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Shakespeare's World - HIS00022C

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. David Wootton
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20

Module aims

Students taking this module will read (or listen to, or watch) more than a dozen plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. The plays will be used as a mirror in which to see the beliefs and values of the audience for which they were written.

Key themes that will be explored include politics, religion, marriage, and honour. These were subjects on which there was a good deal of disagreement amongst Shakespeare's contemporaries, so that plays had to be open to a number of different, contrasting interpretations depending on the convictions of individual members of the audience. Students will be encouraged to find several different possible meanings within each text.

This course will provide for students a novel approach to literary texts as an historical source as well as building on the skills which some of them may have acquired through sixth form study of English or modern languages.

Module learning outcomes

After completing this module students should have:

  • Obtained an introduction to early modern English history
  • The ability to use literary sources as a tool of historical analysis
  • Developed their confidence in critical reading, note-taking and essay writing


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback given in a 15 minute one-to-one tutorial in the middle of term for 'procedural' essay

Indicative reading

  • Machiavelli, The Prince; Castiglione, The Courtier; Montaigne, On Friendship
  • Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy (1590); Shakesperare, Hamlet (1599)
  • Marlowe, Faustus (1593); Shakespeare, The Tempest (1611)
  • Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (1595); Webster, The Duchess of Malfi (1614)
  • Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (1600); Jonson, Sejanus (1603)
  • Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (1596); Jonson, Volpone (1605)
  • Middleton and Dekker, The Roaring Girl (1611); Fletcher, The Woman's Prize (1610)
  • A.D. Nuttall, Shakespeare the Thinker

You might like to look at the following:

  • Riggs, David. The World of Christopher Marlowe. London: Faber, 2004.
  • Shapiro, James. 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare. London: Faber, 2005

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students