Wild Justice: power and revenge in English Renaissance Tragedy
Time: 10:00 - 12:00
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HLT188
Duration: 8 sessions (over 9 weeks)
What is the course about?
This course looks at four English Renaissance Tragedies written between c. 1585 and 1613 – Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, Marlowe’s Dr Faustus, Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy, and John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
Francis Bacon described revenge as ‘a kind of wild justice’, and arguably it was the dominant concern of English Renaissance tragedy. Revengers often seek retribution for a crime that goes unpunished - a crime either perpetrated, or protected, by state power. We ask why it was such a dominant theme in Early Modern drama? What cultural preoccupations and concerns does it reveal? And what lies behind the enduring appeal and (often gory) fascination of these plays?
We also look at one of literature’s most famous ‘over-reachers’ after power – Dr Faustus, who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for the power of magic. We ask how the play complicates our responses to its central protagonist: how do we respond to his ambition?
We will discuss key short extracts from the plays, engaging with their vibrant language. We will also draw upon critical and contextual sources to enrich our understanding of the questions they raise in relation to individual, state and religious authority; death; grief; gender and sexuality; language - and theatricality itself.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Have an increased understanding and appreciation of the language of four English Renaissance Tragedies
• Have an increased understanding and appreciation of the themes and concerns of four English Renaissance Tragedies.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
The course is open to all; you do not need to have prior knowledge to participate.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The course will be taught online through close reading of textual extracts, visual slides, video clips and class discussion. Handouts of selected key extracts from the plays (and of critical and contextual sources) will also be provided.
Please read The Spanish Tragedy before the first class. (When reading The Spanish Tragedy, you will find it helpful to be broadly familiar with Shakespeare’s Hamlet). Thereafter, it is strongly recommended that you read each play before the relevant class for maximum enjoyment; you may be given optional short questions/exercises to guide your reading or to prepare for a class.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Handouts of selected key extracts from the plays (and of critical and contextual sources) will be provided online, so you can read any edition of the plays, but the following are recommended:
The Spanish Tragedy, Thomas Kyd ‘New Mermaids’ Bloomsbury, 2009)
Dr Faustus, Christopher Marlowe (Pearson/Longman, 2003)
The Revenger’s Tragedy, Thomas Middleton (Arden edition, 2018)
The Duchess of Malfi, John Webster (Revised Edition, ‘New Mermaids’ Bloomsbury, 2014)
Online links to recommended productions (where these are available) will be provided in class.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look for other Drama text to performance courses on our website at www.citylit.ac.uk/courses under History, Culture and Writing/Literature/Drama text to Performance.
Sophie has taught Literature, Performing Arts and Interdisciplinary Arts and Humanities for over twenty years, working for the Open University, Leeds University, and a range of Adult Learning Institutions before joining City Lit. Previously she freelanced as a theatre and opera director in community theatre and at English National Opera. She has an MA in Nineteenth Century English and American Literature, and a PhD in Early Modern Life Writing. She brings both experience and enthusiasm to her work with adult audiences.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.