The University of Southampton

ENGL2063 Problems in Shakespeare: text, print and performance

Module Overview

Why do we still want to read and perform the plays of Shakespeare more than four hundred years after they were written? How does the writing achieve its effects on actors and readers? This module will enable you to read the plays of Shakespeare for their aural and visual information, to think about them in their historical and cultural contexts, to understand how and why they have been redefined and even rewritten by later generations, and to learn about the transmission processes whereby they have come down to us, both in the theatre and as texts for reading.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to provide you with the opportunity to think about the plays of Shakespeare in their historical and cultural context, and to consider their manifestation in print and in performance, both during Shakespeare's lifetime and in later periods. It will enable you to understand the transmission processes of Shakespeare's plays both in the theatre and as texts for reading, and to read plays for their aural and visual information. The module will develop your understanding of: the history of Shakespeare in performance; the problems of editing Shakespeare; the nature of Shakespearean dramaturgy; and the historical and cultural context in which Shakespeare was writing.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the history of Shakespeare in performance
  • the problems of editing Shakespeare
  • the nature of dramaturgy
  • the cultural context in which Shakespeare was writing
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • make an effective short oral presentation, using relevant software where necessary
  • analyse complex written texts
  • work effectively as part of a group
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • edit an extract of a play from photocopies of the earliest printed texts
  • stage a scene
  • review a play in performance
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • see and hear the visual and aural implications in Shakespearean language
  • compare a Shakespearean text with its source material
  • compare a Shakespeare play with another text derived from it


This module studies the critical and performance history of a range of Shakespeare plays, and explores the problems involved in the transmission of texts in both theatrical and printed form. There will be an opportunity to see plays in performance and also to experiment with your own creative writing in response to Shakespeare. You will be approaching the plays in a multi-dimensional way: as literature; as text for performance; as a reworking of other texts and as text reworked to form other works of art, music, literature and film.

Special Features

For features such as field trips, information should be included as to how students with special needs will be enabled to benefit from this or an equivalent experience. Field trips are not required for completion of the module, although your attendance is desirable. In the event that you have an issue such as a disability or illness that may make it difficult for you to attend, you should consult the Module Convenor. Wherever reasonably possible, efforts will be made to accommodate you on the trip, or to provide a suitable alternative study activity in substitute for the trip.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching normally consists of two 2-hour classes each week which mix elements of lecture, seminar, group work, and practical workshops. Students are required to keep an online learning journal and to engage in peer appraisal of work in progress. The tutor(s) will hold class trouble shooting sessions for each piece of assessment as well as individual consultation hours prior to submission, and will give individual feedback on essays (both written and verbal), as well as circulating more general advice in written form. Where relevant, possible, and practical, trips will be arranged to local theatres. Learning activities include • reading Shakespeare in original spelling and typography • preparing an annotated scholarly edition • individual study and research • watching plays in performance (whether live or recorded) • building a portfolio of responses to Shakespeare • writing in a variety of formats The module encourages you to think about the aural and visual aspects of texts written for performance. ? It engages you in thinking about several different professional activities associated with Shakespeare - theatre reviewing, performing and editing – as well as criticism. ? It uses formative peer appraisal ? The module forms part of a medieval and renaissance pathway of modules in the discipline of English which leads ultimately to the new School MA in Medieval and Renaissance Culture.

Completion of assessment task50
Preparation for scheduled sessions110
External visits3
Wider reading or practice50
Practical classes and workshops18
Follow-up work10
Total study time308

Resources & Reading list

Jean Marsden (ed.) (1991). The Appropriation of Shakespeare: Post-Renaissance Reconstructions of the Works. 

Susan Bennett (1990). Theatre Audiences, A Theory of production and reception. 

George T. Wright (1988). Shakespeare's Metrical Art. 

Geoffrey Bullough (1957-73). Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 8 vols.. 

Daniel Fischlin and Mark Fortier (eds.) (2000). Adaptations of Shakespeare: A critical anthology of plays from the seventeenth century to the present. 

You must possess a modern scholarly edition of the Complete Works of Shakespeare (e.g. the Arden). 

Brian Vickers (1999). English Renaissance Literary Criticism. 

Bruce R. Smith (1999). The Acoustic World of Early Modern England. 



Learning journal


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 30%
Exercise  (1000 words) 10%
Portfolio  (2000 words) 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework %

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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