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  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Gillian Woods
  • Assessment: a 1000-word commentary exercise (10%) and two 2500-word essays (45% each)

Module description

This module gives you the opportunity to explore the full span of Shakespeare's career: from his earliest comedies to his late romances, interrogating his histories and tragedies along the way. You will develop practical research and writing skills, and exploit the potential of the academic and theatrical resources available in Birkbeck and London.

Paying particular attention to the context in which Shakespeare produced his plays, the module will illuminate the drama by exploring a range of critical approaches, including close-reading, theatre history, gender studies and queer theory, critical race studies, and eco-criticism.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Reading, Error and Understanding
  • Players and Playhouses 
  • The Transvestite Stage
  • Gendered History
  • Bending and Breaking Genres
  • The Supernatural
  • Eco-Studies and the Early Modern Environment
  • The Racialized Body; Seeing Whiteness and Blackness
  • Forms of Authority


  • The Comedy of Errors
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • As You Like It
  • Henry VI: Part 1
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Macbeth
  • Othello
  • Measure for Measure
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • The Tempest

Learning objectives

This module will:

  • consolidate and broaden your knowledge of a full range of Shakespeare's plays and genres
  • foster a critical engagement with Renaissance literature and its cultural contexts
  • encourage you to develop skills of close reading, and the capacity to locate these close readings within broad historical and critical narratives
  • develop your understanding of the theatricality of Shakespeare's plays.