English R1A

Early Modern Bogeymen

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Fall 2009 Drosdick, Alan
MWF 12-1 222 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Kane, T., The Oxford Essential Guide to Critical Writing; Marlowe, C., The Jew of Malta; Massinger, P., A New Way to Pay Old Debts; Middleton, T. and William Rowley, The Changeling; Milton, J., Comus; Shakespeare, W., Richard III, The Tempest, Titus Andronicus


Renaissance drama is rife with what can be called blocking figures—the doddering father who refuses to let his daughter marry her true love, the pesky servant who keeps an overly protective eye on our young hero. These characters are not quite enemies, but rivals, and need not be defeated, but merely overcome. They impede the progress of the plot and, once bypassed, prove entirely forgettable. Proper villains, on the other hand, actively propagate their ill will, usually with great bravado, and hold a stubbornly salient position in our comprehension of the play as a whole, perhaps greater even than the putative protagonist. This class seeks to examine how and why dramatists craft villainous characters so powerful that they can commandeer the plays that contain them.

In order to accomplish this sometimes daunting critical feat, students must develop their analytical instincts in order to articulate the intricacies of their observations in writing. To this end, students shall hone their observational skills by discussing, in the form of short weekly writing assignments, how the author goes about creating in them the reactions they register while reading his text. These short papers will prepare students to write longer essays (4-5 pages), in preparation for which we will hold thesis brainstorming sessions and peer editing workshops; students should expect to become very well acquainted with the writing of their peers.

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