ENGL 780 (01) - Drama of Shakespeare's Contemporaries: Will and Company

Drama Shakespeare's Contemp

Durham   Liberal Arts :: English
Online Course Delivery Method: Rotational Attendance
Credits: 4.0
Term: Spring 2021 - Full Term (02/01/2021 - 05/11/2021)
Grade Mode: Letter Grading
Class Size:   20  
CRN: 57033
Who were Shakespeare's contemporaries in the London theater, his models and mentors, his competitors, compatriots and rivals? Read the plays of those who inspired, fought with, befriended, and followed Shakespeare in one of the great eras of English literature. We'll discuss the development of revenge tragedy, histories and comedy, new styles of acting and theater buildings, presentations of court intrigue, the representation of women and "others", and the changing mores of early London. Prereq: ENGL 401.
Section Comments: Drama of Shakespeare's Contemporaries: Will & Company
Department Approval Required. Contact Academic Department for permission then register through Webcat.
Classes not allowed in section: Freshman
Attributes: Writing Intensive Course
Instructors: Douglas Lanier

Times & Locations

Start Date End Date Days Time Location
2/1/2021 5/11/2021 TR 9:40am - 11:00am HS 107
Additional Course Details: 

Spring 2021 Special Topic

Biblical Drama. Before the Globe Theatre and the golden age of Renaissance drama in London, there was an earlier flowering of theater in England, from which Shakespeare and his contemporaries took example and inspiration:  the Biblical drama of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance.  This theatrical tradition flourished for nearly three centuries in England before being banned during the Reformation, and it shaped English drama for generations afterward.  The writers of religious drama combined Biblical tales and local legends with the practices of folk performance to create extraordinary sequences of short plays that told the history of the world from Creation to Judgment Day.  Addressed to the common viewer, these plays are sophisticated, innovative and entertaining, and are still performed today. We will begin by considering the challenges of adapting religious stories for the stage by looking at a modern example, the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, and selected examples of religious art throughout the ages.  Then we will look in some depth at selections from the four major cycles of religious plays produced in England during the late Middle Ages. We'll also look at excerpts from modern updates of these cycles.  In a second unit, we'll examine some interesting individual plays from the period:  The Croxton Play of the Sacrament, a strange special-effects extravaganza that anticipates revenge tragedy;  Everyman, a play about death associated with the Black Plague;  and Mankind, a portrayal of humankind's susceptibility to temptation and potential for redemption, enlivened by an entertaining Vice figure.  We'll finish the semester with Elizabeth Cary's The Tragedy of Mariam, arguably the first original play written in English by a woman and a fascinating adaptation of Jewish history. This is an ideal course for those who are interested in building a familiarity with Biblical stories and religious controversies that remain alive today.  However, I will not assume you have prior knowledge of the Bible or the period.  Requirements include short writing assignments, a class presentation, several short papers and lively class discussion. 

This course will satisfy a pre-1800 literature requirement for English Department majors.

In Spring 2021 this class satisfies a DH "Digital Humanities" requirement for ENGL/TBD majors.