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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Undergraduate Course: Early Modern Tragedy (ENLI10368)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course examines a wide range of Elizabethan and Jacobean tragic drama, including plays by Marlowe, Shakespeare, Carey, Middleton and Webster. It will explore variety of tragic modes in the period--including revenge drama, 'heroic' tragedy, closet theatre, tragi-comedy and domestic tragedy'as well as the range of theatrical contexts and staging practices that developed across the sixteenth and seventeenth century.
Course description Tragedy engages with some of the most urgent, as well as enduring, problems that societies and individuals face. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were one of the great periods of tragic composition and this course will explore some of its most significant examples. The course will stress the variety of tragic modes--including revenge drama, historical and heroic tragedy, closet drama, and domestic tragedy, as well as the range of theatrical contexts and staging practices that developed across the Elizabethan and Jacobean period. In tragic drama, early modern dramatists explored how different societies experienced crisis and the political and ethical problems this exposed: questions of power and sovereignty, religious, cultural and racial difference, justice and injustice, mortality and loss, sexual hierarchy and social inequality, political conformity and resistance, liberty and oppression. The course will consider how dramatists responded to these key concerns and it will also examine different conceptual understandings of tragedy.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: ( Literary Studies 1A (ENLI08020) AND Literary Studies 1B (ENLI08021) AND Literary Studies 2A: English Literature in the World, 1380-1788 (ENLI08024) AND Literary Studies 2B: English Literature in the World, post-1789 (ENLI08025)) OR ( English Literature 1 (ENLI08001) OR Scottish Literature 1 (ENLI08016) AND English Literature 2 (ENLI08003) OR Scottish Literature 2 (ENLI08004))
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesA MINIMUM of 4 college/university level literature courses at grade B or above (should include no more than one introductory level literature course). Related courses such as cross disciplinary, "Freshman Seminars", civilisation or creative writing classes are not considered for admission to this course.
Applicants should also note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission. In making admissions decisions preference will be given to students who achieve above the minimum requirement with the typical visiting student admitted to this course having four or more literature classes at grade A.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  90
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Other Study Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 166 )
Additional Information (Learning and Teaching) one hour per week Autonomous Learning Group
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 2000 word coursework essay (30%) submitted mid-semester;
plus 3000 word final essay submitted during exam period (70%).
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate knowledge of and critical engagement with the principal modes of Elizabethan and Jacobean tragedy.
  2. demonstrate an awareness of the key critical debates elicited by early modern tragedy.
  3. demonstrate awareness of the key political and ethical debates relevant to the period's tragic theatre.
  4. analyse tragic drama in the context of changing social and theatrical conventions.
  5. demonstrate the ability to reflect constructively on the development of their own learning and research practice.
Reading List

Forms of revenge

Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy

Shakespeare, Hamlet

Deviance and punishment

Christopher Marlowe, Edward II

Anonymous, Arden of Faversham

Other cultures

Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine

Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Mariam

Power and sexuality

John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi

John Ford, Tis Pity She's a Whore


English Renaissance Drama: A Norton Anthology, ed. David Bevington et al. New York: Norton, 2002.
Hamlet, ed. Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor, Arden Shakespeare, 2nd ed. London: Bloomsbury, 2016.

Recommended Reading

Bushnell. Rebecca W (ed) A Companion to Tragedy. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.
Drakakis, John and Tragedy. Harlow: Longman, 1998.
N C Leiber (eds).
Eagleton, Terry. What is tragedy; Extract from Terry Eagleton,Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.
Holbrook, Peter. English Renaissance tragedy: Ideas of Freedom. London: Bloomsbury, 2015.
Hoxby, Blair. What Was Tragedy? Theory and the Early Modern Canon. Oxford: Oxford: Oxford University Press 2015.
Kerrigan, John. Revenge Tragedy: Aeschylus to Armageddon. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.
McEachern Claire (ed) The Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Tragedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Neill, Michael and The Oxford Handbook to Shakespearean Tragedy.
David Schalkwyk (eds) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Smith, Emma and
Garret A. Sullivan (eds). The Cambridge Companion to English Renaissance Tragedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Wallace, Jennifer. The Cambridge Introduction to Tragedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Woodbridge, Linda. English Revenge Drama: Money, Resistance, Equality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Additional Information
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information 2-hour Seminar per week for 10 weeks; plus 1 hour per week Autonomous Learning Group - times to be arranged
KeywordsRenaissance drama,tragedy,theatre,early modern literature
Course organiserDr Dermot Cavanagh
Tel: (0131 6)50 3618
Course secretaryMrs Anne Budo
Tel: (0131 6)50 4161
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