Performing Death, Desire and Gender

This module looks at how acts of desire, murder, fake and ‘real’ deaths are represented on stage in early modern drama. It explores how experiences of death and desire are always gendered. In early modern theatres, the playing of female roles by boy actors frequently demonstrated the performativity of gender for all – on stage and beyond. The module will explore how the bodies of boy actors dramatized a range of sexual orientations, representing female desire and staging same sex desire at the same time. We will consider how modern films and productions of early modern plays create similar (and different) gender-effects. We will study texts by writers such as Marlowe, Lyly, Heywood, Middleton, Webster, Wroth using a mixture of discussion, analysis of films / productions and short practical explorations (getting the text ‘on its feet’). The module will ask when and how can death be comic in performance? Does outlawed desire always lead to tragedy? How did drama help to shape human experiences of desire and violence? No previous experience of (or expertise in) acting is necessary but you will be required to think in terms of performance because the module will culminate in a series of short presentations and performances by the group.