Course syllabus




The Age of Shakespeare: Tragedies

Course Information 2018


Lectures: Tuesday and Thursday 12-1 pm in Engineering 401.


Teaching Staff

Professor Tom Bishop (convener), Room 629, Arts 1 Building.                   Dr Sophie Tomlinson                                                                       

Office hours: 1-2 pm Wednesday or by appointment                                 Office hours: Thursday 2-3 pm. Room 635


Mr Andrew Dawson                                    

Office hours: Tuesday 1-2pm Arts 1 Room 305


Course Content

This introduction to the golden age of English theatre involves detailed study of a selection of tragedies by Shakespeare and several of his most brilliant contemporaries.  We encourage you to think across texts as well as to engage in close analysis of individual plays.  The course has a pronounced theatrical bias and is intended to help you respond to the plays as theatrical artefacts and not merely as literary texts.  Lectures on individual plays consistently draw attention to their missing theatrical dimension; the close analytical work done in tutorials lays considerable stress on the practical function of dramatic verse.


Learning 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 recognize 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 tragedies;
  5. have an advanced ability to discuss and compare literature from this period using critical and scholarly resources, including electronic databases and research tools;
  6. understand the principles of scholarly citation.


Set Texts

Christopher Marlowe:

            Doctor Faustus, ed. Roma Gill rev. Ros King (New Mermaids, 2009)

William Shakespeare: 

            Hamlet, ed. G.R. Hibbard (Oxford)  

            Othello, ed. Michael Neill (Oxford)

            King Lear, ed. R.A. Foakes (Arden)

            Anthony and Cleopatra, ed. Michael Neill (Oxford)

Thomas Middleton:

            The Revenger’s Tragedy, ed. Brian Gibbons (New Mermaids)

Middleton & Rowley:

            The Changeling, ed. Michael Neill (New Mermaids)

John Webster:

            The Duchess of Malfi, ed. Brian Gibbons (New Mermaids)


In addition to the lectures and tutorials this semester, there is a production of Julius Caesar currently at the Pop-Up Globe, which you are very strongly encouraged to attend. A session with actors from it will take place in March, and questions about it will be options in course assessment. Also, a production of The Changeling will be offered by the Summer Shakespeare (in July!), for which there may be an open rehearsal late in the semester.

For Julius Caesar dates (esp 5 March and 12 March) and tickets see:


Recommended Background Reading

Andrew McRae, Renaissance Drama (Arnold)

Andrew Gurr, The Shakespearean Stage, fourth ed. (Cambridge)

Russ McDonald, ed., The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare: An Introduction With Documents (Bedford/St Martins).

Adrian Poole, Tragedy: A very short Introduction (Oxford)

Peter Holbrook, English Renaissance Tragedy: Ideas of Freedon (Bloomsbury)


Teaching Format

This course is taught through lectures and tutorials.  English 213 is taught concurrently with English 353.  Students for both courses attend the same lectures, but attend different tutorials and follow a distinct method of assessment appropriate to each level. This is the course guide for ENGLISH 213.


Expectations of Students

Students are expected to attend all lectures and to attend and participate in weekly tutorials having read the set text beforehand.  Students must dedicate a minimum of ten hours per week to this course and coursework must be submitted on time. You should understand that the course is to be regarded as a whole, and during the semester you are expected to study all the prescribed texts.  Not only will your reading of individual plays become more rewarding as you develop a sense of the context in which they were written and are able to compare them with one another, but credit will be given to students whose work in the examination and during the year demonstrates an attempt to come to terms with the course as a whole. 


Tutorial Programme

Tutorials begin in the second week.  Before the course begins you should have enrolled in a tutorial which suits your timetable.  Attendance at tutorials is an essential part of the course and a high degree of class participation is expected.  As well as reading the assigned text, you must also be sure to bring a hard copy to your tutorial.





