E443 – English Renaissance Drama

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Semesters Offered:

Prerequisite: E 276 or E 342 or E 343.

Description: English drama witnessed an unmatched outpouring of creative energy and popular support between 1576–when the entrepreneur James Burbage built the first permanent structure in England devoted primarily to live dramatic performance–and 1642–when Puritan opposition to the stage finally succeeded in the closing of the playhouses. This course will explore why this particular period in English cultural history gave rise to this phenomenon, and why particular plays and dramatic genres served their culture’s search for meaning with such vitality and power. We will also explore how dramatists engaged the many opponents of the stage in this period–from radical Puritan reformers to the Mayor of London, from rival poetic traditions to official state censorship. In order to study the interplay of dramatic form and cultural context, we will study 8 or 9 plays, and various primary and secondary sources on the place of the stage in the social order, the specific venues and conditions of playing, and the debates that the playtexts and the institution of the theatre engendered.