Skip to main content

Unit information: Shakespeare in 2017/18

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Shakespeare
Unit code ENGL20068
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Publicover
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will ask students to read and analyse a small number of plays written by William Shakespeare; there will be a range of texts in terms of genre (at least one comedy, one history, and one tragedy), and at least one of the plays will be relatively uncanonical. Attention will be paid to the plays as literary texts in their own right, with significant time dedicated to close reading of individual scenes and passages; this will enable students to think of Shakespeare as a poet, as well as a playwright. In addition to close reading, students will develop oral communication skills through open discussion and by giving short formative presentations in seminars, and develop IT skills through contributing to blogs and other on-line course materials as appropriate.

Topics to be explored include:
1) the literary, cultural and historical contexts which shaped – and were shaped by – Shakespeare’s drama;
2) the histories and the specific designs of the playhouses in which the plays were performed, and the ways in which different performance spaces (and different media) influence and inform the plays’ meanings;
3) the critical reception of Shakespearean drama, and how individual plays have informed specific critical, theoretical, and philosophical developments in scholarship;
4) how Shakespeare is passed down to us in modern critical editions.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of the unit a successful student will be able to:

1) demonstrate detailed knowledge and understanding of selected plays by Shakespeare;

2) apply understanding of a range of historical, cultural, literary and intellectual contexts to readings of Shakespearean drama;

3) discriminate between and evaluate different critical perspectives on Shakespearean drama;

4) identify and critically assess pertinent evidence to develop a cogent argument;

5) demonstrate skills in close textual analysis, argumentation, and critical interpretation using evidence from primary texts and secondary sources.

Teaching details

1 x two-hour seminar weekly.

Assessment Details

  • One 1800-word summative essay (40%) [due near the end of the unit] [ILOs 1-5].
  • One 2.5-hour exam (60%) [ILOs 1-5].

Reading and References

Shakespeare, Macbeth

Shakespeare, As You Like It

Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I

Shakespeare, Coriolanus

Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale

Andrew Gurr, The Shakespearian Playing Companies (OUP, 1996)