Discovery Space: Theatres in Early Modern England - EN668

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
(version 2)
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6 30 (15) DR SE Dustagheer




Not available as wild



This module introduces students to the drama of Shakespeare's time, thinking in particular about the new theatrical buildings and the discoveries they made possible. The module encourages independent study and is consequently built around student interests as they develop their own research questions and essay topic.
This period saw the emergence of the first permanent purpose built playhouses, and the development of the theatre industry. We will consider how the conditions of performance and production – such as playhouse architecture, the reportorial system, printing, censorship and London's changing urban environment – affected playwrights, actors and audiences. Reading a range of playwrights, students will get a sense of the main trends which shaped the drama of the time, contextualising their understanding of canonical writers such as Shakespeare. Students will also engage with the current developments in early modern theatre history and the ways in which thinking about authorship, staging, printing and other key concepts from the period has altered over the last fifty years. As part of this work, we will examine the phenomena of modern 'reconstructed’ playhouses such as Shakespeare’s Globe, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and the American Shakespeare Centre’s Blackfriars, asking what - if anything - modern performance in these spaces can tell us about early modern practices.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

3 hours per week

Method of assessment

This module can be taken by standard coursework route or by dissertation. NB: students can only take ONE MODULE by dissertation in stage 3.

Module by standard coursework:
100% coursework: research report 1500 words (15%), a single long essay 4500 words (75%), seminar performance (10%)

Module by dissertation:
Assessment will be in the form of:
1) a 500-word dissertation proposal (formative assessment and non-marked)
2) a dissertation of 6000 words (90%)
3) seminar performance mark in accordance with the criteria published in the School of English Undergraduate Handbook (10%)

Preliminary reading

Janette Dillon, 'The Cambridge Introduction to Early English Theatre' (Cambridge University Press, 2006)
Richard Dutton, ed., 'The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theatre' (Oxford University Press, 2009)
Andrew Gurr, 'The Shakespearean Stage, 1574-1642', 4th ed. (Cambridge UP, 2009)
Glynne Wickham, Herbert Berry and William Ingram, eds., 'English Professional Theatre, 1530-1660' (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following subject specific learning outcomes:

• read and respond critically to a range of early modern drama
• engage with issues of theatre history, including the modern phenomenon of reconstructed playhouses
• relate their reading to developments in social, political and cultural history
• explore a range of theoretical and practical approaches to dramatic texts
• think critically about contemporary performance of early modern plays
• sharpen their ability to understand and evaluate early modern drama and performance
• develop and deploy critical thinking skills in conjunction with primary texts

On completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following generic learning outcomes:

• apply the skills needed for academic study and enquiry in order to organise and present research findings
• demonstrate developed powers of communication and the capacity to argue a point of view, orally and in written form, with clarity, organisation and cogency
• demonstrate enhanced confidence in the efficient presentation of ideas designed to stimulate critical debate
• assimilate and organise substantial quantities of complex information of diverse kinds
• understand, interrogate and apply a variety of theoretical positions and weigh the importance of alternative perspectives
• demonstrate research skills, including scholarly information retrieval skills; IT skills: word-processing, email communication, the ability to access electronic data.
• develop and enhance skills in individual and group-based work

In addition, students taking the module by dissertation will be able to:

marshal complex knowledge and present it clearly and logically in the substantive form of a dissertation.

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