EMC CPD Online: Measure for Measure and the Clarification of Comedy (Twilight 7.12.22 4.15-5.30pm) Part of the 2 for 1 offer – see 'How to book'.

‘These plays​ we move along dim untrodden paths, and at the close our feeling is neither of simple joy nor pain; we are excited, fascinated, perplexed, for the issues raised preclude a completely satisfactory outcome, even when, as in … Measure for Measure, the complications are outwardly adjusted in the fifth act. … We may therefore … class them as Shakespeare’s problem-plays.’
(F. S. Boas, Shakespeare and His Predecessors)

Ever since F.S. Boas, in 1896, first employed the term "problem-play" for a group of Shakespeare's later, and less overtly conventional, comedies - including the uncomfortable All's Well, ambiguous Measure for Measure, and downright disconcerting Troilus and Cressida – audiences and critics have tended to regard them as peculiarities among Shakespeare's works, seemingly moving towards comic conclusions and yet somehow resistant to tidy closure or neat resolutions. Measure for Measure in particular seems to refuse any sense of comfortably "comic" conclusion by presenting Vincentio, the disguised Duke who stage-manages the final Act to bring about his own rather self-serving happy ending, as potentially coercive, maybe Machiavellian, definitely deceptive. In this talk, we will use Measure for Measure as a test-case to consider Shakespeare's broader conception of comedy – discussing other plays such as A Midsummer Night's Dream along the way – in order to assess to what extent the "problem play" redraws conventional rules, subverts audience expectation, or, in the words of critic Paul Yachnin, 'place[s] so much pressure on traditional [genre conventions] that they explode genre from the inside' to the point, as Emma Smith has recently concluded, that 'there is nothing to laugh at here.' What then, we will ask, was Shakespeare's problem?

This session is one of a series at EMC, where an academic is invited to offer fresh angles on a popular set text, engaging teachers at an adult level, enriching their thinking about the text and updating their knowledge of recent research. As such, the emphasis will be on the text itself and critical exploration of it, rather than how to apply these ideas in the classroom.

Further details

  • This course will be recorded but participants will not be audible or visible.
  • After the session you will receive the PowerPoint presentation, any resources used on the course and a £5 voucher to use against any purchase on www.englishandmedia.co.uk
    • Vouchers can only be redeemed online.
    • Only one voucher can be used per purchase.
    • Vouchers expire after 6 weeks. 
  • A recording of the session will be available for 7 days after the event.


  • If relevant, course materials will be sent the day before the course in the email with your joining instructions. Please either print these out or have them available on screen during the session.

Course tutor: Eric Langley

Eric Langley is an Associate Professor in Literature at UCL, where he lectures on Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature. He has published two academic books with Oxford University Press, the first on Suicide and Narcissism in the Works of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries, and the second entitled Shakespeare’s Contagious Sympathies. He has also published his own poetry, and was nominated for the Felix Dennis award for Best First Collection at the Forward Prizes in 2017 for his collection, Raking Light (Carcanet).

How to book your place

Bookings for this course will close at 8am on Monday 5th December, or when capacity is reached, whichever is the sooner.

This course is part of our 2 for 1 offer
Book a place on this course and you’ll be sent a voucher code entitling you to book a further place on the same course for a colleague at your school. Your code will be sent within 3 working days of booking.
Please note: bookings for this course close 8am on Monday 5th December. The 2nd free place must be booked before the closing date, so please make sure you give yourself enough time!
Your voucher can only be redeemed online and is only eligible against this course.
​(Any issues please email Lucy.)

  • To book a place on this course, first sign into your account on the website, or register one if you need to.
  • Click 'Book online' (right-hand column) and fill in the name and email address of the person attending the course. The joining information and post-course email will be sent to this address.
  • If you are booking for more than one person, repeat the process.
  • Then hover over your basket (top right) and click checkout.
  • Once you have booked your place, you will see a screen 'Your order was a success!' You may want to make a note of your order number. You will also receive an automatic acknowledgement of your booking.
  • Your email with all the information you need to join the session will be sent out on Tuesday 6th December. You will be sent a reminder on the day of the course. Please check your junk or promotions folder. Still no luck? Email us.
  • This course must be booked and paid for online. Payment by invoice is not available for this session. Please note: your fee is non-refundable.


It was so inspiring to have a course at this academic level, which was engaging and enlightening on a personal level, as well as being useful for teaching.

Sarah, Burgess Hill Girls on ‘Work on, my medicine, work!’: Befriending Iago – an EMC Lecture from Dr Eric Langley.

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