Marriage and murder: Othello and Macbeth

Course Dates: 04/06/24 - 09/07/24
Time: 12:30 - 14:30
Location: Keeley Street
Shakespeare presents us with two visions of marriage, the Macbeths’ longstanding but filled with passion and rivalry, Othello’s fragile and still largely innocent. Macbeth and his wife know each other only too well – Othello and Desdemona barely at all. We the audience become sucked into these marital dramas through the force of Shakespeare’s dazzling imagery, psychological insight and sensational plotting. We’ll be studying the characters, the poetry and the ideas of both plays in detail.
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Marriage and murder: Othello and Macbeth
  • Course Code: HLT121
  • Dates: 04/06/24 - 09/07/24
  • Time: 12:30 - 14:30
  • Taught: Tue, Daytime
  • Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)
  • Location: Keeley Street
  • Tutor: Julian Birkett

Course Code: HLT121

Tue, day, 04 Jun - 09 Jul '24

Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)

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What is the course about?

Macbeth and Othello are two of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. Their heroes are both husbands and murderers. Both are tortured by the thought of the crimes they commit, but in radically different ways. Macbeth is stung by his wife’s suggestion that he is not a man if he fails to kill his guest, King Duncan, and yet doing so makes him doubt his very humanity. Unlike Macbeth and his wife, Othello and Desdemona are in the blissful early days of wedlock: it takes a third party to poison that happiness, turning Othello from adoring husband to jealous monster.

What will we cover?

We’ll be considering some of the key themes and currents in Elizabethan tragedy, such as deceit, revenge and sexual relations, and the astonishing flowering of poetic ideas and imagery that characterise the period.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

Understand some of the key themes in Elizabethan tragedy
Relate what we have read to other similar works of literature
Feel confident to read more widely in this area.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

For those who enjoy reading and discussing literature and are interested in sharing ideas and listening to the views of others.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

Short lecture, whole group and small group work, reading in class. We will watch extracts from screen adaptations of both plays. You will be asked to read the selected texts in the weeks before the class.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

Students should buy or borrow:

Othello and Macbeth by William Shakespeare:
Othello (Penguin ed Tom McAlindon)
Macbeth (Penguin ed Carol Rutter)

Handouts and internet links will also be provided.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Other drama courses include HLT18 Classic Drama and HLT307 Reading Shakespeare: A Director's perspective.Look for these and other drama/literature courses at under History, Culture and Writing/literature/drama.

Julian Birkett

Julian Birkett is a teacher and writer specialising in modern literature. He previously worked in the Arts department at the BBC as a producer of series such as The Late Show, Modern Poets in their Own Words, The Victorians and The Culture Show. He has taught in London and at the University of Mumbai.He aims to create a friendly but thoughtful atmosphere in his City Lit classes and to provide a stimulating variety of activities from tutor input to discussion to group work and video clips.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.