English 150A - Spring, 2023

British Drama to 1800

Topic: Gender and Sexuality in the Drama of Shakespeare's Contemporaries

Class Information

Instructor: Bloom, Gina
CRN: 62113
Time: TR 1:40-3:00pm
Location: 1060 Bainer
GE Areas: World Cultures Writing Experience


In this course we will read a range of plays from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, focusing in particular on how these plays represent gender and sexuality. The course will be especially interested in how these concerns with gender and sexuality intersected with the material conditions of the theater: what the early modern theater looked like, who acted in the plays, and who came to see them.

We will begin by studying several early tragedies concerned with adultery and its relation to crime, asking why adultery is such a popular theme in early modern drama. We will then read several comedies that call attention to the early modern theater's use of boy actors to play female roles, asking why cross-dressed actors were not only acceptable but enticing for early modern audiences. We will close with several plays about the problem of female chastity, considering why female chastity was valued in early modern English society and how the chaste woman becomes linked to broader concerns about political stability in England.

Required texts for the class:
Routledge Anthology of Renaissance Drama, edited by Simon Barker and Hilary Hinds; ISBN 978-0415187343.

There may also be a short coursepack


Assignments include short writings and one longer essay as well as engagement in lecture and discussion sections.


The Roaring Girl, Middleton and Dekker
The Changeling, Middleton
Epicoene, Jonson
A Woman Killed with Kindness, Heywood
Knight of the Burning Pestle, Beaumont
Arden of Faversham, Anon.