EN3TBS-The Bloody Stage: Revenge and Death in Renaissance Drama

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites: Pre-requisites: English Part 1 or A-Level (A*, A or B)
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Prof Michelle O'Callaghan

Email: m.f.ocallaghan@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module explores the representation of revenge and death across a range of revenge tragedies performed on the Renaissance stage. The Renaissance is a period when bodies were mutilated and put on public display by the state. We will explore what spectacles of punishment can tell us about wider cultures of retribution and violence, including the tensions between private revenge and state justice. Since bodies in death are surprisingly articulate, this module will consider how to analyse the staging of death scenes and whether there are differences in the ways that men and women die on stage. These highly stylised revenge tragedies are deliberately provocative and raise important questions about the aesthetics and ethics of violence.


This module aims to enhance students’ ability to analyse the representation of a key motif in Renaissance revenge tragedies. Students will learn to recognise the range of devices, both theatrical and thematic, used in the representation of death on stage and will be encouraged to make connections between the various plays studied and the wider cultural and dramatic context.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module students will be expected to:

  • Analyse the language, structure and theatrical techniques used in the representation of death in revenge tragedies;

  • Situate revenge tragedies in a range of contemporary contexts, including ideas of revenge and justice, the relationship between gender and the body, and theatrical practices;

  • Assess different critical approaches to the study of revenge tragedies, including different stage productions, where available, and evaluate their usefulness for the study of the plays on the module;

  • Construct and express coherent arguments in writing.

Additional outcomes:

  • Oral and written communication skills will be developed, together with critical, interpretative and analytical abilities.

  • Students will also enhance their IT competence through the use of relevant web resources in a critically informed manner.

  • Students will develop skills of close textual analysis.

  • Students will engage critically with ideas discussed in seminars

Outline content:

The module examines a range of Elizabethan and Jacobean revenge tragedies. Plays for study may vary year to year but will include some of the following: Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy, Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta and Massacre at Paris, Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus, Thomas Middleton, The Revenger’s Tragedy, John Marston, Antonio’s Revenge, Elizabeth Cary, Tragedy of Mariam, John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Structured seminars over a total of three hours, for which students are required to do preparatory reading. Students are also entitled to a half-hour tutorial on their formative written work. With the consent of the module convenor, students may also undertake a placement, through which they will learn how to apply the knowledge and skills gained in studying for this module in a professional context outside the University.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Seminars 20
Tutorials 1
Guided independent study 169
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 40
Written assignment including essay 60

Summative assessment- Examinations:

One two hour examination.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

One 3000 word essay to be submitted in Week 11.

Formative assessment methods:

Students will write one formative essay of 1500 words and/or a seminar presentation.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    1. Required text books


    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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