benefit from our exciting five-year collaboration with the RSC which has seen the University become a Founding Partner of The Other Place. The theatre closed in 2006 but has been redeveloped in Stratford-upon-Avon, home of both the RSC and the Shakespeare Institute. Opened in spring 2016 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, The Other Place is the RSC’s creative hub for rehearsal, training, learning and research. Our students are able to access creative and teaching spaces at The Other Place, as well as the expertise of RSC artists and practitioners.

University of Birmingham students working with an RCS practitioner at The Other Place

Living in Stratford-upon-Avon

Most of our campus-based students choose to live in Stratford, rather than Birmingham, and we would recommend that choice as it facilitates participation in all the activities of the Institute.

Stratford-upon-Avon is an attractive market town with more than 800 years of history located in the heart of England. It blends heritage, culture, theatre, arts and gardens along with a thriving community offering a wide variety of leisure and shopping experiences all within walking distance. The Shakespeare Institute itself is only seven minutes from the Railway Station and five minutes from the town centre.

The Shakespeare Institute does not have its own accommodation so students are responsible for making their own living arrangements for the duration of their study. There are, however, many sources of accommodation in Stratford-upon-Avon and we give as much assistance as we can to help students find somewhere to live.

Professor Ewan Fernie giving a presentation

Virtual tour of the Shakespeare Institute

Use the interactive virtual tour below to move around the Shakespeare Institute today. Drag the image below to rotate your view and click on doorways to change rooms. Navigate through the library, gardens, music hall, seminar rooms and main hall. A full screen version is available on Google maps.