Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 5 X 2 hour seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 5000 word essay  100%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit any failed elements and/or make good any missing elements. Where this involves re-submission of work, a new topic must be selected.  Resubmission of essay  100%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:

1. Situate Shakespearean texts against a context of political issues in circulation in the 1590s and early 1600s

2. discuss Shakespeare and Renaissance politics from the viewpoint of a variety of critical approaches

3. demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of texts under review which is informed by an engagement with and understanding of relevant secondary reading

4. demonstrate an awareness of the broader cultural and theoretical issues raised by the module such as the connections between gender and power, the intersections between domestic and foreign policy, the use of allegory in texts.


This module aims:

1. to introduce students to political interpretations of Shakespeare's plays;

2. to explore political issues current in the 1590s and early 1600s;

3. to evaluate recent critical approaches to and studies of Shakespeare's plays;

4. to explore and interrogate the extent to which Shakespeare's plays were critical or supportive of political figures and institutions.

Brief description

This module examines Shakespeare's drama as political events and interventions. It explores Shakespeare's plays in relation to fundamental political issues of the 1590s and early 1600s. It focuses on questions of succession and political legitimacy posed in Shakespeare's plays dating to the last years of Elizabeth I's reign. The module considers the attitude to James I revealed in Shakespeare's plays written after the accession of the Scottish to his English kingdom. It explores the extent to which the relatively successful transition between Tudor and Stuart rule resulted in a focus on the political institutions that govern the nation in Shakespeare's later plays examining how the country was governed and by whom.


1. The Elizabethan court and the succession crisis in The History Plays: Richard II (quarto 1597) and Richard III (quarto 1597)

2. Kingship and legitimacy in The Scottish Play: Macbeth (performed 1605-6)

3. Kingship and the Matter of Britain: King Lear (performed 1605-6)

4. The state, the King and the court: Measure for Measure (performed 1604)

5. Race, gender and the Union in the late plays: Cymbeline (c1609)

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication YES - through seminar presentations and group discussion
Improving own Learning and Performance YES - through independent reading/ research.
Information Technology YES - through literature searches and information retrieval; by the use of online resources
Personal Development and Career planning YES - through transferable communication and research skills
Problem solving YES - by reading texts against context; by critical evaluation of secondary material; by the ability to explore ideas represented in texts; by the ability to develop and sustain a line of argument.
Research skills YES - by critical evaluation of secondary material; by bibliographic searches for relevant material; by relating literary texts to historical contexts; by synthesizing information in an extended evaluative argument.
Subject Specific Skills Detailed critical analysis of literary texts and evaluation of broad intellectual concepts.
Team work YES - through group presentations

Reading List

General Text
(2009.) Shakespeare and religious change /edited by Kenneth J. E. Graham and Philip D. Collington. Palgrave Macmillan (2001.) The Cambridge companion to Shakespeare /edited by Margreta de Grazia and Stanley Wells. Cambridge University Press Primo search (2002.) The Cambridge companion to Shakespeare on stage /edited by Stanley Wells and Sarah Stanton. Cambridge University Press Primo search Alford, Stephen (Sept. 1998) The Early Elizabethan Polity:William Cecil and the British Succession Crisis, 1558-1569 Cambridge University Press Primo search Burgess, Glen (July 2006) The Accession of James I:Historical and Cultural Consequences Palgrave Macmillan Primo search Hammer, Paul E. J. (Sept. 2005) The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics:The Political Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1585-1597 Cambridge University Press Primo search Hopkins, Lisa (Nov. 2005) Shakespeare on the Edge:Border-Crossing in the Tragedies and the Henriad Ashgate Publishing, Limited Primo search King, Ros (March 2005) Cymbeline:Constructions of Britain Ashgate Publishing, Limited Primo search Levine, Nina S. (c1998.) Women's matters :politics, gender, and nation in Shakespeare's early history plays /Nina S. Levine. University of Delaware Press ; Primo search Wells, Robin Headlam. (1986.) Shakespeare, politics and the state /Robin Headlam Wells. Macmillan Primo search Wilson, Richard. (1993.) Will/power :Essays on Shakespearean authority /Richard Wilson. Hemel Hempstead : Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 7