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MA Shakespeare


The Shakespeare MA programme consists of two courses and a dissertation. The courses  are The Works: Plays & Poetry and King Lear & The Tempest: Critical Debate & Creative Response. The dissertation is written on an approved Shakespearean topic of the student’s choice. The programme also includes a short, non-assessed course on Methods & Materials of Research, which provides guidance on the use of library and web resources and the formatting of footnotes and bibliographies.

The courses are designed to provide both breadth of coverage and depth of focus:

The Works: Plays & Poetry

The Works: Plays & Poetry spans Shakespeare’s entire career as a dramatist and poet. It explores in detail, through close reading and class discussion, every kind of play he wrote and his greatest poetry, engaging throughout with the most important recent critical accounts of them. Term 1 focuses on the romantic comedies, the key history plays and the Sonnets, while Term 2 is devoted to the problem plays, the major tragedies and the haunting romances Shakespeare wrote at the end of his career.

King Lear & The Tempest: Critical Debate & Creative Reception

An intensive study of two contrasting masterpieces, the critical controversies they have provoked, and the diverse ways in which they have been adapted and transformed by poets, dramatists and novelists, and by theatre and film directors, since Shakespeare's time. Term 1 is devoted to King Lear and Term 2 to The Tempest. Each term begins with detailed discussion of the play itself before turning first to the critical debate and then exploring the creative impact of the play on later poetry, drama and fiction, and its performance history on stage and screen through landmark productions and film adaptations. On completion of the course graduates will have an advanced understanding of the critical controversies produced by King Lear and The Tempest from the eighteenth century to the present day, and its creative afterlife in fiction, poetry, drama and film.

Shakespeare at Postgraduate Level

Shakespeare3The distinctive feature of this Shakespeare MA is its close engagement with the works themselves and with what they say now about our world as well as what they reveal about Shakespeare’s. The critical, historical and theoretical issues raised by his plays and poetry are allowed to emerge out of the student’s direct encounter with them, rather than being prescribed in advance as avenues of approach.

The MA is designed both for students who wish to pursue research at PhD level and for students who simply wish to develop their knowledge of Shakespeare and their critical skills beyond first-degree level. An introduction to research methods is part of the programme, and IT training, both elementary and advanced, is available on campus.

The Shakespeare MA programme begins in late September and Shakespeare6lasts one year for full-time students and two years for part-time students. Each of the two courses constitutes a whole  unit of study and is taught in 20 weekly two-hour seminars over two terms: 10 seminars in the Autumn Term and 10 seminars in the Spring Term. The dissertation is researched and written after both courses have been completed, between the start of Summer Term in late April and early September, when the dissertation is submitted. Full-time students take both courses concurrently; part-time students take the Works course in their first year and the King Lear & The Tempest course in their second. The non-assessed Methods & Materials of Research course is taken by all MA studeCasebooks King Learnts in the Department in the first term of study.

Each student is required to write two essays of 5,000—6,500 words for each of the two courses: a first draft of the Autumn Term essay to be submitted by the first day of Spring Term; the final draft of the Autumn Term essay to be submitted on the first day of Summer Term; and the Spring Term essay to be submitted 2 weeks after the first day of Summer Term. The topics of the essays are agreed with the course tutor. Each student is also required to submit in September, at the end of the programme of study, a dissertation of 12,000—15,000 words (excluding bibliography and appendices) on an approved topic related to any aspect of the programme. 

The work each course entails is set out on the MA's  dedicated websites. These specify the primary and secondary reading required for each week and suggest key topics for discussion as well as further reading. They provide direct links to downloadable copies of secondary reading and to clips of film productions available online. And they also provide printable copies of the course books, a comprehensive bibliography tailored to the MA, and up-to-date links to the wealth of Shakespeare resources on the Internet.

The seminars are designed to focus in depth on the material being studied, by combining close textual analysis and interpretation with broader discussion of the theatrical, historical and theoretical issues raised by the texts.  Class presentations of Shakespeare Last Playsseminar papers (1000-1500 words) allow students to investigate topics, develop arguments and present conclusions or pose questions for further discussion in the seminar. They also provide an opportunity to explore and test ideas for the essays students are required to write for each course. In addition to oral feedback in class the seminar papers receive prompt written feedback from the tutor on the course website, to which the papers are uploaded.  

The dissertation is designed to test the student’s ability to handle a comp lex topic and to display research skills at greater length than the course essays allow. It may develop work done for any part of either course, or be on any topic approved by the student’s dissertation  supervisor.

Students receive individual feedback on the problems, strengths and scope for improvement of the essays they write for their courses and detailed advice on the devising and drafting of their dissertation.


Both courses use DVDs and videos throughout to illustrate and examine key scenes from screen versions of the plays. Students have excellent departmental and college collections of film, TV and audio productions of Shakespeare’s plays at their disposal for short-term borrowing.

Seminars for both courses are held from 5pm to 7pm: the King Lear & The Tempest course is scheduled to be held on Wednesdays and  the Works course on Thursdays. The Methods & Materials of Research course is also timetabled to take place in the late afternoon or early evening in the first term of study. 


Professor Tiffany Stern, Professor of Shakespeare & Early Modern Literature

Dr Deana Rankin, Senior Lecturer in English and Director of MA Shakespeare

Dr Christie Carson, Reader in Shakespeare & Performance

Dr Linda Grant, Teaching Fellow in Shakespeare & Renaissance Literature

Dr Roy Booth, Senior Lecturer in Shakespeare & Renaissance Literature

Dr Harry Newman, Lecturer in Shakespeare & Early Modern Literature

Normally a second-class BA in Single or Joint Honours English, or a suitable related discipline, is required of UK applicants. Overseas applicants should have a degree of equivalent standard and must possess a high level of competence in spoken and written English.

Please submit two short pieces of written work along with your application. These can be uploaded if you are applying online.

Please apply via Embark.

Course Director 

Dr Deana Rankin


Contact for more information

Postgraduate Programmes Administrator

Lisa Dacunha
Tel:+44 (0)1784 443215



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