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Bodies on the Renaissance Stage - ENG00113H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Ezra Horbury
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
    • See module specification for other years: 2022-23

Module summary

What bodies populate the Renaissance stage? Where does the body of an actor end and that of the character begin? How do we understand a theatrical ‘body’ that is composed partially of costumes and prostheses? And how did audiences read these bodies? These are some of the questions that frame this module on Bodies on the Renaissance Stage, which combines a range of theoretical perspectives (e.g., critical race theory, disability studies, feminist theory, queer theory, transgender theory, fat theory) in interrogating theatrical bodies. The module is concerned with both the material construction of these bodies as well as their interpretation, and will develop a strong and critical understanding of theatrical bodies and their contexts.

The theatres of Renaissance England were fascinated with bodies, their representation, their violation, and their potential for comedy and tragedy. From an unscrupulous ‘pig woman’ to mutilated Lavinia, from the Mongolian Tamburlaine to the elderly witch of Edmonton, from a transgender page to a magical gender transition, from corpses to babies, this module will introduce to many types of bodies with which the Renaissance stage engaged. The theatre was a creative, public, and often exploitative but also often sympathetic space in which phobias and desires for bodies both strange and familiar could play out. It will also question how we as modern readers might risk or resist complicity in these dynamics of ‘othering’, and how Renaissance texts can be approached via modern theory to produce innovative and dynamic interpretations.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

This module aims to introduce you to theoretical, historicist and stagecraft perspectives on bodies in Renaissance drama, and to develop a working knowledge of a variety of perspectives on body politics.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with a range of Renaissance perspectives on body politics.

  2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with the material considerations of staging Renaissance bodies.

  3. Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields dealing with the representation of ‘other’ bodies on the Renaissance stage.

  4. Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.


Task Length % of module mark
3000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

  • You will be given the opportunity to submit a 1000 word formative essay for the module, which can feed into the 3000 word summative essay submitted at the end of the module. Your formative essay will be annotated and returned to you by your tutor within two weeks. Feedback on the essay will be uploaded to eVision.


Task Length % of module mark
3000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours

  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair

Thomas Middleton, More Dissemblers Besides Women

William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus

Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine

William Rowley, Thomas Dekker, and John Ford’s The Witch of Edmonton

Barnaby Barnes, The Devil’s Charter

Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, Philaster

John Lyly, Galatea

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.