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Assessment remains the same for all modes (seminar, hybrid, without chairs) of taking the module. It is important to state that the assessment is not in any way weighted in favour of any mode of learning. Through written assessment and examination we have always sought to elicit the widest variety of creative and critical responses. In both Assessed Essay and Creative Project students are required to devise their own research question or creative project in consultation with their tutor. In theory and in practice, any learning experience – whether seminar- or workshop-based or even extra-curricular – might form the basis for Assessed Work. On this module, students produce:

i) 1 x 5000-word Essay OR Creative Project (50%) to be submitted by 12pm on Tuesday, Week 2 (Summer Term) [For examples of both essays and creative projects see/click here> Student Work 2008-09]

ii) 1 x 3h 15min exam in May (50%). Students must answer one question from both Section A and Section B (for advice on Section A, see below)


The Creative Project consists of a piece of creative work (adaptation, music, photography, creative writing, screenplay, dance, and so on) + a Reflective Essay (max: 2500 words). Detailed guidance on Creative Projects is available here.

Creative Project word limit guidance: There is no lower word limit on creative projects. Some submissions (e.g. a set of poems or graphic novel or indeed material object like a painting, scupture or installation) will be relatively short in terms of word count. The maximum word limit is 7500 words. This means that the word limit for your creative project and reflective essay combined should total no more than 10,000 words. In practice, the word-count on many projects will be significantly shorter than this.

Practice-based Creative Projects: in previous years, some students have chosen to submit educational or text-based workshops and rehearsals, dance choreography, stand-up comedy and other forms of live performance. These will, where appropriate, be examined in a 30-minute slot consisting of a performance/presentation followed by a short viva with the examiners. The Reflective Essay (see below) remains a mandatory and important part of assessment.

General Note: We encourage you to be realistic and keep the task on a manageable scale (e.g. write a short story rather than a novel; a film scenario and sample scene rather than an entire screenplay; a sonata rather than a symphony...). You must have your project approved by your tutor by the end of Week 5 of Spring Term. You are advised to discuss ideas for your project well in advance of this deadline. By the end of Week 5 you must submit to your tutor a written statement (300 - 500 words) outlining your project, including any practice-based element it involves.

The Reflective Essay (max 2500 words) is a crucial component of your submission. In it you will: describe the rationale of your project (i.e. why was it worth doing?); provide firm evidence of research and reading (e.g. if you are adapting Hamlet, you should show some awareness of the history and theory of adaptation); reflect on the successes and shortcomings of the finished product. The Reflective Essay must include a bibliography and must be presented to recognised scholarly standards. Students who fall short of these scholarly standards in the essay cannot expect to achieve first class marks, no matter what the quality of the project itself.

The University Health and Safety department provides guidance on all aspects of health and safety at the university for all staff, students and visitors. When planning project or creative work please do discuss your planned work with your tutor and also one of the health and safety advisers ( who will be able to provide assistance with regard to any additional requirements or unusual activities. This is very important. If your project is likely to entail any aspect of health and safety -- for instance, conducting workshops in schools or interviewing members of the public -- you must consult and follow the guidelines published at that address.


Writing an essay is no less 'creative' as a choice than deciding to undertake a creative project. It is simply a different way of responding to one or more of the texts and/or ideas encountered on this module. To underscore this, we require you to develop your own topic for research. Do this in consultation with your tutor during offices hours, leaving yourself plenty of time for first thoughts, then refinements and final focusing. Use your tutor's expertise. You tutor can direct your reading, advise you on managing your topic, help you decide where your argument is going, and give you inspiration. Remember that all of your tutors are also involved in research and writing: they're trying to negotiate the same challenges that are occupying you. Tutors are not permitted to read full drafts of essays, but they are permitted to listen to your argument and give you advice about structure, technical aspects of your writing (including, for instance, proper citation practice), and secondary reading.


NOTE: there will be five passages from five different plays to chose from. Four of the passages will come from one play from each of the units below (i.e. one play passage will be selected from Unit 1, one from Unit 2, and so on.) The fifth passage will be chosen randomly.

