Skip to main content

EN352 Restoration Drama

Module Convenor: Dr David Taylor, H5.10 (

15 CATS one-term module, starting in January 2018.
Seminars: Mondays 10:30am-12:00pm and 2:00-3:30pm, Experimental Teaching Space, Floor 2 of the Library

[NB. Week 2 seminars will be on Fri. 19th Jan @ 1 & 2.30pm in the Library's Experimental Teaching Space]

This module can be paired with EN353 Early Modern Drama (15 CATS, one term, starting in October) to make a coherent 30 CATS two-term option which deals with English drama and its contexts 1574-1709, but students are welcome to pair it with any other 15 CATS module as they wish.

This module explores the drama during one of the most exciting and innovative periods of English theatre. When the monarchy was restored in 1660 - following more than a decade of Puritan rule - the theatres were reopened. But after 18 long years during which public performance had been criminalized and the playhouses shut, it wasn't simply a case of actors and theatre managers picking up where they'd left off. New performance spaces, new kinds of drama, and new repertories had to be created. Crucially, women were, for the very first time, permitted to appear on the public stage: this is the age of the first actresses.

In this module, we'll particular attention to the relationship between the forms of drama that emerged in the period and the material and political contexts of the theatre. The late seventeenth century English stage is perhaps best known for its comedies and we'll consider both how far the conventions of this genre changed over the course of the period and the extent to which comedy offered writers a vehicle for reinforcing or contesting contemporary conceptions of sexuality. At the same time, we'll look at examples of heroic drama, the burlesque, Shakespearean adaptation and tragedy, as a means of exploring the broader history of generic experimentation in decades shaped by a sequence political and religious crises that saw the beginnings of party politics and constitutional monarchy.


We will be going to see The Globe Theatre's production of Dryden's Aureng Zebe (retitled The Captive Queen) on Sunday 25th February at 1pm.


Weeks 1-5: Comedy and the rake's progress

1. Introduction / Comedy and the libertine
George Etherege, The Man of Mode (1676)

2. Comedy, carnival, and sexual violence [NB. Wk 2 seminars will be on Fri. 19th Jan @ 1 & 2.30pm in the Library's Experimental Teaching Space]
Aphra Behn, The Rover (1677)

3. Comedy after the Revolution
Colley Cibber, Love's Last Shift (1696)

4. Comedy beyond the capital
George Farquhar, The Recruiting Officer (1706)

4. Comedy on the reformed stage?
Susannah Centlivre, The Busie Body (1709)
Jeremy Collier, excerpts from A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698)

Weeks 7-10: Experiments in the politics of dramatic form

7. Reworking Shakespeare
John Dryden and William Davenant, The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island (1667)
Thomas Rymer, from A Short View of Tragedy (1693)
[NB. If you've not already read/studied Shakespeare's The Tempest, you will need to do so for this seminar.]

8. Heroic drama and the crisis of kingship
John Dryden, Aureng Zebe (1675)

9. Burlesque: theatre about theatre
George Villiers, The Rehearsal (1671)
John Dryden, "Of Heroic Plays" (1672)

10. Tragedy and the suffering woman
Thomas Otway, Venice Preserv'd (1682)
John Dryden, from An Essay of Dramatic Poesie (1668)



The coursebook will be Restoration Drama: An Anthology, ed. David Womersley (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2000). This volume contains all the set plays except the Dryden/Davenant Tempest, which you can download here, and Dryden's Aureng Zebe, which you can download here.

An extensive reading list for this module can be found here:



The module is 50% assessed (a 3000 word essay) and 50% examined (a one-hour examination paper).

**2018 essay questions**

Past exam papers: 2015-16, 2016-17