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Unit information: Shakespearean Tragedy: Textual and Literary Criticism in 2020/21

Unit name Shakespearean Tragedy: Textual and Literary Criticism
Unit code ENGL39027
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Lee
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The course focuses on the main four tragedies - Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth - and on the interpretative and textual challenges which these plays pose. It addresses the usefulness of the notion of tragedy in thinking of these plays and explores creative rewritings of and responses to Shakespeare's plays.

Students will be given the opportunity to submit a draft or outline of their final, summative essay of up to 1,500 words and to receive feedback on this.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have:

(1) developed a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of some of the most complex texts in the English language, Shakespeare’s four main tragedies;

(2) in-depth knowledge of some of the literary and historical contexts which inform them, particularly tragedy, one of the most complex critical terms in literary criticism

(3) demonstrated the ability to analyse and evaluate differing critical accounts of Shakespeare’s tragedies;

(4) demonstrated the ability to identify and evaluate pertinent evidence in order to present a cogent argument;

(5) strengthened their skills in argumentation and academic writing

Teaching details

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including group discussion, research and writing activities, and peer dialogue. Students are expected to engage with the reading and participate fully with the weekly tasks and topics. Learning will be further supported through the opportunity for individual consultation.

Assessment Details

  • 1 x 3500 word essay (100%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

  • Andrew Cecil Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy (1904; Penguin Classics, 1991)
  • Paul Hammond, The Strangeness of Tragedy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)
  • Katherine Maus, Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance (University of Chicago Press, 1995)
  • William Shakespeare, Hamlet
  • William Shakespeare, Othello
  • William Shakespeare, King Lear
  • William Shakespeare, Macbeth