MA in English: Shakespeare in History

This programme offers the exciting opportunity to study Shakespeare in the centre of London, the city where he spent his working life as a writer. UCL has one of the top English departments in the UK, and counts several published Shakespeare scholars among its staff.

Application Requirements

Applications for places on this course are considered at
any time throughout the year. If you wish to begin the course in September 2014, then your application form must be completed and both your references submitted by 1st August at the latest. Applications completed after this point will instead be considered for entry in 2015.

Programme structure

180 credits comprising: 90 credit dissertation; 6 x 15 credit modules


The programme consists of three elements taught within the department, while allowing the opportunity to take modules outside the department selected from a menu of recommended complimentary modules.

The three elements – Shakespeare in his Time, Research Skills and Methods, and Shakespeare’s Afterlives – are offered as 15 credit modules in both autumn and spring terms, while the dissertation is written during the summer term.

Shakespeare in his time 1 (autumn) and 2 (spring) give the student a thorough grounding both in Shakespeare’s plays and poems and in the contexts which shaped them. Each week a particular work or group of works will be explored in depth, and considered in relation to historical issues, sources, and writings by Shakespeare’s contemporaries. Both modules are compulsory and are assessed by an essay (2-3,000 words).

Research skills and methods 1 (autumn) and 2 (spring) introduce tools necessary for the study of Shakespeare at graduate level, such as bibliography, editing, and the use of archival resources. They include a series of classes on the skills needed to read early modern manuscripts. RSM 1 (autumn) is compulsory and will be assessed by a research exercise, and RSM 2 (spring) is non-compulsory and is assessed by a research methods project (2-3,000 words).

Shakespeare’s afterlives 1 (autumn) and 2 (spring) examine the reception of Shakespeare’s works and their cultural influence, especially in Britain, North America and continental Europe, drawing on the UCL English Department’s notable expertise in the periods from Shakespeare’s death to the present day. Students will explore how Shakespeare has inspired later writers and how each different age has made its own Shakespeare. The course will include some attention to Shakespeare on film and to the diverse branches of Shakespeare criticism. Both modules are non-compulsory and are assessed by an essay (2-3,000 words).

The dissertation (summer) is a 15-20,000 (plus oral assessment) essay, concerning some aspect of Shakespeare arising out of the course. The oral assessment takes the form of a 5-10 minute presentation in spring term at the dissertation planning conference; this is an ungraded but compulsory exercise.

UCL achieves high ratings in university league tables, and the English Department is widely recognised as one of the top departments in its field for both research and teaching. The MA is taught by leading research specialists in the field. Teaching is by seminars, supported by access to specialist advice ; provision will be made available for one-to-one discussion – of an academic or pastoral nature – at various points throughout the year. A dissertation and coursework enable students to pursue their individual interests, aided by UCL’s unrivalled proximity to London's world-class research libraries, theatres, and other cultural facilities. The course is an ideal preparation for students who wish to undertake original Shakespeare-related research for a PhD. Graduates of the MA have gone on to various kinds of success, including PhD study at UCL and elsewhere, and work in publishing and the film industry.

Part-time students

Part-time students are advised to take 'Shakespeare in his Time' 1 and 2, and 'Research Skills and Methods' 1 in their first year, then ‘Research Skills and Methods’ and ‘Shakespeare’s Afterlives’ in the second year, and are otherwise free to construct their own programme. Work on the dissertation is spread across the summer term in both years. Course construction for part-time students will be discussed on a student by student basis depending on circumstances and commitments.

Opportunities for Further Research

Candidates who are successful in obtaining the MA and have found a promising subject requiring further study are welcome to apply to the UCL MPhil/PhD programme.

Research Resources

The resources for studying Shakespearean and Renaissance literature at UCL are rivalled by very few institutions anywhere in the world. The manuscript collection in the nearby British Library offers graduate students unlimited scope for research. UCL is a few minutes away from a wide range of other major research institutions and libraries, such as the University of London Library, the Warburg Institute, and the Institute of Historical Research.

The London Shakespeare Seminar holds regular meetings nearby, bringing together lecturers and graduate students from all the London colleges. The seminar acts as a forum for new research both within and outside the university, with the frequent presentation of papers by internationally renowned scholars.

Students taking this programme are encouraged to attend seminars arranged by the Centre for Early Modern Exchanges.