Renaissance Drama: Drama of the Tudor
and Stuart Periods
Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays 3:00-4:30
Location: Henry Charles Lea Library, sixth floor, Van
Instructor's office: Department of Special
Collections, 6th floor, Van
Phone: 215 898 7088; fax: 215 573
In this class, we read a variety of plays written by some of
Shakespeare's predecessors, contemporaries, and successors in all genres,
including tragedies, comedies, histories, and some older forms, such as
moralities and interludes. Writers include Robert Greene, Thomas Kyd,
Christopher Marlowe, the Countess of Pembroke, Elizabeth Cary, Ben Jonson,
John Webster, "Cyril Tourneur," Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, Thomas
Middleton, and John Ford. These writers responded to, and in their own
turn affected, a society in the midst of deep and widely-ranging social,
religious, and cultural changes that were to eventuate in civil war and
revolution. Examination of dramatic language and form, as well as of broad
cultural issues, will be focuses of this course. Readings will consist of
one to two plays a week with additional critical and historical readings
(some few required; others, more frequently, recommended). Students will
write two short papers and one long final essay for the class.
Read this section now to avoid surprise, disappointment, or
The instructor expects students to read, in addition to the plays
themselves, some historical and critical works. A few are among the books
required for this course. Recommended additional readings of this kind
appear in the syllabus below. These are recommendations. They are
not covert requirements. Nonetheless, they are listed here
because the instructor hopes you will read as many of them as you can.
Study of Renaissance English drama (study of literature generally, in
fact) is, in one sense, an ongoing conversation between people with vastly
different points of view, from many different countries and cultures, and,
now, speaking to one another across several centuries. Even an
introductory course offers an opportunity to sample that conversation,
which, in its often odd way, is part of the pleasure of study of drama:
you might as well begin to taste that pleasure, as well as the pleasures
of the writers themselves, now. The amount of writing on early English
drama is enormous. The instructor has tried to recommend a few (usually
short) essays he thinks (1) might be useful, instructive, and readable;
(2) reflect both older and more recent approaches to the plays; and (3)
won't harm you.
Your textbooks include short introductions to each play (read them)
and notes. Use the notes when you find them necessary. Try
not to let them distract you from your reading when you don't
find them necessary. Renaissance English is modern. It is neither the
Old English of Beowulf nor the Middle English of Chaucer's
Canterbury Tales. It is, however, early modern English.
Modern readers meeting it the first few times can find its differences
from our own English confusing. As the semester progresses, you will find
yourselves increasingly familiar with Renaissance English (if you have
previously studied Shakespeare or Renaissance English poetry, you will
already be familiar with it): its vocabulary, forms of usage, syntax and
word order, and its ability (often masked by modern spellings) to use
single words to mean things we use several words to mean. When in doubt,
in addition to using the notes, read the passage aloud. (It
will become less embarrassing after a while.) Watching a production
will also help.
The single best resource for readers of English-language works is
the Oxford English Dictionary, available to Penn students
through the Library's website,
as well as in its various printed forms. You also have access to a special
library within Van Pelt, the Furness Memorial [Shakespeare] Library (6th
floor), with many additional dictionaries, guides, and studies
specifically devoted to study of Shakespeare and of his contemporary
dramatists. Because these materials do not circulate, they are always
there for your use.
Several online resources to assist the study of early English drama
exist. Some of them are even good. A selection appears below.
These playwrights wrote their plays to be staged, that is, for actors
who would produce them before an audience where they would be seen and
heard. They were not written down for readers. It will be a source of
pleasure and enhance your understanding of his plays if you watch
as many videotaped versions of them as possible, whether productions
originally made for television or the movies: the more the merrier. If
logistical arrangements can be made and productions are running during the
fall semester, we will make a Friday night or weekend journey or two to
see live productions. It might even be helpful to see a Shakespearian play
performed (his work is produced far more frequently than works by his
contemporaries but it is informed by the same theatrical conventions as
This class will work through discussion rather than lectures. Your
attendance will make a difference in its success--and your
attendance and participation in your grade. Ground rules: talk;
interrupt; open your mouths. Be polite; do not let politeness get in the
way of making your points.
