Featuring romantic adventures, exotic settings, provocative sexuality, political intrigue, and wondrous twist endings, tragicomedy debuted on the English stage around 1600 and rapidly became hugely popular. Every major dramatist writing for the professional theater tried his hand at it, and we will read a variety of these plays as we attempt to understand the genre’s techniques, tropes, and politics. Our emphasis will be on the relation of tragicomic form to the social and cultural politics of its moment, supplemented by both theater history and history of the book, as we seek to locate the forces behind the rise of this new genre. Authors studied will include Shakespeare, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher, John Marston, Philip Massinger, James Shirley, John Webster, and others. We will also read some early modern and some contemporary literary theory to explore what tragicomedy is and why it became so popular and so controversial in the early seventeenth century. Requirements will likely include active class participation, one class presentation, a shorter paper around midterm, and a longer final research paper.