Tuesday, March 05, 2013


Book orders for another semester are bearing down on me.  Again.  It looks like I'll be teaching two new courses next semester.  One is our senior seminar in earlier British lit, which I could revamp a previous course for, but I want to do something different.

In recent years, I've done a course on the Other in EME Drama, Marlowe, and Witchcraft in EME Drama.  And while I really enjoyed each of those, I'm ready to do something different, and then maybe come back to one of the topics I've done before.  (I need enough space to feel like I'll rethink the readings and see what's new, and also enough time for students who want to take a second EM seminar to have a choice that's significantly different.  That's not a huge population, but it's a few students a year, probably.)

So, I'm thinking of an EME comedy (plays, primarily) course.

On the for sure list so far is Epicoene.  Other than that, I'm pretty wide open.  I am thinking, however, of finishing the semester with Emma with is neither early modern nor a drama, but would, I think, be a delightful finish to the semester for students and me alike. 

So, here goes.  What plays do you think should I teach?  (I'm willing to go to EEBO if I have to, so it doesn't have to be just widely in modern editions, but modern editions are helpful!)

The Knight of the Burning Pestle  (I have a copy of an 18th century edition, so that would be extra fun for show and tell.)

What theory and criticism?

I can't wait to hear your suggestions!


  1. The Roaring Girl is one of my favorite comedies!

  2. If you want a Shakespeare in there, Measure for Measure is my favorite comedy. But Shakespeare of course is always the obvious choice. You took my other suggestion: Knight of the Burning Pestle. I LOVE that one. How about Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday? Bet you can guess why I suggested that one.

  3. Anonymous1:17 PM

    How about A Chaste Maid in Cheapside?

  4. KBP and Chaste Maid, for sure. And students do love Roaring Girl.

    Sidenote about Emma: it's LONG. (I taught it in grad school, in a freshman class, and ran out of things to say about it pretty early--but since they were frosh, we had a million class meetings on it. With seniors it might be easier.) But I like the idea of ending with Austen. Or have you considered a Restoration play, like Way of the World?

  5. What about The Country Wife? Or The Provoked Wife? Or, to push my Scottish agenda, Archibald Pitcairn's The Assembly?

  6. I love Margaret Cavendish. The Convent of Pleasure?

  7. What about some of the jest books? I'm always struck by the comment at the end of Swetnam's Arraignment to "Take it merrily", when the whole thing is not funny to us. It, like the jest books, raises the question of humor. What's funny about this? What jokes are we missing? And before someone tells me that humor and comedy are not the same, I know. But students will be thinking about it. And it's what I'm wondering about these days....

  8. Great ideas, all!

    Jodi, I read the Country Wife, but years ago, and don't know Pitcairn at all. I'll look!

    Tree, I don't know Cavendish much, being more a professional theater per '42 person. Why that one?

    Susan, That's a great idea! Can you suggest some other jest books? I should be able to access them on EEBO, so I'll look at some this weekend.

    Thanks, All!

  9. Pitcairne was actually a physician, but he wrote The Assembly as an attack on Presbyterians after the Revolution of 1688 removed Episcopalians from power in the Church of Scotland. Pitcairne was an Episcopalian and a Jacobite, so there are really interesting political and religious statements that he makes. If you decide to use it, I'd be happy to give you some more background that might clear it up for the students. I can talk Jacobite all day!

  10. The Life of Long Meg of Westminster
    Pasquil's Jests, with the Merriments of Mother Bunche

    Ian Munro has a facsimile edition of several jestbooks in an Ashgate volume -- I can send you the intro. Also Pamela Brown's Better a Shrew than a Sheep is helpful.

    And Swetnam and the whole debate on women can be fun to teach.

  11. The Convent of Pleasure is a comedy that takes place in a convent with cross-dressing, and it addresses gender issues and women's rights. It's a lot of fun. I also think it's easier to understand than some of her other work (but I haven't read everything she wrote).

    She's outside of my areas of expertise, but every time I read her, I have this, "wait, when was this published?" reaction. Her work is fairly mind-blowing, I think, for students who have preconceived notions about what women wrote during the 17thc (if they're still stuck on "women didn't write back in the day," then it's even more so).