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2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL5817M Shakespeare's Tyrants

30 creditsClass Size: 30

Module manager: Professor Paul Hammond

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

Pre-requisite qualifications

As for MA programme

This module is not approved as an Elective


To study Shakespeare's representation of tyranny in selected texts.

Learning outcomes
An understanding of Shakespeare's thinking about tyranny.

Skills outcomes
Literary analysis.

Masters (Taught), Postgraduate Diploma & Postgraduate Certificate students will have had the opportunity to acquire the following abilities as defined in the modules specified for the programme:
- the skills necessary to undertake a higher research degree and/or for employment in a higher capacity;
- evaluating their own achievement and that of others;
- self direction and effective decision making;
- independent learning and the ability to work in a way which ensures continuing professional development;
- to engage critically in the development of professional/disciplinary boundaries and norms.


Much political discussion in Shakespeare’s day centred on questions of tyranny, freedom from tyranny, and whether resistance to tyranny, including the violent overthrow of a tyrant, could be justified legally or morally. This module explores plays by Shakespeare which form an extended meditation on the nature of tyranny and liberty, considering both political and domestic tyranny and the connections between them. The programme begins with the poem in which Shakespeare presents the rape of Lucrece by Tarquin—who thereby becomes a model of both political and sexual tyranny—and with Machiavelli’s classic text on the practicalities of exercising power. We then proceed to discuss pairs of plays which depict various forms of political and domestic tyranny, and consider these in relation to: the theory and practice of government; Shakespeare’s development of theatrical methods of depicting the psychology of tyranny; the connection between the desire for political control and the desire for domestic and sexual control; and the means through which characters resist tyranny and develop their own modes of liberty—one of which proves to be suicide.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours280.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

- Reading the Shakespearean and associated Renaissance texts
- Critical and scholarly reading
- Essay writing.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

One unassessed essay of 1,000 words and occasional oral presentations.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
EssayOne 4,000 word essay100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 15/08/2023 12:47:52


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