Course Description

From the perspective of students raised up on Shakespeare, Jacobean dramatists like Webster, Marston and Middleton seem to lurk Hamlet-like in the shadows, unable to “cast [their] nighted colour off.”  Whether they are downright bloody tragedies or slightly less bloody “tragicomedies,” these plays are characterized by an obsession with bloodlines, appetite, corruption and the ethics of revenge.  Malcontents banter with bawds, displaced nobles conduct intrigues in disguise while plotting fiendishly ingenious ends for their enemies, and secret trysts between lovers are rarely as secret as they seem.  In this course we will explore three Jacobean plays, paying close attention to their use (and abuse) of tragic convention, their social, political and religious contexts, their poetry, and their dramatic potential in performance.  Rarely staged before modern audiences, these plays nevertheless repay any effort to think of them as living, moving spectacles.  There will be a strong emphasis on student participation.