Subject description:

This subject investigates the theatre of Shakespeare as literature and as it is staged in theatres across the world. The subject will examine Shakespeare's canon and key literary perspectives. It will introduce Shakespeare in historical, modern and contemporary eras in western and non-western sites of criticism and performance. Shakespeare’s plays will be discussed in relation to issues of cultural politics and power. The subject will explore avant-garde and postmodern contexts for Shakespeare and Shakespeare in adaptation in film and television.

Subject Objectives:

Students who complete this subject will be able to:

  • Develop an understanding of Shakespeare’s theatre as literature and in performance;
  • Explore the importance of Shakespeare in historical, modern and contemporary contexts;
  • Investigate intercultural contexts for Shakespeare and examine Shakespeare’s plays in relation to society and cultural politics;
  • Investigate adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays in experimental theatre and in film and television.

Generic Skills:

On completion of this subject students should be able to:

  • Prepare and present their ideas in both verbal and written mode at an intermediate level and in conformity to conventions of academic presentation.
  • Participate in discussion and group activities and be sensitive to the participation of others.
  • Communicate knowledge in oral, written and creative forms;
  • Manage their time through productive use of time and responding to deadlines;
  • Think and work creatively and apply imagination in responding to tasks;
  • Think critically and analyse through recommended reading, performance analysis and discussion. 

Subject materials:


The Norton Shakespeare, eds. Stephen Greenblatt et al (best for literary studies—great cultural, historical and textual background)  You will be asked to read from sections in the Norton, so you must have access to it.


The RSC editions of individual plays available at the Bookshop (best for theatre studies—great background on Shakespeare in performance)  (Please note that the RSC Titus Andronicus is new and may not be in in time for the lecture--have another reading option available!)


any reliable scholarly edition of the plays either collected or individual. Your edition must have notes.  You will be asked to read from sections in the Norton, so you must have access to it.  Some other recommended editions: Folgers Library, Riverside, Arden, Oxford, Cambridge, Bedford, Signet Classics (any other edition must be approved by your lecturer or tutor)

The Subject Reader


The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare, by Russ McDonald (good background reading, source documents, and bibliography)

Writing Analytically, eds. David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephen (excellent for help with writing papers!)

Lecture and tutorial plan

Date   Lecture/Readings

Week 1:         “General Introduction” by Stephen Greenblatt (N)

                      “The Shakespearean Stage” by Andrew Gurr (N)

                       Taming of the Shrew (N)

Week 2:          Taming of the Shrew (N)

                        from A Theory of Adaption, Linda Hutcheon (SR and LMS)

                        “The Cinematic Shrews of Teen Comedy” Zachary Lamm (SR and LMS)

Week 3:         Twelfth Night (N)

                        “Gender Trouble in Twelfth Night” Casey Charles (SR)

Week 4:         Twelfth Night (N)

                      “Nunn’s Sweet Transvestite: Desiring Viola in Twelfth Night” Catherine Thomas (SR)

Week 5:         Titus Andronicus (N)

                       “And Make Two Pasties of Your Shameful Heads” Louise Noble (SR)

                       “Titus Andronicus: A Violent Change of Fortunes” Jane Kingsley-Smith


Week 6:         Titus (dir. Julie Taymore)

                      “High Art and Low Blows” Lisa Dickson (SR)

Week 7:         TUTORIAL PAPER DUE (in lecture or John Medley 216 by 4pm)

                       Hamlet (N)

                       Excerpts on Hamlet (SR)

                       Selections from Hamlet on Stage, John Mills (SR)

Week 8:         Hamletmachine (SR)

                       “Resisting the Revolution” David Barnett (SR)

                        “On Hamletmachine” Jonathan Kalb (SR)

Week 9:         Macbeth (N)

                        “The Smell of Macbeth” Jonathan Gil Harris (SR)

Week 10:       Throne of Blood (dir. Akira Kurosawa)

                      “Weaving the Spider’s Web” Paul von Loewenfelt (SR)

Week 11:       The Tempest (N)

                     “The Tempest in the wilderness: The Racialization of Savagery”  Ronald Takaki (SR)

Week 12:       Tempest on Film

(N) Norton

(SR) Subject Reader

(LMS) Online on LMS under “Handouts”