MA/Diploma/Distance learning Shakespeare and Theatre

Start date
September
Duration
MA: 1 year full-time, 2-3 years part-time; Diploma: 8 months full-time, 16 months part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Distance learning, Taught
Fees

2020/21 annual fees: 
UK/EU: £9,250 full-time
International: £19,170 full-time
Part-time/distance: £1,028 per 20 credits
More details.

Do you want to immerse yourself in the works of Shakespeare? Are you interested in understanding how Shakespeare’s plays work in performance?

This innovative Shakespeare Institute programme allows you to study the way in which Shakespeare’s plays have been read, interpreted and performed through history, up to the modern moment.

You will have the opportunity to look at different productions and adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays in their historical, political, and cultural contexts and to think about the performance choices actors and directors make when approaching Shakespeare’s texts. You will also explore how the textual history of Shakespeare’s plays influences performance today.

The flexible programme takes a historical approach to interpretation and styles of presentation and promotes the value of ‘close reading’ as the basis for evaluating the plays on the page, stage, and screen.

Made up of a diverse community of Shakespeare enthusiasts, this programme is well suited to anybody with an interest in the relationship between Shakespeare and the Theatre.

You can study on-site at The Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon or by distance learning.

[Lead image: Macbeth, 2018, Royal Shakespeare Company. Photo by Richard Davenport © RSC]

Explore the Shakespeare Institute

Virtual Open Day: Postgraduate opportunities with The Shakespeare Institute - 29 October 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 May

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 have the opportunity to work in creative and teaching spaces at The Other Place, as well as benefitting from the expertise of RSC artists and practitioners.
  • Practical elements on the programme – a real focus throughout the MA is not just about reading Shakespeare’s plays but also getting up on your feet and exploring Shakespeare plays by performing them.
  • Flexibility – you are able to study full-time or part-time, or by distance learning, to fit your studies into your schedule. 
  • Become part of a vibrant and active community – as a dedicated graduate school the Shakespeare Institute provides an intense learning experience in the study of Shakespeare from a range of rich perspectives. From productions, play-reading, choirs to weekly seminars there is never a dull moment at the Shakespeare Institute. For our distance learning route, students will also very quickly find themselves part of this exciting community with significant email contact from academic staff. Read more about life at The Shakespeare Institute.

Modules

All on-site students will study three core modules plus three optional modules and a dissertation. Core modules include:

  • Shakespeare’s Theatre (delivered on-site over three weekends in Semester 1)
  • Research Skills (delivered on-site in Semester 1, 2 hours per week)
  • Practice as Research/ Research in Practice (delivered on-site in Semester 2, 2 hours per week – to be taken in the final year of study for part-time students)

Distance learning students will study two core modules plus four optional modules and a dissertation. Core modules include:

  • Shakespeare’s Theatre (Either available online or delivered on-site over three weekends in Semester 1)
  • Research Skills (delivered either on-site in Semester 1, 2 hours per week or online)

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. 

Core modules

Shakespeare's Theatre (on-site and distance learning)

There are three components of this module. The first is a close reading of text that will lead to a consideration of the theatrical function and distinctive qualities of Shakespeare's language. The second is a study of Elizabethan and early Jacobean stages and performance; and the third is an extension of the historical perspective, including Shakespeare's medieval inheritance, that will inform inquiry into the contemporary and continuing theatrical life. Plays studied include some or all of Hamlet, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, Richard II, Titus Andronicus, Henry V, Cymbeline and The Tempest
Assessment: Two 2,000-word essays

Research Skills (on-site and distance learning)

This module will provide you with essential research skills training applicable in the fields of Shakespeare studies, with a particular emphasis on performance studies. You will actively assess the different kinds of evidence and methods used in these fields and critically evaluate the epistemological assumptions that underline them. The work undertaken in this module will help inform the direction and methodology of your research during the MA, particularly in the dissertation stages.
Assessment: Two written assignments

Practice as Research/ Research in Practice (on-site)

This module is designed to support MA students in developing their dissertation research topic, and to equip them with the skills and experience that they need to present and communicate their research to an academic audience. The module will develop students’ understanding of Practice as Research – both in terms of rigour and ethics.  It will help them to gain confidence in speaking to an audience and responding to questions. Students will be supported through archive tasks, designed to help them with undertaking research into past theatre productions.  This module is co-taught with the RSC.
Assessment:  Conference-style paper presentation and reflective essay.

