English 152A: Early English Drama

Men in Tights, Women in Breeches: Cross-Dressing in Early Modern Drama


Professor Adrienne L. Eastwood


Mondays & Wednesdays, 12:00 noon – 1:15 p.m., Sweeney Hall 410


Office Hours and Location: Faculty Office Building, Room 116

Hours: Mondays & Wednesdays 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m., Monday evening 5:00 – 6:00 pm, and Tuesdays 12:00 – 1:00 pm.  I am also available by appointment.


Phone #: 924-4509

Email: Adrienne.Eastwood@sjsu.edu

Web page: http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/eastwood/


Course Description:  Until 1660, all theatrical roles were played by men.  So, when Romeo and Juliet breathlessly say goodbye on the balcony, the audience accepts the performance of femininity offered by the boy under the dress.  But occasionally in Shakespeare’s comedies, and in the work of his contemporaries, the performance of gender becomes itself the focus, as the playwrights gives us characters who, while playing the role of “women,” assume “male” identities, and try to pass (with varying degrees of conviction) as men.  When women took the stage after 1660, they played male roles as well, acting in “breeches parts,” as well as the traditional female characters.  This course will explore issues raised by such performances of gender on the early modern stage. 


Course Objectives: The primary objective of this course is to introduce you to early modern drama using critical lenses provided by genre theory and gender studies.  We will read several early modern plays written from Shakespeare’s time through the Restoration, and analyze the ways in which cultural assumptions about gender and sexuality influence and shape the dramatic mode—be it comedy or tragedy.  This will not be our only focus, as it is my goal that you develop a fluency in reading drama, and a general familiarity with the historical and political atmosphere in England during the Renaissance and beyond. 



Student Learning Goals:

v     Engage in close reading and textual analysis and explication

v     Respond imaginatively to content and style of texts

v     Write clearly and effectively

v     Carry out research projects

v     Learn about Elizabethan era and study literary genres associated with that period

v     Increase understanding of the relations between culture, history, and texts

v     Engage with issues associated with cross-fertilization among non-literary genres including portraiture and film.




Required Texts:


Behn, Aphra.  Oronooko and Other Works.  Ed. Janet Todd.  Penguin, 1993.


Heywood, Thomas.  Fair Maid of the West.  Regents Renaissance Drama Series. 


The Routledge Anthology of Renaissance Drama.  Eds. Simon Barker and Hilary Hinds.  New York: Routeledge, 2007. 


Womack, Peter.  English Renaissance Drama.  Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006.


Grading Breakdown:

Participation: 10%

Mini Essays: 15%

Comparative Essay 1: 25%

Comparative Essay 2: 30%

Final Exam: 20%


Course Requirements:


Participation:  A portion (10%) of your grade will be based on your participation in class.  If for some reason you are unable to attend class, it is your responsibility to find out what information and/or assignments you missed.  If you miss an in-class quiz or other activity, you will receive a zero.  There will be no opportunities for making up missed work.


In order to receive an A or a B in participation, you must do more than just attend class.  You must also demonstrate to me that you have been keeping up with the readings and thinking about the questions raised by the lectures.  I expect each of you to engage in the class discussions, participate in group activities, and come to class with the relevant materials.


Written Work:  Writing facilitates and furthers thought.  I therefore want to give you the chance to think more deeply about the plays we will be reading than you can just by listening to a lecture or a discussion.  You will therefore be asked to write several essays for this class.  These are broken down as follows:


Mini-Essays:  Five mini-essays (500 words each) of the 8 assigned plays (your choice except Shakespeare) will be required.  These are informal and brief (about 2 and a half pages), but I do expect you to focus your thoughts on a particular aspect of the play that caught your attention.  For example, you might choose to write about an especially jarring theme, or consider more fully the motivations or actions of a certain character or character type, or trace a linguistic image or aspect that the play presents (or something else entirely). These essays should be typed, and they should contain a thesis and a focused idea that you trace throughout the play.  You need to push beyond plot summary in these papers and honestly think through some aspect of the play that you noticed. Unintelligible or frivolous writing will not receive credit. The reading schedule lists optimal due dates for mini-essays.  (The idea is to turn these in while we are still discussing the play.) I must have all five of your mini-essays by Nov. 24th


Comparative Essays:  I want to also give you the chance to trace an idea or a theme through several plays; to this end, I will ask you to write two longer papers (1,500 words each) over the course of the semester.  Suggested topics for these essays will be distributed in advance.  If you wish to write on a topic of your own devising, you should discuss the project with me well in advance.  These critical/analytical papers should clearly demonstrate your own engagement with the texts and the issues raised by them rather than your paraphrase of what others have written about them.  You might use a successful idea that you develop in your mini-essays to build into a more sustained analysis.  The second comparative essay will include a research component.  All assignments must be typed, double-spaced, with 1” margins all around.  Please use a 12 point font.  General guidelines for papers will be discussed in class.  Your success on these papers will be directly proportional to your knowledge and understanding of the texts.

