In Shakespeare’s time, English theater was entertainment, and entertainment meant blood and bawdiness as well as romance and politics. Playwrights and actors wanted to fill their theaters, and surely the best way to do so was to stage murder, robbery, adultery, or incest, or the spectacle of respectable men and women making complete fools of themselves. Yet while they thrilled their audiences, these plays also addressed serious issues of their tumultuous time, exposing the weaknesses in the social and political fabric. In this seminar, we will immerse ourselves in the brilliant comic and tragic plays written by Shakespeare’s contemporaries (Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and John Webster, among others), depicting people breaking all the rules, for better or worse. We will discuss the plays as both documents of their time and acting scripts. Written assignments will include studies of the original play texts, analysis of performance, and a final research paper.