Spectacular Imaginings: Renaissance and Restoration Theatre (Q3039)

30 credits, Level 6

Spring teaching

This module explores Renaissance and Restoration drama in its original historical, socio-cultural and aesthetic contexts, but it also reflects upon why plays from this era are so frequently and successfully re-produced for the modern stage and screen.

It examines how political events such as the build-up to the English civil wars, the revolution itself, and then the restoration of the monarchy impacted on the late 16th- and 17th-century stage and explores the role of genre, acting styles and the actor's body in mediating topical issues. Among the themes explored are unruly sexualities (incest, adultery, rape), violence and eloquence, political pornography, London and city commerce, domestic tragedy and court decadence, and country pastimes.

It asks whether the theatre merely reproduced the authority of the monarch who partly controlled it, or subtly undermined it. Did the transvestite acting tradition simply reflect a culture that was vehemently patriarchal or did it unsettle gender categories? Were class and racial distinctions and prejudices reinforced or undermined by the stage? What were the relations among sex, family and patriarchal politics?

A selection of comedies, tragedies and tragi-comedies from among the following playwrights will be studied: Jonson, Heywood, Marlowe, Shakespeare, John Ford, Massinger, Webster, Middleton, Dekker, Beaumont, Fletcher, Cary, Wycherley, Behn, Etherege, and Congreve.

Teaching and assessment

We’re currently reviewing teaching and assessment of our modules in light of the COVID-19 situation. We’ll publish the latest information as soon as possible.

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 22 hours of contact time and about 278 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

This module is running in the academic year 2021/22. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. However, there may be changes to this module in response to COVID-19, or due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.

It may not be possible to take some module combinations due to timetabling constraints. The structure of some courses means that the modules you choose first may determine whether later modules are core or optional.


This module is offered on the following courses: