English 418 Renaissance Drama: The Theatre of Evil and Revenge:
Witches and Warlocks meet Christians and Jews, with Some Incest Thrown In For Good Measure

Dr. Michael Bryson
Sierra Tower 832



COURSE DESCRIPTION: With prayers offered to the Devil in search of power, power used to take revenge on the wicked (or simply eliminate the inconvenient), pious hypocrites who speak of mercy while offering none, and lovers who, though they can't keep it in their pants, do keep it in the family, the drama of the Elizabethan and Jacobean stages told stories that Hollywood can only dream of getting away with telling today. Don't read these plays if you are easily offended—the characters you will meet don't care about your modern sensibilities...but if you are not easily offended, we will read a total of fourteen plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries Marlowe, Johnson, Ford, Marston, Middleton, and Cary which explore the darker sides of human nature through characters who do what--and often whom--they want, no matter the costs.

EVALUATION METHOD: Midterm and Final essays responses based on questions I will provide. No research necessary, but close engagement with the texts will be required.

READING LIST: Selected plays from English Renaissance Drama, Three Jacobean Witchcraft Plays, and any collected volume of Shakespeare (I favor the Pelican, but any will do).

Statement on Academic Dishonesty: Plagiarism is a serious offense that will be treated seriously. Please read the CSUN policy here.

Weekly Preview 

Week 1 (8/27): Introductions: The Apostles of the Will--Faustus, Iago, Edmund, Salome, Lady Macbeth

Plays of Revenge

Week 2 (9/3): Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy
Week 3 (9/10): William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Week 4 (9/17): Thomas Middleton, The Revenger's Tragedy
Week 5 (9/24): John Marston, The Malcontent

Plays of Jealousy

Week 6 (10/1): William Shakespeare, Othello
Week 7 (10/8): Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Mariam
Midterm assigned 10/8, due in class on 10/22
Plays of Witchcraft and the Devil

Week 8 (10/15): Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
Week 9 (10/22): John Marston, The Wonder of Women, or The Tragedy of Sophonisba
Week 10 (10/29): William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Plays of Anti-Semitism, Greed, and Incest

Week 11 (11/5): Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta
Week 12 (11/12): William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
Week 13 (11/19): Ben Johnson, Volpone
Week 14 (11/26): Thomas Middleton, Women Beware Women
Week 15 (12/3): John Ford, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore

Final due by 11:59:59 PM on 12/17 by email— no physical submissions of finals.

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