Skip to main content

Unit information: Drama Through the Ages in 2020/21

Unit name Drama Through the Ages
Unit code ENGL10057
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Gournet
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts



This unit will introduce students to a variety of theatrical works, from an exploration of the Medieval Mystery Plays and Mankind to a discussion of present-day plays. We will focus predominantly on British work, through the influence of world drama – especially European and American theatre - will be explored throughout. There will be a particular focus on the development of sixteenth- and early seventeenth- century drama, just before and the birth of the public playhouse, with discussion of plays by William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Elizabeth Cary, and Aphra Behn. Works by later notable figures including Henrik Ibsen, Caryl Churchill, Debbie tucker green and Lin Manuel Miranda will also be discussed in relation to the socio-political contexts in which they were written and – equally importantly – staged. These playtexts will be read and analysed alongside performance records and other documentation. There will be opportunities to consider issues such as performance circumstances, the practicalities of staging, and different methods of adapting sources (including historical events) for theatrical presentation. 


This unit aims to develop students’ knowledge of theatre and performance contexts over a wide period, and to introduce some of the methodological issues surrounding theatrical historiography. A range of writers and plays, and documentary evidence relevant to them, will be introduced; and there will be opportunities to consider performance questions through practical workshops, as well as by reading a range of appropriate materials. The unit aims to facilitate students’ ongoing appreciation of the chronology and historical development of literature in English.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate critical understanding of the texts studied and how they relate to the period and literary context in which they were written.
  2. Analyse the works in terms of its staging, vocabulary, imagery, characterisation, structure, and other aspects
  3. Communicate their ideas about the written texts analytically, coherently and persuasively.

Teaching details

The unit will normally be taught in 1 x 3-hour seminar per week for 10 weeks, each of which will utilise a range of teaching methods including lectures by the tutor(s), formal and informal presentations by students, and small group discussion.

Assessment Details

1 x 2000 word essay (50%) [ILOs 1-3]

1 x timed coursework with particular focus on critical commentary (50%) [ILOs 1-3]

Reading and References

The Cambridge introduction to theatre historiography by Thomas Postlewait (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009)

Medieval theatre performance: actors, dancers, automata and their audiences ed. by Philip Butterworth and Katie Normington (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2017)

The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Contemporary Dramatists ed. Ton Honselaars (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)

English Drama: Restoration and Eighteenth Century 1660-1789 by Richard W Bevis (Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2014)

Contemporary British theatre: breaking new ground ed. by Vicky Angelaki (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)