Discovery Space: Theatres in Early Modern England - ENGL6680

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


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 phenomenon of the modern reconstructed playhouse 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.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 30
Independent Study Hours: 270
Total Study Hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Research Report of 1,500 words (15%)
Long Essay of 4,500 words (75%)
Seminar Performance (10%)

Reassessment methods:
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Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

Dillon, Janet, 'The Cambridge Introduction to Early English Theatre' (Cambridge University Press, 2006)
Dutton, Richard, ed., 'The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theatre' (Oxford University Press, 2009)
Gurr, Andrew, 'The Shakespearean Stage, 1574-1642', 4th ed. (Cambridge UP, 2009)
Wickham, Glynne, 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)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 read and critically analyse a range of early modern drama
2 engage with complex issues of theatre history, including the modern phenomenon of reconstructed playhouses
3 critically situate their reading to developments in social, political and cultural history
4 explore in depth a range of theoretical and practical approaches to dramatic texts
5 think critically about contemporary performance of early modern plays
6 demonstrate ability to understand and evaluate early modern drama and performance
7 demonstrate and deploy critical thinking skills in conjunction with primary texts

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

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


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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