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Shakespeare MA

UCAS code
Year of entry
Course length
1 year full time
2 years part time
English »
Location of study
Main Campus (Egham) »

"O this learning, what a thing it is!"
The Taming of the Shrew (1.2.130)

If you have a passion for the works of William Shakespeare, this MA gives you the space to study the full range of Shakespeare’s works more closely and comprehensively than you could as an undergraduate – approaching Shakespeare as a maker of theatre on page and stage. The course focuses closely on the works themselves, looking at what they say about our world today, as well as what they reveal about Shakespeare’s. We've designed the course so that you'll discover the critical, historical and theoretical issues in his plays and poetry as you encounter them, rather than providing you with prescribed routes to take. 

The MA is designed to provide you with both breadth of coverage and depth of focus, and the course is ideal whether you wish to pursue research at PhD level or simply wish to develop your knowledge of Shakespeare and your critical skills. You will be taught by the people creating and animating current critical debates on manuscript, print and performance.

Join a department that's joint 2nd in the UK for outstanding and world-leading research environments (REF 2014). You'll benefit from our incredible research: over two thirds of our research was judged ‘world leading and internationally excellent’ in REF 2014.  All staff in the department are highly regarded scholars, writers and critics who are engaged in research, writing ground-breaking books, talking to or writing in the national media, and providing expert advice to organisations including the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Department for Education and other national and international bodies.

Designed to be flexible, this course can be studied full-time for one year or part-time over two years.

Core modules

Shakespeare - Plays, Players and Papers

In this module you will develop an understanding of early modern plays, in particular the works of Shakespeare and some of his contemporaries, critically evaluating ideas on play-construction, performance, revision, and reception. You will examine plays in the light of the papers from which they were constructed, including plot-scenarios, and co-authored scenes and acts. You will look at the papers from which a play was performed, including actors’ parts, stage scrolls, prologues and epilogues, and the papers into which plays resolved after performance, including ballads, chapbooks, drolls, passages in commonplace books, and woodcuts. This module stresses close engagement with plays in the light of the documents that brought them about and that reflect them.

Critical Debate and Creative Response

In this module you look at two complementary critical approaches to Shakespeare. You will start by looking at early modern print culture, engaging closely with a selection of Shakespearean and non-Shakespeare texts. You will explore way in which writers, readers, actors and stationers produced, mediated and interpreted literature, learning about the printed book trade, print’s relationship to manuscript, drama’s passage from playhouse to printing-house, editorial and reading practices, non-typographical forms of printing, and the influential concept of the imprint in early modern thought. You will then examine critical responses to Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century, considering examples of stage adaptation, scholarly editing, anthologising and constructions of early modern history.

Shakespeare and Dramaturgy

In this module you will explore Shakespeare in relation to dramaturges of the past, including Nahum Tate, Colley Cibber, Ellen Terry, and Joan Littlewood. You will then examine dramaturgies of the present and look to possible dramaturgies for the future. You will analyse performance history and engage in creative practice, which may include editing a play for performance, designing for a production, constructing a research packet for a production, or creating a programme for a production. You will also investigate the dramaturgies of mainstream and fringe, and professional and amateur Shakespeare productions.

Methods and Materials of Research

This module is designed to introduce you to a number of key topics related to the methods of postgraduate research, and to some of the resources and materials that will be useful to your studies.


This will be a piece of original written work, of between 12,000 and 15,000 words. The topic of the dissertation will be agreed between you and whichever member of staff is allotted as supervisor and is normally required to be submitted by the beginning of September in the year of the completion of the programme.

This course comprises 120 units: Shakespeare - Plays, Players, Papers (60 units); Critical Debate and Creative Response (30 units); Shakespeare and Dramaturgy (30 units); Dissertation (60 units); Methods and Materials of Research (unweighted).

You will attend seminars and be expected to read texts, conduct achival research on the internet or in libraries, and attend performances.

You will be assessed through essays and your final Dissertation.

Entry criteria:

UK Upper Second Class Honours degree (2:1); or equivalent; candidates with a high
2:2 may also be considered. Candidates with professional qualifications and work experience in an associated area may be considered.

Applicants may be asked to submit a sample of recent written work, such as two short essays or an extract from a dissertation.

English language requirements:

IELTS score of 7.0 with 7.0 in writing and no
sub-score below 5.5, for non-native English speaking applicants

If you require Royal Holloway to sponsor your study in the UK, your IELTS must be a UK government-approved Secure English Language Test (SELT).

International and EU entry requirements

Please select your country from the drop-down list below

Students from overseas should visit the International pages for information on the entry requirements from their country and further information on English language requirements. Royal Holloway offers a Pre-Master’s Diploma for International Students and English language pre-sessional courses, allowing students the opportunity to develop their study skills and English language before starting their postgraduate degree.


A successful applicant will usually have the following qualities:

  • excellent oral and written command of the English language
  • enthusiasm for studying Shakespeare and experience of studying his works at an advanced level
  • keenness to contribute actively and productively to class discussion
  • ability to work independently on essays and dissertation.

Our postgraduates have gone into academic roles at the Universities of Edinburgh, Sussex and Leeds, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the National University of Ireland.

We will prepare you for careers in other areas too, such as teaching, librarianship, marketing, and theatre administration.

Home and EU students tuition fee per year 2018/19*: £7,200

International students tuition fee per year 2018/19*: £14,900

Other essential costs**: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course

How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.

* These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis. Students studying part-time are charged a pro-rata tuition fee, usually equivalent to approximately half the full-time fee. Please email student-fees@royalholloway.ac.uk for further information on part-time fees. All postgraduate fees are subject to inflationary increases. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see tuition fees and our terms and conditions.

** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing, have not been included.

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