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Introduction to Drama:
British Comedy, Medieval to Modern

This course is a whirlwind survey of British theatrical comedy from its liturgical beginnings to its more modern incarnations. We’ll be reading some of the “big hits” of British theatre–the more canonical plays that the typical English major might be expected to know. Along the way, we’ll discuss the evolution of the British theatrical comedy and the historical development of the genre. This is not a class in performance; the focus will be on plays as texts, with some consideration given to how details within these texts reveal certain aspects of performance. As part of class participation, students will at times be expected to very cheerfully and energetically read aloud, but we will not be putting on any plays in this class.
Week One: Dramatic Beginnings

Introduction and Course Overview


Week Two: Medieval Religious and Secular Drama

The Second Shepherd’s Play

A Mery Play Betweene Johan Johan the Husbande, Tib His Wife, and Sir John the Preest
(c 1520)

Week Three: The Medieval Morality Play

Everyman (c. 1490)

Week Four: Renaissance Satire

Ben Jonson, The Alchemist (1610)

Week Five: Restoration Comedy of Manners

William Wycherly, The Country Wife (1675)

Week Six: Eighteenth-Century Burlesque

John Gay, The Beggar’s Opera (1728)

Week Seven: Eighteenth-Century Sentimental Comedy

Richard Brinsley Sheridan, The Rivals (1775)

Week Eight: Midterm Exam
Week Nine: Spring Break
Week Ten: Mid-Victorian Comedy of Manners

Dion Boucicault, London Assurance (1841)

Week Eleven: Late-Victorian Farce

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1894)

Week Twelve: Edwardian Comedy

George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion (1914)

Week Thirteen: Theatre of the Absurd / Tragicomedy

Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (1953)

Week Fourteen: Twentieth-Century Farce

Tom Stoppard, The Real Inspector Hound (1968)

Week Fifteen: Late-Twentieth-Century Comedy I

Caryl Churchill, Cloud 9 (1979)

Week Fifteen: Late-Twentieth-Century Comedy II

Timberlake Wertenbaker, Our Country’s Good (1988)

Week Fifteen: Final Exam

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