ENGL621 - Readings in Renaissance English Literature

This course explores the spaces, occasions, semiotics and commercial systems that reshaped English drama from the 1560s to the parliamentary ordinance closing the theaters in 1642. This was the period of Lyly, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, Cary, Middleton, Marston, Dekker, Beaumont, Fletcher, Webster, Massinger, Ford and others, in collaboration with each other and together with actors, musicians, prompters and shareholders. In recent years, literary scholars have placed renewed emphasis on the social, economic and architectural structures that defined the commercial playing companies of this period. We will look afresh at the sites in which Renaissance drama was performed, from Sebastian Westcott’s indoor theater in which former choir boys scandalized audiences, to the outdoor Hope amphitheater, which doubled as a gruesome arena for torturing bears. We will also ask what types of theatricality occurred away from the commercial stage, including plays by female dramatists and pageants through the streets of London. Primary texts will be drawn from a distinctive theatrical site each week, including a dramatic text and contextual materials linked to that site. We will touch on Shakespeare only briefly and in the context of the companies in which he worked. Secondary sources will be drawn from authors ranging from E. K. Chambers to Andrew Gurr, Franklin Hildy, Jean Howard, Roslyn Knutson, Erika Lin, Tiffany Stern, Henry Turner and Robert Weimann.