BA Music and Drama / Course details
Year of entry: 2020
Course unit details:
Varieties of Shakespeare
|Unit level||Level 2|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 1|
|Available as a free choice unit?||No|
This unit gives students the opportunity to explore the plays and critical and creative legacy of William Shakespeare through a detailed examination of stage and film versions of key plays and their critical reception. Plays focused on in depth include Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, Richard III, Macbeth, The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The playtexts are explored in relation to the theatrical, cultural, social and political contexts of their creation and subsequent presentations and the challenges the plays pose for directors, writers, designers, performers and audiences.
|Unit title||Unit code||Requirement type||Description|
|Theatre & Performance 1 - Texts||DRAM10001||Pre-Requisite||Optional|
|Theatre & Performance 2 - Concepts||DRAM10002||Pre-Requisite||Optional|
- To engage with a range of William Shakespeare’s plays and their presentation on stage and screen, paying particular attention to modes of adaptation and issues of content and context.
- To explore the relationship between text and theatrical and screen production of Shakespeare’s work from the late 19th century to the present day.
- To develop students’ abilities to work both independently and as groups, both creatively and critically, and to facilitate the development of skills in researching production history and presenting that research in oral and written formats.
The course begins with a contextual overview of Shakespearean performance from the early modern period to the 19th century, followed by an overview of Shakespeare studies and performance in the 20th and 21 centuries before moving to the study of individual texts from Week 3. As well as investigating Shakespeare’s plays, we will explore the Shakespeare Industry and the way in which artists have responded to this. The following films are required viewing alongside reading the texts: Chimes at Midnight (1966); Henry V (1944); King Lear (1971); The Merchant of Venice (2004); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935); Prospero’s Books (1991); Richard the Third (1999); Ran (1985); Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1990); The Tempest (1979)
Television: Hamlet (2009), The Hollow Crown (2012)
Week 1Shakespeare in context
Shakespeare and Popular Culture
Merchant of Venice
Adaptations and reworkings
Hamlet – morals and subjectivity
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Teaching and learning methods
The module is taught through weekly 3 hour seminars which will include seminar discussion in large and small groups, student-led work and occasional mini-lectures. Students prepare for class with intensive primary reading and research preparation, and there may be scheduled screenings and theatre trips.
Students will be required to read playtexts, study film versions and live performance, and engage with a body of critical and theoretical materials. Formative assessment will consist of students undertaking a group research task on single play, film or production to be presented to the class as part of a group information-share.
Knowledge and understanding
- Demonstrate familiarity with a range of key works by William Shakespeare.
- Demonstrate an understanding of the social, cultural and political contexts in which these works were written and staged.
- Engage critically with a range of examples of historical and contemporary responses to Shakespeare
- Explore a range of critical, contextual and theoretical material and show an ability to interrogate the relationships between this material and primary texts.
- Develop coherent arguments and analyses and articulate these in both written and spoken work.
- Reflect critically on and evaluate a range of texts and performances.
- Synthesise and analyse a range of critical texts and research resources, both historical and contemporary.
- Work efficiently as a key member of a small group engaged in research, practical work, and presentation.
- Communicate research material both verbally and in writing.
- Locate multiple forms of evidence using Library resources, including databases, newspaper reviews and journal articles and recordings
Transferable skills and personal qualities
- demonstrate an ability to communicate effectively with others about intellectually demanding concepts, topics, materials
- demonstrate an ability to draw with accuracy, focus, detail and precision on complex materials in independent and group work
- demonstrate an ability to effectively present – through discussion and in writing – complex topics, drawing convincingly on oral, written and visual media as appropriate to the topic
- Employability skills that students can expect to gain from successful completion of this module include: ¿ a good level of critical thinking and problem-solving skills ¿ an ability to develop detailed, planned and multi-layered approaches to tasks ¿ an ability to work productively as part of a group and independently in learning environments that present complex challenges ¿ an enhanced ability to effectively adapt self-presentation to different audiences/contexts, especially when communicating complex topics
|Written assignment (inc essay)||60%|
Weighting within unit
Group research presentation
Review of a live production of a play by Shakespeare
10-15 mins (indicative)
· Written feedback on review and essay
· Oral feedback on the presentation
· Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)
To be supplemented by specified weekly reading.
Bulman, James Shakespeare, Theory and Performance. Abindgon: Routledge 1996
Carson, Christie & Peter Kirwan (eds) Shakespeare and the digital world: redefining scholarship and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2014
Cooper, Farrah Karim and Tiffany Stern, Shakespeare’s Theatre and the Effects of Performance. London: Arden 2014
Dymkowski, Christine and Christie Carson (eds) Shakespeare in Stages: new theatre histories. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2010
Escolme, Bridget and Stuart Hampton-Reeves, Shakespeare and the Making of Theatre. Palgrave 2012
Hodgdon, Barbara and William Worthen (eds) A Companion to Shakespeare in Performance. Oxford: Blackwell 2005
Jackson, Russell, The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Film. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2007
Kennedy, Dennis, Looking at Shakespeare: A Visual History of Twentieth Century Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2003
Shaughnessy, Robert (ed) Shakespeare in Performance. Palgrave 2000
_________________ The Routledge Companion to William Shakespeare. Routledge 2011
Worthen, William, Shakespeare Performance Studies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014
Shakespearean productions are regularly reviewed in the following scholarly journals (available online):
and The Times Literary Supplement
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Katharine Dorney||Unit coordinator|