Students will study three core modules plus three optional modules and an education-focussed dissertation. Core modules include:
- Shakespeare and Pedagogy (includes 4 full days onsite over Easter)
- Research Skills and Methods (delivered on-site in Semester 1, 2 hours per week or online)
- Plays and Poems of Shakespeare A
Full module descriptions are available below.
On-site study is in Stratford-upon-Avon. Distance learning students can choose to study through a combination of on-site modules and online distance learning modules (please note that it is not possible to combine these methods of study within a single module). The schedule of delivery allows access to all modules through a range of modes over any three-year period, although some are not available to study via distance learning.
You will study three core modules:
Shakespeare and Pedagogy (on-site and distance learning students)
This module is an opportunity to explore the history, philosophy and pedagogy of ‘teaching Shakespeare.’ You will consider the different elements of Shakespeare’s work that are taught and the methods and resources used to teach them. You will have the chance to prepare practical teaching activities and assess learning outcomes. The Pedagogy module is taught collaboratively by the Royal Shakespeare Company Education department and the Shakespeare Institute. (One part of this module is delivered as an intensive block over 4 days, scheduled to coincide with the Easter holidays (the remainder is taught online in April/ May).
Please note: because of the nature of this module you will need to attend classes in Stratford-upon-Avon and it cannot be delivered solely via distance learning.
Assessment: 4,000-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
Research Skills (on-site and distance learning students)
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
You will then choose three optional modules from a range which typically includes:
The History of Shakespearean Performance, 1642-2020 (on-site and distance learning)
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
Early Modern Drama in Context: Playhouse, Culture and Society (on-site and distance learning)
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 (on-site and distance learning)
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 and 1,000-word reflective commentary
Textual Studies in Shakespeare (On campus and distance learning)
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
Performing Shakespeare in Asia (distance learning only)
Shakespeare is by far the most produced and adapted western playwright in East Asian theatre cultures. Approaches to translating, performing and re-writing his plays have changed over time, and are now at their most diverse and experimental. Correlatively, connections and relationships between Asian and Anglophone performance histories have also matured. Using translated and annotated archival recordings, this module examines the historical contexts and theatrical concerns of East Asian Shakespeare performances, relating them comparatively to Anglophone and European textual and performance histories. It is jointly taught by the National University of Singapore and The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham as a distance learning module.
Assessment: 1,500-word assignment (40%), 3,000-word research paper (60%)
Shakespeare and Theatre Practice (on-site but available to DL students)
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
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
All students will complete the programme with a dissertation. The dissertation is an opportunity for you to extend ideas encountered in the 'Shakespeare and Pedagogy' module. Thus the dissertation will have a primary focus on methods, materials, or the philosophy/sociology/history of 'teaching Shakespeare'. It is possible, therefore, that a student (particularly if a practising teacher or lecturer) may be undertaking a practical project and the dissertation will be a report and assessment of the project. 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 the research in a dissertation of 12,000 words in appropriate academic English. In designing, carrying out and writing up the study, you will be supported by a supervisor.
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.