ENGH 324: English Renaissance Drama

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Fall 2017
M W 3:00-4:15
Robinson B 122
Robert Matz
Office Hours: MW 9:30-10:15, and by appointment
Office: Buchanan Hall (formerly Mason Hall) D201E
Email: rmatz@gmu.edu
Office Ph. #: 993-8720
home page: http://mason.gmu.edu/~rmatz
I have heard of your paintings, too, well enough. God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another. –Hamlet

For Renaissance moralists, applying make-up (“painting”) was a sin against God’s natural order; for many of these same moralists so were plays, since in playing a part one altered one’s very being. No wonder anti-cosmetic rants so often appear in Renaissance drama, as in this quotation from Hamlet. In this course, we will consider how the remarkably brilliant and self-conscious Renaissance theater was energized by and played out anxieties about changes in a supposedly “natural” order, not only in the content of the plays (frequently satiric, dark and/or spectacularly violent) but also in their very form as “made-up” works of human art. Further, we’ll consider the theater itself as a place apart from regular order, a place of fun, holiday, riot or license, of “play” rather than rule.

In our approach to these plays, we’ll become familiar with some of the historicist, feminist and poststructuralist impulses that have shaped the reinterpretation of the Renaissance stage and Renaissance culture over the past forty years.  We’ll also learn about textual criticism and what goes into the creation of a modern edition of a Renaissance literary text, by making one as a class for a never-before-edited Renaissance play.

Required Texts:
English Renaissance Drama, ed. David Bevington et al.
Beaumont and Fletcher, Love’s Cure; or, the Martial Maid (online)
Excerpt from Steven Mullaney, The Place of the Stage (in Blackboard)

Course assignments: Class participation, blog posts, quizzes, a trip to the Folger (or equivalent activity), one three-page paper, one five-page paper, editions project, a  final

Note: Schedule subject to change (I will give warning, however).

Date Assignments and Events
due dates
M Aug. 28  Course Introduction  
W Aug. 30 from Steven Mullaney, The Place of the Stage, 26-31, 45-59 (in Blackboard)  
M Set. 4 Labor Day – No Class  
W Sept. 6 Jonson, Volpone, act 1
M Sept. 11 Jonson, Volpone, acts 2 and 3  
W Sept. 13 Jonson, Volpone, acts 4 and 5  
M Sept. 18 Dekker, Shoemaker’s Holiday, scenes 1 and 2
W Sept. 20 Dekker, Shoemaker’s Holiday, prefatory texts on pp. 489-91 (if not already read), and scenes 3 – 11
Paper 1 assigned
M Sept. 25 Dekker, Shoemaker’s Holiday, scenes 12 – 21  
W Sept. 27 Dekker and Middleton, The Roaring Girl, act 1 Paper 1 exchanged
M Oct. 2 Dekker and Middleton, The Roaring Girl, acts 2 and 3  
W Oct. 4 Dekker and Middleton, The Roaring Girl, acts 4 and 5 Paper 1 due
T Oct. 10 Beaumont and Fletcher, Love’s Cure; or, the Martial Maid, acts 1-3 ;
No class (credit for trip to Folger and extra time to read Love’s Cure)
Editorial Queries on Love’s Cure
W Oct. 11 Beaumont and Fletcher, Love’s Cure; or, the Martial Maid, acts 4-5;
Edition Planning I – What kind of edition?
Editorial Queries on Love’s Cure:
Paper 2 assigned
M Oct. 16 Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy, acts 1 and 2
W Oct. 18 Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy, act 3 Paper 2 exchanged
M Oct. 23 Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy, acts 4 and 5  
W Oct. 25 Edition planning II – Organizing groups and scoping roles and project plans  Paper 2 due
M Oct. 30 Marlowe, Edward II, acts 1 and 2  
W Nov. 1 Marlowe, Edward II, act 3  
M Nov. 6 Marlowe, Edward II, acts 4 and 5  
W Nov. 8 Edition planning III Editorial Project Plans due
M Nov. 13 Middleton, Women Beware Women, acts 1 and 2  
W Nov. 15 Middleton, Women Beware Women, act 3  
M Nov. 20 Middleton, Women Beware Women, acts 4 and 5  
W Nov. 22 No class: Thanksgiving Break  
M Nov. 27 Edition work  
W Nov. 29 Edition work  
M. Dec. 4 Edition work  
W Dec. 6 Edition work  
M Dec. 11 No class Edition work due
M Dec. 18 Final Exam: 1:30 pm – 4:15 pm  

The readings for each class are due on the date listed above. Approach each assignment actively by reading with a pen or pencil in hand. Note words, phrases or sentences that interest you, that seem significant in the context of the work, or that you have questions about. Jot down in the margins any questions or ideas you have about a particular point or the work as a whole. This practice will help you come prepared to discuss the plays in class and get the most out of class discussion; it will also help you become a more skillful reader of literary texts.

Participation and Attendance:
While I will occasionally lecture for a portion of a class, we’ll most often conduct class as a discussion. Contribution to class discussion will not be formally calculated into grades, but I will take participation into account for grades that are borderline. If you aren’t in class, you can’t participate in discussion, nor will active class participation wholly excuse excessive absences.

There will be 10-14 in class quizzes, given at random. Quizzes cannot be made up, but I will drop your lowest quiz grade. The quizzes will test that you’ve done the reading and achieved a basic understanding of it.

