Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Elizabethan Drama: Hieronimo to Hamlet
Academic Year
Semester 1

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminar 10 x 2 Hour Seminars
Workshop 5 x 2 Hour Workshops


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay submission  1 x 3000 word essay  50%
Semester Exam 3 Hours   Written exam  1 x 3 hour exam  50%
Supplementary Assessment 3 Hours   Resubmit failed essay  1 x 3000 word essay  50%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   Resit failed exam  1 x 3 hour exam  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate knowledge of the changing conditions of theatrical performance in the latter part of the sixteenth century.

2. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of selected plays of the period, and an awareness of the ways in which they are shaped by and respond to these changing conditions.

3. Situate the plays within the political and social contexts of late Elizabethan England.

4. Explain and engage with relevant aspects of recent critical and / or theoretical debates about particular plays.


This is one of a suite of specialist option modules for final-year students. It will enable you to further your knowledge of early modern drama gained in first and second year core and option modules by focusing intensively on a formative decade in the history of English theatre.

Brief description

The last years of Elizabeth I's reign, from 1588-1603, were years of rising social tension and political anxiety. They were also years of extraordinarily rapid innovation in the English theatre: so that plays written at each end of this short period seem almost to belong to different epochs. It's this 'sea-change' in the drama that the module offers you a chance to explore. It's a story that can be written in many different ways: at one extreme, as an evolution from the theatrically primitive to the theatrically sophisticated; at another, as a subjugation of unruly and dissident energy into safer and less politically threatening forms. We will interrogate these, and other narratives of the period by
1. the study of two pairs of linked (and 'canonical'} plays, one written near the beginning of this crucial decade and a half, one near the end, belonging to two of the dominant genres of the period: the revenge play (The Spanish Tragedy, Hamlet) and the history play (Henry VI Part 1, and Henry V); and
2. by by investigating a fascinating but lesser-known group of plays that deal with famous murder cases of the period (the anonymous plays Arden of Faversham, and A Warning For Fair Women, and Robert Yarington's play Two Lamentable Tragedies).
From the sadistic mayhem of late-imperial Rome to the poisoned intrigue of the Danish court, from the heroic battlefields of the Hundred Years War to the inglorious small-town rivalries of Elizabethan Kent, the plays cover a wide spectrum of place and time, and address large and urgent questions of their day (and indeed of ours) in a surprising range of ways.

Estimated Student Workload:
Contact time: 30.5 hours
Reading and preparation for classes: 80 hours
Independent study, preparing assignments, revision for exam: 86.5 hours
Exam: 3 hours


Weeks 1-4: Justice Gone Wild: Revenge Tragedy: Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy; Shakespeare, Hamlet

Weeks 5-7: Theatres of War: History Plays: Shakespeare, Henry VI Part One and Henry V

Weeks 8-10: Crime and Punishment: Murder Plays: Anon., Arden of Faversham; A Warning for Fair Women; Yarington, Two Lamentable Tragedies.

There will be one 2-hour seminar per week and one 2-hour workshop per fortnight.
In the seminars we will consider each play in its theatrical and cultural contexts.
In the workshops we will look in detail at the staging and dramatic potential of particular scenes, using DVD material when this is available.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written communication in the form of essays, oral communication in seminar discussion and group presentations.
Improving own Learning and Performance Developing own research skills, management of time, expression and use of language.
Information Technology Use of electronic resources (JSTOR and other databases: online video material); the production of written work.
Personal Development and Career planning By critical reflection and the development of transferable communication skills.
Problem solving Formulating and developing extended arguments
Research skills By relating literary texts to historical contexts and theoretical commentaries, and by synthesizing various persepectives in an evaluative argument.
Subject Specific Skills Detailed critical and contextual analysis of dramatic texts, both on the page and in performance.
Team work Through group presentations in seminars - this will involve preparation outside of class and team work within the seminar.


This module is at CQFW Level 6