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ENGL3088 Sex and the City in Stuart Drama

Module Overview

This module invites you to enter the rich and strange world of Stuart drama, to explore the curious theatrical landscape shaped by the artistic prowess of Ben Jonson, William Shakespeare, John Webster, and others. It is a world at once more refined and more bewildering than the cheery pastures and noisy battlefields of the Elizabethan plays; eccentricity is the name of the game under James I of England and his successors, within and without the walls of the playhouse. This module will help you find your footing on the Stuart stage, a distorting mirror held up to a world peopled with lechers, obsessives, and fools. You will appreciate how life in the sprawling metropolis and at the Stuart court found its unflattering reflections in plays by turns caustic and quizzical, plays that delight us and give us the shivers in equal measure to this day.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to: - give you an opportunity to explore in depth the rich body of plays written for the Stuart stage and to take the measure of the distinctive features of Jacobean and Caroline theatrical culture - develop your strategies for reading and interpreting play-texts and other theatrical documents in relevant historical and literary contexts - further your understanding of the conditions of early modern performance: the variety and management of playing companies, censorship, casting and rehearsal, available venues, costumes, music, and audience involvement - encourage you to embrace the oddities and excesses of Stuart drama as an aesthetic principle which modern theatre in particular has come to appreciate

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • - The evolution of theatrical practice and popular dramatic genres in England under the rule of James I and his successors
  • - Various ways in which Stuart drama can bear witness to the cultural and political transformations taking place in the early seventeenth century
  • - Satire, intertextuality, and metatheatrical references as popular ingredients of Jacobean as well as Caroline plays
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • - Use your study time effectively and make the most of your own independent research when constructing an argument
  • - Approach ambiguity and complexity of meaning in a wide variety of texts with confidence and a critical eye
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • - Think critically about the challenges of generic designation and canon formation
  • - Consider the respective merits of studying early modern plays either as reading texts or as performance texts
  • - Engage productively with existing scholarship and draw on a variety of critical approaches to drama of this period


This module will be structured around a selection of plays written in the seventeenth century during the reign of the Stuart monarchs, with no more than one play as a primary text for any one week. The module aims to offer a mix of some well-known and some less well-known works, comedies, tragedies, and everything in between, plays written for professional adult companies as well as those performed by children’s companies at private venues. The weekly reading will support a discussion of various aspects of theatre history, collaborative authorship, textual transmission, performance studies, genre and reception, urban culture, gender and sexuality, and other relevant topics. Among the authors likely to appear on a reading list are: William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, John Marston, Thomas Middleton, John Webster, Francis Beaumont, Elizabeth Cary, William Rowley, John Ford, and Richard Brome.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The teaching provision for this module consists of weekly lectures and seminars, workshops, consultation hours, feedback on written work, and—depending on available options—theatre trips. Learning activities include work in small groups, micro-assignments, individual study and research with emphasis on close reading, and reflection on the plays in performance. 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.

Wider reading or practice8
Follow-up work5
Completion of assessment task40
Preparation for scheduled sessions65
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

English Renaissance Drama: A Norton Anthology. 



Text analysis


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1000 words) 40%
Essay  (2500 words) 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


The book recommended for this course, the Norton Anthology of Renaissance Drama, is widely available and second-hand copies of this volume are always acceptable. The module may involve traveling on public transport or trips to cultural events: these trips are always optional and have received financial support from the university in the past, but the policy and funds available may change from year to year and the students will be consulted in advance of any such event.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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