Faculty of Arts


Shakespeare: Comedies and Tragicomedies

Please note: this is archived course information from 2018 for ENGLISH 310.


Beatrice and Benedick insulting each other; Malvolio in his yellow stockings; Prospero and his wild spirits; the statue that comes to life -- these are some of the famous moments of passion and laughter that have made Shakespeare's comedies famous. How were these plays put together? What concerns do they share, and how are those concerns varied from play to play? What has made them so famous?

In this course we will read and study selected comedies and tragicomedies of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Works of Shakespeare will include examples of the romantic comedies of his first decade and a half as a playwright, of the so-called "problem plays", the darker comedies of his middle years and of the tragicomedies of his final years, sometimes called "romances". We will also read some examples of comedies NOT by Shakespeare, to provide a contrast and sharpen our sense of what is peculiar to Shakespeare. The nature of comedy and its relationship to tragedy is also explored. A theatrical emphasis in the course is intended to help students respond to the plays as works for performance as well as literary texts. Skills fostered include critical close reading, responsiveness to poetic and theatrical power, knowledge of dramatic modes and genres and of theatre history in English. Tutorial programme at Stage Three will include development of critical reading skills and consideration of traditions of competing critical argument.                                                                               

Aims and Outcomes
By the end of this course students should
1. have an enhanced ability to read and understand early modern English verse and prose;
2. be aware of traditions of stage performance in early modern England;
3. be able to recognise and discuss some important features and changes in English society and culture across this period;
4. have familiarity with typical features and structures of early modern comedies;
5. have an improved ability to discuss and compare literature from this period using critical and scholarly resources.

Availability 2018

Not offered in 2018; planned for 2019




William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors  (Oxford World’s Classics)

William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing  (Sheldon Zitner, Oxford World’s Classics)

William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (Roger Warren, Oxford)

William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well (Susan Snyder, Oxford World’s Classics)

William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale (Stephen Orgel, Oxford)

William Shakespeare, The Tempest (Stephen Orgel, Oxford World’s Classics)

Thomas Middleton, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (Alan Brissenden, New Mermaids)

Ben Jonson, Volpone (Robert Watson, New Mermaids)

Recommended Reading

Sean McEvoy, Shakespeare: The Basics

Andrew Gurr, The Shakespearean Stage, 4th ed.


Coursework + exam


ENGLISH 310: 15.0 points


30 points at Stage II in English or Drama 



Contact details | Search | Accessibility | Copyright | Privacy | Disclaimer | 1