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EN2L6/EN3L2 Shakespeare and Selected Dramatists of His Time

Information for 2024-2025


Convenor: Prof. Paul Botley

Teaching methods

1 x 1 hour lecture weekly; 1 x 1.5 hour seminar weekly.

Lecture: location TBC

Seminars as detailed on Tabula

Module Description

We will survey a wide range of early modern plays by Shakespeare and some of his most significant contemporaries such as, typically, Marlowe, Middleton and Webster. We'll explore the ways in which some of the major issues and themes dramatised in Shakespeare’s plays – for instance, love, war, sexuality, religion, law, race – function in an early modern context while continuing to challenge readers and spectators today. We'll read Shakespeare alongside other plays which compare and contrast in their treatment of these themes, to consider what is both typical and special about his work in its context. We'll consider how Shakespeare’s career developed (from early to late comedy, through history and tragedy) and investigate how later collaborators (directors, actors, adapters, audiences and readers) transformed the plays to be especially meaningful for them.

Module aims

The module aims are to read and analyse a wide range of Shakespeare's plays in different genres and periods of his career and a selection of the plays of near-contemporary dramatists, in order to compare and contrast Shakespearean and non-Shakespearean early modern drama. Students will critically analyse the plays: as literature; as texts for performance; and in their historical contexts (religious, social and political). You will also gain an understanding of a wide range of critical responses to Shakespeare and early modern drama and evaluate some of these in depth in your assessments.

Learning outcomes and Assessments

Sample: First Assessment Extracts and Rubric 2023-2024Link opens in a new window

Level 5 (Y2)Link opens in a new window<Link opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window

Level 6 (Y3)Link opens in a new window<Link opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window

Indicative Syllabus / Lecture List

NOTE: This syllabus will be revised in the academic year 2024-2025, but it is provided here to give you a sense of the structure and pace of the module.

Autumn term:

    1. Introduction to the Module
    2. King Lear
    3. Hamlet
    4. The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil
    5. Macbeth
    6. Reading Week
    7. Antony and Cleopatra
    8. Othello
    9. The Tempest
    10. The Winter's Tale

    Spring Term

    1. Galatea
    2. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    1. Much Ado About Nothing
    2. Twelfth Night
    3. A Chaste Maid in Cheapside
    4. Reading Week
    5. Measure for Measure
    6. The Merchant of Venice and The Jew of Malta
    7. Edward II and Richard II
    8. Richard III
    Reading list

    A full bibliography covering primary and suggested secondary reading is available on Talis Aspire (link hereLink opens in a new window).

    Essential Primary texts (to buy, ideally) are:

    Summer Reading: Please note that it is our expectation that students will return after the summer having read the non-Shakespearean plays on the syllabus (to be confirmed) and made a good start on Shakespeare. There are some weeks during term where you will be expected to read two plays, and all the lectures will assume that you have knowledge of the non-Shakespearean plays, so if you do only one thing to prepare for the module this should be it. Please don't ignore this advice!

    Title page of First Folio with portrait of Shakespeare

    Portrait of John Webster

    Christopher Marlowe.jpg