The course requires two short (about 5 pages) papers, due October 1 and
November 5; some scattered one-page/200-250 word short responses to
specific queries (some are specified below); willingness to participate in
some classroom presentations of scenes even at the cost of feeling
like an ass while doing so; and a final paper (about 15 pages) due
December 18. No final examination will be scheduled. The instructor
reserves the right occasionally to give brief unannounced written quizzes
or exams, although his inclination is to do so only if it appears that
people are not keeping up with the reading.
NOTE: Your final paper should consider any aspect of the plays
we have read during the semester and ought also to deal with at least one
related play or playwright not otherwise read in this class. The
more recommended critical writing you can read, the better able will you
be to choose a topic for this paper intelligently. DO NOT CHOOSE A
TOPIC FOR OR WRITE THIS PAPER WITHOUT FIRST DISCUSSING YOUR PLANS WITH THE
INSTRUCTOR. Follow MLA format rules (which you can consult at Van Pelt
Library's Reference Desk if you don't already know them) in its
preparation.Death (preferably yours) is the only acceptable
excuse for lateness.
In general, the instructor appreciates
writing. He will look with disfavor upon essays, whether short or
final papers, that are poorly written. Sloppy writing normally means
This course meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:00 to 4:30 P.M. in
the Henry Charles Lea Library on the sixth floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich
Library. We may occasionally reschedule or relocate in order to
accommodate the use of videotapes in class.
As has been noted at the top of this syllabus, the instructor's office
is in the Department of Special Collections (also on the sixth floor of
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library). You can reach him there by telephone (215 898
7088) or in person at that location. Call before showing up. You
can communicate with him as well by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: Some material will
be distributed in photocopy ("bulkpack"). Books to be purchased are
available at the Pennsylvania Book Center, still located at 3726 Walnut
Street through October.
Jean E. Howard, The Stage and Social Struggle in Early Modern
England (Routledge paperback)
- Three Late Medieval Morality Plays: Mankind, Everyman, Mundus et
Infans, ed. G. A. Lester (New Mermaid paperback)
- Drama of the English Renaissance, ed. Russell Fraser and
Norman Rabkin (Prentice-Hall paperback)
consists of TWO volumes. It is HORRIBLY EXPENSIVE.
- Julia Briggs, This Stage-Play World: Texts and Contexts,
1580-1625, 2nd ed. (Oxford University Press
The second edition is very different
from the first edition; the newer edition is the one you should be sure
you are getting and reading.
Real Stakhanovites might want to read, in addition:
either John Guy, Tudor England (Oxford University Press
paperback), a basic history of England during the period when the
literature read in this course was written
or Penry Williams, The Later Tudors (Oxford University Press
paperback), written a few years after Guy's book
and the old standby, neither nasty nor brutish but short, and a
predecessor to Julia Briggs's book (above), E. M. W. Tillyard, The
Elizabethan World Picture (Vintage paperback)
If he puts any books on reserve in the Rosengarten Reserve Room
(Van Pelt Library, basement level), the instructor will distribute
separately a list of them. However, students should be aware of the
Furness Memorial Library on the sixth floor of Van Pelt, where the large
majority of books for this course are to be found. Circulating copies are
found mainly on the third floor of Van Pelt.
Week 1--September 10, Thursday
Introduction to the
Week 2--September 15 and 17
- Start reading Briggs, This
Starting up: a representative
Week 3--September 22 and 24
- "Cyril Tourneur," The Revenger's
Tragedy (in Fraser-Rabkin 2)
- Finish reading Briggs, This
- Everyman (both of
them in Three Late Medieval Morality Plays)
The following suggestions might be spread
out over this week and next.
