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Study Shakespeare in the UK

The Shakespeare Centre Library in Stratford-upon-Avon

Thirty-seven plays, 154 sonnets, 1,233 characters, and over 1,700 newly-created words – this is what William Shakespeare left the world with when he died on 23 April 1616.

If you’re passionate about Shakespeare and want to focus your studies on an aspect of his works, then the UK is the perfect place to look. Want to do a specialist literature course? What about a drama course that lets you explore innovative ways of staging his plays?

Here are just some of the ways you can get to know Shakespeare through your studies.

Take a course about Shakespeare

Some universities offer specific courses about Shakespeare in performing arts, literature and history. Many are postgraduate courses that let you focus on Shakespeare after completing your undergraduate studies – for example, you could study for Master’s or Postgraduate Diploma qualifications in ‘Global Shakespeare’, ‘Shakespeare and Renaissance Literary Culture’ or ‘Shakespeare Studies’. Click here for the full list.

Giulia from Italy, MA Shakespeare in History at University College London:

‘My MA has been a wonderful full immersion in the world of Shakespeare – and an exciting opportunity to get a taste of historical research in early modern England. For my final Research Methods project, I worked on a manuscript from 1553 that I found in the British Library and no one had ever analysed before – quite a dream for an aspiring academic!’ 

Claudia from Canada, MA Shakespeare Studies at King’s College London:

‘My MA programme was a mixture of history, bibliography, palaeography and literature. The professors were excellent and I am so grateful to have learned from them.’

Read more about Giulia's and Claudia's studies here

There are also a few options for studying Shakespeare at undergraduate or pathway level. Click here to find out more.

There are also a variety of Shorter courses that focus on Shakespeare, including summer schools and online courses. Please remember to check the requirements of your visa if you are applying to do a short course in the UK.

Focus your course on Shakespeare

Other courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level might allow you to focus on Shakespeare by picking special modules (many UK universities and colleges allow you to choose your modules, or subjects, from a list each year). If your interest is in drama or performance, you could choose a vocational course at a further education college or conservatoire that helps you focus on Shakespeare.

School or college students who do English literature courses will also find they can study Shakespeare. His plays are part of the National Curriculum (the UK’s required curriculum) for pupils aged up to 16, as well as A–level studies in English literature or drama. Many schools that teach the International Baccalaureate (IB) also include the study of Shakespeare’s texts.

Start with our Subject profiles for Humanities, Creative arts and Drama, Dance and Music to see what you could study.

After that, take a closer look at what individual universities and colleges have to offer. It’s a good idea to look at both the course options and the tutors to see what their specialisms are – you might be surprised how many of them are world-renowned experts on Shakespeare!

Learn English with Shakespeare

Shakespeare speaks

Some people estimate that Shakespeare invented more than 2,200 words! You might recognise...

  • Belongings
  • Eyeball
  • Fashionable
  • Ladybird
  • Manager 

Learning English in the land of Shakespeare can be a true inspiration.
After all, Shakespeare invented literally thousands of the words we use in modern English today (see right).

Some English language centres offer short courses with a Shakespeare theme. These might combine English language practical workshops and lessons with sessions where students explore Shakespeare’s works, perform scenes from his plays and go on excursions to the theatre to see the plays in action.

Most summer and winter language schools have varied programmes that offer lots of day trips and excursions. Ask the institution you are applying to if there will be the chance to visit any Shakespeare sites.

Find out about studying English in the UK here or use the Search tool to browse English language courses – there are thousands of courses for all ages and abilities.

Study Shakespeare online

The British Council has a lot of materials online that can help you learn and practise your English. The Shakespeare episodes of the LearnEnglish Word On The Street series combine short videos about Shakespeare’s life and times with questions to check your understanding.

The British Council will run an online course with FutureLearn in January 2016. This is for intermediate English language learners to explore the key themes and characters in Shakespeare’s plays. Keep an eye on the British Council's online courses for updates.

FutureLearn has a number of other courses that explore Shakespeare, including a course on Shakespeare and his world by the University of Warwick and two courses on Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing by the University of Birmingham.

You’ll also find lots of useful resources that allow you to explore every side of Shakespeare and provide help understanding his texts on the website of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

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