This course focuses on five Shakespeare plays, covering a range of genres and periods of his writing. There is an emphasis on both page and stage (or film), and on enriching enjoyment and appreciation of Shakespeare`s work in the context of his own time and of ours.
Listen to Professor Emma Smith talking about the course.
Perhaps we revere Shakespeare more than we enjoy him. This course aims to redress that imbalance. We shall spend time getting to know a range of Shakespeare's plays in detail, supplementing this knowledge with information about their historical background, their theatrical history, and current critical debates. If you associate Shakespeare with the dull grind of school, prepare to think again! The course will inform and stimulate your personal response to plays whether you already know them or are encountering them for the first time. Discussing Shakespeare's work can lead off in so many different directions: into psychology, history, theatre, autobiography… so the course promises a wide-ranging, and enjoyable, intellectual experience.
Students completing this course will be invited to join our online book group.
For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.
Unit 1: Getting started: Macbeth
- First act
- Ideas of tragedy
- Issues of culpability
- Imagery in the play
Unit 2: Macbeth in the Jacobean context and now
- The Globe Theatre
- Simon Forman at the Globe
- Lady Macbeth and the witches
- The play’s politics
Unit 3: Twelfth Night: ideas of comedy then and now
- Ideas of comedy
- Twelfth Night Act 1 Scene 1 and Act 1 Scene 2
- Modern ideas of comedy
- The roles of Malvolio and Feste
- The final scene
Unit 4: Twelfth Night: gender and sexuality
- All-male theatre
- Gender politics in early modern England
- Same-sex relationships in the play
- The structure of the play
Unit 5: Henry V: Elizabethan context and now
- The Elizabethan context
- The first printed text of the play
- Later productions and appropriations
- Changing attitudes to Henry
Unit 6: Henry V: Shakespeare's use of sources
- Other language in the play
Unit 7: Measure for Measure: what is a problem play?
- 'Strategic opacity'
- Problem plays
Unit 8: Measure for Measure: law, justice, and morality
- Biblical and political sources
- The play’s conclusion
Unit 9: The Winter's Tale: late style and tragi-comedy
- The play’s structure
- Late plays
Unit 10: The Winter's Tale on the modern stage
- The Winter’s Tale in performance
- The play’s recent stage history
- Thinking about performance
- Imaginary performances
- ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow’
We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.
To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following paperback books:
Shakespeare, William, The Norton Shakespeare (W.W. Norton, 1997)
The Royal Shakespeare Company Shakespeare (Macmillan, 2007)
We recommend either of these editions because they have useful notes, but other editions are also fine.
You also need to purchase:
Smith, Emma, The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare. (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007)
To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.
For more information on CATS point please click on the link below: http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/studentsupport/faq/cats.php
Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.
Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.
All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting both course assignments and actively participating in the course forums. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.
This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.
Home/EU Fee: £260.00
Non-EU Fee: £295.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00
This course will enable students to:
- Develop their knowledge, understanding, and enjoyment of Shakespeare's plays.
- Develop new critical skills with which to approach Shakespeare on page and stage and, by extension, skills of literary criticism and appreciation applicable more generally.
- Discuss and debate their ideas with other participants and with the critical tradition.
- Feel more confident in going to see an unfamiliar Shakespeare play.
- Revisit school or other previous experiences of learning Shakespeare and see how the field has changed.
By the end of this course students can expect:
- To understand the plays studied in different critical contexts, including historical, theoretical, and theatrical.
- To have challenged their own ideas and come to new understandings of the material.
- To feel confidence in their ability to understand and appreciate Shakespeare.
By the end of this course students will have gained the following skills:
- Enhanced ability to read Shakespeare's plays.
- An ability to recognize and deploy different critical methodologies and to understand something of the range of Shakespeare studies.
- Enhanced ability to understand their own critical/theoretical stance as readers and theatre goers.
- Enhanced ability to reassess their own views in the light of different opinions.
Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment of 500 words due half way through the course and one longer assignment of 1500 words due at the end of the course.
Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.
Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.
Level and demands
FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.
Terms and conditions
Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course
Sources of funding
Information on financial support