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British Council

Exploring English: Shakespeare

British Council via FutureLearn


Explore the English language through Shakespeare’s plays

This course will look at the life and works of William Shakespeare and take you from his birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon to the Globe Theatre in London, from where he secured his central place in English literature.

We will look at five of Shakespeare’s plays with the help of actors and experts from around the world. They will explain and explore the universal themes Shakespeare addressed in his work.

This course is for people who are learning English and interested in the language and legacy of William Shakespeare.
The material is designed for non-native English speakers who have studied English to around intermediate level (approximately B1 on the CEFR).

Taught by

Anthony Cosgrove


4.8 rating, based on 495 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Exploring English: Shakespeare

  • I teach English in an Italian grammar school, where Shakespeare is included in the syllabus. I have always been a little hesitant about talking of Shakespere's works to my students because it's sometimes difficult to get through to teenagers and make them see the beauty of literary texts. I'm sure my students will love the videos and the articles of this course, which easily show how modern Shakespeare is, how close to their ways of thinking and tackling life challenges. Thanks!!
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Great course! Here are some pros and cons: Pros: - Even though English is the only language I speak fluently, the clarity of the course was helpful in getting me to understand what was going on and I'm sure it was clear for English learners. - Captions...
  • Anonymous
    In my opinion, this course is fantastic! We have access to different contents, like videos, quizzes, texts... Everything is very well-prepared, we can see the purpose of the material, and the questions proposed make us want to interact with the other...
  • Rathin Bhattacharjee
    I have been enjoying this BBC Course on Shakespearean English thoroughly. There are many reasons but I will mention only a few here. Firstly, I was telling my daughter, a Shakespeare fan and programming trainee by profession last night how I wished...
  • Anonymous
    Hello. Thankyou British Council for putting this course together. English is my first language, and I''ve been lucky enough to see a number of Shakespeare's plays, including at the Globe. Nevertheless, the course had much to offer, not least the incentive to make me think more deeply about the content and meanings in the plays. The many links to the plays themselves and related material were are great resource, particuarly for an aged one such as myself who doesnt normally find navigaating the internet particularly easy. I would have liked The Merchant of Venice and Othello included, especially with racial and ethnic diversity being such hot topics right now...but I guess you cant have everything you want...well done
  • Delowar Mahmud
    First of all thanks to the educators, planners, the British Council, all concerned, and the course producers. On a short trip, I learned a lot about William Shakespeare. I don't think I could have learned anything about great men if I hadn't joined this course. However, William Shakespeare, one of the world's best playwrights, invented the sonnet for his creations. The course is well designed with live sessions, video explanations, articles, website links, newspaper articles, and much more. It would have been better if there had been some discussion about sonnets. However, as a student of English literature, I have benefited a lot from joining this course. I feel happy to be here with you. Thanks
  • Anonymous
    I am really enjoying this course!! It is an excellent opportunity to gain knowledge about Shakespeare. As I said before, in my country it is common that only students who attend bilingual schools have the possibility to study English writers. That´s why I am very happy about this opportunity!
    I think Genny is a genius, she encourages us to love Shakespeare´s plays! She speaks very clear so that the non-native English speakers can understand easily.
    Thanks for everything! I hope the British Council will continue offering this kind of online course freely.
    Best regards,
  • Anonymous
    This course is amazing! I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I only wish I had done this before I finished writing the exam for the paper on British Drama in my English Literature course. I have learnt so much about Shakespeare, his life and times and his works....
  • Anonymous
    I found this course amazing in so many levels. To start with I didn't know much about Shakespeare at all until I visited Stratford and fell in love with him. But the writing is so difficult to understand, being a foreigner, this course helped me to understand some of his plays, practice and learn a bit more of the English language and learn generally about Shakespeare, but also the opportunity to "meet" some of the amazing actors that participated in the course. Thank you so much for that! I am so grateful that I took this course.
  • Anonymous
    I have fun learning new things in Future Learn. I enjoyed knowing more about Shakespeare's life and his plays, and learning Shakespearean words and phrases. Thanks to the actors and actresses explaining their roles and the plays, it gives me more understanding on
    the story of the play. Shakespeare's plays have a lot of moral lessons, and the way he wrote the play is poetic and lyrical, which makes his works the beautiful masterpieces.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    I have read Shakespeare at school. As I was going through the number of courses, I came across this course which took all of my attention. It is a nostalgia to read and see Shakespeare's various plays once again. I felt like being at school again and...
  • Anonymous
    This course is about English Language and Shakespeare's contributions to the language come alive in the course. I was amazed to learn about the words and phrases he has contributed. The plays form a backdrop to learning more on the language -- English. I wish more plays were included. Great course in short. Would recommend it strongly to all interested.
  • Anonymous
    This course was excellent, because the exhibited plays are well summarized and allow the student to understand each of them correctly, allowing them to better develop their skills in the English language. In addition, the quizzes are very well structured allowing to obtain the essence of each chapter and to better understand everything learned.
  • Anonymous
    One of the more enjoyable courses I've taken on Future Learn. This course has rekindled my interest in learning more about Shakespeare's plays and watching them on the computer. When I get to London I will defiantly go and visit the "Globe".
    Thank you all of the British Council for the most wonderful learning experience.
    Bob Schneider
  • Anonymous
    This course allowed me to get pulled back into the excitement of reading and thinking about Shakespeare, his plays, and his language. It's a great introductory course for all ages but it's also an enjoyable refresher or diversion for the Shakespeare enthusiast. Thanks for the plentiful perspectives.
  • Anonymous
    This is an excellent course to help those learning English gain confidence in appreciating Shakespeare's characters, language and cultural impact on a range of communities. the course introduces several plays and gives an overview of their plots. the links in articles are useful aids for further study.
  • Anonymous
    This course was amazing. I knew almost nothing about Shakespeare and it was a wonderful discovery. Now I want to watch plays and read them.

    The course is really rich so very interesting.

    It's also varied with these videos, vocabulary, expressions and sharing

    Thank you very much for all this

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    As someone who knew really nothing of Shakespeare’s work I am really enjoying the course. Personally I think the story you tell that is a short summary of the story of each piece of work is too short. I have been watching some of the full length productions...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    I must confess that I really enjoy the course. I am a science student, So little I know about literature and Shakespeare. I do only come by Shakespeare phrases being probably quotes by literature scholars. But taking this course has widen my knowledge about Shakespeare legacies and his biography. However, this is the first time reading the story of romeo and Juliet. I often hear people uses the words " romeo and Juliet " while discussing something relating to love and I also often use it as famous love terms, but never had I read story sorrounding it and neither did I knew it was Shakespeare legacy. I have also being expose to new idioms that I will now be using to buttress my sentences or words. I'm very glad to take on the course.
  • Anonymous
    I'm really enjoying this course and I look forward to the rest of it! The variety makes it pleasant.

    I hope that Future learn has an extention on this course for the writing part.

    Thanks to all who has contributed to put this course together.

    Kind regards,


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