Professor David Roberts

Dean of Faculty, National Teaching Fellow

School of English

David holds degrees from the Universities of Bristol and Oxford, completing his DPhil in 1987 under the supervision of the great Shakespeare scholar Emrys Jones. He worked at both universities before emigrating to Japan, where he taught at the Universities of Kyoto and Osaka.

He served as Head of English at Birmingham City University for ten years before becoming Dean of the Arts, Design and Media faculty. He gained a National Teaching Fellowship in 2013 and as a Fellow of the English Association, David welcomes all opportunities to teach and undertake external examining. 

He has been published five times with Oxford University Press and twice with Cambridge, as well as textbooks for Taylor and Francis. His work has appeared in leading journals including Shakespeare Quarterly, New Theatre Quarterly, The Review of English Studies, and The Times Literary Supplement. Recent articles include a study of ethics and theatrical biography, and a philosophical critique of work on games and teaching in the humanities.


BA (Hons) - University of Bristol
DPhil - University of Oxford


English Drama, 1600-1700, theatre criticism, and English prose, 1660-1770.


Games for English Literature

Games for English Literature, Libri 2016.

‘Writing the Ethical Life: Theatrical Biography and the Case of Thom as Betterton’, in Claire Cochrane and Jo Robinson, History and Historiography: Ethics, Evidence and Truth (Palgrave), pp.33-47. Invited contribution.

‘Shakespeare and the Jewellers’, Cambridge Quarterly (2016) vol 45 no 2, 157-174.

‘Chocolate Covered Broccoli? Games and the Teaching of English, vol 22 no 2 (May 2015), pp.222-236. Co-authored with Izabela Hopkins.

‘Theatre Criticism’and ‘Jeremy Collier’ in The Encyclopaedia of British Literature Gary Day and Jack Lynch (Wiley-Blackwell); two essays of 3,000 words each incorporating original research. Invited contributions.

The Life of Harris the Actor (Gold World Publishing, 2015)

Restoration Plays and Players: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2014)

Roberts, David (2013) Pinacotheca Bettertonaeana: The library of a seventeenth-century actor. Society for Theatre Research. ISBN 978-0854300785


Roberts, David (2013) Thomas Killigrew, Theatre Manager. In: Thomas Killigrew and the Seventeenth-century English Stage: New Perspectives. Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama . Ashgate Publishing, pp. 63-91. ISBN 978-1409466680

Thomas Betterton: The Greatest Actor of the Restoration Stage (Cambridge University Press, 2010) 

Ed., Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year (Oxford World's Classics, 2010)

'Class and the Seventeenth-Century Actor,' Studies in Theatre and Performance (2010)

'"I think no ill one". A Letter from Thomas Betterton sheds new light on the Chandos Portrait', The Times Literary Supplement, 14 August 2009

'"Almost Impossible in Praise": Dedicatory Criticism in English Dramatic Texts, 1660-1700', 1650-1850: Critical Voices Special Issue (October 2008)

'Thomas Betterton, Bookseller's Apprentice', The Review of English Studies (November 2007)

'Caesar's Gift: playing the park in the Seventeenth Century', ELH vol 71 (also given as conference paper at 'Literary London', Goldsmith's College London, 2002)

'Theatre Criticism and the Law', New Theatre Quarterly vol XIX part 3, 2003

'Sir Fopling in the Mall', Notes and Queries vol 50 n.s. no.3, 2003

'Shakespeare, Theater Criticism and the Acting Tradition', Shakespeare Quarterly vol 53 no.3, 2002

'Two Shakespearian Allusions and the Date of Marvell's "A Nymph the Death of her Faun"', Notes and Queries vol 49 n.s. no.3, 2002

'Henry VIII and The True Chronicle History of King Leir', Notes and Queries vol 48 n.s. no.3, 2001

'Ravishing Strides: signs of the peripatetic on the seventeenth-century stage', New Theatre Quarterly vol XVII part 1, 2001

2001-2010 Numerous reviews for Notes and Queries, The Scriblerian, Shakespeare Quarterly; most recently of James Bulman, Shakespeare Cross-Dressed, for Shakespeare Quarterly, and the Wesleyan edition of Fielding's A Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon for Notes and Queries.

Currently working on Anglo-French Drama, 1660-1700; the life of William Congreve; an edition of the sale catalogue of Thomas Betterton's books and pictures, Pinacotheca Bettertonaeana; and a commissioned essay for Metzler Verlag on performances of Hamlet, 1600-1709.

Media Profile

Programme essays for The Royal Opera House, most recently for Hansel and Gretel (December 2008), on the history of and Handel's Tamerlano (March 2010, on Tamburlaine from Marlowe to Rowe). Guest contributor to Jude Kelly's Radio 4 programme on Restoration actresses, Summer 2010; interviews on BBC Hereford and Worcester, BBC Radio WM and Saga FM, Birmingham. Extensive correspondence/features in Times Higher Education; recent feature in the English Subject Centre publication, Wordplay, called 'Realising (English in) the University in the Twenty-First Century.' Pre-performance lecture on Stoppard and Sheridan for the Chichester Festival Theatre, August 2010.


Author/editor of four volumes for Oxford University Press including a 1989 monograph study of Restoration Audiences, The Ladies, and of two textbooks for Kogan Page/Taylor and Francis. David would welcome proposals for projects on Renaissance and Restoration Drama or on theatre criticism.

Media Work

Since 2008 David has written programme essays for the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, most recently for the 2016 production of Chabrier’s L’Etoile. He has recently written a piece for the Bristol Old Vic to celebrate their opening night in May 1766.

David Roberts is one of the University’s dedicated team of trained media champions, and can comment on a range of subjects including:

  • Theatre
  • The Arts
  • Literature
  • Opera

To arrange a media interview, please contact Birmingham City University Press Office on 0121 331 6738, 07967 271532,
email or via Twitter @BCUPressOffice