Week 4--September 29, October 1
- John R. Elliott, Jr.,
"Medieval Rounds and Wooden O's: The Medieval Heritage of the Elizabethan
Theatre," in Medieval Drama, ed. Neville Denny, Stratford-upon-Avon
Studies, 16 (London: Edward Arnold, 1973), pp. 223-246 (Paula Neuss
writes about Mankind in the same volume, pp. 41-67)
Mullaney, Leonard Tennenhouse, Lisa Jardine, and Jean E. Howard have
helpful essays in Staging the Renaissance: Reinterpretations of
Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama, ed. David Scott Kastan and Peter
Stallybrass (New York: Routledge, 1991), pp. 17-26, 27-39, 57-67, 68-74
(see also Kastan and Stallybrass's "Introduction," pp. 1-14)
- Jean E.
Howard, Catherine Belsey, and Jonathan Dollimore have helpful essays in
New Historicism and Renaissance Drama, ed. Richard Wilson and
Richard Dutton, Longman Critical Readers (London: Longman, 1992), pp.
19-32, 33-44, 45-56
- Also useful are Peter Thomson ("Playhouses and
players," pp. 67-83) and Alan C. Dessen ("theatrical conventions," pp.
85-99), in The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare Studies, ed.
Stanley Wells (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).
- Thomas Dekker, The Shoemaker's Holiday
(in Fraser-Rabkin 1)
- Kastan, "Workshop as/and Playhouse: The
Shoemaker's Holiday (1599)," in Staging the Renaissance, pp.
Paper 1 due Thursday, October 1:
Week 5--October 6 and 8
and contrast the ways in which their authors draw the characters of
Vindice, Everyman, and Simon Eyre. Whether these characters seem to you
more or less similar in the way(s) in which they are constructed,
can you, on the basis of your conclusions on this point, also
suggest ways in which these three plays are like/unlike one another?
Comedy and tragedy
- George Gascoigne, Supposes
Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy (both in Fraser-Rabkin 1)
Week 6--October 13 and 15
- If you happen never to have read
Shakespeare's early The Comedy of Errors--it bears resemblences to
Gascoigne's Supposes--or Hamlet--it bears other sorts of
resemblences to Kyd's Spanish Tragedy and to "Tourneur's"
Revenger's Tragedy--now is probably the right moment.
- Jonas A.
Barish, "The Spanish Tragedy, or The Pleasures and Perils of
Rhetoric," in Elizabethan Theatre, ed. John Russell Brown and
Bernard Harris, Stratford-upon-Avon Studies, 9 (London: Edward Arnold,
1966), pp. 59-85
- Jean E. Howard, "Crossdressing, the Theatre, and
Gender Struggle in Early Modern England," Shakespeare Quarterly,
39:4 (Winter 1988), 418-440 (and often reprinted)
- Stephen Orgel,
"Nobody's Perfect: Or, Why Did the English Stage Take Boys for Women?"
South Atlantic Quarterly, 88:1 (Winter 1989), 7-29
Christopher Marlowe and
- Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton,
- Christopher Marlowe, Edward II (both in
Week 7--October 20 and 22
Christopher Marlowe, magic, and
- Robert Greene, Friar Bacon and Friar
- Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus (in Fraser-Rabkin
Week 8--October 27 and 29
- Jonathan Dollimore, "Subversion through
Transgression: Doctor Faustus (c. 1592)," in Staging the
Renaissance, pp. 122-132
- Stephen Greenblatt, "Marlowe and the Will
to Absolute Play," in New Historicism and Renaissance Drama, ed.
Wilson and Dutton, pp. 57-82 (rpt. from Greenblatt's Renaissance
Self-fashioning: From More to Shakespeare [Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1980], pp. 193-221)
- Alan Sinfield, "Reading Marlowe's
God," Faultlines: Cultural Materialism and the Politics of Dissident
Reading (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), pp.
- Barbara H. Traister, "Doctor Faustus: Master of
Self-Delusion," Heavenly Necromancers: The Magician in English
Renaissance Drama (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1984), pp.
