Dr Ella Hawkins

Dr Ella Hawkins

Shakespeare Institute
Teaching Fellow in Early Modern English

Contact details

The Shakespeare Institute
Mason Croft
Church Street
CV37 6HP

I am a Shakespeare scholar and design historian interested particularly in stage and costume design for contemporary theatrical performance. My forthcoming monograph, Shakespeare in Elizabethan Costume: ‘Period Dress’ in Twenty-First-Century Performance, explores how Elizabethan and Jacobean styles of dress have been used to reinterpret Shakespeare’s plays for modern audiences. I often collaborate with arts and heritage organisations on public engagement projects relating to design and theatre history. During the 2021/22 academic year, I will be teaching on various English Literature modules in the University of Birmingham’s School of English, Drama and Creative Studies.


  • PhD on ‘The Significance of Jacobethanism in Twenty-First-Century Costume Design for Shakespeare’ (Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham) – 2020
  • MA in Shakespeare and Theatre (Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham) – 2016
  • BA in Theatre and Performance Studies (University of Warwick) - 2015


My academic career began at the University of Warwick, where I completed a degree in Theatre and Performance Studies and discovered my passion for research. I pursued my MA in Shakespeare and Theatre and my PhD in Shakespeare Studies at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham. My research interests have always centred on Shakespeare in performance, broadening in recent years to include costume design, dress history, material culture, and musical theatre.

I share my fascination with design by collaborating with arts and heritage organisations, and by creating edible art inspired by historical textiles, objects, and costumes. Between 2017 and 2020, I worked with the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Theatre and Performance Department on the development of a major new exhibition located on the site of The Theatre in Shoreditch. In 2017, I was a Research Advocate at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and between 2016 and 2017 I advised Royal Shakespeare Company directors on the performance histories of Shakespeare’s Roman plays.


During the 2021/22 academic year, I will be convening the postgraduate module ‘Shakespeare’s Theatre’ at the Shakespeare Institute.

I will also be teaching on the undergraduate modules ‘Shakespeare: Elizabethan’ and ‘Reading English’ in the School of English, Drama and Creative Studies


My research explores how ideas are communicated through visual elements of performance and culture. My forthcoming research monograph, titled Shakespeare in Elizabethan Costume: ‘Period Dress’ in Twenty-First-Century Performance, examines how early modern garments are recycled and reimagined in contemporary costume design for Shakespeare. The book deconstructs the ideas, assumptions, and desires that cluster around the clothing of the early modern period, and demonstrates how these associations have been manipulated by theatre practitioners to mould the meanings of Shakespeare’s plays. 

To establish how individual costumes interact with broader cultural narratives, I use an interdisciplinary approach to research. My work combines practical knowledge of costume construction processes with original interview material, textual analysis, historical evidence, and critical frameworks drawn from various fields (such as theories of experimental archaeology, cultural tourism, fairy tale, and hauntology). I am interested in the minutiae of modern design – how seams are sewn, which fabrics are used – as well as the widespread movements that have produced our modern relationship with Shakespeare. 

Beyond my monograph, I have published on Paul Tazewell’s costume design for the musical Hamilton and on the subject of seventeenth-century festival books.