Shakespeare (Online)


This course focuses on five Shakespeare plays, covering a range of genres and periods of his writing. There is an emphasis on both page and stage (or film), and on enriching enjoyment and appreciation of Shakespeare`s work in the context of his own time and of ours.

Listen to Professor Emma Smith talking about the course.

Perhaps we revere Shakespeare more than we enjoy him. This course aims to redress that imbalance. We shall spend time getting to know a range of Shakespeare's plays in detail, supplementing this knowledge with information about their historical background, their theatrical history, and current critical debates. If you associate Shakespeare with the dull grind of school, prepare to think again! The course will inform and stimulate your personal response to plays whether you already know them or are encountering them for the first time. Discussing Shakespeare's work can lead off in so many different directions: into psychology, history, theatre, autobiography… so the course promises a wide-ranging, and enjoyable, intellectual experience.

For information on how the courses work, please click here.

Programme details

Unit 1: Getting started: Macbeth

  • First act
  • Language
  • Ideas of tragedy
  • Issues of culpability
  • Imagery in the play

Unit 2: Macbeth in the Jacobean context and now

  • The Globe Theatre
  • Simon Forman at the Globe
  • Lady Macbeth and the witches
  • The play’s politics

Unit 3: Twelfth Night: ideas of comedy then and now

  • Ideas of comedy
  • Twelfth Night Act 1 Scene 1 and Act 1 Scene 2
  • Modern ideas of comedy
  • The roles of Malvolio and Feste
  • The final scene

Unit 4: Twelfth Night: gender and sexuality

  • All-male theatre
  • Gender politics in early modern England
  • Same-sex relationships in the play
  • The structure of the play

Unit 5: Henry V: Elizabethan context and now

  • The Elizabethan context
  • The first printed text of the play
  • Later productions and appropriations
  • Changing attitudes to Henry

Unit 6: Henry V: Shakespeare's use of sources

  • Rhetoric
  • Other language in the play
  • Chorus
  • Sources

Unit 7: Measure for Measure: what is a problem play?

  • 'Strategic opacity'
  • Problem plays
  • Characterisation
  • Sources

Unit 8: Measure for Measure: law, justice, and morality

  • Biblical and political sources
  • Barnardine
  • The play’s conclusion
  • Substitution

Unit 9: The Winter's Tale: late style and tragi-comedy

  • The play’s structure
  • Leontes
  • Hermione
  • Late plays

Unit 10: The Winter's Tale on the modern stage

  • The Winter’s Tale in performance
  • The play’s recent stage history
  • Thinking about performance
  • Imaginary performances
  • Review
  • ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow’

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


Credit Application Transfer Scheme (CATS) points 

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £30 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £30 fee. 

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education, you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee. 


Digital credentials

All students who pass their final assignment, whether registered for credit or not, will be eligible for a digital Certificate of Completion. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so. 

Please note that assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail. 


Description Costs
Course Fee £385.00
Take this course for CATS points £30.00


Dr Wendy Trevor

Wendy Trevor has a BA in English, an MA in Shakespeare and Cultural History, and a PhD in English with a specialty in early modern drama and intellectual history. She has fifteen years of teaching experience in face to face and online modalities. Her research interests include the heraldic funerary ritual and death and commemoration in Tudor and Stuart England; early modern conceptions of male friendship and translations of works by Aristotle, Cicero and Seneca.

Course aims

This course will enable students to:

  • Develop their knowledge, understanding, and enjoyment of Shakespeare's plays.
  • Develop new critical skills with which to approach Shakespeare on page and stage and, by extension, skills of literary criticism and appreciation applicable more generally.
  • Discuss and debate their ideas with other participants and with the critical tradition.
  • Feel more confident in going to see an unfamiliar Shakespeare play.
  • Revisit school or other previous experiences of learning Shakespeare and see how the field has changed.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students can expect:

  • To understand the plays studied in different critical contexts, including historical, theoretical, and theatrical.
  • To have challenged their own ideas and come to new understandings of the material.
  • To feel confidence in their ability to understand and appreciate Shakespeare.

By the end of this course students will have gained the following skills:

  • Enhanced ability to read Shakespeare's plays.
  • An ability to recognize and deploy different critical methodologies and to understand something of the range of Shakespeare studies.
  • Enhanced ability to understand their own critical/theoretical stance as readers and theatre goers.
  • Enhanced ability to reassess their own views in the light of different opinions.

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link:


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an Enrolment form for short courses | Oxford University Department for Continuing Education

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.