‘What’s aught but as ’tis valued?’: Exploring student and teacher perceptions of the value of ‘reworked’ Shakespeare in English secondary schools.


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores the perceptions of English secondary school teachers and students in relation to the use of ‘reworked’ Shakespeare texts in the classroom.

Taking ‘reworked’ to mean texts that have been consciously altered, the aim of the research is to ascertain what value students and teachers perceive these texts to offer: in simple terms, what is gained and what is lost in the use of them. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a sample of students and teachers, and responses analysed within a Grounded Theory framework. The intention was to construct a theory that responded to the question of value, and that also addressed the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of ‘reworked’ text use: whether they were being employed, if so for what reasons, in what way, and to what effect.

The theory constructed suggests that ‘reworked’ Shakespeare texts are seen as a pragmatic bridge to the ‘original’ version of the play. There is value in the way that they help students to get over the barrier of Shakespeare’s language, but this value is limited: ‘reworked’ texts do not usually provide full access to the richness and ambiguity of Shakespeare’s language and this was cited as central to Shakespeare’s value, by students and teachers. ‘Exam pragmatism’ was much in evidence in the participant responses and ‘reworked’ texts were seen as potentially valuable in helping to provide the understanding required for the GCSE English Literature examination. However, ‘reworks’ were seen as both a benefit and a restriction in this context. They aid understanding of plot and character but, depending on the type of rework, may not allow for a full development of the skills required to write about Shakespeare’s actual words in GCSE English Literature questions.

While an altering or a breaking down of text and language can provide greater clarity, too much can lead to an inability to see the whole narrative, and this is shown to create confusion, particularly for lower achieving students. For this reason, the use of whole text is potentially more helpful in aiding understanding than is perhaps considered.

I argue that ‘reworked’ texts could offer more than instrumental value, if they were employed critically and creatively, in a way that allows students to deconstruct and reconstruct Shakespeare. This might allow students to truly consider, and find, the value of Shakespeare for themselves.
Date of Award9 Jan 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorDAMIEN SHORTT (Director of Studies) & BETHAN GARRETT (Supervisor)


  • Shakespeare; ‘reworked’; ‘original’; text; value; schools; language; examinations; play; challenge

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