Tutorial exercises                                                                   10%

One written exercise in close analysis 1000 words                15%

One single-page essay plan                                                     5%

One comparative essay – 1500 words                                    20%    


Final Examination (2 hours)                                                  50%






  1. Tutorial exercises.

At each tutorial there will be a short quiz question prompted by the set reading for that week, for one mark each to a possible total of 10 marks. These marks are the surest and quickest way to gain or lose standing in your final grade. Remember: 10 marks can mean as much as 2 whole letter grades in your final score. Every year there are a number of students who miss out on a significantly higher grade – and sometimes even fail the whole course -- because their tutorial mark is low from simple non-attendance. PLEASE DON’T LET THIS BE YOU.


  1. Close Analysis Exercise, 1000 words: due Thursday March 29th at 4 pm.

Write a detailed critical analysis of ONE of the following passages.  Play close attention to the style of the passage (imagery, vocabulary, syntax, metre, and rhythm) and consider how this contributes to its dramatic effect.  Discuss any other points of interest such as implied action, and consider what the passage may reveal about the character and role of its speaker(s).  What is the passage’s function in the work as a whole?  How does it engage the audience’s interest and advance the plot?  How does it contribute to the larger themes of the play?


(NOTE: Line and scene numbering vary from one edition to another: the opening and closing words are given as a guide; if they do not match your text, consult the set edition, or ask your tutor to help you identify the right passage.)


Doctor Faustus, Scene 1 [1.1], lines 80-101 (‘How am I glutted… sage conference.’) (Check the lines carefully, as editions differ)


Hamlet, 3.4.54-72 (‘Look here upon on this picture… from this to this?’)


  1. Essay plan, single page, bullet-pointed: due Friday, April 27th at 4 pm.

You are required to submit a plan overview of your argument for the following comparative essay, in which you will outline in bullet-point form how you are approaching the topic, what sources and resources you are using, and the scope, direction and structure of your argument.


  1. Comparative Essay, 1500 words: due Friday, May 11th at 4 pm.

Topics will be supplied before the end of the mid-semester break.


Presentation of assignments

Assignments must be typed in 12-point font with 1½ spacing between lines and a generous margin for comments on one side (make this at least 5cm).  Each page should be numbered and carry your name on the top right-hand corner.  Please print on one side of the paper only and staple securely. Marks will be deducted for poorly formatted work.


At the end of your assignment include a Bibliography, even if this comprises only the editions to which you refer.  For guidance on citation style, see the section on ‘Referencing’ in the English Department’s A Guide for Writing Essays.


Procedures for submission of coursework

Essays are to be submitted on Canvas and also in hardcopy format to the Arts Faculty Handin desk in Social Sciences, with a cover sheet generated from Canvas. Please write your own, and your tutor’s name and tutorial time clearly on the cover sheet, and sign the declaration concerning plagiarism.  Both electronic and hard copy submissions must be made before the assignment deadline expires.  Assignments not submitted electronically to Canvas will not be marked and will not receive any credit towards coursework until they are submitted.


Policy on Extensions and Late Assignments

If you are unable to hand in an assignment by the due date, you MUST put your case for an extension, preferably via a face-to-face meeting, to your tutor. If an extension is granted, you must attach to your submitted essay EITHER an Extension Request Form bearing the new submission date and signature of the staff member, OR a document such as an email from the staff member.  Extensions will only be granted for compelling reasons and evidence testifying to the cause of the need for an extension may need to be provided.  An extension must be requested in advance of the due date for the assignment, unless there is a genuine cause preventing this, in which case the extension should be sought as soon as is practicable after the due date.


Any work handed in late without an extension (including a retrospective one) will not be marked. Please make a note of this.




The form of the exam will be as follows.  You must answer 2 questions, both carrying equal value.

Section A –  General questions.  Answers in this section take the form of a comparative essay, which must refer in detail to at least two prescribed plays.

Section B – Questions on individual plays.  In Section B you will not be allowed to write on the plays to which you principally refer in your Section A answer, or on the text which formed the focus of your second essay submitted for coursework. You may, however, write again about the play which you used for your close reading essay, provided you do not duplicate material.  You may not duplicate any material within the exam or between the exam and coursework.