- Anonymous, Arden of Feversham
Heywood, A Woman Killed with Kindness (both in Fraser-Rabkin
Week 9--November 3 and 5
- Lynda E. Boose, "The 1599 Bishops' Ban, Elizabethan
Pornography, and the Sexualization of the Jacobean Stage," in Enclosure
Acts: Sexuality, Property, and Culture in Early Modern England, ed.
Richard Burt and John Michael Archer (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press, 1994), pp. 185-200
- Viviana Comensoli, [on A Woman Killed with
Kindness and Arden], 'Household Business': Domestic Plays of
Early Modern England (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), pp.
- Robert Garnier, The Countess of Pembroke's
Antonie, ed. Alice Luce (Weimar, E. Felber, 1897), a text also
available online--in a version based on that of the Huntington
Library (59871) copy of the 1595 edition (STC 11623)--at http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/antonie.html,
from Renascence Editions, University of Oregon
- Elizabeth Cary, The
tragedy of Mariam, the fair Queen of Jewry (these plays will be
provided in photocopy/bulkpack format)
- Margaret W. Ferguson, "Renaissance Concepts of the
'Woman Writer,'" in Women and Literature in Britain, 1500-1700, ed.
Helen Wilcox (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp.
- Barry Weller and Margaret W. Ferguson, "Introduction,"
Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Mariam, the fair Queen of Jewry, ed.
Weller and Ferguson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), pp.
- Stephanie Wright, "The Canonization of Elizabeth Cary," in
Voicing Women: Gender and Sexuality in Early Modern Writing, ed.
Kate Chedgzoy, Melanie Hansen, and Suzanne Trill (Keele: Keele University
Press, 1996), pp. 55-68
Paper 2 due Thursday, November 5:
Week 10--November 10 and 12
either of the two plays read for this week and concentrate on it, using
the other and ANY ONE of the plays read in weeks 7 and 8 as
additional reference points, to examine how the playwright structures the
climax of the play. Where does the climax come? Why is it a climactic
moment? Does the climax of the play's action coincide with the
climax of the central character's (or characters's) developing
self-awareness (or is that sort of development an issue in these plays)?
Do the plays written for the public theater seem "different" in any way
from those written "for the closet" with respect to such structural
- Ben Jonson, Volpone (in Fraser-Rabkin
Week 11--November 17 and 19
- Ben Jonson, The Alchemist (in
Week 12--November 24 (NOTE: November 26 is
- Anne Barton, "The Alchemist," in Ben
Jonson, Dramatist, pp. 136-153
- Gail Kern Paster, [on The
Alchemist], in The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of
Shame in Early Modern England (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press,
1993), pp. 143-162
- Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton, The
Roaring Girl (in Fraser-Rabkin 2)
Week 13--December 1 and 3
- Marjorie Garber, ""The Logic of the Transvestite:
The Roaring Girl (1608)," in Staging the Renaissance, pp.
- Jean E. Howard, "Sex and Social Conflict: The Erotics of The
Roaring Girl," in Erotic Politics: Desire on the Renaissance
Stage, ed. Susan Zimmerman (New York: Routledge, 1992), pp.
- Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, The
- John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi (both in
Week 14--December 8 and 10
- Irving Ribner, [on The Changeling, pp.
126-137, and on The Duchess of Malfi, pp. 108-122], Jacobean
Tragedy: The Quest for Moral Order (London: Methuen, 1962)
One page or 200-250 words:
- Does Ribner's approach to
these plays--now more than thirty years old and deeply committed to
a view of the drama as a religiously didactic enterprise--make sense?
Whether your answer is yes or no, is his approach
useful?--that is, now that you know this stuff (if you do
know it!), what do you know and do you want to know it?
