Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsWelcome to Shakespeare and his world. My name is Professor Jonathan Bate, and I've been studying and writing about Shakespeare pretty well all my life. And this course is a very special collaboration between the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The trust looks after the house where Shakespeare was born, Anne Hathaway's cottage - the house of his wife - and several other properties associated with Shakespeare around Stratford. And it also has the most extraordinary archival collection - books from Shakespeare's time, manuscripts and documents from his Stratford, images, objects from the period, and great records from the theatrical history of his plays.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 secondsAnd I've been granted unique access into the archives and into the stacks so that we can really look close up at the material culture of Shakespeare's time. So what we're going to try to do this course is approach Shakespeare in a new way. We're going to bring together the reality of his world and the words of his plays. In this first week, we're going to have a broad introduction to Shakespeare's life and the people who were important to him - his family, his fellow actors, his printers, other writers, his patrons, and ultimately, the Queen, Elizabeth, and the King, James, who were in charge of the country and for whom his plays were often performed.

Skip to 1 minute and 47 secondsThen, in subsequent weeks, each week we're going to take a theme from Shakespeare's life and world, his setting in Stratford, his interest in money, in war, his use of classical times of the ancient world, all sorts of different themes. And with each theme, we will have a play that is particularly relevant to that theme. So what we'll be doing is moving between the world and the work, juxtaposing Shakespeare's reading and the objects and images from his time with the actual words of the plays. To get the most that you can out of the course, it would be great if you could read the play before watching the videos.

Skip to 2 minutes and 32 secondsBut you can always read the play afterwards because I hope you'll find there's an immense amount of material, however well you know the play or however little you know the play. Because the thing about Shakespeare is that, if you are prepared to listen to the language, to read the words, to explore his world, then everything seems to make sense. And in the end, that's the most important thing with Shakespeare. You need to hear it, to see it, to imagine it, and that means that it becomes endlessly rewarding. So the historical context gives us an extra dimension for understanding his world and his work.

Skip to 3 minutes and 11 secondsBut in the end, what we need to do is enjoy his language, explore his characters, revel in his genius. So join us as we work through this extraordinary journey which begins in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Welcome to Week 1

Together with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon, the University of Warwick welcomes you to this course, Shakespeare and his World.

The course is aimed at everybody from the Shakespeare beginner to teachers of Shakespeare and the seasoned playgoer. In this first week, we’ll have a general introduction to Shakespeare’s life, world and work, and in each subsequent week we’ll be linking a particular theme to a particular play.

The course will be run by Professor Jonathan Bate (the course educator), and Jennifer Reid (the course mentor). They are both happy to help with providing any further information on Shakespeare or the course itself, you may want to follow our educators while you are on the course:

You may find you come up against some difficulties in the course. By following the educators you will be more easily able to find advice they have given in response to queries. If you can’t find the right answer, please post a comment in the step that relates to your concern.

Please remember to include #FLShakespeare in any discussions you may have in social networks.

Referencing and Quotations

Jonathan will be quoting from Shakespeare’s plays in many of the course videos. Quotations will be provided onscreen, and you can pause the video to read them in your own time. We’ve included line references for every quotation, which look like this:

‘To be or not to be: that is the question’ - Hamlet, 3.1.1749

The first number is the act, the second is the scene, and the third is the line (or range of lines): so ‘3.1.1749’ means Act Three, Scene One, line 1749.

If Jonathan’s wording seems slightly different to the wording on Open Source Shakespeare, it’s because he’s using his own edition of the plays, which is not available online. In each different edition of Shakespeare’s work, editors make individual choices about how to present the plays because there are often many ways to interpret the original source material. This means that they can look very different.

Where are you?

We’d like to invite you provide an insight into your location by using this interactive map, so we can see just how global the love of Shakespeare is.

Click the + button in the top right-hand corner of the map and select your location. DO NOT enter your exact location (home or work), rather please the general location for your town/city/country, this will be sufficient. Please use your FutureLearn ‘name’.

Introduce yourself

You can leave comments with reactions, feedback, questions and further thoughts on any part of the course, including the resources and videos. The discussion questions at the end of the page each week will give you the chance to have conversations about the topic with learners from all over the world. You can post quick observations on the topics, or delve deeper with further reading and a more involved study of the question; the choice is yours.

Why not use the comment feature now to introduce yourself to your fellow learners and say a few words about your experience with Shakespeare’s plays or what you hope to take from the course.

Tests and the Peer-Reviewed Assignment

There will be twelve questions each week for you to test how much you’ve learnt about the focus topic. You will be able to answer these questions based on your learning from the video content (downloadable PDF transcripts of the videos are also provided).

In the final week there will also be an opportunity, for those who wish to use it, to write your own account of a piece of creative work (film, book, musical, ballet, etc.), which was inspired by one of Shakespeare’s plays or poems, and the ways in which it brings to life an aspect of Shakespeare’s world that we have explored during this course. This short piece will be peer-reviewed by one of your fellow learners, and you will have the opportunity to also review someone else’s work, too.

A Certificate is available on this course

If you complete at least 50% of the steps in this course and attempt every test question, you will have the opportunity to purchase a Statement of Participation. This is an eye-catching printed certificate, which provides a record of your engagement in the course.

A Statement of Participation is a great way to show evidence of formal or informal Continuing Professional Development, your commitment to your career, or your interest in a particular subject.

Comments and discussions

Learning from conversations is an important part of the FutureLearn approach. You will learn from discussions by reading others’ comments and responding with your own thoughts. On some steps there will be a more structured discussion. Although we won’t be able to respond to every question, you’ll see comments and replies from Jennifer, the course mentor, and other members of the course team throughout the course.

If you find a comment which was really useful or interesting, click the Like button!

Don’t forget, whilst robust debate is encouraged, it’s important that you follow the FutureLearn Code of Conduct and are respectful of your fellow learners.


Mark each step as complete as you make your way through the course, using the pink ‘Mark as Complete’ button. You can see your progress on this course at any time, by selecting the Progress icon at the top of the course: this page will carry on updating as you progress through each of the ten weeks.

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Shakespeare and his World

The University of Warwick

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