Module Identifier ENM1920  
Academic Year 2004/2005  
Co-ordinator Dr Claire E Jowitt  
Semester Semester 1  
Course delivery Seminars / Tutorials   5 X 2 hour seminars  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 5000 word essay  100%
Supplementary Assessment 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. Political Legitimacy and contemporary kingship in The History Plays: the cases of Richard II (quarto 1597) and Richard III (quarto 1597)

2. Succession Crisis: the case of Hamlet (folio 1601)

3. Kingship and legitimacy in The Scottish Play: the case of Macbeth (performed 1605-6)

4. Kingship and the matter of Britain: the case of King Lear (performed 1605-6)

5. The state, the King and the court: the cases of Measure for Measure (performed 1604) and Timon of Athens (performed 1607-8?)

Reading Lists

** Recommended Background
Julia Briggs (1997) This Stage-Play World: Texts and Contexts, 1580-1625 (2nd Edition) Oxford
Jonathan Dollimore & Alan Sinfield, eds (1985) Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism Manchester
John Drakakis, ed (1985) Alternative Shakespeares London
Jonathan Goldberg (1983) James I and the Politics of Literature Baltimore
Andrew Hadfield (2004) Shakespeare and Renaissance Politics London
Lisa Jardine (1996) Reading Shakespeare Historically London
David Scott Kastan, ed (1999) A Companion to Shakespeare Oxford
Stephen Orgel (1975) The Illusion of Power: Political Theater in the English Renaissance Berkeley
Curtis Perry (1997) The Making of Jacobean Culture Cambridge
Stanley Wells (1996) The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare Studies Cambridge


This module is at CQFW Level 7