Plagiarism is the unacknowledged inclusion of material taken from the Internet or from the work of a critic/scholar or a fellow student in an essay submitted for assessment.  As plagiarism makes it impossible to appreciate an essay as the writer’s own thinking and performance it is treated severely by the University and the English Department: it is likely to result in no marks for the particular assignment and may mean that a mark of zero will be awarded for overall coursework in the paper.  Please note the following University policy on plagiarism:

‘The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence.  The work that a student submits for grading must be the student’s own work, reflecting his or her learning.  Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced.  This requirement also applies to sources on the world-wide web.  A student’s assessed work may be reviewed against electronic source material using computerised detection mechanisms.  Upon reasonable request, students may be required to provide an electronic version of their work for computerised review.’

It is imperative students understand plagiarism before they commence their assignments.  For guidance on this matter refer to the University’s Guidelines to the Conduct of Coursework, which can be accessed via studyoptions/documents/22-Academic-Honesty-and-Special Circumstances.pdf

In addition, the University offers an on-line tutorial, accessible through the following site:


Other resources

Two textbooks provide helpful guidance to analysing Shakespeare’s language: Sean McEvoy, Shakespeare: The Basics (Routledge, 2000) and Reading Shakespeare’s Dramatic Language: A Guide, ed. Sylvia Adamson et al (The Arden Shakespeare, 2001).  The latter is pitched more ambitiously than the clearly introductory Shakespeare: The Basics, and contains a particularly useful ‘A-Z of Rhetorical Terms’ as an appendix. 


Reading Lists

Supplementary reading lists for all the plays will be provided on Canvas.

The English Department Guide to Writing Essays

This is an invaluable guide to close reading, essay composition and formatting assignments.   In particular, see pages 34-47 for the correct way to incorporate quotations into a text, and for formatting a Bibliography. The Guide will be posted on Canvas.


AV Resources

Videos/DVDs of plays on the course are held in the Library collection.  Performances of Shakespeare’s plays can also be found for streaming on the Library database ‘Theatre in Video’. A wide range of international productions in many languages can be viewed at


Keeping in touch

The University’s policy is that all communication with students is via their University email address – please check your university email address regularly or have your University email redirected to the account you access most frequently.  Canvas announcements will be delivered automatically to all enrolled students.


Getting Help

If you need help or advice, approach your tutor in the first instance, or the course convenor. Your tutor’s weekly office hours and room location will be posted on Canvas in the first week of the semester.  We like to think we are approachable and can offer practical guidance to students who are experiencing difficulties with course work.


ENGL 213/353: SEMESTER ONE 2018


Lecturers:  Tom Bishop/Sophie Tomlinson

Days:  Tues/Thurs



Times: 12 noon – 1 pm









Feb 26

1 Shakespeare’s Theatre

1 Tom Bishop



 (Caesar perf 26/2)

2 Ideas of Tragedy

2 TB



March 5

1 Dr Faustus

1 TB



 (JC perf 5/3)

2 Dr Faustus

2 TB



March 12

1 Close reading: a primer

1 Sophie Tomlinson



 (JC perf 12/3)

2 Julius Caesar (actors’ visit)

2 TB



March 19

1 Hamlet

1 ST




2 Hamlet

2 ST



March 26

1 Hamlet

1 ST



 THURS March 29

2 The Revenger’s Tragedy

1st Essay due

2 ST




April 16

1 The Revenger’s Tragedy

1 ST




2 Othello

2 ST



April 23

1 Othello

1 ST




2 Othello

Essay plan due)

2 ST



April 30

1 King Lear

1 TB




2 King Lear

2 TB



May 7

1 King Lear

1 TB




2 Anthony & Cleopatra

2nd essay due

2 TB




May 14

1 Anthony & Cleopatra

1 TB




2 Anthony & Cleopatra

2 TB



May 21

1 The Duchess of Malfi

1 ST




W: The Duchess of Malfi

2 ST



May 28

M:  The Changeling

1 ST




W:  The Changeling

2 ST









Course summary:

Date Details