SEL3392 : Between the Acts: English Theatre, 1660-1737

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The aim of this module is to explore a critical period in the history of the English stage, whose consequences remain with us today.

In 1660, Charles II, newly restored to the throne, granted patents for the opening of two royal theatres in London, where both male and female actors could perform. This action ended an eighteen-year ban on public performance, and unleashed a new wave of dramatic innovation, as actors, managers and writers drew on everything from Shakespeare to Italian pantomime in an effort to resurrect a national theatre tradition. In 1737, George II signed the Licensing Act, which imposed strict limits on performance. All the theatres that had appeared since 1660, except for two, were closed; and all new plays had to submit to censorship. This latter requirement remained in place, with only slight modifications, until the late 1960s.

The questions asked between 1660 and 1737 – about the social standing of performers (particularly actresses), the social utility of drama, the importance of imitation and innovation, and the role of literary patriotism – constitute some of the key themes of this module. As well as studying such questions and themes in the past, we will also consider how they are still relevant to us today, through comparisons to modern popular and theatrical culture and (where possible) through a visit to a working historical theatre.

Outline Of Syllabus

In the course of twelve weeks, we will examine both a variety of dramatic productions (tragedies and comedies, but also pantomimes, burlesques, satires and more) as well as writing about performance (the first English acting manuals, early theatre reviews, and legal and business records about the stage). Key module themes will include: celebrity, gender, passion, patriotism, morality, and genre. Although specific course contents will vary from year to year, the following authors may well be studied on this module: Aphra Behn, John Dryden, George Farquhar, Henry Fielding, Delarivier Manley and Mary Pix.

Where possible, this module will include a trip to an eighteenth-century theatre.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00Lectures
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion138:0038:00End-of-module essay
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion84:0032:00Blog post preparation and composition for mid-module assessment
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading118:0088:00Weekly reading for lectures and seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching122:0024:00Weekly seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops13:003:00End-of-module essay workshop
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity31:003:00Study group work for final weeks of term
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures introduce students to knowledge outcomes relevant to the module. They address themes and techniques common to the authors studied and encourage the students to think comparatively.

The seminars allow both for the development of knowledge outcomes through close analysis of specified texts and performances, and for the practice of skills, especially oral presentation and interpersonal communication.

Between the lecture and the seminar, and during the first half of the semester, students will be required to work in groups on blogs devoted to a individual plays from the period 1660-1714. Our first seminar will offer training on how to use a blog, and how they will be assessed. Each week, students will then take turns in writing blog posts on a particular aspect of their chosen text, with all students contributing something on the topic of their choice in the final week of the activity. This blog will then be assessed, as detailed below.

After the completion of the blog, each group will meet as a study group for one hour during the last three weeks of term, completing a series of tasks designed to recapitulate module teaching and prepare for the end-of-module assessment.

Where possible, this module will include a trip to the Georgian Theatre Royal at Richmond, North Yorkshire. Students will have the opportunity to act on an eighteenth-century stage, recreate the experience of a provincial audience in the period, and examine the theatre's archive. This trip will replace a seminar and fall roughly in the middle of the course.

Finally, an essay workshop held in the second half of the semester will provide an opportunity for students to reflect on their own writing and consider how they might improve it ahead of the final assessment.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio2M40Assessed blog: see rationale for details.
Essay2A60A keyword-based essay of 2 000 words.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship


Feedback will be provided weekly on each group’s blog posts. After the submission of the blogs, they will then be marked formally as follows, using a two-step process:
1 - An overall mark will be awarded for each blog using assessment criteria developed in consultation with students.
2 - Each student then receives an individual mark based on the quality of both the blog as a whole and his/her particular contributions to it (i.e. on the quality of the weeks where he/she led, and on his/her final posting).


This module’s final assessment will take the form of a long essay (2 000 words), in which students will need to make use of all the skills they have practised in particular weeks on their blogs to write in response to a keyword and with reference to multiple module set texts/performances.

Reading Lists