Studies: 16th & 17th C Lit

This course will examine the vibrant theatrical production of Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline London, but on the non-Shakespearian-, non-Marlovian-, and non-Jonsonian-masterpiece part of it. In other words, on a baker’s dozen of the 24 or so playwrights active during the period who are not usually studied. We will ignore history plays, but we will include the other three Shakespearian genres: tragedy (including revenge tragedy), comedy, and romance. We will also treat plays written in genres Shakespeare pretty much ignored himself: humor comedy, city comedy, domestic comedy, comedy of manners, domestic tragedy, dramatic burlesque, and tragi-comedy. (Several plays we will treat present interesting generic mixes/problems.) Also, we will read plays written collaboratively, something that Shakespeare did not do very often. Finally, as even a cursory glance at the often-gendered titles of the plays listed below indicates, we will attend to the sexual politics of the times. So, yes, Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Jonson cast very long shadows indeed over the period, but they were certainly not the only luminaries at work. (The Jonson play in the list below is not usually taught in surveys of the period.)


All but one of the plays below are in the course text: David Bevington, gen. ed., English Renaissance Drama: A Norton Anthology (Norton, 2002). The outlier is Heywood’s The Fair Maid of the West, which I will order as a stand-alone text.

Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy (c. 1587)
Robert Greene, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (1589)
Thomas Dekker, The Shoemaker’s Holiday (1599)
John Marston, The Malcontent (1603)
John Marston, The Dutch Courtesan (1605)
Cyril Tourneur [?], The Revenger’s Tragedy (1606)
Francis Beaumont, The Knight of the Burning Pestle (1607)
Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker, The Roaring Girl (1608)
Jonson, Epicoene, or the Silent Woman (1609)
Thomas Heywood, The Fair Maid of the West (c. 1610)
Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, The Maid’s Tragedy (1610)
John Webster, The White Devil (1612)
Thomas Middleton, Women Beware Women (1621);
Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, The Changeling (1622)
John Ford, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (1633)


Regular e-letters to the class; a portfolio of selected e-letters + a retrospective essay on all e-letters written; a written and oral report on the introduction to a standard edition of one of the plays we will be reading as a class; a written and oral report on some aspect of the material conditions of the theatre during the period; a long independent research project; in-class midterm; in-class final exam; class attendance.


Some lecturing; and, as befits a “Studies” class, a fair amount of oral reporting in class and significant class discussion.