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The University of Southampton

ENGL2080 Queens, Devils and Players in Early Modern England

Module Overview

Early modern England is a period associated with Elizabeth I and the Tudor court, the plays of Shakespeare, blood and violence on the Jacobean stage, the discovery of new worlds, and the persecution of witches and heretics. The diversity and vitality of the literature of this time is represented by the work of celebrated writers, such as Shakespeare and Marlowe, and lesser known writers such as Thomas Dekker and John Ford. You will read tragedies and comedies, sonnets and masques, mythical tales and tales of exploration. To deepen our understanding of the literature of early modern England we need to think about the culture that produced the work. We will explore some of the issues that were fiercely debated at this time – from monarchy to magic – and we will ask questions about how texts contribute to our understanding of England’s past.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • knowledge of a range of early modern writers and their texts
  • understanding of the historical context in which these texts were written
  • understanding of some of the main political, religious and cultural debates of the time
  • knowledge of the ways in which certain writers engaged with these debates in their work
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • recognize a range of different types of early modern texts
  • understand differences between various genres and modes
  • demonstrate an understanding of the culture that produced these different works and the impact of culture on literary production
  • make connections between texts, and between texts and contexts
  • evaluate, analyse and write effectively about different types of text
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse complex texts and arguments
  • research and write effectively about a particular topic
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • investigate, research and structure arguments around the particular themes and concerns of a past society and culture


The module is organised thematically. Each week will investigate a different topic through detailed analysis of one or two texts, and with close reference to relevant historical and literary contexts. Themes are likely to include: Monarchy and Power; London and the Theatres; Religion and Sin; Law and Justice; Magic and Witchcraft; Travel and Discovery; Gender, Sexuality and Taboos. Texts may include: • Richard Mulcaster, The Queen’s Majesty’s Passage • Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella • Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander • William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure • Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair and The Masque of Queens • Thomas Dekker, The Shoemaker's Holiday • Thomas Dekker, John Ford and William Rowley, The Witch of Edmonton • Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, The Changeling • John Ford, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore • Thomas Hariot, A Brief and True Report of the New-found Land of Virginia

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

• 2-hour weekly lectures • 2-hour weekly seminars • individual essay consultation and feedback sessions with the tutor • individual seminar presentations • individual study and research • accessing relevant online resources This module includes a Learning Support Hour. This is a flexible weekly contact hour, designed to support and respond to the particular cohort taking the module from year to year. This hour will include (but not be limited to) activities such as language, theory and research skills classes; group work supervisions; assignment preparation and essay writing guidance; assignment consultations; feedback and feed-forward sessions.

Independent Study240
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al (2018). The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume B (The Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Century). 


Assessment Strategy

1 x 3000-word essay (summative) 1 x 3000-word course journal (formative) The summative assessment of one 3000-word essay is designed to test analytical and critical skills, writing skills, relevant understanding of context and of the relationship between texts and contexts, and independent research skills. The formative assessment which takes the form of a course journal is designed to develop reflective skills, writing and analytical skills and research skills, especially the planning, preparation and drafting of a substantial research essay.


Learning journal


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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