ENG 339: Revenge and Restoration Drama

Dr. Suzanne Westfall
Office: Pardee 301A         Phone: Ext. 5249
Hours: MWF 9-10, 1-2 and by appointment
E-mail: westfals@lafayette.edu

English: 339 — Revenge and Restoration Drama
Fall 2008

Revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.
Francis Bacon:
“Of Revenge”
Webster was much possessed by death
And saw the skull beneath the skin.
And breastless creatures under ground
Leaned backward with a lipless grin.

Daffodil bulbs instead of balls
Stared from the sockets of the eyes!
He knew that thought clings round dead limbs
Tightening its lusts and luxuries.
“Whispers of Immortality”
T.S. Eliot

Course Description

Swimming in blood at the start, drenched with gold by the finish, seventeenth-century theatre reflected one of the more tumultuous eras in British history – a king beheaded, public theatres closed, a civil war, an exiled son of the executed king called home.  After the celebrated age of Queen Elizabeth and William Shakespeare, the Stuart monarchs found themselves in a climate of cynicism and fear, manifested in the “Revenge Tragedy,” with its deceptions, ghosts, murders, madness, and high body counts.  During Oliver Cromwell’s interregnum, Puritans drove theatre “underground,” to be reborn with the triumphant restoration of King Charles II, fresh from the continent with new ideas.  Symmetrical forms replaced mixed genres, women supplanted boys onstage, and comedy trumped tragedy.  In this course we will read representative plays from the century, examining how the “skull beneath the skin” gave way to the periwigged rake, how issues of class, gender, and politics played themselves out on public and private stages.


CLASSWORK:  This is a seminar, not a lecture course, and seminars are DISCUSSION-driven.  Its purpose is to help you articulate an idea, share it, defend it, recontextualize it, and perhaps reconsider it.  During class, I will constantly challenge you by asking you questions; this is not designed to humiliate you or attack your ideas, but rather to help you to learn how to formulate your own questions, to explore your reactions and to defend them with arguments.  This is how we learn.  So do not be surprised or offended if I or your classmates challenge your ideas; we’re here to communicate, to help you learn to marshal your most convincing evidence and to argue to the best of your ability.  It is crucial that you RESPECT other people’s ideas and comments, even when you do not agree with them. What happens in our class happens IN our class, which will be a laboratory for exploring ideas and developing arguments.

ATTENDANCE – Since this is a student-centered course, if you do not attend class you cannot be part of the learning community.  Similarly, if you come to class unprepared, you cannot contribute.  I realize, of course, that there will be times when you can’t make it to class or won’t be much use if you do.  Consequently, my attendance policy is that you have THREE FREE PASSES – three times when you may be absent without explanation or excuse.  After that point, you will be excused from class ONLY with a dean’s excuse.  Quizzes and exams will not be rescheduled to accommodate holiday travel, so please read the syllabus CAREFULLY; if you miss class it is your responsibility to keep up with materials and assignments. After your three freebies, you will receive a penalty on your final grade; after excessive absence I will drop you from the course.

GRADES – Everything you do in this course is assessed, from your arrival on time with your texts in hand to your active participation in group work — EVERYTHING COUNTS.  Your final grade will reflect your ability to read and integrate texts, lectures, and co-curricular activities as reflected in the frequency and quality of your contribution to the seminar, both verbally and in writing.

20% — Classwork (Quizzes, discussion, presentations)
35% — Midterm and Final
45% — Writing

WRITING – This is a writing course, so expect to do a lot of it.

1. Response and analysis papers: You will submit FIVE short response papers (2-3 pages) over the course of the semester.  I have divided up the class into groups, and each group will be responsible for setting questions for the plays it has been assigned.  You may choose which plays and which questions you would like to write about, but you are completely responsible for submitting your responses in to me before we finish discussing the play in class.

2. You will also compose and edit a significant research essay over the course of the term on a topic you and I shall agree upon.  It may grow out of questions you set for the class or questions you answer in your response papers.  This project will entail bibliographic search, annotated bibliography, peer editing, and revision.

3. Group presentations: In the final weeks of class, I will outline requirements for a group presentation about a play that we have not discussed in class.  Generally these presentations comprise the enacting of a scene, multi-medial presentation of background and/or critical information, an annotated bibliography, and at least two theoretical approaches to analyzing the play.  As a group, you will submit a portfolio detailing your work and evaluating your group’s effectiveness.

