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MA Shakespeare and Creativity

Start date
September
Duration
1 year full-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught
Fees
Annual tuition fees for 2024 entry:
UK: £10,530 full-time
International: £24,120 full-time
More details.

This unique programme has been designed to create forward-thinking conversations about what Shakespeare is and what Shakespeare can be in today’s world.

As a student on the only course of its kind in the world, you will study everything from the history of Shakespeare in society to literary criticism to theatre practices; before putting your knowledge in to practice through a newly devised piece of theatre in response to Shakespeare’s work.

This creative and ambitious programme is ideal for aspiring academics, actors, writers, directors, arts administrators, as well as anyone with a lively interest in Shakespeare. 

You will have the opportunity to study the life and work of Shakespeare and combine it with the thrill of producing new creative work. It brings together academic, theatrical and civic interests in Shakespeare to encourage and challenge you to think about new approaches to Shakespeare in the modern world.

Taught by world-renowned Shakespearean experts, you will explore the language and drama of Shakespeare, different approaches to performing Shakespeare and the history of Shakespeare in society.

Delivered by and taught at The Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, the programme 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 with RSC artists – predominantly within the Shakespeare and Society and The Shakespeare Ensemble modules.

Please note: There are specific application deadlines for this programme. Please see 'How to apply' in course details for more information.

RSC and University of Birmingham logos

Explore the Shakespeare Institute

Scholarships for 2024 entry

The University of Birmingham is proud to offer a range of scholarships for our postgraduate programmes. With a scholarship pot worth over £2 million, we are committed to alleviating financial barriers to support you in taking your next steps.

Each scholarship has its own specific deadlines and eligibility criteria. Please familiarise yourself with the information on individual scholarship webpages prior to submitting an application.

Explore our scholarships

[Lead image: Hamlet, 2016, Royal Shakespeare Company. Photo by Sam Allard © RSC]

At Birmingham, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research students also have the opportunity to learn graduate academic languages free of charge, to support your studies.

Student life at the Shakespeare Institute is wonderful as the staff are all extremely talented, knowledgeable and supportive. Being in the centre of Stratford-Upon-Avon really enhances the student experience as we can take advantage of the amazing links the University has with the Royal Shakespeare Company theatres.

Ella

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.
  • Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) collaboration – Our exciting collaboration with the RSC offers students a truly unique learning experience, blending academia and creativity in an exciting new way to foster innovative methods of theatre and learning. Since its launch, students on the MA Shakespeare and Creativity programme have experienced unique and extensive opportunities to work with RSC artists on a variety of projects and modules. 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. Find out more about life at The Shakespeare Institute.
  • 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 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.

Core modules

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.

Optional modules

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’s Afterlives

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: HamletTroilus and CressidaSir Thomas MoreRomeo and JulietRichard IIKing LearMeasure for MeasureThe 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

Independent research

You can choose to complete either a 12,000-word dissertation or a practice-based dissertation . If you choose the practice based dissertation, 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.

Fees

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2024 entry:

  • UK: £10,530 full-time
  • International: £24,120 full-time

Fee status

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

Paying your fees

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


Are you an international applicant?

All international applicants to this course will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of £2,000 on receipt of an offer, to secure their place.

Find out more about the deposit >>.

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.

How To Apply

 Please read our Entry Requirements carefully.

Please ensure that your application has been completed fully by the deadline as we cannot consider your application without all of the necessary documentation (writing sample, references, personal statement and results, if available). If you have outstanding documentation relating to pending language test results and degree results, please make this clear on your application, and your application will be considered.

It is not necessary to wait until you have finished your current programme of study to make an application as we are able to make offers which are conditional on you achieving a particular qualification.

How to Apply for a Postgraduate Degree - Taught programmes

Application deadlines

The deadline for International students (requiring a VISA) to apply is 30 June 2024. The deadline for UK students is 30 August 2024.

Making your application

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate taught programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the taught programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

Our Standard 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.)

If you do not have a 2:1 degree (or equivalent) in English or a related subject, you may be interested in our short courses in Shakespeare: Spring into Shakespeare or Fall in with Shakespeare. Completion of either of these short courses can be used in place of the Honours degree entry requirement for our MA programmes in Shakespeare, Shakespeare and Education, and Shakespeare and Creativity.

In your application, you should use your personal statement to indicate your creative potential and reflect 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 written work should be about Shakespeare, his contemporaries or work adapted from or based on Shakespeare, and should be around 2,000 words. If you do not have an existing piece of writing to submit, you may 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.

International/EU students

Academic requirements: We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - use our handy guide below to see what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional Course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 20 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 67 with no less than 64 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Learn more about international entry requirements

International Requirements


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

It particularly benefits from the Institute's collaboration collaboration with the RSC, offering unique and extensive opportunities to work with the Company. 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: convenor Professor Dr Abigail Rokison-Woodall; and Director of the Shakespeare Institute, Professor Michael Dobson.

Teaching year

We have three teaching terms per year, the autumn, spring and summer terms. Term dates can be found on our website.

As a full-time student, you will typically take three modules in each of the first two terms, followed by your dissertation. If you are a part-time student, you will typically take three modules across each year, followed by your dissertation.

Each module represents a total of 200 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, homework and assignment preparation.

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).

The University of Birmingham is the top choice for the UK's major employers searching for graduate recruits, according to The Graduate Market 2024 report.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for your future career, but this can also be enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University and the College of Arts and Law.

The University's Careers Network provides expert guidance and activities especially for postgraduates, which will help you achieve your career goals. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated  careers and employability team who offer tailored advice and a programme of College-specific careers events.

You will be encouraged to make the most of your postgraduate experience and will have the opportunity to:

  • Receive one-to-one careers advice, including guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique, whether you are looking for a career inside or outside of academia
  • Meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs and employer presentations
  • Attend an annual programme of careers fairs, skills workshops and conferences, including bespoke events for postgraduates in the College of Arts and Law
  • Take part in a range of activities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to potential employers and enhance your CV

What’s more, you will be able to access our full range of careers support for up to 2 years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: The Shakespeare Institute

As a postgraduates at the Shakespeare Institute, you will develop a broad range of creative, research and theatre skills, as well as in-depth subject knowledge.

In recent years, our postgraduates have successfully entered a variety of sectors from teaching in secondary and higher education to performing arts, publishing, and museum, 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.