English 520


English 520A: The Seventeenth-Century

Spring, 1999

. . . give order that these bodies

High on a stage be placed to the view,

And let me speak to th'yet unknowing world

How these things came about. So shall you hear

Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts,

Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters,

Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause,

And, in this upshot, purposes mistook

Fall'n on th'inventors' heads. All this can I

Truly deliver.

That of course is from Hamlet--but its playbill-like language makes it a perfectly appropriate prologue to the much more widely conceived project of the Spring quarter edition of English 520. Though the Name of this course (as Lewis Carroll's White Knight might have explained) is "Seventeenth Century Literature," and though it is called "English 520," what it IS is "Tudor and Stuart Drama." And what a time for it. Hollywood has embraced us--or at least SOME of us--with Shakespeare in Love, Elizabeth, and the upcoming A Midsummer Night's Dream. We're only a hop, step and a jump, we could hope, from new films of The Alchemist and The White Devil. So the business here will be to prepare ourselves for such an eventuality by the reading and involving of ourselves in English Drama from about 1590 to 1642. Shakespeare will figure only indirectly; he was of course only one of many writing for the stage. It was an exciting, upstart industry supported by dozens of writers, and it's a shame that Shakespeare's certainly wonderful playlist has been allowed to usurp their fame. Here we'll redress that a bit by reading plays by Jonson and Ford, Marston and Marlowe, Webster (why the rats?) and Tourneur, Beaumont and Fletcher. We'll be aiming at a play a week; weekly writing on your part. We'll be surveying critical perspectives as we go. Each of you will adopt a play for your own project.

Finally, even though these plays have now become less taught in undergraduate curricula, we'll nevertheless spend time with each talking about how they might best be taught. Where and how might one teach them? Why? With what outcomes? To whom?

So all in all--a little theory, a little culture, a little pedagogy, but mainly: a whole lot of drama. Useful to anyone interested in the reading or the teaching of Early Modern Literature, in the history of drama, in Shakespeare.

Fraser and Rabkin, Drama of the English Renaissance, Vols 1 and 2 (MacMillan: 0-02-339570-2/0-02-339581-8) (or wherever else you can get these texts). (I know they are costly--but we need the range these texts make available. And once you have them, you have them.) (Supplemental text to be specified soon).