Tom Cook

Image of Tom Cook

Shakespeare Institute
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD title: ‘The Famous Scenic Poet’: Shakespeare and the Art of English Verse, 1587–97
SupervisorDr Erin Sullivan and Dr Robert Stagg
PhD Shakespeare Studies


  • BA (University of Hull)
  • MSt (University of Oxford)


I am a poet and literary critic working mainly on Shakespeare and early modern poetry, though I have strong secondary interests in Old English verse, in Romanticism (especially Wordsworth), and in British, Irish, and American poetry of the twentieth century. As an undergraduate I read English and Creative Writing at the University of Hull, where I spent a semester at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and received the Philip Larkin Prize. From there I went on to a Creative Writing MSt at the University of Oxford, where I edited the poetry journal Ash, co-edited the Oxford–Cambridge magazine The Mays, and convened the English Faculty’s Poetry Reading Group; I then spent a number of years working as an academic librarian. Before joining the Shakespeare Institute, I was research assistant to Simon Armitage during his tenure as Oxford Professor of Poetry, and later the textual editor of his ensuing book of lectures, A Vertical Art (Faber and Faber, 2021). I am the chief editor of the forthcoming Touchstone Shakespeare reference app, and am due to complete the New Selected Poems of William Wordsworth (Sandspout, 2022) in the coming months; I sometimes also work freelance as a manuscript consultant, proofreader, and copyeditor. I have previously trained in palaeography, historical bibliography, Old English, and a number of other ‘satellite’ fields. My own poetry, criticism, and journalism have appeared in Ambit, the New Statesman, PN Review, the Spectator, the Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere, and I am currently preparing my first collection of poems.


I convened the Oxford English Faculty’s weekly Poetry Reading Group (2015–17), during which time I also lead a number of creative writing workshops; I have since established an equivalent seminar at the Shakespeare Institute, with a focus on early modern verse from Wyatt to Milton. I am the course assistant on the University of Birmingham’s ‘Shakespeare’s Legacy’ module and a Shakespeare tutor to undergraduates at Advanced Studies in England, Bath.


My doctoral thesis is a study of Shakespeare’s poetic development in the first decade of his career. Today, we seldom hesitate in thinking of Shakespeare as the definitive English poet; his dramatic verse is routinely anthologized with the ‘page’ poetry of Milton, Wordsworth, and Tennyson. My current work explores the validity of that understanding of Shakespeare in his own lifetime. In its various chapters, it offers a new history of his poetic forms (dramatic verse, narrative poems, and sonnets); it asks what it meant to be a poet (both of the printed page and of the stage) in the 1590s, and how key predecessors such as Ovid and Marlowe affected Shakespeare’s own sense of his art; above all, it demonstrates the considerable extent to which his diverse literary modes fed into and sustained one another. In so doing, it challenges one of the oldest binaries in Shakespeare Studies – a false dichotomy between ‘Shakespeare the Poet’ and ‘Shakespeare the Dramatist’ – and suggests that these two Shakespeares are, and always were, one and the same.

Other activities

  • ‘‘The Sorrowful Girls’: Stevie Smith and Philip Larkin’ (paper, Stevie Smith Conference; Oxford, 2016)
  • Literary Treasures of Lady Margaret Hall (rare books exhibition, catalogue, and paper, Lady Margaret Hall; Oxford, 2017)
  • ‘The Idea of Laureateship’ (keynote, John Betjeman and the Victorians conference; London, 2018)
  • ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?: Blank Verse on the Early Modern Stage’ (paper, Metre and Rhythm in Medieval and Early Modern English Poetry conference; Padova, 2022)
  • ‘‘The Famous Scenic Poet’: Poetic Identity in Shakespeare’s First Folio’ (paper, 1622 at the Frankfurt Book Fair conference; Marbach, 2022)