BA Music and Drama / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Varieties of Shakespeare

Unit code DRAM21131
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Drama
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)


Indicative Schedule

Week 1Shakespeare in context

Week 2

Shakespeare and Popular Culture

Week 3


Week 4

Merchant of Venice

Week 5

Richard III

Week 6

Adaptations and reworkings

Week 7

Henry V

Week 8

Hamlet – morals and subjectivity

Week 9

King Lear

Week 10


Week 11

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Week 12

Essay workshop

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.

Intellectual skills

  • 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.

Practical skills

  • 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

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





Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 40%
Written assignment (inc essay) 60%

Assessment task


Weighting within unit

Group research presentation

Review of a live production of a play by Shakespeare

Critical Essay

10-15 mins (indicative)

1500-2000 words

3000-3500 words

Formative assessment




Feedback methods

·         Written feedback on review and essay

·         Oral feedback on the presentation

·         Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)


Recommended reading

To be supplemented by specified weekly reading.

Critical Texts

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):

Shakespeare Survey

Shakespeare Bulletin

and The Times Literary Supplement

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Katharine Dorney Unit coordinator

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