Dr Robert Stagg

Dr Robert Stagg

Shakespeare Institute
Leverhulme Research Fellow

Contact details

The Shakespeare Institute
Mason Croft
Church Street
CV37 6HP

I am a Shakespearean and early modernist whose principal research interests are in literary form, ranging from versification (rhyme, metre, rhythm) to verse structures (blank verse, the sonnet).


  • BA Cambridge
  • MSt Oxford
  • PhD Soton / London


I have joined the Shakespeare Institute from the University of Oxford for a three-year Leverhulme Early-Career Research Fellowship. I was an undergraduate at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and a masters student at Exeter College, Oxford, where I won the longstanding Charles Oldham Shakespeare Prize for best postgraduate work on a subject pertaining to Shakespeare. I then took up a Wolfson-funded PhD at the University of Southampton with associate status at the University of London (where I was a Wolfson Postgraduate Scholar in the Humanities), which I finished in 2018. During my Leverhulme fellowship, I will continue as a Senior Member of St Anne’s College, Oxford.

I have been awarded various research fellowships including a Berlin Sessions Visiting Fellowship in (unsurprisingly) Berlin (2020); a Pforzheimer Visiting Research Fellowship at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas (2019); a Wolfson Visiting Research Fellowship at the New York Public Library (2017); a Tom Jarman Research Fellowship at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden (2017); and a Jubilee Education Fund grant to research in the Royal Shakespeare Company archives in Stratford-upon-Avon (2015). I have given keynote / invited lectures at institutions around the world, for example at Sapienza University of Rome, Yale University, the University of Padova, the London Shakespeare Seminar, Bochum University, and the International Shakespeare Conference.

More recently, I have been appointed to the Arden Shakespeare advisory board as one of the first Arden Fourth Series Fellows, working with the general editors and individual volume editors to shape the future direction of this prestigious series which has so many ties with the Institute. I also received an 'honourable mention' (runner-up award) in the London Renaissance Seminar's inaugural 'Contribution Awards' for "outstanding contributions to the field of the Renaissance".


My first book Shakespeare's Blank Verse: An Alternative History was published in October 2022 by Oxford University Press. This is the first book-length study of Shakespeare’s blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter) and early modern blank verse in general, ranging from the continental precursors of English blank verse in the early sixteenth century to the reception and editing of Shakespeare’s blank verse in the eighteenth century. It takes in writers from Christopher Marlowe to John Milton, and tries to reconnect the study of Shakespeare’s versification to broader literary, theatrical, bibliographical, editorial, historical and social questions.

I am now at work on a complementary pair of books, provisionally titled Shakespeare’s Worldly Style and Forms of Desire: Sex and the Early Modern Sonnet. The first of these books rethinks scholarly descriptions of a ‘Global Shakespeare’ by considering the involvement of Shakespearean poetic form with a suite of international poetic traditions, from Arabic lyric to early American writing. The second book argues that the formal structures of the early modern sonnet – the couplet, the sequence, the volta – were also erotic in character, and that the sonnet was therefore a particularly and peculiarly structural way of apprehending sex in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

I have published articles in The Review of English Studies (about blank verse 'bombast'), Shakespeare Survey (about supernatural metre), Essays in Criticism (about bathos), Shakespeare (about versification and race), and Studies in Philology (about feminine rhyme and boy actors). I have also published peer-reviewed chapters in three edited collections, The Edinburgh Companion to Literature and Music (ed. Delia da Sousa Correa), Reading the Road: Shakespeare's Crossways to Bunyan's Highways (ed. Lisa Hopkins and William Angus), and Humorality in Early Modern Art, Material Culture, and Performance (ed. Kaara Peterson and Amy Kenny). The first is a short polemic against the notion of a 'music of poetry', the second is about the problem of representing pedestrian travel onstage, and the third is about versification and the humors. I have a further chapter forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Sir Philip Sidney (ed. Catherine Bates) which traces the intellectual and continental history of Sidney's versification, and have edited a special issue of the British Shakespeare Association's journal Shakespeare which is titled 'Shakespeare and Versification' (published in September 2022). Finally, I sometimes review new books on Shakespeare and early modern literature for The Times Literary Supplement and a number of academic journals.

This work has been supported by major (1-3 year) research funding from the Leverhulme Trust, the Wolfson Foundation and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.


Recent publications


Stagg, R 2022, Shakespeare's Blank Verse: An Alternative History. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780192863270.001.0001


Stagg, R 2022, 'Introduction, or, Is Blank Verse Black?', Shakespeare, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 279-287 . https://doi.org/10.1080/17450918.2022.2091652

Stagg, R 2021, 'Shakespeare's bombastic blanks', The Review of English Studies. https://doi.org/10.1093/res/hgab031

Stagg, R 2020, 'Rhyme's voices: hearing gender in 'The Taming of the Shrew'', Studies in Philology.

Stagg, R 2018, 'Shakespeare's Bewitching Line', Shakespeare Survey, vol. 71.

Stagg, R 2014, 'Wordsworth, Pope, and writing after bathos', Essays in Criticism, vol. 64, no. 1, pp. 29-44. https://doi.org/10.1093/escrit/cgt030

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Stagg, R 2020, Against "the music of poetry". in D da Sousa Correa (ed.), The Edinburgh Companion to Literature and Music. Edinburgh University Press.

Stagg, R 2019, Staging the road: walking, talking, footing. in L Hopkins & B Angus (eds), Reading the Road, from Shakespeare's Crossways to Bunyan's Highways. Edinburgh University Press.

View all publications in research portal


Shakespeare’s ‘style’: language, metre, etc.

Languages and other information

French, Spanish

Media experience

I have written, produced and presented a fully-funded feature-length documentary about Shakespeare's early career in Shoreditch ('Shoreditch: Shakespeare's Hidden London'). You can watch some clips from the documentary.