Theatrical Cultures: Renaissance to Restoration (EAS2105)

StaffProfessor Pascale Aebischer - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level
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 students to three interconnected theatrical cultures. It will enable students to understand how fashions, theatre companies, historical events and technical/architectural developments shaped English drama in the Elizabethan, Stuart and Restoration 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 students to acquaint themselves 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 students 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, organization and expression of ideas under pressure of time.

Syllabus plan

Indicative Syllabus Plan:


Elizabethan Public Theatres:

  1. Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy
  2. Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine the Great, Part 1 and Act 5, Scene 3 of Part 2
  3. William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors


Stuart Indoor Theatres:

  1. Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, Philaster
  2. William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra
  3. Ben Jonson, Epicene
  4. Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, The Changeling


Restoration Theatres:

  1. Dryden, All For Love
  2. Aphra Behn, The Emperor of the Moon and The Rover
  3. William Wycherley, The Country Wife
  4. Susanna Centlivre, The Busy Body

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
Guided independent1Context Lecture on ELE
Scheduled6Play Reading Workshops
Scheduled 1Field Trip
Scheduled 15Film Screenings
Guided Independent33Study group preparation and meetings
Guided Independent55Web-based preparation (activities and reading on ELE)
Guided Independent 156Independent reading and research

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. Cohort feedback via seminars and/or ELE.

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. Cohort feedback via seminars and/or ELE.
Exam452 hours1-7 and 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
ExamExam1-7, 9-10Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Primary texts

The Norton Anthology of English Renaissance Drama [The Spanish Tragedy, Tamburlaine Part I, The Changeling]

David Womersley, ed. Restoration Drama: An Anthology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000) [All For Love, The Country Wife, The Busie Body]

Aphra Behn, The Rover, The Feigned Courtesans, The Lucky Chance, The Emperor of the Moon (Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press, 2008)

Suzanne Gossett, ed. Philaster, by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher. Arden Early Modern Drama (London: A&C.Black, 2009).


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)

Richard Dutton, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theatre (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)

Deborah Payne Fisk, ed. The Cambridge Companion to English Restoration Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)

Andrew Gurr, The Shakespearian Playing Companies (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996)

Jane Milling and Peter Thomson, eds. The Cambridge History of British Theatre: Volume I: Origins to 1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)

Susan J. Owen, ed. A Companion to Restoration Drama (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008)

Tiffany Stern, Making Shakespeare (London: Routledge, 2004)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages


Web based and electronic resources: Early English Books Online; World Shakespeare Bibliography Online (both via University Library subscription)


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,