English 251H: Prof. Michael Ullyot (who?)

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English 251H: Restoration and Eighteenth-century Drama
Archived July 2005

Trent University

Department of English, Summer 2005
Professor: Michael Ullyot
Office: Durham College C108
Office hours: By appointment

Course Description and Goals

A play is "A just and lively Image of Humane Nature, representing its Passions and Humours, and the Changes of Fortune to which it is subject; for the Delight and Instruction of Mankind," wrote John Dryden (borrowing from the Roman poet Horace). In English 251H we will read dramatic texts (including an opera) in comparison with one other, and against the backdrop of other contemporary texts, to situate them in their intellectual and cultural contexts. By the end of this course, you will be familiar with the history of English drama in the Restoration and early Eighteenth century. More broadly, you will be capable of critiquing the canonical status of literary texts, and of judging literature's relevance to cultural history and to modern culture. You will develop techniques for reading and annotating dramatic and other texts, and think critically and write perceptively about the issues informing these texts.

Required Text

  1. The Broadview Anthology of Restoration and Early Eighteenth-century Drama. Concise edition. Ed. J. Douglas Canfield. (Available in the Durham College book store.)
  2. All other texts are available online; see syllabus (below) for URLs.

Course and Assignment Format

The introductory class, on 15 June, runs for the full three hours, beginning at 6:30. Beginning on 20 June, classes consist of an 80-minute lecture followed by an 80-minute tutorial each Monday and Wednesday evening, beginning at 6:30.

Tutorials give you the opportunity to respond to the assigned reading(s), and to the ideas of your fellow students. In each tutorial, you will be responsible for a discussion question and a passage from that week's reading; both will appear regularly on the web site. Each meeting, I will ask three students each to do one of the following tasks:

  1. Paraphrase the passage in your own words. What does it mean?
  2. Read the assigned passage aloud. What are its tone and cadences?
  3. Respond to the discussion question. How does it relate to larger themes?

You will not know in advance who I will ask to participate in this exercise -- and thus in every tutorial, you must be prepared to do any one of these tasks. At least once per term, I will ask you to e-mail me, in advance, your response to that day's question. Your participation grade for the course depends on your performances in this exercise (10%), on your participation in tutorials (10%), and on your regular attendance at lectures (10%).

Response Papers will be 750-word responses to a question about Dryden, due on 27 June at 7:30 p.m.

Critical Papers will involve more sustained analysis (2 500 words) of at least three texts studied in class. They will be due on 20 July at 7:30 p.m.

Course Schedule (12 meetings)

Click on 'Online Text' or 'PDF Text' to access online texts. All others are in The Broadview Anthology of Restoration and Early Eighteenth-century Drama


15 June

The Restoration and Eighteenth-century Stage

Critical Reading, Thinking, and Writing


20 June

John Dryden, "An Essay of Dramatick Poesie" [pghs. 1-11, 15-24, 31-35, 49-54, 63-64, 77-79]

John Dryden, Marriage à la Mode

22 June

John Dryden, Marriage à la Mode


27 June

Alexander Pope, Preface to The Works of Shakespear [pghs. 1-13, 20-35]

Samuel Johnson, Preface to The Plays of William Shakespeare [pghs. 1-20, 32-39, 45-59, 95-98]

Elizabeth Montagu, Introduction to An Essay on...Shakespear

Nahum Tate, The History of King Lear

29 June

Nahum Tate, The History of King Lear

James Boswell, "A Letter on...Shakespeare's Jubilee"


4 July

Thomas Otway, Venice Preserved; Or, a Plot Discovered

6 July

Thomas Otway, Venice Preserved; Or, a Plot Discovered

Joseph Addison, The Spectator, No. 39

David Hume, "Of Tragedy"


11 July

Henry Purcell / Nahum Tate, Dido and Aeneas


13 July

Jeremy Collier, "A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage" [Introduction; Chapter IV to end]

William Congreve, "Amendments of Mr. Collier's False and Imperfect Citations"

William Congreve, The Way of the World

18 July

William Congreve, The Way of the World

William Congreve, "Concerning Humour in Comedy"

20 July

Oliver Goldsmith, "An Essay on the Theatre"

Oliver Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer

25 July

Oliver Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer

27 July



For help with your writing, see my guide to Effective Critical Writing.

