MA Shakespeare (On campus or by distance learning)

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

Annual tuition fees for 2024 entry:
UK: £10,530 full-time
International: £24,120 full-time
More details.


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.

There are three ways in which this course can be studied:

Students have the opportunity to study this programme on-site at The Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon or by online, distance learning. Studying part-time means you can continue in employment alongside studying for your Masters.

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

Explore the Shakespeare Institute

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.


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. Studying and living within walking distance of Shakespeare's birthplace, school and grave, and the theatres of the Royal Shakespeare Company will afford you unique opportunities to immerse yourself in Shakespeare.
  • 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 have accessed specially programmed workshops, courses and events, featuring input from RSC artists and practitioners, and visited RSC shows. 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 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.


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.

Core modules

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

Optional Modules

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’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 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: 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

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.


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

  • 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.

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.

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 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 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.

How to Apply for a Postgraduate Degree - Taught programmes

Application deadlines

The deadline for International students (requiring a VISA) to apply is 3 July 2023. The deadline for UK students is 31 August 2023.

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

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

If you do not have a 2:1 Honours 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 one of these short courses can be used in place of the Honours degree entry requirements for our MA programmes in Shakespeare, Shakespeare and Education, and Shakespeare and Creativity.

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 make an enquiry to Dr Abigail Rokison-Woodall.

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

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 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 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.

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).

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).

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.

Culture and collections

Schools, institutes and departments

Services and facilities