Late Papers:  Turning in assignments late is unfair to the other students; therefore, I will lower your grade one full letter for each day the paper is late.  In the case of emergencies, please see me. 


I will not accept emailed assignments.


Final Exam:  A cumulative final exam will be held on Monday, December 15h 9:45 a.m. - 12:00 noon.  Bring 1 or 2 large blue books.


Academic Integrity:

Presenting the ideas or writings of another as one’s own is plagiarism.  Any act of plagiarism will result in automatic failure on the assignment and possible failure in the course and dismissal from the university.  For this and every course at SJSU, be familiar with the “Policy on Academic Integrity” printed in the SJSU Catalog.  The policy on academic
 integrity can be found at: http://sa.sjsu.edu/judicial_affairs/index.html.


Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need to make special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, or see me during office hours. Presidential Directive 97-03 requires that students with disabilities register with the Disability Resource Center to establish a record of their disability (924-6000).

Grading Policy:

In English Department courses, instructors will comment on and grade the quality of student writing as well as the quality of ideas being conveyed.  All student writing should be distinguished by correct grammar and punctuation, appropriate diction and syntax, and well-organized paragraphs.  Grades issued will represent a full range of student performance and will adhere to the following SJSU academic standards of assessment:

The Department of English reaffirms its commitment to the differential grading scale as defined in the SJSU Catalog (“The Grading System”). Grades issued must represent a full range of student performance: A= excellent; B= above average; C= average; D= below average; F= failure. Courses graded according to the A, B, C, No Credit system shall follow the same pattern, except that NC shall replace D or F. In such cases, NC shall also substitute for W (or Withdrawal) because neither grade (NC or W) affects students’ GPA.


Reading Schedule (Subject to Revision):


Week 0

Aug. 25           Introductions.

Aug. 27           Early modern culture and the theater. 

                        Womack, 1-45

Week 1

Sep. 1              Labor Day (no class)

Sep. 3              Womack, 46-92 and 261-311


Week 2

Sep.  8             Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (use any scholarly, annotated text)

Sep. 10            Twelfth Night


Week 3

Sep. 15            Marlowe, Edward II (in anthology), Womack 109-110

Sep. 17            Edward II        [Mini-essay on Ed.2 due]


Week 4

Sep. 22            Edward II  

Sep. 24            Heywood, A Woman Killed with Kindness (in anthology)

                        Womack 104-106

                        [Paper Topics for Comparative Essay 1 distributed]

Week 5

Sep. 29            A Woman Killed with Kindness [Mini-essay on Woman Killed due]

Oct. 1              A Woman Killed with Kindness


Week 6
Oct. 6              Jonson, Epicoene

                        Womack, 106-107

Oct. 8              Epicoene         [Comparative essay 1 due]


Week 7

Oct. 13                        Epicoene         [Mini-essay on Epicoene due]

Oct. 15                        Epicoene


Week 8

Oct. 20                        Dekker and Middleton, The Roaring Girl

                        Womack, 113-115 and 202-206

Oct. 22                        Roaring Girl    [Mini-essay on RG due]


Week 9

Oct. 27                        Heywood, Fair Maid of the West

                        Womack, 244-249

Oct. 29                        Fair Maid [Mini-essay on Fair Maid due]


Week 10

Nov. 3             Fair Maid 

Nov. 5             Ford, Tis Pity She’s a Whore

                        Womack, 250-255

Week 11

Nov. 10           Tis Pity            [Mini-essay on Tis Pity due]

Nov. 12           Tis Pity


Week 12

Nov. 17           Behn, The Widow Ranter

Nov. 19           The Widow Ranter  [Mini-essay on Widow due]

                        [Distribute topics for Comparative Essay 2]


Week 13

Nov. 24           The Widow Ranter  [All 5 mini-essays must be turned in by this date]

Nov. 26           No Class


Week 14

Dec. 1              Restoration and Breeches Parts

Dec. 3              Charlotte Charke and Mrs. Brown


Week 15

Dec. 8              Stage Beauty   [Comparative Essay 2 due]

Dec. 10            Last class


Final Exam: Dec. 15th, 9:45 a.m.- 12:00 noon.