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Group Read: English Renaissance Drama

2018 Category Challenge

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Edited: Feb 24, 8:53am Top

Hello, readers! Since I retired from teaching a few years ago, I've had a number of LT members ask if I'd be interested in leading a group read of an English Renaissance play. Since the plays are all quite short, it might even be possible to schedule 2 or 3 for the month, depending on the participants' preferences. I've deliberately excluded Shakespeare in favor of some of his contemporaries, and the list includes comedy, tragedy, and two plays that are a combination of both.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster
A Chaste Maid in Cheapside by Thomas Middleton
Arden of Faversham (Anonymous)
The Witch of Edmonton by Thomas Dekker, John Ford, William Rowley
Edward II by Christopher Marlowe

These plays are all favorites of mine and have been popular with my students. Most of them should be available on Project Gutenberg, in your local libraries (either singly or in anthologies), and in affordable paperback editions. (I'll be happy to make some suggestions once we settle on the plays.)

Please post below if you're interested in joining this group read. I will be happy to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Jan 1, 5:15pm Top

I would be interested in any that I can get hold of.

Jan 1, 6:21pm Top

I'd be interested.

Jan 1, 6:36pm Top

I’m interested. I know nothing about any of these so will gladly delve into whatever you prefer.

Jan 1, 6:42pm Top

Posting to state that I would certainly read The Duchess of Malfi.

I've added a link to this thread on the main group page :)

Jan 1, 8:11pm Top

I'm looking forward to this!

Jan 1, 8:19pm Top

I’m interested!

Jan 1, 8:23pm Top

I'd also like to read The Duchess of Malfi.

Thanks for doing this.

Jan 1, 8:28pm Top

I'm in too. This will nicely fill in the void left when I moved away (in physical distance) from my Shakespeare group.

Jan 1, 8:54pm Top

I'm Interested. The Webster or one of the Middletons would be my pick

Jan 1, 8:54pm Top

I think The Duchess of Malfi will be definite choice; it's one I've been asked to lead many times. We can add one or two more for the month-long read.

Jan 2, 7:17pm Top

I intend to read all those this year so count me in

Jan 12, 10:19am Top

When do you plan to start? I have some of these languishing on the shelves. It would be fun.

Jan 12, 10:32am Top

Feb 1, 11:47am Top

I'm interested. I've read most of them (Witch of Edmonton somehow slipped through), but re-reading them will be great.

Feb 1, 1:25pm Top

>15 Crae: Great! We'll definitely be reading The Duchess of Malfi, and I'm open to hearing which of the other suggested plays participants would be most interested in. The Witch of Edmonton is a really fascinating hybrid play with three interrelated plots. It's probably a little harder to come by than the others, but I'll see what Amazon offers up. I know I used a fairly inexpensive Revels version for my students a few years ago.

Feb 1, 1:42pm Top

Just checked and it is available online in several editions. Here's a link to the Luminarium edition, which looks very good.

Edited: Feb 18, 4:26am Top

In other reading I was just made aware of Aphra Behn's Rover. Is that interesting to read? I know some of us try to read more female authors. It seems to be somewhat later than the period you are doing.

Feb 20, 11:00am Top

18> I've taught The Rover, but honestly, my students weren't fond of it. It is a Restoration play, so beyond the scope of what I had planned. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of closet dramas written by women in the period, most of them not particularly engaging (and none for the stage). The best known is The Tragedy of Mariam by Elizabeth Cary--again, not very successful reading with the students as it is fairly philosophical. All of the plays in the original post will open up women's issues worthy of discussion.

Feb 24, 8:11am Top

Count me in for whatever is chosen!

Feb 24, 8:57am Top

>Great! There seems to be a consensus for The Duchess of Malfi, and I'm leaning towards The Witch of Edmonton since it's such an unusual play. It's actually three intertwined story lines, each written by a well-known playwright (Thomas Dekker, John Ford, and Willliam Rowley. Still not sure about the third play. If I had to go by which one my students seemed to like most, it would be Arden of Faversham--they loved the bumbling assassins, Black Will and Shakebag, and it features an evil woman, in contrast to the Duchess.

Edited: Aug 2, 9:13pm Top

Hello, everyone. I wanted to let you know that the English Renaissance Drama group read is still on for September. You're welcome to join us at any time! I've decided that we will be reading a revenge tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster, and a city comedy, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside by Thomas Middleton. Both plays should be available in free online editions or in print copies, new and used. Depending on the size and scope of your local library, they might also have a copy, although it may be in an anthology.

If there is enough interest, we can discuss adding a third play, TBA. I would love to discuss The Witch of Edmonton, a most unusual play co-written by three playwrights (John Ford, Thomas Dekker, and Thomas Middleton), but it may be more difficult to find copies.

Happy reading!

Aug 2, 9:12pm Top

Excellent! Thanks for the thread bump. I'll go track down those plays :)

Edited: Aug 3, 3:54am Top

My library has a bilingual edition of The Duchess of Malfi.

I found an epub version of A Chaste Maid in Cheapside that is full of typos at https://archive.org/details/worksofthomasmid04midd. If anyone finds a better one, I'd be glad to hear of it. (other formats also available there)

Witch of Edmonton is available at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/45357

Aug 3, 6:28pm Top

The Witch of Edmonton is also available in a Luminarium Edition: .

If anyone wants to look for a print edition of any of these plays, I can make suggestions. When I taught them, I looked for editions that would be accessible to my students--in other words, more modern English, footnotes, good introductions. The Revels student editions are great, but some may be out of print. New Mermaids (distributed by W. W. Norton) also has good editions of The Duchess of Malfi and A Chaste Maid in Cheapside.

Aug 3, 8:16pm Top

I thought I had a copy of Duchess of Malfi in an anthology, but I guess not. I’ll check to see what my library has. Thanks for doing this. I’m looking forward to it.

Edited: Aug 10, 2:21pm Top

I picked up the library's copy of the duchess today, and discovered that it includes a 'portrait' of her by Oskar Kokoschka.

Aug 10, 5:44pm Top

>27 MarthaJeanne: Interesting! I have seen two performances, one on TV years ago with Vanessa Redgrave, another at The Shakespeare Theatre in DC with Kelly McGillis in the title role. I also saw it at the Barbican back in the '80s. Can't recall who played her, but Ian McKellan played Bosola.

Edited: Aug 10, 6:11pm Top

The book also has photographs of a 1945 performance at London's Theatre Royal Haymarket with Peggy Ashcroft (Duchess), Leon Quartermaine (Cardinal), John Gielgud (Duke)...

This is a bilingual edition with English and German on facing pages.

Sep 9, 7:39pm Top

This group read is now officially open--and I apologize for the delay. Here's the thread to kick off our first play, The Duchess of Malfi.

Sep 14, 7:33am Top

The topic for The Duchess of Malfi is here:

Group: 2018 Category Challenge

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