ENGL 125 - Honors English II: "Getting Into the Act"

A remarkable thing happened when Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660. He not only reopened the theaters which were closed under Puritan rule, but he also passed an edict that from then on only women would play female roles on the London stage. (Previous to the Restoration period, boys played female parts.) This course will consider the important ramifications of having women on the stage: Did it encourage the emergence of female playwrights? Did it affect the kinds of plays being written by male playwrights? Did it result in sexual exploitation on and off the stage? Did it have an impact on gender roles in the Society at large?

We will study the work of little-known but important early women playwrights such as the first professional woman writer--Aphra Behn. We will read the "she-tragedies" of Nicholas Rowe who centered entire plays around his female characters. We will explore the position of the "older woman" in plays by famous male playwrights like Congreve, Goldsmith, and Sheridan and watch together a wonderful BBC production of the hilarious "She Stoops to Conquer." We will also explore a number of different genres present on the London stage at this time, such as sentimental comedy; comedy of manners; ballad operas; farce; and common-man tragedy.

There will be a good deal of lively discussion as well as thoughtful analysis in 4-6 essays of varying lengths. Individual conferences and group workshops will provide constructive feedback to help hone your critical reading and writing skills.