English [2--Y]: Prof. Michael Ullyot (who?)

English [2--Y]:
Medieval and Renaissance Drama

This prospective full-year course has not yet been offered.

Course Description and Goals

This course is an introduction to English drama from the Middle Ages to the civil war. We will read major playwrights like Marlowe, Webster, and Jonson alongside lesser-known authors like Elizabeth Cary and Anthony Munday. Our readings are roughly chronological, but follow the contours of themes these texts explore: ambition, resistance, vengeance, and reconciliation. We will pay special attention to the discourses of mourning; of literary rivalries; of institutional power; and of civic life. By the end of this course, you will be familiar with the history of English drama from the fourteenth to the early seventeenth centuries. You will appreciate the histories of genres, and the role of drama in cultural history. You will develop techniques for reading and annotating drama (as 'written performance'), and for writing critically about your perceptions of texts and the issues informing them.

Classes will include both lectures and student presentations, with ample opportunity for class discussion.


This course is intended for second- or third-year undergraduates. There are no prerequisites, though the department's introductory survey course will help you situate these texts in literary history.

This course complements other drama courses offered by the department, including Shakespeare; Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Drama [see my syllabus]; and Modern Drama.


Marks in this course will be calculated as follows:

For help with writing, time management, and avoiding plagiarism, consult my guide to Effective Critical Writing.

  1. Two 1000-word short response papers (three paragraphs each). (2 x 10% = 20%)
  2. A 2500-word research essay on two or more of the plays studied in class. This may be presented as either an online project or in traditional paper form. A point-form outline of this paper, with a provisional thesis statement, will be due two weeks before the final due date; this will be weighed in the determination of your final mark. (30%)
  3. December and April exams, each with identifications and an essay question. (2 x 20% = 40%)
  4. Class participation, including a biographical presentation on a playwright, based on the online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. (10%)

Required Texts

  • Course reader
  • Renaissance Drama: An Anthology of Plays and Entertainments, 2nd edition. Arthur F. Kinney, ed. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.
  • Oxford edition, Shakespeare's Winter's Tale
  • Broadview edition, Cary's Tragedy of Mariam
  • New Mermaid [NM] editions:
    • Marlowe's Tamburlaine 1
    • Peele's Old Wife's Tale
    • Middleton/Tourneur's Revenger's Tragedy
    • Jonson's Alchemist
    • Massinger's Roman Actor

Some readings will also be available online. I will acquaint you with the course web page, and with online resources for research and class presentations.

Course Calendar (2 terms; 26 weeks)

Locations of texts are in [brackets]. (See Required Texts, above.)

Week 1


Forms and development of English drama

Reading and annotating dramatic texts


Week 2

The Creation, and the Fall of Lucifer (York Cycle) [online]

Week 3

The Second Shepherds' Play (Towneley Cycle) [Kinney]

Week 4

Noah (Chester Cycle) [Kinney]

Week 5

Everyman [reader]


Week 6

Selections from John Nichols' Progresses, Entertainments, and Pageants of Queen Elizabeth I (2007): entertainments at Elvetham, Woodstock, and Kenilworth [reader]


Week 7

John Bale, King Johan (excerpts) [reader]; Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville, Gorboduc (excerpts) [reader]

Week 8

Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine 1 [NM]

Week 9

Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus [Kinney]

First response paper due


Week 10

William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale [Oxford]

Week 11

George Peele, The Old Wife's Tale [NM]

Week 12

Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Mariam [Broadview]

Week 13

December Review

During the break, read The Spanish Tragedy.


Week 14

Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy [Kinney]

Week 15

John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi [Kinney]

Week 16

Middleton or Tourneur, The Revenger's Tragedy [NM]

Second response paper due


Week 17

Thomas Dekker, The Shoemaker's Holiday [Kinney]

Week 18

Ben Jonson, The Alchemist [NM]


Week 19

Excerpts from Robert Greene, Ben Jonson, Thomas Dekker, and Thomas Heywood [reader]


Week 20

Excerpts from Thomas Lodge, Robert Burton, and John Milton [reader]

Week 21

John Marston, The Malcontent [Kinney]

Week 22

Thomas Middleton & William Rowley, The Changeling [Kinney]

Research essay due


Week 23

Anthony Munday, Triumphs of a Reunited Britannia [Kinney]; Ben Jonson, Masque of Blackness [reader]

Week 24

Philip Massinger, The Roman Actor [NM]

Week 25

John Ford, Perkin Warbeck [reader]

Week 26

Conclusions and Year-end Review

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