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SEL3452 : Shakespeare and Company: Gender, Power, Theatre

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Emma Whipday
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 48 student places

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


This module explores performances of gender and power on the early modern stage and page. In a world where your clothes signalled your status, men were expected to rule the household, and women were expected to be chaste, silent, and obedient, the theatre turned societal expectations upside down: boy players performed women, rulers and tricksters disguised themselves, and Shakespeare’s female protagonists frequently cross-dressed. On this drama-centred module, we will examine how masculinity, femininity, and social status were performed on- and off-stage in early modern playhouses. In so doing, we will situate plays in their wider theatrical, social, cultural, and political contexts, exploring the rich, complex, and often troubling world of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

Outline Of Syllabus

Possible module plays include plays by Shakespeare (e.g. Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night, Winter’s Tale), by other prominent early modern dramatists (e.g. Thomas Middleton, Ben Jonson, John Webster, John Ford), and by counter-canonical writers (possibilities include ‘anonymous’ and elite female playwrights).

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion461:0046:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture101:0010:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1001:00100:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching92:0018:00Seminars
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities101:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops12:002:00Assessment preparation workshop
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops22:004:00Screenings of past productions
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity91:009:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery11:001:00Essay consultations
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures present the module concepts and contexts and clarify and explain unfamiliar material. Students respond to these ideas and draw on their own reading in small-group seminar work and in peer-led study groups. The film screenings offer examples of how other directors and companies have staged and performed the module texts; if a relevant production is available locally when the module is running, the module could also involve a trip to view this. The assessment workshop enables students to receive guidance on mid-semester assessments and then work on their assessments in a supportive environment.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M25Close reading (1000 words)
Essay1A75Essay (3000 words)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The mid-module assessment offers students the opportunity to develop their close reading skills in preparation for the final essay; students will be encouraged to ‘feed forward’ their feedback when working on their end of semester assessment.

The essay requires students to engage in detail with the texts and concepts studied, demonstrating their ability to relate critical and historical debates to textual analysis, as well as assessing key discipline-specific skills in research and writing. It offers students an opportunity to conceptualise a wider argument which addresses the themes of the module.

Reading Lists