N.B.  All writing should be word-processed and thoroughly proofread (if I find more than three careless errors on the first page I tend to stop reading).  Leave papers in my mailbox when the paper is due; I cannot be responsible for materials left under my door, for they frequently go astray.  Be sure to keep backup copies of all your work, preferably on separate discs, in case either of us needs another copy.  Please make sure that you enroll on Moodle for the course, where I will post writing assignments, announcements, and questions.

ACADEMIC HONESTY: Please review the college’s policy on academic honesty as it appears in the student handbook. Acknowledging the sources you consult is certainly to your benefit, since it impresses your professors with your research.  The Internet is particularly tempting and dangerous; understand that all outside sources must be accurately documented (use the St. Martin’s MLA format).  Faculty members are required by the college to refer cases of plagiarism immediately to the dean’s office.

In compliance with  Lafayette  College policy and  equal access laws, I am available to discuss appropriate academic  accommodations that you may require as a student with a disability. Requests for academic accommodations need to be made during the first two  weeks of the semester, except for unusual circumstances, so arrangements can  be made.  Students must register with Disability Services in the  Academic  Resource Center for disability verification and  for determination of reasonable academic  accommodations.

Here are a few of my peccadilloes.  Please take them seriously:

•    Bring your books with you to class.  If I must send you to your room to fetch books, I will count you absent for the class.
•    Do not leave class unless it is a dire emergency.  Leaving and coming back for bathroom trips etc. is extremely rude and disruptive.
•    Shut off your cell phone.  If it rings in class, it should be announcing the death of someone near and dear.


This syllabus is a work in progress, and will certainly change as opportunities become available or as we find we want more time to explore issues.

TEXTS: Ford, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, (New Mermaids, Wiggins, ed.); Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, (New Mermaids, Siemon, ed.; Maus, ed.  Four Revenge Tragedies; McMillin, ed. Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Comedy (Norton Critical Editions); Middleton & Rowley, The Changeling, (New Mermaids, Daalder, ed.); Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice: Texts and Contexts (Kaplan, ed.);. Webster, The Duchess of Malfi, (New Mermaids, Gibbons, ed.).

Please note that although I have ordered specific editions, most of these plays are available in other editions in our library.  Feel free to use them, but you will have to negotiate line numberings, idiosyncratic editing procedures, and variant information. Ancillary readings will be on the WEB, on reserve in the library, and/or available in xerox.


Aug. 25     Introduction to the course
Aug. 27    The Jew of Malta;  Moodle resources in Forum 2: Introduction
Aug. 29      The Jew of Malta

Sept. 1    The Jew of Malta
Sept. 3    The Jew of Malta
Sept. 5    The Merchant of Venice, Kaplan, 125-36; 180-83 (Cloonan, Diaz)

Sept. 8        The Merchant of Venice; Kaplan 188-193; 207-10; 221-25; 235-40.
Sept. 10       The Merchant of Venice; Kaplan 241-55; 304-07.
Sept. 12      The Merchant of Venice; Kaplan 311-318; 332-52.

Sept. 15    The Spanish Tragedy    (DiGirolamo, Does)
Sept. 17    The Spanish Tragedy
Sept. 19    The Spanish Tragedy

Sept. 22    The Revenger’s Tragedy (Ernestus, Friedman)
Sept. 24    The Revenger’s Tragedy
Sept. 26    The Revenger’s Tragedy

Sept. 29    Annotated Bibliography Due
Oct. 1        The Duchess of Malfi (Fusco, Garofalo)
Oct. 3        The Duchess of Malfi
October 6-7: Fall Break

Oct. 8        The Duchess of Malfi
Oct. 10    Midterm Exam

Oct. 13    The Changeling (Gonzalez, Hall)
Oct. 15    The Changeling
Oct. 17    The Changeling

Oct. 20    ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore (Hochfelder, LeComte)
Oct. 22    ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore
Oct. 24    ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore

Oct. 27     Catch-up
Oct 29        Draft due
Oct. 31    Carter, “John Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore”

Nov. 3        The Restoration: Introduction; McMillin 535-65; 457-62
Nov. 5        The Rover (Minckler, Nemeth); McMillin 457-64;
Nov. 7        The Rover;  McMillin 597-611; 474-80

Nov. 16-22: College FRINGE FESTIVAL

Nov. 10    The Rover;  McMillin, 489-516
Nov. 12    The Rover
Nov. 14    The Country Wife, (Thompson, Vassallo)

Nov. 17     PAPER DUE
Nov. 19     The Country Wife;  McMillin 382-92
Nov. 21    The Country Wife;  McMillin 621-25

Nov 24    The Country Wife

Nov. 26-28: Thanksgiving Break

Dec. 1        Presentations
Dec. 3        Presentations
Dec. 5        Presentations

Final Exam TBA by the Registrar