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Shakespeare in London

Course outline

This course introduces students to the plays of William Shakespeare and to the culture of theatrical performance both now and in the Renaissance past. The course encourages students to read the plays in their contemporary contexts, considering the political and social circumstances in which they were written and performed. As well as looking closely at a number of Shakespeare’s plays, this course will also introduce one comparative drama from another Renaissance playwright, Christopher Marlowe, allowing students to make connections and draw contrasts between the work of Shakespeare and one of his contemporaries. This course will include a visit to the reconstructed Globe theatre on London’s South Bank in order to consider the differences between modern and Renaissance theatre space and experience. Other field trips will be organised to see Shakespeare performed in and around London.

Classes comprise:

  • The Tempest and colonisation
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream and collective imagination
  • Richard II and kingship
  • King Lear and the division of authority
  • Hamlet and how to act
  • Measure for Measure and state control
  • Macbeth and political insecurity

The complementary contemporaneous play is Christopher Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Offer a critically informed reading of some of Shakespeare's plays.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the historical contexts within which these plays were written and performed.
  • Reflect on the modern performance of renaissance drama.

Coursework and assessment

Assessed componentBasic requirementsWeightingDeadline
Class presentation To be advised by tutor 10% Week 14
Essay To be advised by tutor 50% Week 11
Examination Two-hour written examination 40% Week 14

There are also compulsory theatre trips which take place in the evening. These change each semester and are informed by what is showing in London at the time.

Students need to attend all classes and performances. Please remember that your grades can be affected by your attendance.

Indicative bibliography

  • Adamson, Sylvia, et al (eds.) Reading Shakespeare’s Dramatic Language: A Guide (London: Arden, 2001).
  • Clark, Sandra, Renaissance Drama (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007).
  • de Grazia, Margreta and Wells Stanley (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
  • Dutton, Richard and Howard, Jean E., A Companion to Shakespeare's Works, 4 vols. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003).
  • Gurr, Andrew, Playgoing in Shakespeare's London (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).
  • Hadfield, Andrew, Shakespeare and Renaissance Politics (London: Arden, 2004).
  • Kastan, David Scott (ed.), A Companion to Shakespeare (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999).
  • Mullaney , Steven, The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988).
  • Wells, Stanley and Orlin, Lena Cowen, Shakespeare: An Oxford Guide (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).