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Shakespeare: Themes and Presentations
University of Westminster
Liberal Arts and Sciences
Module Code: 1LIB409
Summary of Module content: This module provides a detailed examination of a range of the dramatic works of William Shakespeare and of other poetry and drama of the English Renaissance. It will consider the context of Shakespearean drama from the sixteenth century to its interpretation and dissemination in the present day, from heatrical practice, the playhouses, acting companies and royal patronage of the Renaissance through to twentieth-first century film and television adaptations. It will include close study of content and language and it will also develop a broad understanding of themes, forms and issues (political, historical, theoretical and religious) characteristic of English culture during the Renaissance. There will also be a study visit to the Globe theatre and other relevant sites.
This module aims to:
· introduce students to the variety of styles and themes in the work of Shakespeare.
· introduce students to the broad intellectual and dramatic contexts within which Shakespeare’s work was produced.
· locate Shakespeare’s work in relation to that of his contemporaries
· consider in detail the form and language of some Renaissance texts
· analyse Renaissance theatrical practice
· analyse the position and authority Shakespeare holds within the canon of English Literature and to consider the means by which his work has come to occupy this central
space in English culture and literary criticism
At the end of this module students will be able to:
· demonstrate knowledge of the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries
· describe the theatrical practices of the Shakespearean stage and the cultural climate in
which it operated.
· analyse the means by which Shakespeare has historically come to occupy a position of
centrality in English Literature.
· identify key literary movements in the English Renaissance.
· analyse the literature of the period in relation to cultural, philosophical and theoretical
· analyse the generic and stylistic features of a range of prose, poetic and dramatic texts.
· utilise secondary sources in written discussion
· communicate effectively in good written English using recognised academic apparatus
Indicative syllabus content:
Writing and Performing in Renaissance England
The playhouses, the companies, censorship and patronage
Humanism, history and religious conflict – the History plays.
Introduction to the Sonnets and textual analysis exercise (1500 words)
· reading = Shakespeare’s Henry V and Romeo and Juliet and Marlowe’s Edward II
· selected sonnets (class handout)
Shakespeare’s Genres (tragedy, comedy)
Sources, Themes and Issues in Shakespearean and Renaissance drama.
Theatrical Interpretations, 1590 – the present.
· reading = Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, Shakespeare’s As You Like It
· Visit to: The Globe Theatre exhibition at 10.30am and then to see the production of As
You Like It at The Globe Theatre, Tuesday 21st July at 2pm.
· Performance analysis of the production.
· Due to double session on Tuesday 21st, there will be no class on Thursday 23rd, giving you study time to begin researching your textual analysis exercise and essay.
Power, race, colonization and gender, late romances and city comedy.
Shakespeare as Cultural Icon: Interpretations of Shakespeare, 1940 - the present.
· reading = Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Middleton and Dekker’s The Roaring Girl
· essay writing focus
Teaching and Learning Methods: Twelve three-hour sessions. These will be conducted as
seminars, but will include a range of activities such as tutor and student presentations,
supervised small group work and whole group discussion. There will also be the opportunity to develop skills in close textual analysis, and there will be supervised study visits to the Globe theatre, and students are encouraged to independently visit a production at the Open Air Theatre (Regent’s Park) and relevant sites such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum of London for background information on the English renaissance period.
Assessment Rationale: The module is assessed via coursework consisting of a textual
analysis exercise (1500 words) and an essay (2000 words).
Both elements of assessment will allow students to demonstrate key skills of literacy and
In the textual analysis exercise students are expected to demonstrate that they can:
· identify the passage of text under consideration
· locate the passage within the whole text
· select, comment upon and explain the most significant points in the passage
· identify particular literary and rhetorical features such as, for example, metaphor, metre or argument
· communicate in good written English
In the essay students are expected to demonstrate that they can:
· understand the question set
· select, utilise and synthesise appropriate material (including secondary sources)
· show a knowledge and critical understanding of Shakespeare’s work in the context of the period and the work of his contemporaries
· produce a structured essay containing a clear argument that answers the set question
· communicate in good written English
· use appropriate scholarly apparatus, including referencing and bibliography
Assessment Methods and Weightings:
Textual analysis (1500 words) 40%
Essay (2000 words) 60%
Submission of Coursework
All coursework for this module is submitted in electronic form on TBC
Please refer to your Guide to Submission of Coursework booklet.
There are many editions of these plays and poems available, you may use any of them.
William Shakespeare Henry V
Romeo and Juliet
As You Like It
The Sonnets Selection to be supplied as handouts
Christopher Marlowe Edward II
John Webster The Duchess of Malfi
Thomas Middelton &
Thomas Dekker The Roaring Girl
These plays may also be downloaded from the internet.
Phillipa Berry Of Chastity and Power: Elizabethan Literature and the
Unmarried Queen (London and New York: Routledge,1989)
Linda Bamber Comic Women, Tragic Men: A Study of Gender and Genre in
Shakespeare, (London and New York: Routledge,1982)
J. Dollimore, J. and
A. Sinfield, A., (eds.) Political Shakespeare: Essays in Cultural Materialism,
(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994)
Jonathan Dollimore Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the Drama
of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries, (Harvester,1989).
John Drakakis (ed.) Alternative Shakespeares, (London and New York:
Anthony Davies Filming Shakespeare's plays: The Adaptations of Laurence
Olivier, Orson Welles, Peter Brook and Akira Kurosawa,
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989)
Richard Dutton Mastering the Revels: The Regulation of Censorship in
English Renaissance Drama (Oxford: Oxford University
Boris Ford Sixteenth-Century Britain (London:Longman, 1989)
Lucy Gent and
Nigel Llewellyn (eds.) Renaissance Bodies: The Human Figure in English Culture
c.1540-1660 (London: Reaktion Books,1990)
Andrew Gurr Playgoing in Shakespeare's London, (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press,1996)
----- The Shakespearean Stage, 1574-1642, (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press,1994)
Terence Hawkes, Alternative Shakespeares 2, (London: Routledge,1996)
Thomas Healy New Latitudes: Theory and English Renaissance Literature
(London: Edward Arnold,1991)
Peter Holland, English Shakespeares: Shakespeare on the English Stage in
the 1990's, (London and New York:Routledge,1997)
Alexander Leggatt English Drama: Shakespeare to the Restoration, (London:
Charles Marowitz Recycling Shakespeare, (Yale University Press,1990).
Kate McLuskie Renaissance Dramatists, (Sussex : Harvester,1989)
David Norbrook Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance, (London:
Karen Newman Fashioning Femininity and English Renaissance Drama
(Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1991)
Stephen Orgel The Illusion of Power: Political Theatre in the English
Renaissance (Yale University Press,1975)
Lawrence Stone The Family, Sex, and Marriage in England, 1500-1800
(London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson,1979)
Gary Taylor Reinventing Shakespeare: A Cultural History from the
Restoration to the Present, (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
Leonard Tennenhouse Power on Display: The Politics of Shakespeare's Spectacle,
(London: Routledge, 1986)
Stanley Wells The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare Studies,
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1986)
Henry V dir. Laurence Olivier
Henry V dir Kenneth Branagh
King Lear dir Peter Brook
Edward II dir Derek Jarman
Prospero’s Books dir Peter Greenaway
There are thousands of Shakespeare websites, not all are reliable. Good ones are: