Stagg, Dr Robert


Robert Stagg

Associate Senior Member/Assistant Dean


Twitter: @robert_stagg

Special responsibilities 

Robert is one of the organisers of the Michael Dillon LGBT+ Lectures, held at St Anne’s and run in partnership with the University of Oxford and the charity GiveOut. During the first coronavirus lockdown he chaired the popular Oxford Renaissance Online Seminar (OROS) out of St Anne’s (more details available here: In the 2020-1 academic year, he served as the University’s Junior Pro-Proctor.

Academic background

BA Emmanuel College, Cambridge; MSt Exeter College, Oxford; PhD University of Southampton / Wolfson Foundation, University of London.


Robert is not teaching at present, due to the award of a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship.

Research interests

Robert is a Shakespearean and early modernist whose principal research interests are in literary form, ranging from prosody (rhyme, metre, rhythm) to verse structures (blank verse, the sonnet). His main affiliation at the present is to the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he is a Leverhulme Early-Career Research Fellow.

His first book Shakespeare’s Blank Verse: An Alternative History was published by Oxford University Press in October 2022. This is the first book-length study of Shakespeare’s blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter) and early modern blank verse in general, ranging from the continental precursors of English blank verse in the early sixteenth century to the reception and editing of Shakespeare’s blank verse in the eighteenth century. It takes in writers from Christopher Marlowe to John Milton, and tries to reconnect the study of versification to broader literary, theatrical, bibliographical, editorial, historical and social questions.

Robert is now at work on a pair of complementary books, provisionally titled Shakespeare’s Worldly Style and Forms of Desire: Sex and the Early Modern Sonnet. The first of these books rethinks scholarly descriptions of a ‘Global Shakespeare’ by considering the involvement of Shakespearean poetic form with a suite of international poetic traditions, from Arabic lyric to early American writing. The second book argues that the formal structures of the early modern sonnet – the couplet, the sequence, the volta – were also erotic in character, and that the sonnet was therefore a particularly and peculiarly structural way of apprehending sex in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

He has published articles in The Review of English Studies (about blank verse ‘bombast’), Shakespeare Survey (about supernatural metre), Essays in Criticism (about bathos), Shakespeare (about versification and race), and Studies in Philology (about feminine rhyme and boy actors). He has also published peer-reviewed chapters in three edited collections, The Edinburgh Companion to Literature and Music (ed. Delia da Sousa Correa), Reading the Road: Shakespeare’s Crossways to Bunyan’s Highways (ed. Lisa Hopkins and William Angus), and Humorality in Early Modern Art, Material Culture, and Performance (ed. Kaara Peterson and Amy Kenny). The first is a short polemic against the notion of a ‘music of poetry’, the second is about the problem of representing pedestrian travel onstage, and the third is about versification and the humors. He has a further chapter forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Sir Philip Sidney (ed. Catherine Bates) which traces the intellectual and continental history of Sidney’s versification, and he has edited a special issue of the British Shakespeare Association’s journal Shakespeare which is titled ‘Shakespeare and Versification’ (and was published in September 2022). Finally, he sometimes reviews new books on Shakespeare and early modern literature for The Times Literary Supplement and a number of academic journals.

Robert has received major (1-3 year) research funding from the Leverhulme Trust, the Wolfson Foundation and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. He has been awarded research fellowships including a Berlin Sessions Visiting Fellowship in (unsurprisingly) Berlin (2020); a Pforzheimer Visiting Research Fellowship at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas (2019); a Wolfson Visiting Research Fellowship at the New York Public Library (2017); a Tom Jarman Research Fellowship at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden (2017); and a Jubilee Education Fund grant to research in the Royal Shakespeare Company archives in Stratford-upon-Avon (2015). His postgraduate research won Oxford’s Charles Oldham Shakespeare Prize for best masters/doctoral work on a Shakespearean subject, and he recently received an ‘honourable mention’ (runner-up award) in the London Renaissance Seminar’s inaugural ‘Contribution Awards’ for “outstanding contributions to the field of the Renaissance”.

Robert has given keynote / invited lectures about his research at institutions around the world, for example Sapienza University of Rome, Yale University, Bochum University, the University of Padua, the London Shakespeare Seminar, and the International Shakespeare Conference. He has written, produced and presented a fully-funded feature-length documentary about Shakespeare’s early career in Shoreditch (‘Shoreditch: Shakespeare’s Hidden London’), and has worked with a number of theatre companies on Shakespeare productions and festivals. Recently, he has been appointed to the Arden Shakespeare advisory board as one of the first Arden Fourth Series Fellows, working with the general editors and individual volume editors to shape the future direction of this prestigious series.

Recent Publications


Shakespeare’s Blank Verse: An Alternative History, Oxford University Press, 2022.


‘Is Blank Verse Black?’, Shakespeare, 2022. 

‘Rhyme’s Voices: Hearing Gender in The Taming of the Shrew‘, forthcoming, Studies in Philology, 2022.

‘Shakespeare’s Bombastic Blanks’, Review of English Studies, 2021.

‘Shakespeare’s Bewitching Line’, Shakespeare Survey, 2018.

‘Wordsworth, Pope, and Writing After Bathos’, Essays in Criticism, 2014.


‘Prosody’, in The Oxford Handbook of Sir Philip Sidney, ed. Catherine Bates (OUP), forthcoming 2022.

‘Afterword’ to ‘Well-Staged Syllables: From Classical to Early Modern Metres in English Drama’, a special issue of Skene, ed. Silvia Bigliazzi, 2021.

‘Humoral versification’, in Humorality in Early Modern Art, Material Culture, and Performance, ed. Amy Kenny and Kaara Peterson (Routledge), 2021.

‘Against “the music of poetry”‘, in The Edinburgh Companion to Literature and Music, ed. Delia da Sousa Correa (EUP), 2020.

‘Walking, talking, footing: reading the onstage road’, in Reading the Road, from Shakespeare’s Crossways to Bunyan’s Highways, ed. Lisa Hopkins and William Angus (EUP), 2019.