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  • University of Warwick

Shakespeare and his World

Together with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Professor Jonathan Bate explores Shakespeare, his works and the world he lived in.

63,737 enrolled on this course

Jonathan holding reference to Richard III
  • Duration

    10 weeks
  • Weekly study

    5 hours

William Shakespeare is one of the most famous authors of all time. 2014 marks the 450th anniversary of his birth. His words have inspired and moved people from around the globe for centuries.

How much do we know about Shakespeare’s cultural background and influences and why his works have endured? To get a real sense of how the Bard’s world would have actually looked and felt, renowned Shakespearean academic Professor Jonathan Bate will be exploring the acclaimed collections of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Each week, Professor Bate will examine a particular play and a cultural theme alongside a selection of treasures from the Trust’s archives in Stratford-upon-Avon. Weekly learning material will be broken down into six video segments, each examining a variety of artefacts and play extracts. The course will open with an introduction to Shakespeare and his living and working environment, moving onto broader cultural themes and issues examined in his plays and ending with an exploration of his legacy.

This course is the result of an exciting new collaboration between the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the world’s leading charity in promoting the works, life and times of William Shakespeare. The course will provide unprecedented access to the Trust’s fascinating historical collections of museum, library and archive items. You will have the chance to look inside the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust vaults where thousands of artefacts are kept. The course will also take you into some of the key locations associated with Shakespeare which are looked after by the Trust, including the house where he was born and grew up.

This is a great opportunity to engage with a topic that has captivated people for centuries, learn from a world expert in the field and enjoy exclusive access to behind-the-scenes historical material.

Success and Feedback from the course

In March 2014 over 11,000 learners from across the world joined Jonathan Bates and the teams from the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to explore Shakespeare, his plays, and the world in which he lived. Below are some examples of the impact the course had:

“I’ve recommended this course to everyone I meet. Totally marvellous, utterly enriching, and a brilliant start to understanding Shakespeare in the future.”

“This has been an enlightening and thoroughly enjoyable course. Thanks to everyone involved in bringing it to new learners, and special thanks to Jonathan for bringing alive the course materials - your passion and knowledge of your subject was infectious. I’d like to do it all over again.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I loved this course because not only did I learn so much about Shakespeare, but also because I enjoyed learning, reading, investigating and getting to know so much people around the world with the same interest, with so much knowledge and passion about the Bard. I admire each of the people who make this course possible, I thank them to make it possible for people around the globe. It was a wonderful experience. THANK YOU!”

“What a wonderfully engaging and rich course on Shakespeare. I hope it will be run again because I’ve been telling all my friends and fellow Shakespeare admirers how good it has been.! Thanks to everyone for putting so much thought and effort into it.”

Skip to 0 minutes and 14 seconds My name’s professor Jonathan Bate. I’m a Shakespeare scholar, and this is a MOOC called “Shakespeare and His World.” This MOOC is unique and exciting because it’s a collaboration between Warwick University and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. What we’re doing is approaching Shakespeare, his times and his works through the collections of the very house where he lived. This is a MOOC for anybody who’s interested in Shakespeare, whether it’s your first stab at him or whether you know the plays inside out, there will be something in the course for you. Each week, we focus on one particular Shakespeare play and a theme from his life and his times. We’ve been given unprecedented access. You’ll come with me down into the vaults.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds We’ll be handling an object– a coin, maybe, a map, a sword– something that brings alive his world. And it’s this dialogue between the material culture of Shakespeare’s time and the texture of his plays that makes the MOOC so exciting. Shakespeare’s a huge subject, so this is a big course. It’s 10 weeks. But within each week, the material is divided up into six sections, so you can take your time over it. And there’s going to be all sorts of supporting materials available online to help you through it. So this is a fantastically flexible way to learn about Shakespeare, and it’s very much up to you how far you go.

Skip to 1 minute and 35 seconds By the end of this course, you’ll have developed an intimate knowledge of eight of his most superb plays– some that are familiar– Macbeth, Henry V– others less familiar, like Merry Wives of Windsor and The Tempest. But you’ll also understand those plays in their historical context. This is the MOOC where you’ll learn how Shakespeare emerged out of his own time and why his plays have endured for all time.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

Who is the course for?

This course is aimed at anyone with an interest in Shakespeare; you might be a high school student or a university student, or a regular play-goer who wishes to learn more about Shakespeare. No prior knowledge of Shakespeare life, theatre and world is assumed: that is what you will learn from the course. The only pre-requisite is a willingness to read and watch the plays.

Who will you learn with?

Shakespearean, biographer and critic, I am an Honorary Fellow at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Honorary Fellow in Creativity at Warwick Business School, and Provost of Worcester College Oxford.

Who developed the course?

The University of Warwick

The University of Warwick is forward-looking, entrepreneurial and globally connected. With new ways of thinking and achieving it stands out from its competitors as an inspiring place to study.

Endorsers and supporters

supported by

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust logo

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