English 419Restoration Drama: Broken Heroes, Fashionable Fools, Wicked Men, and the Women Who Love (or Hate) the Whole Stinking Lot of Them

Dr. Michael Bryson
Sierra Tower 832

The 17th-century was a time of great social, political, and moral upheaval. In 1642, the theatres were closed. In 1649, the world turned upside down: a king was beheaded, a republic established, the English Church was shut down (though religion still ruled with an iron fist), and the theatres, which had been closed for seven years, would remain shut down for over a decade.
In 1660, the world turned upside down again. A king once again sat on the throne of England, the Church was reestablished, and a looser morality ruled the day. The theatres were reopened. For the first time in English history, women played the female parts onstage, and the tastes of the audience ran to the wild side. The stage of the late 17th-century is bawdy, entirely disrespectful of conservative moral and social tastes, and thoroughly enjoyable. Unfortunately, as with all carnivalesque (think Mardi Gras) forms of behavior, the Restoration stage (especially its comic stage) was all too brief a phenomenon. Soon, the forces of decency and even—gasp—censorship, reasserted themselves, and the libertine characters of the late 1600s soon enough become the sentimental (oh so goodhearted) characters of the 18th-century. This class will give you an overview of 17th-century history and theatrical controversies, and along the way, we will read a number of good plays.


Each student will do 3 assignments.

1) Group assignment: You will each be asked to sign up for the play you are most interested in working with in greater depth this quarter, and you will focus your group presentation on this play.  By the end of week 3, I will ask you to sign up into groups of three to five apiece (the numbers will depend on enrollment). When your group's play is up that week, you will make an eight to ten minute class presentation on a cultural or historical topic related to the play (feel free when making the presentation to use audio or visual material to help the rest of us follow along). You will also choose, rehearse, and perform a five to six minute scene from the play for the class and discuss that scene’s significance and their performance choices--bring any necessary props to class on the day of your group's scene (props and hamming it up a bit can make this more fun for everyone).  It will be up to each group to decide who participates in which of the two portions of their presentation, but everyone must participate in one or the other.

Excellent sources for journal articles (for the research portion of the presentations) include JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/), Project Muse (http://muse.jhu.edu/), and Academic Search Elite (http://library.csun.edu/restricted/ebsase.scr). These databases must be accessed from the CSUN campus, or from off-campus with your activated library card bar code ID and last name.

2) A midterm exam (out of class responses to essay questions)

3) A final exam (out of class responses to essay questions)

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

Week by Week Preview

Week 1
1)      2/1—Introductions
2)      2/3—Video: History of Britain, 1603-1649
Week 2
1)      2/8—Video: History of Britain, 1649-1689
2)      2/10—Early theatrical controversies—Stephen Gosson, The Schoole of Abuse and the Antitheatricalists of the late 16th century (see below)

The Puritan Attack upon the Stage (Background Reading--Recommended, Not Mandatory)
By J. DOVER WILSON, Gonville and Caius College, Lecturer in English Literature at the Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. (The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes [1907–21])
  1. The attitude of the Reformers towards the Stage
  2. Theological and moral objections
  3. Beginnings of Puritan opposition in England
  4. Attitude of the Civic Authorities in London
  5. Systematic persecution of Actors
  6. Royal Patronage
  7. Attacks on the Stage from the Pulpit
  8. Work of Pamphleteers
  9. Gosson’s Schoole of Abuse
  10. Lodge’s Defence
  11. Stubbes’s Anatomie of Abuses
  12. Waning interest in the struggle
  13. The Controversy at the Universities
  14. Effects of changes introduced under the Stewarts
  15. Heywood’s Apology for Actors
  16. Prynne’s Histriomastix
  17. General aspects of the Controversy
  18. Bibliography

Week 3
1)      2/15—The defense against Gosson—Phillip Sidney, The Defense of Poesie
2)      2/17—The revival of the Antitheatricalist charges—Jeremy Collier (493-506), and the response to Collier—John Dennis and William Congreve—(506-516)
Week 4
1)      2/22—Samson Agonistes
2)      2/24—Samson Agonistes, continued
Week 5
1)      3/1—The Country Wife
2)      3/3—The Country Wife, continued
Week 6
1)      3/8— Marriage a la Mode
2)      3/10—Marriage a la Mode, continued
Week 7
1)      3/15—The Libertine
2)      3/17—The Libertine, continued

Spring Break--(3/21-3/25)

Week 8
1)      3/29—The Man of Mode
2)      3/31—Cesar Chavez holiday observed--no classes
Week 9
1)      4/5—The Man of Mode, continued; also Richard Steele—(517-19), and John Dennis (525-29) 
                 Midterm—out of class essay questions
2)      4/7—Off
Week 10
1)      4/12—The Rover
2)      4/14—The Rover, continued
Week 11
1)      4/19—The Wives’ Excuse (Midterm due)
2)      4/21—The Wives’ Excuse, continued
Week 12
1)      4/26—The Way of the World
2)      4/28—The Way of the World, continued
Week 13
1)      5/3—The Conscious Lovers
2)      5/5—The Conscious Lovers, continued
Week 14
1)      5/10—The School for Scandal
2)      5/12—The School for Scandal, continued
Week 15
1)      5/17—Final exam distributed (due by Friday, 5 PM of finals week)
2)      5/19—Off

Reading List
(All readings will be available either at the Campus Bookstore or will be distributed by the instructor.)  

  1. Milton--The Major Works, (April 2003), Oxford University Press; ISBN: 0140433635
  2. Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Comedy, 2nd edition (January 1, 1997), W. W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393963349
  3. Libertine Plays of the Restoration, Reissue edition (September 6, 2001), McArthur & Co / Orion Con Trad; ISBN: 0460877453

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