Magic, illusion and the supernatural

Mischievous fairies, monstrous apparitions and scheming witches: examine the ways in which Shakespeare and Renaissance writers played with the magical and supernatural.

An introduction to Doctor Faustus: ambiguity and duality

An introduction to Doctor Faustus: morality and sin

Article by:
Eric Rasmussen, Ian DeJong

Eric Rasmussen and Ian DeJong explore the ambiguities and dualities of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.

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Fairies re fashioned in A Midsummer Nights Dream

Fairies re-fashioned in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Article by:
Farah Karim-Cooper

Farah Karim-Cooper shows how Shakespeare combined classical and courtly traditions with medieval folk lore to create the benevolent fairies and changeling child of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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An introduction to The Alchemist: the artist and the con

An introduction to The Alchemist: the artist and the con

Article by:
Eric Rasmussen, Ian DeJong

Eric Rasmussen and Ian DeJong introduce Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, which combines self-conscious theatricality with sharp satire.

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Dream, illusion and doubling in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Dream, illusion and doubling in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Article by:
Emma Smith

Having one actor play more than role was convenient for Shakespeare, whose acting company was limited in size, but doubling also enabled him to intensify the atmosphere of his plays, and to make connections and contrasts between scenes and storylines. Emma Smith explores the way that the doubling in A Midsummer Night's Dream heightens the play's dreamlike and fantastical elements.

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Witches in Macbeth

Witches in Macbeth

Article by:
Diane Purkiss

Diane Purkiss discusses Renaissance beliefs about witches and shows how, in Macbeth, Shakespeare blurs the line between the witches and Lady Macbeth.

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Witchcraft, magic and religion

Article by:
Liza Picard

Liza Picard takes a look at witchcraft, magic and religion in Elizabethan England.

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Prospero - A Renaissance Magus

Prospero: a Renaissance Magus

Article by:
Malcolm Hebron

Malcolm Hebron explains how the Renaissance figure of the Magus, as a force of both good and evil, helps us understand the character of Prospero in The Tempest.

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Prospero : magician and artist

Prospero: magician and artist

Article by:
Emma Smith

In his portrayal of Prospero's 'art', Shakespeare seems to draw parallels between theatre and magic. Emma Smith explores these, but questions the idea that the magus is a self-portrait of the playwright.

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Ghosts in Shakespeare

Ghosts in Shakespeare

Article by:
John Mullan

John Mullan explains the position of ghosts in Elizabethan and Jacobean culture, and shows how the ghosts in Shakespeare's plays relate to and boldly depart from ghostly representations in other drama of the period.

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The three witches from Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Witchcraft in Shakespeare's England

Article by:
Carole Levin

Did Shakespeare’s contemporaries believe in witches? Carole Levin looks at witchcraft trials in the 16th century and considers their relation to the ‘weird sisters’ of Macbeth.

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Further themes

Comedies

From cross dressing in Twelfth Night to magical storms in The Tempest; from deception in Much Ado to biting satire in The Alchemist, discover the beauty and complexity of Shakespearean and Renaissance comedies.

Tragedies

From Hamlet’s melancholy to Juliet’s eloquence; and from Othello’s misunderstanding to Doctor Faustus's damnation, discover the richness of Shakespearean and Renaissance tragedies.

Histories

From the staging of disability to the influence of Machiavelli, explore the history plays of Shakespeare and other Renaissance writers.

Shakespeare’s life and world

From the open air Globe to the candlelit Blackfriars; from countryside to city; and from noblemen to strangers, discover the world that shaped Shakespeare’s work and that influenced his legacy.

Gender, sexuality, courtship and marriage

From courtship rituals to cross-dressing to love poetry, examine the ways in which Shakespeare and Renaissance writers explored identity, sexuality and gender roles.

Elizabethan England

Exploration and trade, crime and punishment, clothing and social structure: explore key aspects of Elizabethan life, culture and society.

Poetry

Discover close readings, critical interpretations and personal responses to Shakespeare’s sonnets, the poetry of John Donne and more.

Renaissance writers

From espionage and imprisonment, to a secret marriage and an untimely death: uncover the fascinating, colourful lives of Renaissance writers including John Donne, Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe.

Ethnicity and identity

From Othello and Shylock to depictions of the ‘New World’ and anti-immigration riots, explore Shakespeare’s fascination with ethnic identity.

Power, politics and religion

A murdered king, a homeless ruler, a man who sells his soul to the Devil: discover how Shakespeare and other Renaissance writers represented power and powerlessness.

Global Shakespeare

Discover how Shakespeare’s work was influenced by other cultures, and how it’s been interpreted in nations across the world for 400 years.

Interpretations of ‘madness’

From Lear’s breakdown to Ophelia’s malady, examine the ways in which Shakespeare depicts ideas of ‘madness’.

Deception, drama and misunderstanding

Investigate the ways in which Shakespeare and Renaissance writers explore miscommunication, dishonesty, trickery and the nature of theatre.

Language, word play and text

Prose and verse, word play, neologisms and rhetoric: discover how Shakespeare and Renaissance writers developed innovative and experimental uses of language.

Magic, illusion and the supernatural

Mischievous fairies, monstrous apparitions and scheming witches: examine the ways in which Shakespeare and Renaissance writers played with the magical and supernatural.