Skip to main content


Theatrical Cultures: Renaissance to Restoration (EAS2105)

StaffProfessor Pascale Aebischer - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

As well as studying individual texts in depth, we will investigate links between texts, and between texts and their production contexts.

  • The module aims to introduce you to three interconnected theatrical cultures. It will enable you to understand how fashions, theatre companies, historical events and technical/architectural developments shaped English drama in the Elizabethan, Jacobean and Caroline periods.
  • Lectures and seminar tasks will encourage research and interpretation that brings together literary analysis with theatre history and a sensitivity to performance.
  • Workshops will allow us to think more practically about the staging of specific scenes in early modern theatre spaces.
  • A guided study visit to the Exeter Guildhall will enable you to acquaint yourself with an early modern indoor performance venue. Play reading workshops will provide opportunities for enjoying the plays in an informal setting, while screenings and, subject to availability, a theatre visit will enable an appreciation of early modern drama in present-day performance. Study group meetings and prepared seminar presentations will give you the opportunity to develop their own approaches to the syllabus texts.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an informed appreciation of specific works of English drama from the late Elizabethan period to the early eighteenth century
  • 2. Demonstrate an informed appreciation of the historical and cultural development of English drama from the late Elizabethan period to the early eighteenth century
  • 3. Demonstrate an informed appreciation of a variety of critical approaches to English drama from the late Elizabethan period to the early eighteenth century

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate an advanced ability to analyse the drama of an earlier era and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its cultural, historical and theatrical contexts
  • 5. Demonstrate an advanced ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to your own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history
  • 6. Demonstrate an advanced ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to dramatic texts

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographical skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 8. Through research for seminars and essays, demonstrate a proficiency in information retrieval and analysis
  • 9. Through research, seminar discussion and essay-writing, demonstrate a capacity to question assumptions, to distinguish between fact and opinion, and critically to reflect on your own learning process
  • 10. Through sitting your final examination, demonstrate a proficiency in the use of memory and in the development, organisation and expression of ideas under pressure of time

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

The syllabus will divide into two rough sections.

  • In the first, we will study plays by Kyd, Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Jonson and through those plays explore staging conditions and conventions in outdoor public theatres, at court, and in the Inns of Court. The plays you study in this section will be the subject of your analysis in your first assessment (the 2000-word essay).
  • In the second section, we will study plays that are written with the Jacobean and Caroline elite in mind. Here, we’ll look at plays by Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Cary, Middleton and Rowly, and Brome. While there are clear thematic connections between some of the plays on the module, the aim overall is to introduce you to as varied a diet of early modern drama as possible – so expect a varied journey that takes you from farce, through comedy to tragicomedy, masque, historical tragedy to gruesome revenge drama.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching11Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching20Seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2Workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 6Play Reading Workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 1Field Trip
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 15Film Screenings
Guided Independent Study33Study group preparation and meetings
Guided Independent Study55Web-based preparation (activities and reading on ELE)
Guided Independent Study156Independent reading and research
Guided Independent Study1Context Lecture on ELE

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Formative Essay1000 words1-4, 7-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay452000 words1-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Examination452 hours1-7 , 9-10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Seminar Participation 10Throughout the term1-6, 8-9Informal feedback in seminars with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-9Referral/deferral period
ExaminationExamination1-7, 9-10Referral/deferral period
Seminar participationN/aN/aRepeat study or mitogation

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Primary texts

  • The Norton Anthology of English Renaissance Drama [The Spanish Tragedy, Tamburlaine Part I, The Changeling, The Tragedy of Mariam]
  • Suzanne Gossett, ed. Philaster, by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher. Arden Early Modern Drama (London: A&C.Black, 2009).
  • Ramona Wray, ed. The Tragedy of Mariam. by Elizabeth Cary. Arden Early Modern Drama (London: Bloomsbury, 2012)
  • Cartwright, Kent, ed. The Comedy of Errors. By William Shakespeare. Arden Shakespeare (London: Bloomsbury, 2016).

For the above texts, it is not essential that students own the specific edition identified; any good scholarly edition of single texts is acceptable (in the New Mermaids or Revels series, for example). Students are also expected to own a copy of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors and Antony and Cleopatra, either as a single text (the Arden, Oxford or Cambridge editions, for example) or in an anthology (the Norton or Oxford Shakespeare, for example). Other primary texts [Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, Part II] and selected secondary materials are available online in ELE.

Selected secondary texts

  • Pascale Aebischer, Jacobean Drama: A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)
  • Arshad, Yasmin. Imagining Cleopatra: Performing Gender and Power in Early Modern England. Arden Studies in Early Modern Drama. (London: Bloomsbury, 2019).
  • Richard Dutton, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theatre (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)
  • Andrew Gurr, The Shakespearian Playing Companies (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996)
  • Keenan, Siobhan. Acting Companies and Their Plays in Shakespeare’s London. Arden Shakespeare. (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).
  • Jane Milling and Peter Thomson, eds. The Cambridge History of British Theatre: Volume I: Origins to 1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)
  • Tiffany Stern, Making Shakespeare (London: Routledge, 2004)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Theatre history, Elizabethan drama, Stuart Drama, Restoration drama, eighteenth-century drama, performance, tragedy, comedy, tragicomedy, opera, Kyd, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Middleton, Rowley, Jonson, Dryden, Davenant, Behn, Wycherley, Centlivre