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ENGL3096 Shakespeare Then and Now

Module Overview

Has Shakespeare aged well? From the boys in wigs on the Elizabethan stage to the digital wizardry of the twenty-first century, the technology as well as the ideology that informs Shakespearean performance keeps evolving—sometimes in unexpected ways. This module gives you an opportunity to find out more about the theatrical culture of Shakespeare’s day, learn how to read Shakespeare’s plays with an eye for poetic detail as well as for staging possibilities, and tap into the rich history of Shakespearean performance and criticism. Our attitudes to Shakespeare might change with the times, but if we take a better look at where Shakespeare started and what his plays have meant to the generations of poets, actors, directors, and scholars that followed, we have a better chance of figuring out where we want to take him next.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to make you comfortable studying and discussing Shakespeare’s plays at a university level and encourage you to challenge and refine your own reading over the course of the semester and beyond. The module will allow you to explore Shakespeare's works both in the context of early modern theatrical culture and through the lens of later poets, actors, and directors. You will be invited to explore how the image of Shakespeare evolved as the English literary and theatrical landscape responded to new historical, cultural, and political pressures, and the module will help you understand and address some of key questions of Shakespeare studies today.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • general understanding of the scope and structure of the Shakespearean canon as a whole
  • detailed understanding of the poetic as well as dramatic design of a selection of Shakespeare's plays
  • awareness of the broad changes in our approach to Shakespeare’s works over the centuries
  • awareness of the relationship between text and performance
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • ability to analyse Shakespearean texts and other related material
  • awareness of genre and the staging practices and possibilities of Shakespearean drama
  • ability to work with the context of early modern culture
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • skills necessary to analyse complex written texts
  • skills necessary to make the most of your independent research and articulate your own critical position in your written work clearly and accurately
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • critical tools and vocabulary needed to examine and comment on various kinds of documents of performance
  • critical tools and vocabulary needed to distinguish between different modes of reading and and assess their respective merits and shortcomings
  • critical tools and vocabulary needed to engage productively with recent scholarship and position your own reading within it


Over the course of the semester you will explore a selection of Shakespeare’s plays and think about their structure, plotting, presentation of characters, and poetic texture. You will look at the plays from the point of view of the first actors who staged them and think about the conditions of performance in early modern London. Throughout the semester you will be encouraged to read Shakespeare's plays in a variety of different ways: as works of literature, as scripts for performance, as adaptations of older texts, and as texts that are themselves being constantly adapted and reinvented.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching provision for this module will be a combination of lectures and seminars, as well as workshops, individual meetings, feedback on written work, and—depending on available options—theatre trips. Learning activities include work in small groups, micro-assignments, individual study and research with emphasis on close reading, and reflection on the plays in performance.

Preparation for scheduled sessions110
Wider reading or practice55
Completion of assessment task56
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list


Holinshed's Chronicles Online.

Early English Books Online.

Map of Early Modern London.

A "Complete Works" edition of Shakespeare's plays. Recommended edition for this module is the Norton Shakespeare (3rd edition), but the Riverside Shakespeare, the RSC Shakespeare, and the New Oxford Shakespeare are also good.

Samuel Pepys's Diary Online.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online.


Assessment Strategy

The assessment on this module will be both formative (a combination of group activities, micro-assignments, textual analysis, and individual meetings) and summative (one regular essay and one timed paper).


Text analysis


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 50%
Timed Assignment  (48 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


The cost of materials (such as a volume of Shakespeare's complete works) is not expected to exceed £40.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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