You will study three core modules, plus three optional modules from a range of Shakespeare Institute modules. You will also complete a 12,000 word dissertation.
You will study three 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: 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 to 1613. Learning is via student presentation and response, with a preliminary lecture on each study day.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
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 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
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 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
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
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's Bodies of Knowledge
This module will appeal to you if you are passionate about Shakespeare but also have a restless desire to explore the rich and strange panoply of early modern systems of knowledge through interdisciplinary study.
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. 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 monstrous; the corporeal and the technological; the masculine and the feminine; and old worlds and new.
Our aim will be to gain new and compelling insights into Shakespeare’s bodies as they perform the systems of knowledge which generate their meanings at the very nexus of material, textual and performative cultures.
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: 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
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
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 12,000 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.