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10 cp from 100-level units in Literature or English

Unit rationale, description and aim

William Shakespeare's works have had a significant and ongoing cultural impact that all professionals working in the field of literary studies need to appreciate. This unit introduces students to some of the literature, art and thought of Renaissance England, and provides opportunity for close interpretative reading of dramatic and poetic texts. The aim of the unit is to examine the work of William Shakespeare, from his poetry and early plays to the plays of his maturity. The unit also explores the work of Shakespeare's contemporaries. The dramatists and poets of Elizabethan and Jacobean England will be explored to help students understand the traditions and contentions of the time. Students will also learn about the continuing influence of Shakespeare's works today. The aim of this unit is to familiarise students with Shakespearean language and to develop close readings of the work of Renaissance writers through considering the context of origin as well as the detail of the text.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1- Demonstrate an ability to interpret a range of texts by William Shakespeare (GA4, GA7, GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Communicate clearly in written and/or oral form, in a style appropriate to a specified audience (GA4, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10)

LO3 - Locate, evaluate and appropriately reference a variety of primary and secondary texts relevant to Shakespeare and the Renaissance in order to develop a literary argument (GA4, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10)

LO4 - Apply the methods that literary theorists have used to research and interpret the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries (GA4, GA8, GA9, GA10)

LO5 - Reflect on key debates relating to Shakespeare and the Renaissance (GA4, GA7, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA4 - Think critically and reflectively 

GA7 - Work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - Locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - Demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - Utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics may include 

  • the relevance of the historical, theatrical and social background of Renaissance England on the texts of Shakespeare and his contemporaries;  
  • the transition from medieval to early modern thinking expressed in Shakespearean drama; 
  • the impact of the discovery of new worlds on Renaissance literature; 
  • understanding Shakespeare and the Renaissance through the lens of genre; 
  • examining a selection of work by Elizabethan and Jacobean writers other than Shakespeare;  
  • interpreting the works of Renaissance writers for a contemporary audience.  

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

The teaching and learning rationale is to interpret Shakespeare’s plays and poems, together with other literature by his contemporaries, against a critically informed historical background. Students may experience live performances of a selection of Renaissance plays, or else view films of plays, or excerpts of aspects of plays in order to discuss their literary and dramatic aspects. Lectures enable students to understand the background, themes and issues of a particular selection of texts, and tutorials foster collaboration in the analysis of textual language, themes and issues of staging. 

This unit may be taught through face-to-face classes and/or through some mixed mode teaching and/or online. Students may attend lectures face-to-face and/or by accessing online recordings in order to ensure broad and ongoing access for all students to the key concepts and principles relevant to the study of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Formal lectures will present key theories and model research and analysis skills. Online learning materials will include guided readings and synchronous and/or asynchronous discussions of key primary and secondary texts.  

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy.  

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome and to build on one another in terms of knowledge and understanding. The assessment of the weekly reading (via journals, quizzes, blogs or eportfolios) through close reading exercises supports the choice and formulation of the research essay, and these two assessment tasks together inform the understanding necessary for the oral presentation. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Close Reading Exercises  

The key purpose of the weekly reading tasks is to reflect on a selection primary texts of Renaissance literature in relation to key critical debates. 


LO1, LO2, LO5 

GA4, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Oral Presentation  

The key purpose of the Oral Presentation/Performance is to give students an opportunity to demonstrate their working knowledge of Shakespearean language. They will create a short presentation/performance which showcases a key moment from the Shakespearean canon and foregrounds the students’ skills in analysing and presenting the text for an audience. 


LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5 

GA4, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Research Task 

This key purpose of the research task is to help you to acquire the skills necessary to research and analyse a given topic relating to Renaissance literature. 


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA4, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Representative texts and references

The Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature, 3v. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.  

Findlay, Alison, and Markidou, Vassiliki. Shakespeare and Greece. Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, 2017. 

Groves, Peter. Rhythm and Meaning in Shakespeare. Monash University Publishing, 2013.  

Saval, Peter Kishore. Shakespeare in Hate: Emotions, Passions, Selfhood. Taylor and Francis, 2015.  

Sharpe, Will, et al. The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare. 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2015.  

Shuter, Jane. Shakespeare Today. Raintree, 2014.  

Shuter, Paul. William Shakespeare: A Man for All Times. Raintree, 2014. 

Thomas, Alfred. Shakespeare, Catholicism, and the Middle Ages. Springer International Publishing, 2018. 

Wells, Stanley. Literature and Drama: with Special Reference to Shakespeare and His Contemporaries. Taylor and Francis, 2013. 

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