Love and Death in the Renaissance

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
05 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA QT37 English and United States Literature (Including Year Abroad),
BA T720 English and United States Literature,
BA T723 English and United States Literature (Including Placement Year),
BA T728 English and United States Literature (Including Foundation Year),
BA Q300 English Literature,
BA Q303 English Literature (Including Placement Year),
BA Q320 English Literature (Including Foundation Year),
BA Q321 English Literature (Including Year Abroad),
MLITQ391 Literature,
BA QV23 Literature and Art History,
BA QV24 Literature and Art History (Including Placement Year),
BA QV2H Literature and Art History (Including Foundation Year),
BA QV32 Literature and Art History (Including Year Abroad),
BA QV3B Literature and Art History (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
BA QRF9 Literature and Modern Languages,
BA LQ32 Literature and Sociology,
BA LQ33 Literature and Sociology (Including Placement Year),
BA LQ38 Literature and Sociology (Including Foundation Year),
BA QL23 Literature and Sociology (Including Year Abroad),
BA Q2R9 Literature with Modern Languages,
BA Q210 English and Comparative Literature,
BA Q211 English and Comparative Literature (Including Year Abroad),
BA Q212 English and Comparative Literature (Including Placement Year),
BA Q218 English and Comparative Literature (Including Foundation Year)

Module description

A century of religious, philosophical and political turmoil, the Renaissance was also the age of the great flourishing of the English stage and English verse.

In this module you will study Renaissance love poetry and learn about the sonnet, court literature, and the circulation of manuscripts. You will learn about the great writers of the canon, and some less familiar figures too, such as the female writers, who appropriated literary forms conventionally associated with men, and turned them to their own ends.

Moving from the focus on “love”, to the darker theme of “death”, some of the most extraordinary literature of this time is engaged with the religious turmoil and culture of martyrdom associated with the Reformation.

Finally, bringing these themes together, this module also explores Renaissance innovation in the theatre, and the revenge play, in which love, desire and death are intermingled and intertwined to horrifying effect.

Module aims

The aim of the module is:

1. to provide an understanding of significant influences on early-modern writing
2. to provide an overview of the literature of the period, introducing students to many of the most important authors and genres of the sixteenth century.
3. to focus on women writers, as appropriate, in early-modern literature.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate knowledge of a wide variety of writing in several important genres from c. 1540 - c. 1640.
2. Critically evaluate and analyse particular literary works with an informed understanding of the historical period which produced them
3. Demonstrate the ability to research an essay using primary and secondary texts, and unedited sixteenth-century texts (via Early English Books Online)

Module information

Primary texts

Because the texts on this module are out of copyright, it may be tempting to use free online editions. However, this will be counterproductive: the text will be much more reliable in a proper scholarly edition, and the editorial notes will provide valuable support to your reading. Second hand copies of all the following primary texts are available cheaply (try Abe Books or eBay).

* Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (any scholarly edition: try Penguin, Oxford, Arden)
* Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella in The Major Works, ed. K. Duncan-Jones (Oxford World's Classics)
* John Donne, The Major Works, ed. John Carey (Oxford World's Classics)
* John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi (any scholarly edition: try Norton)
* Christopher Marlowe, Dr Faustus, in The Complete Plays, ed. Frank Romany (Penguin)
* Shakespeare, Measure for Measure (any scholarly edition: try Penguin, Oxford, Arden)
* Middleton, The Revenger's Tragedy (try the New Mermaid or Revels edition. It is also included in Oxford World's Classics Four Revenge Tragedies)
* John Milton, Lycidas. There are lots of good editions; if you intend to take the seventeenth century module next term you should invest in one which also includes Samson Agonistes, like John Carey's Longman edition.

Secondary texts (indicative list)

* John Kerrigan, Revenge Tragedy: Aeschylus to Armageddon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).
* Lisa M. Klein, The Exemplary Sidney and the Elizabethan Sonneteer (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1998).
* Arthur F. Marotti, 'Love Is Not Love: Elizabethan Sonnet Sequences and the Social Order', English Literary History, 49 (1982), 396-428.
* D. Nuttall, Shakespeare the Thinker (2007).
* Sarah C. E. Ross, ''Give Me Thy Hairt and I Desyre No More': The Song of Songs, Petrarchism and Elizabeth Melville's Puritan Poetics', in The Intellectual Culture of Puritan Women, 1558-1680, ed. by Johanna Harris, Elizabeth Scott-Baumann and N. H. Keeble (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 96–107.
* Leila Watkins, 'The Poetics of Consolation and Community in Mary Wroth's Pamphilia to Amphilanthus', Studies in Philology, 112 (2015), 139–61
* Robin Headlam Wells, 'Neo-Petrarchan Kitsch in Romeo and Juliet', Modern Language Review, 93 (1998), 913-33.

Learning and teaching methods

For 2020-21, we will offer a mixture of tailored online, digital, and campus-based teaching where it may be possible and as appropriate, along with personalised one-to-one consultation with academic staff.


  • Donne, John; Carey, John. (2008) John Donne: the major works, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Shakespeare, William; Poole, Adrian. (2015) Romeo and Juliet, [London]: Penguin Books.
  • Marlowe, Christopher. (2003) Dr Faustus, New York, N.Y: Penguin Books.
  • William Shakespeare. (2015-10-29) Titus Andronicus: Penguin.
  • Milton, John. (2015-10-08) Lycidas: Taylor & Francis.
  • (2015) The Duchess of Malfi: an authoritative text, sources and contexts, criticism, New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
  • Duncan-Jones, Katherine. (2002) 'Astrophil and Stella', in The major works, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Gibbons, Brian. (2008) The revenger's tragedy, London: A & C Black.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Essay (2,000-2,500 words)    80% 
Practical   Online Portfolio    15% 
Practical   Participation    5% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Patricia Gillies, email:
Dr Patricia Gillies
LiFTS General Office, email: Telephone 01206 - 872626



External examiner

Prof Duncan James Salkeld
University of Chichester
Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature
Available via Moodle
Of 27 hours, 24 (88.9%) hours available to students:
3 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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