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ENG 2485F-- London Drama c. 1180-1590

Fall 2010

Also linked to this page: Course material (2010-11) also linked to this page:

Course Readings etc.

An examination of the records of theatrical activities--plays and pageants--in London from c. 1180 to 1590, with analysis of specific texts in terms of their definite or possible London theatrical, social, and political contexts. For the early years, given the non-survival of play texts for London itself, we will examine plays, from elsewhere, of the types that records indicate were being performed in London (e.g., saints' plays and biblical drama); for pageantry, however, there are descriptions specifically involving London, from the 13th century on. Later, surviving play texts include, for the 15th century, mummings by John Lydgate and plays by Henry Medwall; and for 1500-1580 we have definite or possible London plays by dramatists such as John Skelton, John Heywood, John Redford, R. Wever, Thomas Preston, Sackville and Norton, and George Gascoigne, as well as a good variety of anonymous plays, such as the 1560s-70s romance Sir Clyomon and Clamydes. Pageant descriptions also generally become lengthier. Between 1580 and 1590 come works by dramatists still well-known today, such as Lyly, Peele, Greene, and Marlowe, and minor but important London-focused work by writers such as Robert Wilson.

Studies of the drama before 1558 normally dwell on texts from outside London, or look at texts in isolation from their particular "location" contexts; yet studies of the drama after 1580 focus almost entirely on London theater. This course covers the undefined and largely ignored territory of theatrical activity in England's major urban center over some 400 years before the Shakespearean period, ending just as Shakespeare's first plays appear on London stages.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS: dependent on final class size, but probably each seminar member will give one factual report (20%), lead discussion on one text or group of texts (10%), and write a major paper (40%) upon which s/he will give a short in-progress report (10%) in one of the later seminar meetings. Regular prepared attendance and discussion (20%) is also expected.

INSTRUCTOR: Anne Lancashire, UC 277 (416-978-6270), anne@chass.utoronto.ca Office hours: Term 1: Tuesdays 12.30-1.30 (also for undergraduates), Thursdays for an hour after the class (graduate students only). Also by appointment, and whenever you can catch me in and not working to a deadline; but I can be hard to catch, so appointments are advisable. I usually answer e-mails promptly; telephone messages can sometimes take up to 48 hours to reach me.

PAPER TOPICS: each seminar member will pick a short or long time (e.g., 14th century, 1400-1430, 1530s, 1570s), and/or a genre (e.g., royal entries, farce, biblical plays, moralities, mummings, romances), or an author, and write a paper of around 20 pages on that period/genre/author as specifically related to London (one or more of its history, geography [natural and/or constructed], social customs, population [audiences], interaction with the court, etc.). Some examples only: London biblical drama before 1500; London plays in the 1520s; Lydgate's "performance" relationship with London; London-related mummings, known and probable, 1377-1500; London's 15th-century "history theater"; The Comedy of Errors in relation to 16th century classical drama in London; London morality drama of the mid-16th century; 15th century royal entries (with emphasis on one or two). If you do not already have an area of interest, you will develop one as the course progresses. Essential reference tools will be Ian Lancashire's Dramatic Texts and Records of Britain (see Readings list) for a chronological listing of all known theatrical performances (and our sources of information on them) in London from Roman times to 1558, and the Harbage/Schoenbaum Annals of English Drama 975-1700 (ditto), covering a longer period, for a similar chronological listing (but without the records information, and now somewhat out of date).

Course detail to follow.\par \par }