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6AAEC052 Shakespeare's London

Credit value: 15
Module convenor: Dr Sarah Lewis
Assessment: Online seminar preparation task (15%); 3 hour open book exam (85%)
Alternative assessment for study abroad students: Online seminar preparation task (15%); 3000-word essay (85%)
Teaching pattern: One lecture and one seminar or workshop weekly
Pre-requisites: None

Module aims:

This module explores the relationship between Shakespeare’s plays and the social, cultural, political and theatrical environments in which they were written. It tests out two ideas: (1) that the plays are the product of the urban environment in which they were written, even when they are set in locations such as France, Illyria, Venice, Cyprus, ancient Rome and medieval Scotland; and (2) that they are shaped by the conventions of the theatres and actors for which Shakespeare was writing.

Module description:

Our Scene is London… 

Taught in collaboration with Globe Education, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, this module aims to take full advantage of the fact that we are able to study Shakespeare’s plays in the city in which they were written and first performed. Through lectures and seminars at King’s, and lectures, seminars, workshops and demonstrations at Shakespeare’s Globe, you will learn about the cultural, theatrical, political and social contexts in which plays were produced, and we will explore the extent to which Shakespeare’s plays were shaped by the environments in which he lived and worked. We will also consider the ways in which they are presented to new audiences in today’s London, drawing on film versions and stage productions in lectures and seminars. 

Focusing on the early to middle section of Shakespeare’s career, we will look at a spread of plays from different genres, such as 1 Henry IVJulius CaesarOthello, Twelfth Night, All’s Well That Ends Well and Macbeth. We will also draw on one of the most important Elizabethan works about London, John Stow’s A Survey of London Written in the Year 1598, and on the plays of Shakespeare’s contemporaries such as Chapman, Dekker, Heywood, Jonson, Marston and Munday.

Learning outcomes:

On completing the module, students will be able to:

  • analyse Shakespeare’s plays as literary and theatrical documents;
  • use contextual materials to explore the relationship between Shakespeare’s plays and their early modern environments;
  • evaluate and put to use a range of critical approaches to Shakespeare’s plays;
  • assess the relationship between Shakespeare’s plays and those of his contemporaries.

Ideal preparation for this module would include the following reading:

Tiffany Stern, Making Shakespeare: From Stage to Page (London: Routledge, 2004) (one of the best introductions to the early modern stage); Charles Nicholl, The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street (London: Allen Lane, 2007) (an engaging attempt to embed Shakespeare in early modern London).

Core reading:

All of the plays except All’s Well That Ends Well are all in Stephen Greenblatt, et al., eds., The Norton Shakespeare: Essential Plays and The Sonnets (New York and London: W.W. Norton, 2016); if you’re planning to take ‘Late Shakespeare’, you might prefer to get the full Norton Shakespeare (New York and London: W.W. Norton, 2016), which includes all of the plays (including All’s Well That Ends Well) and poems. You can also buy All’s Well That Ends Well in a good single-volume edition, such as those in the Arden, Oxford or Cambridge series. For context and background, the best edition of Stow’s Survey is the 2005 edition with an Introduction by Antonia Fraser: A Survey of London Written in the Year 1598 (London: History Press, 2005)

 Any additional course costs :

You will need to have either the Norton Essential Plays plus All’s Well That Ends Well in a single volume, a complete works of Shakespeare (e.g. Norton, Arden or Oxford), or a set of single-volume editions. Extracts from Stow’s Survey and texts of other required works will provided in a coursepack or electronically.

The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

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