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Not Shakespeare: Elizabethan and Jacobean Popular Theatre

This series of six lectures introduces six plays from the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre. Once popular and now little-known, they can tell us a lot about what their first audiences enjoyed, aspired to and worried about - from immigrants in early modern London to the role of women in the household, from what religious changes might mean for attitudes to the dead to fantasies of easy money and social elevation.Each lecture outlines the play so there is no assumption you have already read it, then goes on to try to understand its historical context and its dramatic legacy, drawing parallels with modern film and contemporary culture as well as with Elizabethan material. The lecturer's aim with students in the room and with interested listeners on iTunes U is to broaden our understanding of the theatre Shakespeare wrote for by thinking about some non-Shakespearean drama, and to recreate some of the excitement and dramatic possibilities of the new, popular technology of Renaissance theatre.

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Dr Faustus: Christopher Marlowe

My lecture on this infernal play discusses Elizabethan religion, the revisions to the play, and whether we should think about James Bond in its final minutes.

49mins

26 Oct 2015

Rank #1

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The Duchess of Malfi: John Webster

In dramatizing a woman's sexual choices in a notably sympathetic manner, this tragedy articulates perennial questions about female autonomy and class distinction.

37mins

24 Nov 2009

Rank #2

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The Shoemaker's Holiday: Thomas Dekker

Like a Busby Berkeley depression-era musical, Dekker's comedy is a feel-good antidote to a context of shortages, political malaise and general pessimism, but real life in the shape of war, class antagonism and civic tensions, always threatens to intrude.

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The Roaring Girl: Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker

Based on a contemporary scandal of a woman who dressed in male clothing, this play of topsy-turvy genders has fun with some very modern ideas about sexuality, identity and whether we are what we wear.

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