  1. Response Paper (750 words); due 27 June (10%)
  2. Critical Paper (2 500 words); due 20 July (30%)
  3. Participation in Tutorials and Lectures (30%)
  4. Final exam; on 27 July (30%)

Course Policies and Academic Integrity

The Response and Critical Papers are each graded out of 100%. Late papers -- submitted after 7:30 p.m. on the due date -- will be penalized at a rate of 5% daily for the first two days, and 1% daily thereafter, excluding weekends and university holidays. (For example, a paper due on Wednesday the 20th that you submit on Monday the 25th would be penalized 11%.)

Papers may be submitted on paper or by e-mail, in .rtf or .doc format only. However, until I send you a reply confirming that I have been able to open your file, it has not officially arrived (for the purpose of calculating late penalties).

The only legitimate excuse for late submissions is a documented medical emergency -- as opposed to less drastic misfortunes like the deaths of beloved family pets. Technological malfunctions (e-mail servers, printers) are your own responsibility; but you can easily prevent such last-minute problems from costing you marks by finishing in advance of the due date.

Plagiarism is the deliberate or inadvertent presentation of someone else's work as your own. Your readers must know at every point whether they are reading your ideas, or someone else's. Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to, the following scenarios: using the work of someone else, from whatever source, without citation; recycling work from other university or high school courses; submitting the same paper in two different courses.

The definition of plagiarism is simple, but its penalties are severe, as detailed in Trent University's guidelines: "Penalties may range from a reprimand to suspension from the University. Examples include the reduction of a mark on work submitted for evaluation, the requirement to submit another piece of work or to retake a test or examination, and a grade of '0 -- Academic Dishonesty' on a student's transcript." For further details on Trent's policies and procedures governing academic dishonesty (including plagiarism and other forms of cheating), see www.trentu.ca/deansoffice/dishonestypolicy.html.


Assigned Passages and Discussion Questions:

If you are going to be absent from any tutorial and want to boost your participation grade, e-mail me your answer (in advance) to that day's question. But remember: 20% of your grade in this course depends on your attendance at lectures and participation in tutorials.

15 June

Introduction: No tutorials this week

20 June

Dryden's "Essay"

Assigned Passage: Pgh. 18; from "The unity of Time..." to "...between the Acts."

Question: This passage discusses Aristotle's principle of temporal unity, or the dramatic poet's responsibility to depict events that could happen within set time limits. How does this principle affect the scope (or breadth) of a play's narrative?

22 June

Dryden's Marriage

Assigned Passage: 4.4.23-50 (p. 80 in REED); Palmyra & Leonidas' rhyming dialogue, from "I should, Leonidas..." to "...my person with my heart."

Question: What duty prevents Palmyra from returning Leonidas' affections?

27 June

Johnson's Preface

Assigned Passage: Pghs. 50 and 52; from "The necessity of observing the unities..." to "...was ever credited."

Question: Does credibility matter in drama?

E-mail Respondent(s): Rene S, Erin M

29 June

Tate's King Lear

Assigned Passage: Act 5, lines 145-156; from "No, no, they shall not see us weep..." to "...we were Heav'ns Spies."

Question: Is King Lear an active participant, or a passive spectator, in this play?

E-mail Respondent(s): Kelly H, Sue R

4 July

Otway's Venice

Assigned Passage: Act 2, scene 2, lines 105-124; Pierre's two speeches from "Nay, it's a cause..." to "...make the grove harmonious."

Question: How does Pierre use lofty principles to convince Jaffeir to join the conspiracy? Will Jaffeir uphold these principles?

E-mail Respondent(s): Nicola L, Ben M

6 July

Hume's "Of Tragedy"

Assigned Passage: Page 1; Opening paragraph, from "It seems an unaccountable pleasure..." to "...sympathy and compassion."

Question: Which elements of tragedy evoke pleasure? How does Hume 'account' for the audience's pleasure when watching a tragedy?

E-mail Respondent(s): Angie P

11 July

Purcell and Tate's Dido & Aeneas

Assigned Passage: Page 10; Dido's death lament, "When I am laid in earth..."

Question: Why does Dido ask us to remember her, rather than her fate? What's the difference?

