English 246 - Fall, 2014

17th Century Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Dolan, Frances
CRN: 63840
Time: M 12:10-3:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Earlier British
Focus: Genre, Interdiscipline, Method


    This course will examine the relationship between early modern English law and the drama. We will consider this connection in terms of venues (chiefly the Inns of Court, the assize courts, and the church courts), shared terms and concerns (including inheritance, marriage, standards of evidence, the regulation of sexual conduct, and crime), and genres (including statutes, depositions, popular pamphlet accounts of legal proceedings, and, above all, the drama). Rather than read several different critical essays per session, as is the usual practice, we will read several influential books on early modern drama and the law in their entirety, so as to discuss them as books and to consider the genre of the book-length project. The books we will read include Luke Wilson, Theaters of Intention: Drama and the Law in Early Modern England (Stanford UP, 2000); Lorna Hutson, The Invention of Suspicion: Law and Mimesis in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama (Oxford, 2007); Holger Schott Syme’s Theatre and Testimony in Shakespeare’s England (Cambridge UP, 2012); and Laurie Shannon, The Accommodated Animal: Cosmopolity in Shakespearean Locales (Chicago UP, 2013). These books will be placed on reserve as well as ordered at the bookstore. You may be able to find them used. These books address the importance of law in the development of concepts including intention and self-possession (Wilson); how playwrights’ legal training shaped their approach to constructing plays and how plays trained spectators as potential—and suspicious--jurors (Hutson); the inns of court as venues in which models of “lateral association” could be tested and in which a political “cosmopolity” might be imagined (Shannon); and the intersection between dramatic form and the increasing dependence on testimony in law courts (Syme). The plays addressed may include George Gascoigne’s Supposes, Middleton’s Michaelmas Term and A Chastemaid in Cheapside, Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy, Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and Winter’s Tale, Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair and Epicoene, Webster’s The White Devil and Devil’s Law Case, Webster, Rowley, and Heywood’s Cure for a Cuckold, and Brome and Heywood’s Late Lancashire Witches. If there is a play you'd particularly like or not like to do, please let me know.


    Students will write a critical paper but will also receive guidance in identifying, locating, and interpreting legal texts using various databases including state papers, Early English Books Online (EEBO), the Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online, and the English Broadside Ballads Archive online (EBBA). Research training and writing assignments will be flexible enough to assist both specialists and non-specialists in honing their research, critical, and writing skills. Participation will be important.


    Luke Wilson, Theaters of Intention
    Lorna Hutson, Invention of Suspicion
    Laurie Shannon, Accommodated Animal
    Holger Syme, Theatre and Testimony
    You may use any editions of these plays you have. I will also order paperback editions where available and identify online editions as well.