Another tragedy and another
- John Ford, 'Tis Pity She's a
- Francis Beaumont, The Knight of the Burning Pestle
(both plays in Fraser-Rabkin 2)
- Michael Neill and Verna Foster have essays on
'Tis Pity in John Ford: Critical Re-Visions, ed. Michael
Neill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 155-179,
A final paper is due on Friday, December
18, its topic to be chosen IN CONSULTATION WITH THE INSTRUCTOR. A
suggestion: you might want to consider one of the plays in
either 1 or 2 Fraser-Rabkin in
APPENDIX: Online resources for the study of
English Renaissance drama
The web provides many points of access to literary texts generally and
to early modern literary texts specifically (see, e.g., the instructor's
own online texts page for such sources),
including a wide variety of sites providing multiple texts of and
information about Renaissance drama.
These sites are
free. Many of them are worth less than they cost. Others provide useful
information but still must be used with care. By and large, a surprisingly
large amount of un-refereed (unevaluated) material can be found on
the web. Caveat emptor!
- Alex: A
Catalog of Electronic Texts on the Internet can be consulted via the
- One useful online text (available here to Penn users; guests may
apply at the EB's URL, http://www.eb.com/) is the Encyclopedia Britannica.
BASIC online text, especially for students of literature, is OED. OED also maintains both
real and prototype online websites.
specialized dictionary resource (for early modern usage) is The Early Modern
English Dictionaries Database.
- Chadwyck-Healey's Literature
Online, a full-text searchable online database, is currently available
to people with valid Penn i.p.s
- Among texts scanned from early editions of Shakespeare--worth at
least a look--found in the Horace Howard Furness Memorial [Shakespeare]
Library of the Department of Special Collections at the University of
Pennsylvania's Van Pelt-Dietrich Library are:
Remember that Shakespeare does
not exhaust English Renaissance drama. It will nonetheless be of some
interest to you to see what his plays looked like in some of their
earliest printed incarnations.
- the 1623 First
- the 1619 Quarto
- the 1623 First
Folio King Lear
- Nahum Tate's
The History of King Lear (1681)
- King Lear
(edited by Alexander Pope, 1723)
- Also available only to people with valid Penn i.p.s is The
Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism
- Two amazingly useful literary sites include:
- The Voice of the Shuttle (Alan Liu,
University of California at Santa Barbara)
- Mitsuharu Matsuoka's Home
Page (Nagoya University)
- Generally, see:
- Jack Lynch's Renaissance
- The Online
Medieval and Classical Library
- Early Modern
Literary Studies: Electronic Texts
- See the various "Alchemy"--now
called "Luminaria"--databases, which include medieval, Renaissance, and
seventeenth-century texts, at http://www.luminarium.org/lumina.htm
- Perseus Project (Tufts
University; so far [9 May 1997], this is a list of texts planned
for inclusion at this site)
- Center for Electronic Text &
Image (in early stages of development and operation at the University
of Pennsylvania's Van Pelt-Dietrich Library's Department of Special
Elizabethan Accents is, as it name indicates, a specialized resource
(and can require plug-ins for sound)
- For Marlowe, see the Christopher
- For Middleton, see the Thomas Middleton Home
- Richard Bear's
Renascence Editions: Works in English, 1500-1799 (University of
Oregon) makes available a great deal of primary material
Electronic Texts, already listed above, includes The Elizabethan
Homilies 1623 and Robert
Cawdrey's Table alphabetical of hard usual English words
- For information about and representative examples of emblem books,
- Alciato's Book of
- the Compendio de Emblemas
Españoles Ilustrados, by John T. Cull, Antonio Bernat
Vistarini, and Edward J. Vodoklys, S.J. (Universitat de les Illes Balears
and the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA)
- the Glasgow University Emblem
- Pietro Vasolli
da Fivizano's Italian translation of Horapollon's Hieroglyphica
(printed by Giolito, Venice 1547), part of an in-process project to produce a CD-ROM
edition of Cesare Ripa's Iconologia
Texts Research Centre, University of Reading (U.K.).
- Early Modern
Literary Studies (the periodical, not the texts, for which, see
monetary equivalents can be helpful
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