E-mail Respondent(s): Susan B, Sue K

13 July

Collier's "Short View"

Assigned Passage: The first half of the last paragraph, from "Indeed to make delight..." to "A most admirable justification."

Question: How does Collier's tone change in this passage?

E-mail Respondent(s): Erin M, Paul N

18 July

Congreve's Way of the World

Assigned Passages: Act 1, lines 330-332; "A wit should no more be sincere than a woman constant; one argues a decay of parts, as t'other of beauty."

Question: In Congreve's world, how do wit and wooing both necessitate insincerity?

E-mail Respondent(s): Amber W, Courtney W

20 July

Goldsmith's "Essay"

Assigned Passage: Page 2; from "Nor is this rule..." to "...they sink but little by their fall."

Question: Is Goldsmith a snob?

E-mail Respondent(s): Dianne S

25 July

Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer

Assigned Passage: Act 4, lines 264-274; Marlow's exchange with Miss Hardcastle, from "Your partiality..." to "...his resolution."

Question: What is Marlow's conflict? (Hint: compare his situation to Palmyra's in Marriage à la Mode)

E-mail Respondent(s): Tennille N

Response Paper


In "An Essay of Dramatick Poesy," Dryden's Lysideius claims that "There is no Theatre in the world has any thing so absurd as the English Tragi-comedie" (pgh. 53). Which elements of this genre does Lysideius find objectionable, and why? How is his opinion informed by Crites' discussion of the three unities, beginning in paragraph 17?

Consult my Essay Writing Guide for help with your writing.

Due date: 27 June 2005, at 7:30 p.m.
Length: 750 words (approximately three paragraphs)


  • Ensure that you use each of the four rhetorical modes discussed in class: analysis, description, paraphrase, and quotation.
  • The brevity of this paper requires that you do not devote undue words to lengthy introductions or conclusions: plunge directly into your argument, and write with economy and concision.
  • Use only Dryden's text to make your argument; do not do external research.
  • Support your argument with at least three quotations from this text, with parenthetical page-references: eg. "quotation" (pgh. 19). Use quotations selectively and judiciously; they cannot "speak for themselves."

Critical Paper


  • Write a 2500-word paper in response to one of the following questions. Do not exceed this word limit. Include a word-count (including quotations, excluding bibliography) on your title page.
  • Pay very close attention to the choices of texts each question asks you to discuss.

Due date: 20 July 2005, at 7:30 p.m

  1. Dramatists use recollections, prophecies, external forces (such as Fortune, fate, or providence), and descriptions of offstage events to remind audiences that the action that appears onstage during a play is only part of the 'complete' story. Discuss the nature and effects of this surrounding context in three of the following four texts: Marriage a la Mode; Venice Preserved; The History of King Lear; Dido and Aeneas. How do playwrights mediate between onstage and offstage action? (Both Hume and Dryden mention this division.)
  2. While Pope calls Shakespeare an "Original" and Johnson praises him as "the poet of nature," both agree with Montagu that "he is far from being faultless." How do three of the four critics we have studied (Dryden, Pope, Montagu, Johnson) balance praise with censure of Shakespeare? Which faults do they find in him? How do they attribute them to his 'natural' style? (If you would like to write your paper as a dramatic dialogue between these critics, see me for details.)
  3. Conflicts between private desires and public rules or conventions often take the form of strained familial relationships, particularly between children and parents. Although characters who break social rules and/or familial bonds act on personal motives, they achieve benefits for everyone. Evaluate the truthfulness of this statement in three of the following four plays: Marriage a la Mode; Venice Preserved; The Way of the World; She Stoops to Conquer. Is every rule made to be broken?
  4. "The business of plays is to recommend virtue and discountenance vice," Collier writes in his attack on Congreve. How do 'virtue' and 'vice' take different forms in tragedies and in comedies? How are these distinctions related to their aims of instruction and delight? Discuss with reference to four of the following texts (choose two from each category):
    • Otway's Venice Preserved
    • Addison's Spectator
    • Hume's Of Tragedy
    • Collier's "Short View"
    • Congreve's "Amendments of Mr. Collier's...Citations"
    • Congreve's Way of the World
    • Goldsmith's "Essay on the Theatre"

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