Jacobean Drama

English 760P (01) LSE, Pre-1700

Wednesday, 6:15-8:45 p.m.

Todd H. Sammons


Seminar in Literary Genres – Jacobean Drama


This course will actually cover both the Elizabethan (1558-1603) and Jacobean (1603-25) periods, although right now only five of the fourteen plays we will be reading are in fact Elizabethan, the rest being Jacobean; so the course really is weighted toward the “Jacobean Drama” in the subtitle. Following a trend in the literary critical treatment of early modern drama, the focus will be on playwrights other than Shakespeare: he was not the only game in town, and many wonderful plays have finally/recently attracted long-overdue critical attention.


GOALS (i.e., STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES [SLOs]). Students who take this course will by its conclusion be able to articulate (a) a synoptic view, through reading many plays, of the non-Shakespearean drama of the two periods; (b) basic knowledge of an aspect of the drama of the periods lying on either side of ours: the medieval and the Caroline; (c) a sense of the history of the times, especially as it is presented or refracted in the plays; (d) concomitantly, a sense of the important rupture in the drama (though, of course, there were also continuities) when Elizabeth I died and James I became King of England; (e) familiarity with the material conditions of the performance of the drama in the two periods; (f) familiarity with the important critical approaches to the drama of the periods; (g) the difference between a Shakespeare play and either a play we will read as a class or another Elizabethan or Jacobean play; and (h) an aspect of the drama of the two periods in a standard seminar paper.


These SLOs map well onto the SLOs for both the M.A. program and the Ph.D. program, as follows (lower-case letters in parentheses refer to the “GOALS” above):


M.A. SLO #1 – Concentration = Literary Studies in English (a, b, c, & d)

M.A. SLO #2 – Advanced research methods (e, f, & g); possibly “Demonstrate ability to

account for continuing relevance of earlier cultural formations and literary and

rhetorical practices” (e?, g?)

M.A. SLO #3 – One or more theoretical models (e, f, & h)

M.A. SLO #4 – Close reading (a, g, h)


Ph.D. SLO #1 – Area (a, b, c, & d)

Ph.D. SLO #2 – Advanced research methods (e, f, & g)

Ph.D. SLO #3 – One or more theoretical models (e, f, & h)

Ph.D. SLO #4 – Close reading (a, g, h)


METHODS. At the beginning of the course, I will present background to the period; topics will include at least medieval drama, a brief history of the times, theatres and acting companies, audiences, staging, playwrights and collaboration, censorship, genres, poetics and rhetoric, and publication practices. We would then read a play every week. Prior to each week’s class, you will read an article on that week’s play that I will put up on the class’s Laulima site. You will also have the opportunity to write a response to the play (also posted to the class’s Laulima site). In class, I will present basic information on each play: playwright’s biography and play’s date, genre, source(s)/influences, text, language/verse, stage history, special knowledge needed to understand the play, themes, and criticism (I am planning to do an annotated bibliography of criticism on each play). We will then discuss the play. Throughout the semester, you will be doing two out of three written and oral reports: on a book you have read on the material conditions of dramatic production during the period, on some aspect of either medieval drama or Caroline drama, and/or a comparison of an early modern play to a Shakespeare play. Toward the end of the semester, you will be doing the research for your long seminar paper, including deciding on your topic (and talking about your decision in class), preparing an annotated bibliography, and producing a decent draft for a classmate (and me) to review and comment on. At the very end, we will have a mini-conference, at which you will present your research to the class orally.




E-letters to the class, both before we have treated a play and after we have treated it

Two of the following three reports (both written and oral):

A report on a book about the material conditions of dramatic production during

the period

A report on some aspect of medieval drama or on some aspect of Caroline


A report comparing a non-Shakespearean early modern play to a Shakespeare


A long seminar paper

Annotated bibliography

Draft for review by a peer and the teacher

A peer review

The final version




David Bevington, gen. ed., English Renaissance Drama: A Norton Anthology (Norton, 2002).


SPECIFIC PLAYS (list subject to change)


Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy (c. 1587)

John Lyly, Endymion (c. 1588)

Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta (1589-1591, possibly 1590)

—, Edward II (early 1590s, possibly 1592)

Thomas Dekker, The Shoemaker’s Holiday (1599)

John Marston, The Malcontent (1602-04)

Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Mariam (1603-04, possibly later)

Ben Jonson, Volpone (1606)

Thomas Middleton (?), The Revenger’s Tragedy (1606)

Francis Beaumont, The Knight of the Burning Pestle (c. 1607)

John Fletcher, The Woman’s Prize or The Tamer Tamed (c. 1609, possibly later)

Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker, The Roaring Girl (c. 1608, possibly later)

Ben Jonson, The Alchemist (1610)

John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi (c. 1613)