When we come to early drama, Shakespeare usually sucks up most of the available air in the room -- and so in this course we'll spend most of our time reading his predecessors, contemporaries, and successors. We'll read a range of plays both rich and fun: tragedies and comedies, plays that revel in blood and gore, works that comment on the roles of women, Jews, and other distant and strange ("foreign") peoples in contemporary English society.
Early drama illuminates both life and itself. It pushes its audiences to the limits of their imaginations even as it tests its own capacity. We'll read that master playwright, Anonymous. In addition, we'll read some playwrights you've heard of, and others you haven't, chosen from the following list: George Gascoigne, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Heywood, Elizabeth Cary, Ben Jonson, Mary Sidney, Samuel Daniel, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher, Thomas Middleton, Philip Massinger, James Shirley, Richard Brome, Margaret Cavendish, and John Milton. If any of their plays turn up on stage between Washington and New York, we will travel to see them performed.
Ideal for students who have never read early drama or who have taken the department's course on Shakespeare, this course will require participation in class and online; regular submission of a response journal; and two essays. The class will decide if it also wants a final examination. Finally, we'll do some kind of small project on something on which student and instructor agree.