Unit 1 > Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dr Faustus, Romeo and Juliet, Titus Andronicus, Tamburlaine Part One

Unit 2 > Richard II, Henry IV Part 1, Antony and Cleopatra, King Lear

Unit 3 > Two Gents, Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida

Unit 4 > Othello, Macbeth, Coriolanus, Winter’s Tale, The Tempest

 1. Rubric

 ‘Comment on the following as a theatrical text. You should consider at least some of the following: the relationship between verbal imagery and stage spectacle; the range and interplay of styles; the dramatic contours of the sequence as a whole; and the use made of the physical resources of the stage.’

2. What is a theatrical commentary?

 One that considers some of the following:

The transitions between scenes; shifts in tone; stage directions (both explicit and implicit); interpretative options for actors; the movement and interrelation of bodies in theatrical space; the use of the resources of the stage; use of props and costumes; the presence of non-speaking characters; the deployment of silence and pauses; shifts of tempo as the action unfolds; the actor-audience relationship; how the passage might originally have been staged; how it has been staged since Shakespeare’s time (i.e. stage history); how it might be staged today or in the future; how textual variants (if any) might affect performance choices and effects; the architecture of the stage space (mainstage, balcony [‘above’], trap, columns, discovery space, downstage/upstage); speech acts (tone, verse/prose, line/speech lengths, tempo and power, soliloquy and asides); music and song; sound effects.

Nb. Films can be referenced in passing, but the emphasis should be on theatrical interpretation.

3. First things first: when you have chosen your passage, use the reading time to:

A) Re-read the passage carefully, making short bullet points in the margin; mark significant stage directions, interpretive cruces, changes of style, and general points of interest.

B) Ask yourself why this passage has been set. What is remarkable, in theatrical terms, about the passage before you? What are its key problems? What is it trying to do to an audience? How is the world of the play different at the end of the passage? What’s the dramatic function of the passage? Your answers to this can provide you with your opening and/or closing sentences.

4. Focus upon the extract: The question is asking you to analyse the text in front of you. You should be able to identify and contextualise the extract (where it occurs, how it operates within the play) and bear this information in mind as you do a close-analysis of the extract. The identification and contextualisation of the piece is only relevant if you relate it appropriately and usefully to your analysis of the extract. There are no marks available for simply being able to recognise the piece. Do not write at length about the play as a whole (merely to show that you know it) whilst ignoring the extract you are being asked to consider.

5. Structuring your answer: There is no single correct way to structure your answer. But a good response might begin by briefly outlining the context of the passage within the play and describing its particular theatrical challenges/interest. The bulk of your answer might then work through the passage chronologically. If it helps you to stay focussed on the text, you might even subdivide your response into smaller units by line numbers. The best answers will respond to the passage, as far as is possible, as a whole; i.e. do not spend 30 minutes writing about the first five lines. If you are running out of time spend the last five minutes bullet-pointing the points you would have made if you had more time.

6. Consider the extract as a theatrical text: This means that you should analyse the text as a script for performance, referring to some of the many components of performance listed above. It does NOT mean that you are being asked to describe a hypothetical staging of the play, or reproduce a chronological account of the play’s production/performance history. Do not explain how you or a hypothetical director would stage the passage in your ideal production. Example: ‘At this point, Lady Macbeth should frown and tug at Macbeth’s sword, emphasising his effeminacy.’ Or ‘Lear should be standing for the curse of sterility then fall to his knees and gibber when his daughter ignores him.’ These – and any uses of the word ‘should’ – are prescriptive and close down possibilities. We want you to be alert to the wide variety of possible interpretations that the script might allow and this means being open-minded, imaginative, and exploratory. We want you to speculate and hypothesize, to think through the amazing openness of these scripts as instructions for theatrical performance.

You are very welcome to use information about productions you may have seen/read about/performed in, but ONLY if it is relevant and appropriate to the point you are trying to make, as an illustrative example to your own analysis.

7. Brief Closing Tips on Section A:

1) Make a checklist based on (2) above – revise this, be clear about what is meant by ‘theatricality’.

2) Visualize – put the action into three dimensions; try to see the stage in your ‘mind’s eye’; remember the audience, both onstage and in the theatre.

3) Speculate – avoid prescription, embrace openness.

4) Simulate naiveté – it may help to imagine you are watching and hearing the action unfold for the first time, moment by moment. Be responsive to the shifts, shocks and surprises of the script as they might play out in front of a live, uninitiated audience.

5) Stick to the passage in front of you.