Much Ado about Shakespeare

Ref: C2342487

The events of Shakespeare's Richard III bring to an end his great cycle of history plays about the Wars of the Roses. But it was written before many of the plays concerning the events that preceded it. He wrote it as the final sequel, but then set about writing several prequels, rather like Star Wars. His treatment of kingship on Richard III is in total contrast to the ideas expressed in his later plays, especially Richard II. You could hardly find two more different characters than the two Richards, nor two more different plays. Richard II is perhaps the closest of Shakespeare's plays to the mediaeval drama tradition which preceded him, and shares the same black humour. The play also shows the impact of Richard on his many victims, friends, family, wife, allies as well as enemies. Indeed for Richard, everyone is an enemy and no-one is to be trusted. Which is perhaps his real tragedy.

Course aim

1 We will study Shakespeare's Richard III and complete it in one term. Its themes of self-promoting, power-grabbing megalomania are as relevant today as they have ever been. As is the impact on his victims, family, friends, allies and enemies.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • For this course you need only an enthusiasm for Shakespeare and his theatre. Students are encouraged to see a production of the play if possible

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Approach Shakespeare’s works without fear
  • Identify the themes of Richard III and explore their relevance today and throughout time.
  • Discuss the richness of Shakespeare’s language and ideas
  • Compare Shakespeare's ideas of history with those of today
  • Explore the opportunities and problems of staging Richard III

How will I be taught?

  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning
  • Each two hour session will have a variety of activities: we shall read the play, clarify its meaning, explore the wider resonance of the text; discover the stories that were Shakespeare’s sources, watch and discuss excerpts from professional performances, and occasionally act out a scene.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed
  • All materials will be provided
  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)
  • Students may wish to obtain their own copy of the play for private reading. Students are encouraged to review the information on-line on the National Theatre Live web-site. Students are encouraged to see a production of the play if possible

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required
  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here
  • You could become involved in a local society studying Shakespeare, or performing his plays

Download full course information sheet

Much Ado about Shakespeare

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This course is not available for online enrolment.


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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