Optional modules

On-site students will choose three optional modules and distance learning student’s four optional modules from a range which typically includes:

Early Modern Drama: Middleton and Jonson (on-site and distance learning)

This module will introduce and contextualise two of the most significant dramatists working in the same period as Shakespeare. The module will emphasise the particular interpretative skills that can be developed to understand the distinctive and often un-Shakespearian qualities of the plays studied. 
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

History of Shakespeare in Performance (on-site and distance learning)

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 IIIHamletMacbethAntony and Cleopatra, and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Shakespeare’s Bodies of Knowledge (on-site and distance learning)

Shakespeare’s plays often present the body as the site of competing or co-existing 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; disease and humoral theory; models of gender and race; teratology (the study of ‘monstrosity’); natural history and cosmology; witchcraft and demonology; heraldry, burial and commemoration; post-humanism and early robotics; colonial discourse; and much more! Through these disciplines Shakespeare’s bodies stage their own liminality, and are shown to inhabit the spaces between life and death; remembering and forgetting; the natural and the supernatural; the human and the animal; the corporeal and the technological; the masculine and the feminine; and old worlds and new.

Using a range of historical, contextual and illustrative material – from spectacular funerary monuments to anatomical manuals; from the archaeological remains of magic to the wonder literature of early modern monstrosity; from communal rituals of bodily humiliation to early modern automata – we’ll plunge into the hidden recesses of Shakespeare’s strange, wondrous and compelling bodies of knowledge.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Shakespeare and Early Modern Playhouse Culture (on-site and distance learning)

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 (on-site and distance learning)

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 (on-site and distance learning)

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

Shakespeare’s Text (on-site and distance learning)

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 HamletTroilus and CressidaSir Thomas MoreRomeo and JulietRichard IIKing LearMeasure for MeasureThe Merry Wives of Windsor, and Timon of Athens
Assessment: 4,000-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%)

Shakespearience (distance learning only)

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. In a series of intensively collaborative workshops, special course blog and in seminars, it will dwell and linger in Shakespeare’s language and stagecraft in order to explore how its complexity produces experiential meanings, in readers, audience members and in character. “Shakespearience” will be about reading as process rather than product, and as such, experientially exciting and adventurous.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

History of Shakespeare Criticism (on-site only)

The course 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 artifacts; 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.

Plays and Poems A (on-site only)

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: 4,000-word essay

Plays and Poems B (on-site only)

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. (Plays and Poems A is the pre‐requisite module for Plays and Poems B.)
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Shakespeare and Theatre Practice (on-site only)

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.
(Please note: because of the nature of this module it cannot be delivered via distance learning.)
Assessment: Either two performance assignments and a 2,000-word research paper, or one 4,000-word research paper

Dissertation

On successful completion of the six taught modules, MA students will enrol on the 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 your research in a dissertation of 15,000 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.

Fees

We charge an annual tuition fee for the campus-based, full-time MA programme. Fees for 2020/21 are as follows: 

  • UK/EU: £9,250 full-time
  • International: £19,170 full-time 

Fees for the Diploma, part-time and distance learning modes are £1,028 per module and £3,084 for the dissertation. 

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 2019/20 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 2019/20 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.

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 two-year 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.

However, if you do not meet the academic entry requirements, we would still encourage you to apply and we will consider you for our Affiliate entry route. This enables you to register for the programme’s core modules initially, and upon successful completion you are able to register for the full programme.

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.

All prospective students must also submit a sample of written work as part of the online application process. You can do this before you submit your form, or return to the application to upload your sample at a later date; however, we will need to see an example of your work before an offer is made. The writing sample should focus on Shakespeare and be around 2,000 words in length. 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.

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

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.

Full-time study is on site in Stratford-upon-Avon and you will typically take three modules in each term, followed by your dissertation. 

Part-time students can choose to study the whole programme either on-site, primarily by online distance learning or a combination of the two, over up to three years. Please note that some modules are not available to study via distance learning. 

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

Studying by distance learning

Many of the programme’s modules are also available via distance learning, meaning that you can study online from anywhere in the world. Distance learning modules will combine print, audio, and video teaching methods in order to give students a varied and enriching educational experience.

Although self-study is central to doing a programme by distance learning, support is always available. 

You will have a personal tutor and dissertation supervisor to guide you and answer any questions, and you have access to a wide range of online resources too. You also have the opportunity to meet other students and academic staff through online chats and discussion forums.

Read more about distance learning with the Shakespeare Institute

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.