Module Identifier ENM1920  
Academic Year 2006/2007  
Co-ordinator Dr Jayne Archer  
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 Resubmit any failed elements and/or make good any missing elements. Where this involves re-submission of work, a new topic must be selected.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

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.  
Communication YES - through seminar presentations and group discussion  
Improving own Learning and Performance YES - through independent reading/ research.  
Team work YES - through group presentations  
Information Technology YES - through literature searches and information retrieval; by the use of online resources  
Application of Number N/A  
Personal Development and Career planning YES - through transferable communication and research skills  
Subject Specific Skills Detailed critical analysis of literary texts and evaluation of broad intellectual concepts.  

Reading Lists

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


This module is at CQFW Level 7