ENGL 364: English Renaissance Drama

“Still bears, and nothing else but bears!”


Course description:  

Everyone has heard of Hamlet, but did you know that Mucedorus was the smash hit of Renaissance theatre? Or that, like The Winter’s Tale, it features a character being chased off stage by a bear? We’re in an exciting time for early modern (Renaissance) drama: theatre companies are dusting off plays that haven’t been performed for 400 years, various groups are doing Zoom readings, digital humanists are building databases that capture information about the 2000+ plays from the period (including lost plays!), and bibliographers are taking a fresh look at how the texts were printed, copied, and circulated. In this course, we’ll look at the entire Renaissance theatrical system: playgoers, playwrights, playhouses, playing companies, patrons, playhouse owners, censors, printers, publishers, and book buyers. We’ll start with a reading of the 1610 edition of Mucedorus to get used to early modern linguistic and dramatic conventions. Then, we’ll study The Famous Victories of Henry V (another play about Prince Hal), The Jew of Malta (a challenge to modern sensibilities), Galathea (a gender-bending trip to the forest), The Alchemist (a look at early modern plague), The Duchess of Malfi (an early modern #meToo tragedy), A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (where everything is for sale), The Triumphs of Truth (a very different look at Cheapside), and The Weeding of Covent Garden (which takes us west into Caroline sensibilities). We’ll look at the many digital resources available to us now, ask questions about what “counts” as early modern drama, and try our hand at digital editing by creating some of the components for an edition of Mucedorus. By the end of the course, we’ll have sampled various genres, playwrights, and decades. When we return to the question of why Mucedorus was so popular, we’ll be better equipped to give a tentative answer.


  • Quizzes
  • LEME exercise
  • Annotation exercise
  • Scene analysis
  • Editing exercise

Books to Buy:

The Duchess of MalfiBy John Webster
Ed. Karen Britland
9781474295673Bloomsbury (New Mermaids series)
The AlchemistBy Ben Jonson
Ed. John Greenwood
The Jew of MaltaBy Christopher Marlowe
Ed. James. R. Siemon
9780713677669Bloomsbury (New Mermaids series)
A Chaste Maid in CheapsideBy Thomas Middleton
Ed. Alan Brissenden
9780713650686Bloomsbury (New Mermaids series)

How to Read the Other Plays:

Famous Victories of Henry VEd. Mathew Martin and Peter CockettQueen’s Men Editionshttps://qme.uvic.ca/edition/FV/index.html
GalatheaBy John Lyly
Ed. David Bevington
Internet Shakespeare Editionshttps://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/doc/Gal_M/index.html
MucedorusBy Robert Greene? William Shakespeare?
Ed. Janelle Jenstad and ENGL 364
The Triumphs of TruthBy Thomas Middleton
Ed. Janelle Jenstad and Mark Kaethler
Map of Early Modern Londonhttps://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/TRIU1.htm
The Weeding of Covent GardenBy Richard Brome
Ed. M. Leslie
Richard Brome Onlinehttps://www.dhi.ac.uk/brome/viewTranscripts.jsp?play=CG&type=MOD&act=1