Deception, drama and misunderstanding

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

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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Directing The Alchemist

Directing Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist

Article by:
Polly Findlay

Polly Findlay discusses the challenges of directing Ben Jonson's play, The Alchemist.

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Deception and dramatic irony in Much Ado About Nothing

Deception and dramatic irony in Much Ado About Nothing

Article by:
Andrea Varney

Although the characters might be fooled by the many deceptions in the play, the audience seems to know better, but Andrea Varney suggests that our role as observers is more complex and uncertain.

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Hamlet: the play within the play

Hamlet: the play within the play

Article by:
Gillian Woods

From The Murder of Gonzago to Hamlet's pretence of madness, Hamlet is a work obsessed with acting and deception. Gillian Woods explores how the play unsettles distinctions between performance and reality and how it thus exposes the mechanisms of theatre.

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Misunderstanding in Othello

Misunderstanding in Othello

Article by:
Michael Donkor

Othello is a tragedy that proceeds from misunderstandings and miscommunication. Many of these errors are bound up with Iago's deception, but Michael Donkor looks at other, additional causes in the play.

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Character analysis: Iago in Othello

Character analysis: Iago in Othello

Article by:
Alexandra Melville

Alexandra Melville provides a close reading of the villainous character of Iago in Act 2, Scene 1 of Othello.

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The first night of the Tempest

The first night of The Tempest

Article by:
Gordon McMullan

The Tempest was first performed in the enclosed, candlelit space of the new Blackfriars theatre. Here Professor Gordon McMullan describes how audience members would have found themselves participating in an innovative and captivating theatrical experience.

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Shakespeare's playhouses

Shakespeare's playhouses

Article by:
Eric Rasmussen, Ian DeJong

From the open-air Globe to the candlelit Blackfriars, Professor Eric Rasmussen and Ian DeJong explore early modern playhouses.

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Measure for Measure: Symmetry and substitution

Article by:
Emma Smith

The title of Measure for Measure suggests the play's concern with equality and exchange. Emma Smith discusses how Shakespeare explores these ideas through imperfect or unsettling symmetry and substitution, including the possible substitution of London for Vienna as the play's setting.

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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

Uncover the fascinating, colourful lives of Renaissance writers including John Donne, Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe, and explore key features and themes in their groundbreaking plays and poetry.

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.