Skip to main content Skip to navigation

EN2L6/EN3L2 Shakespeare and Selected Dramatists of His Time

Information for 2021-2022

The module will be available to both second year and finalist students next year.

Convenors: Prof. Paul Botley (Term 1) and Dr Teresa Grant (Term 2)

Teaching methods

1 x 1 hour lecture weekly; 1 x 1.5 hour seminar weekly.

Module Description

We will survey a wide range of early modern plays by Shakespeare and some of his most significant contemporaries such as, typically, Marlowe, Middleton and Webster. We'll explore the ways in which some of the major issues and themes dramatised in Shakespeare’s plays – for instance, love, war, sexuality, religion, law, race – function in an early modern context while continuing to challenge readers and spectators today. We'll read Shakespeare alongside other plays which compare and contrast in their treatment of these themes, to consider what is both typical and special about his work in its context. We'll consider how Shakespeare’s career developed (from early to late comedy, through history and tragedy) and investigate how later collaborators (directors, actors, adapters, audiences and readers) transformed the plays to be especially meaningful for them.


Module aims

The module aims are to read and analyse a wide range of Shakespeare's plays in different genres and periods of his career and a selection of the plays of near-contemporary dramatists, in order to compare and contrast Shakespearean and non-Shakespearean early modern drama. Students will critically analyse the plays: as literature; as texts for performance; and in their historical contexts (religious, social and political). You will also gain an understanding of a wide range of critical responses to Shakespeare and early modern drama and evaluate some of these in depth in your assessments.

Learning outcomes and Assessments

Level 5 (Y2)

Level 6 (Y3)

Outline Syllabus

UNIT 1 (weeks 1-5, Autumn Term): EARLY PLAYS: Marlowe, The Jew of Malta. Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice. Lyly, Galatea. Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Shakespeare, Twelfth Night.

UNIT 2 (weeks 7-10, Autumn Term): KINDS OF HISTORY: Marlowe, Edward II. Shakespeare: Richard II. Henry IV part 1. Coriolanus.

UNIT 3 (weeks 1-5, Spring Term): TRAGEDIES: Shakespeare, Hamlet. King Lear. Othello. Macbeth. Webster, The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil.

UNIT 4 (weeks 7-10, Spring Term): COMEDIES: Shakespeare, Measure for Measure. The Tempest. The Winter's Tale. Middleton, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside.

Reading list

Essential Primary texts (to buy, ideally):

Lyly, John. Galatea. Edited by Leah Scragg. Revels Student Editions. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2012).

Marlowe, Christopher. Tamburlaine, parts I and II: Doctor Faustus, A- and B-texts ; The Jew of Malta ; Edward II. Edited by David M. Bevington and Eric Rasmussen. Oxford World's Classics. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Shakespeare, William. The Norton Shakespeare. Third edition. Edited by S. Greenblatt et al. (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2016).

Webster, John. The White Devil ; the Duchess of Malfi ; The Devil's Law-Case ; A Cure for a Cuckold. Edited by René Weis. Oxford World's Classics. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

You may wish to purchase this book too if you want a print copy, but it is available via the University Library on Drama Online: Thomas Middleton, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside. Edited by Alan Brissenden. New Mermaids (London: Bloomsbury, 2002).

Summer Reading: Please note that it is our expectation that students will return after the summer having read the 6 non-Shakespearean plays and made a good start on Shakespeare. There are some weeks during term two where you will be expected to read two plays, and all the lectures will assume that you have knowledge of the non-Shakespearean plays, so if you do only one thing to prepare for the module this should be it. Please don't ignore this advice!