Rethinking Shakespeare (EAS1041)

StaffDr Victoria Sparey - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module aims to explore the processes by which Shakespeare’s plays came into existence, how they achieved their unique status in English literature and culture, and how Shakespeare's dominance has been and continues to be challenged.The module illuminates the role (and texts) of other writers involved in the legacy of Shakespeare’s plays and encourages you to examine these often neglected influences within modern understandings of Shakespeare. For example, you will read Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew alongside John Fletcher’s response: The Tamer Tamed and Nahum Tate’s King Lear will be read in its Restoration context and as a crucial part of the play’s stage history (for 150 years, this was the Lear on stage). Throughout, the module pays close attention to the particular possibilities of theatre as a mode of cultural production.


By asking you to edit a short passage from King Lear as a formative assignment (for which you will participate in a supervised editing workshop in seminar time and then produce a piece of written work recording your approach), the module offers an invaluable opportunity to understand the role of the modern editor and encounter the important issue of textual variants in Shakespeare Studies. Should you choose to develop your editing skills further in your summative assignment (see assessment description below), you will receive training in TEI XML mark up to help you produce a digital edition of your edited passage.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate a critical appreciation of some of the dominant concepts, methods and debates informing the study of
  • 2. demonstrate an ability to analyse the form and content of particular plays;
  • 3. demonstrate an awareness of how responses to Shakespeare's work have developed over time;
  • 4. demonstrate a grasp of the interpretative choices involved in editing, performing, adapting Shakespearean texts, with an option to produce an online/digital version of an edited passage of King Lear;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. demonstrate a basic ability to analyse the literature of an earlier era and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to
  • 6. demonstrate a basic ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history;
  • 7. demonstrate a basic ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary texts;
  • 8. demonstrate a basic ability to analyze contemporary debates in light of the history of their discipline;

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. through seminar work, demonstrate basic communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups;
  • 10. through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a basic capacity to construct a coherent,substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose;
  • 11. through research for seminars and essays, demonstrate basic proficiency in information retrieval and analysis.

Syllabus plan


1. Rethinking Shakespeare

2. Textual Production and the Variants of King Lear

3. The Role of the Editor

4 Textual Analysis: As You Like It and The Taming of the Shrew


5. Origins: Shakespeare and his Sources

6. Performance 1: Early Modern Stage Spaces

7. Performance 2 (Characters, Cue-scripts and Cross-dressing) & An Introduction to Digital Humanities

8. Shakespeare in His Age: The Historical Approach (History and Politics: King Lear; Gender Debates: Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and John Fletcher’s The Tamer Tamed)


9. Shakespeare's Afterlives: Restoration Drama and Staging (Nahum Tate, King Lear; John Lacy, Sauny the Scot)

10: Shakespeare in Present-Day Performance: As You Like It in two ways (Edzard and Branagh) and Peter Brook’s King Lear

11. Shakespeare Today (WTG and Elaine Feinstein, Lear’s Daughters)

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning & Teaching activities11lectures
Scheduled Learning & Teaching activities3Digital Humanities Workshops
Guided independent study16.5Seminars
Guided independent study22study group meetings and individual
Guided independent study46seminar preparation (individual)
Guided independent study51.5reading, research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Editing exercise30 lines edited text + 800 word commentary1-2, 4, 7-8, 10Cohort feedback with

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar participation10Continuous9Oral feedback from tutor and opportunity for tutor follow-up.
Essay or digital edited text with critical commentary901500 words1-8, 10-11/ 1-2,4,7-8, 10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Seminar participationSeminar participation9Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay1-8, 10-11Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Core Reading:


William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew (Norton Critical Editions), ed. Dympna Callaghan, Norton, 2009.

William Shakespeare. King Lear (Norton Critical Editions), ed. Grace Ioppolo, Norton, 2008.

William Shakespeare, As You Like It (Norton Critical Editions), ed. Leah Marcus, Norton, 2011.

*Norton Critical Editions include Source texts for each play; these will be used in week 5 of the module.


Daniel Fischlin and Mark Fortier (eds), Adaptations of Shakespeare: A Critical Anthology (2000).

(which includes: John Fletcher, The Tamer Tamed; Nahum Tate, King Lear; WTG and Elaine Feinstein, Lear’s Daughters)


*You should buy copies of the three Shakespeare plays and Adaptations of Shakespeare.



Core Film Texts (Screening of these films will be scheduled during the course of the module: students are not expected to purchase these texts):


As You Like It. Dir. Kenneth Branagh (2006)

King Lear. Dir. Peter Brook (1971)

As You Like It. Dir. Christine Edzard (1992)



Secondary Reading:

Laurie Maguire (ed.), How to Do Things With Shakespeare (2007)


M. J. Kidnie, Shakespeare and the Problem of Adaptation (2009)


Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Web-based and electronic resources: ELE, Digital Humanities Laboratory for training in TEI XML mark up.

Available as distance learning?


Last revision date


Key words search

English, Literature, Shakespeare.