MA Shakespeare Studies

Start date
September
Duration
1 year full-time; 2-3 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught
Fees

Annual tuition fee for 2020/21:
UK/EU: £9,250 full-time
International: £19,170 full-time
More detail.

This programme offers an unrivalled opportunity to study Shakespeare in the heart of his hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Delivered by and taught at The Shakespeare Institute, it develops a critical but appreciative understanding of Shakespeare’s contribution to literary and theatrical history, and the place his works occupy in today’s cultural landscape.

It provides you with a rigorous and wide-ranging knowledge of approaches to the study of Shakespeare, with emphasis on criticism, textual studies, the plays in performance, and the history of Shakespeare's reception. 

The dynamism of the programme owes much to the sheer diversity of critical, theatrical, and historical approaches. It offers sustained study in a variety of fields, drawing on the special interests of a dedicated team of Shakespeare scholars. 

It has proved invaluable for students heading towards a variety of careers, and it provides a solid foundation for research at a higher level.

[Lead Image: Cymbeline, 2016, Royal Shakespeare Company. Photo by Ellie Kurttz © RSC]

Explore the Shakespeare Institute

Virtual Open Day: Postgraduate opportunities with The Shakespeare Institute - 26 November 2019, 15:00-16:00

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Join us online to watch a range of staff and student videos, and take part in our online chat where Dr Erin Sullivan will be answering your questions about postgraduate study.

Find out more and register

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 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 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.
  • Access to fantastic resources – you will be surrounded by a number of resources to develop your learning. 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.
  • 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. Read more about life at The Shakespeare Institute
  • 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 four core modules, plus one module in performance studies, plus one optional module from a range of Shakespeare Institute modules. You will also complete a 15,000 word dissertation.

Core modules

You will study four core modules:

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 through student presentation and response, with a preliminary lecture on each study day. 
Assessment: 4,000-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 to 1613. Learning is via student presentation and response, with a preliminary lecture on each study day. 
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

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: 4,000-word essay

Research Skills in Shakespeare

Classes introduce the research techniques applicable in the various fields associated with Shakespeare studies, and explore the rich resources available through the University and in Stratford-upon-Avon. This knowledge is applied in an assessed Bibliographical Essay on a topic of your choice, which prepares for the dissertation. 
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Performance Studies Modules

You will also take one module in performance studies, chosen from the following:

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 will include Richard IIIHamletMacbethAntony 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 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, students 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, and Giles Block; the second approach explores the legacy of Stanislavski in the Shakespearean work of 20th/21st century practitioners in Europe and the United States; the third approach brings the devising techniques of prominent physical theatre practitioners to a creative examination of Shakespeare’s text. 
Please note: this module is delivered over long weekends, and spaces are limited. 
Assessment: Either two performance assignments and a 2,000-word research paper, or one 4,000-word research paper

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 and 1,000-word reflective commentary

Optional modules

You will also study one optional module – either a second performance studies module (above) or another Shakespeare Institute module - from a range which typically includes:

Early Modern Drama: Middleton and Jonson

This module will introduce and contextualize 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

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

History of Shakespeare Criticism

This module will combine a historical overview of the main developments in Shakespeare criticism from the 1590s to the present with detailed investigation of key texts, covering: the canonisation of Shakespeare; character criticism; biographical criticism; imagery and symbolist criticism; critical study of the plays as created artefacts; the relationship between criticism and performance; historicist criticism; and new critical approaches. You will read weekly set texts for discussion in seminar, and a weekly lecture will place these texts in their historical context. You will be expected to undertake independent reading around the topics after the seminar discussion, guided by topic-specific reading lists which are circulated each week.
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

Dissertation

On successful completion of the six taught modules, you will begin work on your dissertation.

In this module you will undertake a substantial piece of independent research. This may be based on - but will extend - work undertaken for previous modules in the programme. 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 15,000 words. 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.

Fees

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2020/21 are as follows:

  • UK / EU: £9,250 full-time; £4,625 part-time
  • International: £19,170 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Fee status

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


For EU students applying for the 2020/21 academic year

The UK Government has confirmed that EU students will continue to be eligible for 'home fee status' for entry in September 2020, and will continue to have access to financial support available via student loans for the duration of their course. For more information take a look at the gov.uk website.

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.

How To Apply

Please review our Entry Requirements before making your application.

Application routes

Please note that the duration of this programme is one year full-time, while part-time study can be up to three years. However, part-time programmes are only eligible for Government Masters Loans if they are no more than twice the length of the full-time version. Therefore any UK/EU part-time students wishing to apply for Government Masters Loans must complete the programme within two years. If you plan to study over two years and/or would like to apply for a Masters Loan, please select the fixed part-time application route shown. If you would like the flexibility to study over up to three years, and are not seeking funding, please select the standard part-time application route.

Application deadlines

The deadline for International students to apply is Wednesday 1 July 2020. The deadline for UK/EU students is Thursday 10 September 2020.

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

Our Standard Requirements

Our usual entry requirement for this programme is a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in English or a related subject.

Please note that all applications are treated on their merits, and we will review your references, personal statement and past experience alongside your qualifications when considering your application.

In addition to the usual supporting documents, when you apply for this course we ask you to submit an example of your written work; this will preferably be an essay on Shakespeare, of about 2,000 words. If you do not have a piece of work that is of the right length it is better to send something that is longer rather than shorter so that we have a better chance to assess your critical writing on a literary topic.

Not everyone has written at any length on Shakespeare at the time they apply, and we are therefore prepared to assess an applicant's work on another literary topic if necessary. Ideally this would be based on a comparable subject (e.g. on drama, or on another author of Shakespeare's time), but of course you will also want to choose something that gives a fair representation of your work. If you would like to discuss which piece to send, please contact Professor John Jowett directly.

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, 21 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 59 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


The programme allows access to the unique Shakespearian resources of the Shakespeare Institute Library, the Library of the Shakespeare Centre that curates the archives of the RSC, and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Study materials for this programme are enhanced by the close ties that the Shakespeare Institute has with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the archives associated with both of these institutions.

Course delivery

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

As a full-time student, you will typically take three modules in each term, followed by your dissertation. Depending on the modules you take, you can typically expect five to eight hours of classroom time per week. If you are a part-time student, you will study the programme over up to three years.

In addition, all students are expected to attend the weekly Thursday Seminar for all Institute members.

Each module represents up to 200 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, assignment preparation and independent study.

Please note that this programme is only available on campus, and cannot be studied by distance learning.  

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 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. Over the past 5 years, 88% of our postgraduates were in work and/or further study 6 months after graduation (DLHE 2012 - 2017).

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.