Secondary Shakespeare in the UK: what gets taught and why?

Victoria Elliott, Sarah Elizabeth Olive

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we report data from the first national survey of secondary Shakespeare teaching in the UK, conducted online in 2017–18 with a sample of 211 teachers distributed through England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. We report on what is taught and why. Our survey shows that the most popular play in the UK is Macbeth, which is one-fifth of all Shakespeare teaching instances in our sample. At age 11, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest dominate, while at A level A.C. Bradley’s “big four” – Othello, Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth – are the most popular. Reasons to teach certain texts related to clear plot, themes and good characters for analysis; aside from the play’s characteristics, whether or not there were copies of the text in school was the major deciding factor in what to teach, along with the existence of supporting resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-115
Number of pages15
JournalEnglish in Education
Issue number2
Early online date27 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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© 2019 National Association for the Teaching of English. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


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