This course will examine Medieval and Renaissance theatrical traditions in England, including plays that Marlowe and Shakespeare grew up with. We will be studying religious and secular plays, the social and historical contexts that produced them, and the conditions under which they were initially performed. After a brief survey of Corpus Christi and Mystery plays, we will concentrate on late Medieval and Tudor morality plays and interludes. Public and popular theater thrived in England long before Marlowe and Shakespeare. We will examine this rich tradition (or set of traditions) as literary texts and theatrical works of performance, seeking to understand how they reinforced or challenged the presumed norms of their own times through performed drama—by playing with the past and present.
The primary text will be Medieval Drama: An Anthology, ed. Greg Walker (Blackwell Publishing).
There will be regular and brief writing assignments, ranging from informal online discussion to more formal assignments; active participation in discussions; and a term paper of 15-20 pages, graded in stages from proposal, outline, multiple drafts in part and in whole, and the finished essay; and a journal that will be occasionally shared with the professor and class mates.
Students should be English Honors and have a good background in Shakespeare and/or other Elizabethan dramatists, whether through course work or other experiences.
This will be a discussion class, with occasional, brief, oral presentations by students.