English R1B

Reading and Composition: Renaissance Revenge Tragedy

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
11 Spring 2020 Drawdy, Miles
MWF 1-2 31 Evans

Book List

Heywood, Thomas: A Woman Killed With Kindness; Maus, Katharine Eisaman: Four Revenge Tragedies; Shakespeare, William: Hamlet; Shakespeare, William: The Tempest

Other Readings and Media

Additional material will be made available on bCourses. 


The War of the Roses (1455 - 85) inaugurated the Tudor dynasty as it dramatically demonstrated that internal violence posed an existential threat to the English nation. As the sixteenth century became increasingly marked by religious and political warfare, the English became increasingly fearful of revenge as a particularly insidious form of violence. Yet, as the Tudor dynasty approached its natural end, the genre of revenge tragedy became the characteristic offering of the English commercial theatre. This course will examine a number of revenge tragedies from this period as they reflect on a century of violence and look forward to a future of political uncertainty. Alongside these contextual considerations, we will investigate how the performance of revenge exposes weak points in the religious, political, and social structures of Renaissance England. We will also examine how these plays inherit and adapt an evolving set of recognizable conventions in order to meditate both on the formal features of tragedy and on the institution of theatre.

This course is intended to refine your critical thinking and writing skills. In pursuit of this end, students will be asked to write and revise one short analytical paper and a longer research paper.  

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