Course syllabus




The Age of Shakespeare: Comedies and Tragicomedies


Course Information Semester 2, 2019


Lecture times:      

Time: T & Th 9-10   

Location: T: Clock Tower 039; Th: Law School 316


Professor Tom Bishop                                                Dr Sophie Tomlinson 

Email:                                 Email:                          

Ms. Eleanor Bloomfield



Course Content

This introduction to the golden age of English theatre involves detailed study of some examples of Shakespeare’s comedies and that his contemporaries. Lectures will address the origins, nature, and kinds of comic drama. You will be encouraged to think across texts as well as to engage in close analysis of individual plays, as both verbal works and scripts for performance.  Shakespeare’s early work is represented by The Comedy of Errors andThe Taming of the Shrew, his romantic comedies by As You Like It. Measure for Measure represents one of his mid-career ‘problem’ plays, and his late ‘romance’ style by The Winter’s Tale andThe Tempest.  Two other plays, Middleton’s racy A Chaste Maid in Cheapsideand Fletcher’s The Tamer Tamed – a reply to The Taming of the Shrew, will provide comparisons with work by Shakespeare’s contemporaries in the comic mode.


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 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 comedies;
  5. have an improved ability to discuss and compare literature from this period using critical and scholarly resources.



Set Texts

William Shakespeare:  The Comedy of Errors, ed. Wells (Oxford, 1995),

            The Taming of the Shrew,ed. Oliver (Oxford, 2008),          

            As You Like It, ed. Brissenden (Oxford, 2008),

            Measure For Measure,ed. Snyder (Oxford, 2008),

            The Winter’s Tale, ed. Orgel (Oxford, 2008),

            The Tempest, ed. Orgel (Oxford, 2008).


Thomas Middleton:  A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, ed. Brissenden (New Mermaids, 2007)


John Fletcher:  The Tamer Tamed, ed. Daileader and Taylor (Revels Student Editions, 2007)



It is not essential that you acquire these specific editions but you must bring a printed copy of each play to tutorials.  Make sure that your edition offers a good set of annotations and an introduction.  


Recommended Reading

Matthew Bevis, Comedy: A Very Short Introduction(Oxford)

Andrew McRae, Renaissance Drama (Arnold)

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

Sean McEvoy, Shakespeare: The Basics (Routledge)

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


AV Resources

Videos/DVDs of all the Shakespeare plays on the course are in the Library collection and are held at the main desk. Some productions are also available online through the library catalogue.


Teaching Format

This course is taught through lectures and tutorials. Lectures give broad overviews and attention to detailed arguments about works being studied. Tutorials are opportunities to pose questions, conduct discussion and pursue points of interest or concern in greater detail. As Stage Three students, you are expected to use these to actively develop your own concerns and interests, in concert with teachers and peers.


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 demonstrates an attempt to come to terms with the course as a whole. 


Tutorial Programme

Before the course begins you should have enrolled in a tutorial which suits your timetable. 


Weekly tutorials begin in the second week. 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 bring a hard copyto your tutorial.





Tutorial exercises x 10 (10 x 100 = 1000 wds)          10%

Close reading exercise (2000 wds)                             40%

Readings-based comparative essay (3000 wds)         50%


There will be no examination in this course.




Assignment One – due noon Friday August 16:

Write a detailed critical analysis of EITHER of the following passages.  Pay 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 in the passage’s dramatic technique, 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 may 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.


The Comedy of Errors: Act 2, scene 2, lines 174-98 (Adriana: How ill agrees it with your gravity.... dromio:…pinch us black and blue.)


The Taming of the Shrew: Induction 2, lines 98-125 (page: How fares my noble lord? …sly … the flesh and the blood.)


NOTE: The aim of this exercise is for you to demonstrate your ability in analysing and writing about dramatic language.  Much of the close work done in tutorials will be focused on this activity.  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. 


Assignment Two – due noon Friday October 11.

A comparative essay. Topics will be announced prior to the mid-semester break.

Note: For this assignment you may not write on the play that you used for your first assignment above. 


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. Marks will be deducted for poorly formatted work.



For guidance on citation style go to  Your assignment must include a bibliography.




Procedures for submission of coursework

Students must submit an electronic copy of their assignment to via Canvas and also submit a hard copy with a cover sheet to the Arts Students Centre submission window.  Please write your own, and your tutor’s name and tutorial timeclearly 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 to Turnitin via Canvas cannot be marked and will not receive any credit towards coursework.


Policy on Extensions and Late Assignments

If you are unable to hand in your assignment by the due date, you MUST put your case for an extension, preferably via a face-to-face meeting with your tutor, who may consult with or refer you to the convenor. Extensions will only be granted for compelling reasons and a doctor’s certificate (or equivalent evidence) may be required.  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 retrospectively in the same way as soon as is practicable after the due date.  If an extension is granted, you must attach to your submitted hardcopy essay a copy of an email bearing the new submission date and approval of your tutor. Any work handed in late without an extension will not be marked. If for any reason you are not able to hand in work, you MUSTspeak to your tutor, rather than just going missing.




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


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


Other Resources

Reading lists and announcements for this paper are regularly posted on Canvas.  The University’s policy is that all communication with students is via their University email address – please check your university email address regularly. Canvas announcements for the course are forwarded to this email address.


Getting Help

If you need help or advice, approach your tutor in the first instance.  Your tutor’s weekly office hour and room location will be posted on Canvas in the first week of the semester.  Appointments can also be made for other times. Other lecturers can also be approached, as appropriate, for consultation. We like to think we are approachable and can offer practical guidance to students who are experiencing difficulties with course work.  One important resource which students often overlook is the English Department’s AGuide to Writing Essays, a handbook tailored to the specific needs of English students. It is posted on Canvas for Week One.


Course summary:

Date Details