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Unit information: Shakespeare in 2020/21

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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 Professor. Steggle
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.

6) make oral contributions to seminars, both as part of a short presentation and more informally.

Teaching details

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including long- and short-form lectures, 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 group project (formative) [ILOs 1,6]
  • 1 x 1500 word essay (40%) [ILOs 1-5]
  • 1 x timed assessment (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)