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A Mad World My Masters: Performing Culture In Jacobean London

Key information

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Module description

This module will give you a rare chance to look really closely at a short and precise period in the past of British theatre – at the astonishing explosion of plays that were written and performed in the reign of James I (1603-1625), a period often misunderstood as some sort of let-down after the ‘Golden Age’ of Elizabeth I. It was nothing of the sort. We will look a selection of vibrant Jacobean plays in their textual, theatrical and cultural contexts, focusing on cultural issues from revenge to gender, from colonialism to sexuality, from witchcraft to the urban, from Protestantism to the representation of Islam, and we will examine the ways in which culture was performed in Jacobean England – that is, the ways in which Jacobean culture was both represented and created on the stage. Our focus will be on the dramatic response to, and construction of, an urban, patriarchal society of achievement and unease, configuring Jacobean dramatic culture as a dialogue between opportunity and oppression, empowerment and enclosure, discovery and displacement. 



Assessment details

3,000 word essay (100%)

Educational aims & objectives

This module explores drama of the Jacobean period (1603-1625) in a wide variety of social, cultural and theatrical contexts, looking at the range of interactions with local and global cultures that dramatists staged in their plays. It seeks to broaden students’ engagement with early modern drama via the study of canonical and non-canonical plays, and to give them the opportunity to engage with a range of critical and theoretical approaches.

Learning outcomes

  1. understand and analyse critically plays of the Jacobean period;
  2. evaluate critically a range of scholarly approaches to the study of Jacobean drama and outline their interpretations clearly in oral and written formats;
  3. use contextual material to explore the textual, cultural and theatrical contexts of Jacobean plays;
  4. employ a range of research skills using print and electronic resources.

Teaching pattern

One1-hour lecture and 1-hour seminar per week

Suggested reading list

  • Thomas Middleton, A Mad World, My Masters
  • Thomas Heywood, A Woman Killed With Kindness
  • John Fletcher, The Woman’s Prize, or The Tamer Tamed
  • Ben Jonson, The Alchemist
  • Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Mariam, the Fair Queen of Jewry
  • Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, The Changeling
  • William Rowley, Thomas Dekker and John Ford, The Witch of Edmonton
  • John Fletcher, The Island Princess
  • Philip Massinger, The Renegado


Module description disclaimer

King’s College London reviews the modules offered on a regular basis to provide up-to-date, innovative and relevant programmes of study. Therefore, modules offered may change. We suggest you keep an eye on the course finder on our website for updates.

Please note that modules with a practical component will be capped due to educational requirements, which may mean that we cannot guarantee a place to all students who elect to study this module.

Please note that the module descriptions above are related to the current academic year and are subject to change.