Blog Posts:
Threads: Each student is responsible for one 250-300 word blog post that makes an argument about the text in order to initiate discussion about some aspect of it. I will provide you with the date, based on alphabetical order, that your blog post is due. This response should be posted on our Blackboard blog site by 9:00 pm the day before the designated class.

Comments: Each student is responsible for 10 responses to the above. You must provide at least five responses by Monday October 16 @ 9:00 am. Responses can be to the original posting or to other responses about it. If you post after we’ve had a class on the particular text, you can also bring in class lecture or discussion, but make sure you are responding to the online dialogue, not to class alone. Discussions will close one week after they start (hence the last date for all responses is one week after the last post). Responses should be around 50 words–you don’t need an extended argument, but “you’re wrong” or “great point” will not qualify. Please treat fellow posters with the same respect and seriousness online as you would in class.

Evaluation: I will evaluate postings–both originating threads and responses–based on your consistent and rich participation in the online dialogue. I will not grade individual postings, however. Here is the scale I will use, based on 100 points total.

For an originating thread missed: -20 points
For each of 10 responses missed: – 4

For example, someone who missed no originating threads and 3 responses would score 88 or 88%, a B+. I reserve the right to adjust grades up or down based on the quality of what’s posted.

Paper Deadlines:
Please hand in papers on time: the beginning of class on the date noted on the syllabus. Late papers will be graded down a half grade for each day late. Additionally, first versions of each of our two papers will be due at the start of class for in-class paper exchanges: the first on Sept. 27 and the second on Oct. 28. I will mark the final version of a paper down by half a grade if its first version due at the exchange is not done, not typed or obviously incomplete. The purpose of this policy is to build revision, so necessary for good writing, into your assignments.

Papers should be typed with standard margins, spacing and type size. They should be carefully proofread and neatly presented.  I will assign paper topics that relate to issues we have discussed in class, and you are encouraged to bring to bear class discussion in your writing. You are also encouraged to expand on these discussions and credit will be given for new ideas. While I grade your papers on the basis of your final versions only, I would like you to hand in your first versions of these papers along with the final one.

Paper Helps:
Feedback on papers will be built into the structure of the course through our two paper exchanges.  I also encourage you to see me at my office hours to discuss your papers. When we meet, it’s best to have a draft of the paper you are working on. This will give us something more concrete to talk about. There is also available a Writing Center at Robinson A114 that can provide you with further individual attention to your writing. I encourage you to take advantage of this excellent facility. I also suggest that you give yourself plenty of time to work. Writing a paper at one sitting is, for most people, unpleasant, and the results are not likely to be satisfactory. Start early!

The Edition Project
In this class we will create a modern edition of a Renaissance play, Love’s Cure; or, the Martial Maid, that does not yet have one.  What features should a modern edition of a Renaissance play include?  That’s something we’ll discuss and, in part, decide together as a class.  We’ll work with an electronic version of the text from the Folger Shakespeare Library.  The library is likely to use our work on the edition if it is of sufficient quality. We’ll also visit the Folger to see the original 1647 complete works of Beaumont and Fletcher, in which the play was first printed (it was performed some forty years earlier) as well as other relevant early modern books or manuscripts.

There are a lot of details about the project (and visit, or alternatives) that we’ll discuss in class.  The important thing to know in advance is that we’ll work on this edition in teams of four or five students, and you’ll receive both a team grade and an individual one.  I’ll also provide you with details on how I calculate these. 

You are not expected or encouraged for this course to consult secondary sources beyond the one assigned for class. If you do choose to look at such work, however, you must cite, using a standard citation format, all the articles, books or other sources that your own writing draws on, either directly or indirectly. Such sources include (but are not limited to) introductions to editions of the texts we’re reading, any kind study aid and resources found on the internet.

Also note that uncited sources will constitute plagiarism even if they ended up in your work without your conscious knowledge (e.g. you forgot you read the material; you confused your own notes with notes on a source), since part of the scholarly responsibility that comes with using secondary sources is keeping track of which words or ideas were yours and which came from a source. If you do not wish to take on this responsibility then you should not consult secondary sources.

I will take all suspected cases of plagiarism to the Honor Committee.

The final for this course will require you to recall and synthesize ideas from the entire semester, as well as to demonstrate your skills as a close reader.  I will ask you to relate all the other plays we’ve read in class to some topic or topics relevant to Love’s Cure.  Our final exam is scheduled for Monday December 18, from 1:30 pm – 4:15 pm.

Your grade for this course will be derived as follows:

Blog thread and comments 10%
Quizzes 15 %
First paper 10 %
Second paper 20 %
Editions Project – team grade 15 %
Editions Project – individual grade 15 %
Final 15 %

Students with Disabilities
If you have a documented learning disability or other condition that may affect academic performance make sure this documentation is on file with Mason Disability Services and talk with me to discuss your accommodation needs. All academic accommodations must be arranged through Disability Services.

And finally…
Please come see me if you have any questions about grading, the syllabus or the class. I look forward to having the chance to meet you. Best wishes for a good semester!


A Specific, complex and/or striking thesis, thesis developed without digression through the course of the paper, consistently precise, sensitive and/or striking interpretations of the text, crafted prose, no major mechanical problems

B Specific thesis, thesis generally developed through the course of the paper, consistently good interpretation of text, competent prose, minor mechanical problems

C Has a thesis, but one that needs greater specificity or complexity, thesis developed with some digression or repetition, some good interpretation, some mechanical problems

D Very general thesis, thesis development digressive or repetitive, plot summary or thoughts/speculations not based on textual evidence, major mechanical problems

F No thesis or thesis development