Early Shakespeare - EN727

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn 6 30 (15) DR R Loughnane checkmark-circle


This module offers students the opportunity to read and analyse Shakespeare's earliest extant plays and poems and to consider the issue of 'early’ writing and style. This module will consider the theatrical, social, historical, and material contexts for the first plays Shakespeare wrote when he migrated from Stratford-upon-Avon to East London. In the course of the module, we will look specifically at Shakespeare’s practices of co-authorship with other dramatists in his early career, including Christopher Marlowe, George Peele, and Thomas Nashe. We will also consider such issues as performance spaces, company involvement, touring, patronage, and poetic ambition. Students will have the opportunity to read across genre and form, including canonical plays as The Taming of the Shrew and Richard III, and less often studied works such as Edward III and the plague narrative poems.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

The module will be taught by ten weekly two-hour seminars and five bi-weekly two-hour workshops.

Method of assessment

100% Coursework:
a) Seminar performance mark in accordance with the criteria published in the School of English Undergraduate Handbook (10%)
b) A 2,000-word research report, reflecting on research methods and analysis, combining textual and material sources (30%)
c) Independent research project of 4,000 words on a topic of the student's choice (60%)

Indicative reading

Required Reading:
William Shakespeare, The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition, gen. eds. Taylor et. al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016)

Bate, J (2008), Soul of the Age: The Life, Mind and World of William Shakespeare. London: Viking Press.
Bevington, D. (2011), 'Early Shakespeare' in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Honigmann, E. A. J. (1985), Shakespeare: The 'Lost Years'. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
McMillin, S. and S MacLean (1998), The Queen's Men and Their Plays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Taylor, G. and R. Loughnane (2017), 'The Canon and Chronology of Shakespeare's Works', in The New Oxford Shakespeare: Authorship Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 417-602.
Weis, R (2007), Shakespeare Revealed: A Biography. London: John Murray.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 read and respond critically to a range of Shakespeare's earliest works;
2 show a sophisticated understanding of Shakespeare's work in relation to the social, cultural and performance contexts of the period;
3 show a critical understanding of Shakespeare as a playwright in the first ten years of his career, what an 'early' style might mean, his collaborations with other dramatists and his experiments in performance technique and genre;
4 be conversant with current critical and theoretical approaches to early Shakespeare and debates about authorship, co-authorship, Shakespearean theatre history, and performance.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 analyse texts critically and make comparisons across a range of materials;
2 understand and interrogate various critical approaches and the theoretical assumptions that underpin these approaches;
3 show a command of written English and an ability to articulate coherent critical arguments;
4 display good presentational skills;
5 display an ability to carry out independent research.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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