Professor Michael Dobson

Professor Michael Dobson

Shakespeare Institute
Director of the Shakespeare Institute; Professor of Shakespeare Studies

Contact details

The Shakespeare Institute
Mason Croft
Church Street
CV37 6HP

Like his own Falstaff, Shakespeare is not only witty in himself but is the cause that wit is in others. My career as a teacher of and writer about Shakespeare’s plays and poems has been devoted not just to examining these extraordinary writings in their sixteenth- and seventeenth-century contexts, but to exploring how they have stimulated and enabled the creativity of other people, individually and collectively, across time – whether actors (both professional and amateur), scholars, directors, philosophers, composers, critics, sculptors, poets, or novelists. As a result I enjoy working as a consultant to theatre directors and actors as well as publishing scholarly essays and books, and although the central focus of my work has been on the interpretation of Shakespeare in the theatre down the centuries since his death, and on the history of our continuing love affair with Elizabeth and the Elizabethans more generally, I take an enthusiastic and informed interest in most things done in Shakespeare’s name in different media around the world.


  • BA (Oxford, 1982)
  • MA (Oxford, 1984)
  • D.Phil (Oxford, 1990)
  • Honorary Doctorate (University of Craiova, Romania 2014)
  • Honorary Doctorate (Lund University, Sweden, 2016)


Before coming to Stratford in 2011 I worked at Birkbeck, University of London (where I set up an MA programme in collaboration with Shakespeare’s Globe).  Other previous employers include Oxford, Harvard, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, and I have held visiting appointments and research fellowships at UCLA, Lund, the Sorbonne, and Peking University.


At the Shakespeare Institute I teach MA modules on the history of Shakespearean performance, and co-teach a distance learning module (organized jointly with the National University of Singapore) on 21st century Asian performances of Shakespeare.  I also contribute lectures to undergraduate modules about Shakespeare and performance on the Edgbaston campus, oversee the work of visiting scholars at the Institute, and supervise a wide range of PhD students.

Postgraduate supervision

I supervise research students interested in: the performance and reception history of the Shakespeare canon, both within the Anglophone world and beyond; the work of the Royal Shakespeare Company; the history of amateur performance; Shakespeare’s afterlives.

Find out more - our PhD Shakespeare Studies  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


I am currently writing a book about the roles played by Shakespeare in the repertories of national theatre companies worldwide, and serving as a General Editor (with Abigail Rokison-Woodall and Simon Russell Beale) of the Arden Performance Editions of Shakespeare series.

Other activities

I am an honorary governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a Member of Council of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, a Trustee of Flute Theatre, a Patron of Brownsea Open-Air Theatre, and co-director of the Shakespeare Centre, China.


As well as a large number of scholarly articles, book chapters, reviews, and programme notes (for the RSC, for Shakespeare’s Globe, for Sam Mendes, for the Mokwha Repertory Company of Korea, and for Peter Stein, among others), my publications include:


  • Shakespeare and Amateur Performance: A Cultural History (Cambridge University Press, 2011)
  • The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, second edition, with Stanley Wells as Associate General Editor and Erin Sullivan and Will Sharpe as revising editors (Oxford, 2015).
  • Great Shakespeareans: John Philip Kemble, in Great Shakespeareans volume 2, ed. Peter Holland (Continuum, 2010)
  • The Complete Oxford Middleton: Wit at Several Weapons (Oxford, 2007). The Oxford Middleton, produced under the general editorship of Gary Taylor, won the MLA Prize for a Distinguished Scholarly Edition, 2007-8.
  • Performing Shakespeare’s Tragedies Today: the actor’s perspective (Cambridge, 2006). Contributors include Sir Antony Sher, David Warner, Simon Russell Beale, Imogen Stubbs, Nonso Anozie, Samuel West.
  • The New Penguin Shakespeare: Twelfth Night (Penguin, 2005).
  • England's Elizabeth: an afterlife in fame and fantasy, co‑authored with Nicola Watson (Oxford, 2002). The paperback edition was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Book for 2004.
  • The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, with Stanley Wells (Oxford, 2001, revised 2005, 2009, 2011). Winner of an American Library Association Award as an outstanding reference work, 2001, and of the Bainton Prize for best reference book in sixteenth-century studies, 2001-2.
  • The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship, 1660‑1769 (Oxford, 1992). The paperback edition was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Book for 1994

Recent articles and book chapters include:

‘Afterword: Shakespeare and myth,’ in Aneta Mancewicz and Alexa Joubin, eds., Local and Global Myths in Shakespearean Performance (Basignstoke: Palgrave, 2018)

‘Costume drama: realism and the problems of Much Ado About Nothing in modern performance,’ for a special edition of Cahiers Elisabethains, 2018

‘Four centuries of centenaries: Stratford-upon-Avon,’ Shakespeare Survey 59, 2017

‘Preface: Shakespeare and Cervantes, together at last,’ in José Manuel González, José María Ferri and María del Carmen Irles, eds., Cervantes-Shakespeare. 400 años después (Berlin: Reichenberger, 2017)

‘Cutting, interruption and the end of Hamlet,’ New Theatre Quarterly volume 32 issue 3, August 2016

‘Shakespearean comedy and the boundaries of Europe,’ in The Text, the Play, and the Globe: Essays on Literary Influence in Shakespeare’s World and his Work in Honor of Charles R. Forker ed. Joseph Candido (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2016)

‘Shakespeare and the idea of national theatres,’ Shakespeare Survey 57, 2015

View all publications in research portal


Shakespeare; the history of Shakespeare in performance and in culture generally; the Royal Shakespeare Company; British theatre history, 1570 to the present; Elizabeth I and her reputation; amateur theatre; cultural relations between the US and the UK.

Languages and other information

Professor Dobson regularly provides programme notes for the RSC, Shakespeare's Globe, Mokwha Repertory Company, Peter Stein, and other theatre companies.

Media experience

Professor Dobson is a frequent contributor to British and international media. He has made numerous appearances on BBC Radio 4's Front Row and BBC Radio 3's Night Waves and is a regular contributor to Around the Globe and The London Review of Books.

He has recently received national and regional media coverage commenting on the 2011 blockbuster movie, Anonymous including a streamed debate with the film's director Roland Emmerich on ESU, an interview for Channel 4 News and a self-penned commentary piece for The Guardian.

Alternative contact number available for this expert: contact the press office