LIT259 : Restoration Drama

Convener(s): Dr Marcus Nevitt


General Information

This module studies English drama written between 1660 and 1714. This period witnessed an astonishing development of theatrical practice and culture and is the era when English professional theatre first begins to look recognisably modern. This is because the professional Restoration stage, unlike its Renaissance predecessor, used actresses rather than cross-dressed boys to play female parts which, along with the introduction of moveable scenery to these theatres, facilitated different styles of acting, theatre-making and stage-realism. By analysing the emergence of two key theatrical character types – the rake and the courtesan (or witty, high-class prostitute) – we will consider later seventeenth-century attitudes towards politics, sex and the theatre. Key questions we’ll investigate include: is Restoration theatrical culture a decadent culture? Did the sexual freedom promised by the emergence of libertinism in the period extend to women as well as men, whether on-stage or off? Is Restoration theatre socially conservative or daringly transgressive (or both)? We’ll begin answering these important questions by reading plays written by the following dramatists: Aphra Behn, William Congreve, William Davenant, John Dryden, George Farquhar, Thomas Otway, Sir John Vanburgh, George Villiers and William Wycherley. In the process we’ll survey a complex variety of dramatic genres, sub-genres and genre-hybrids, some familiar (comedy, tragedy and tragicomedy), some entirely new and epoch-changing (sex-comedy and the heroic play). The course is designed to complement the core modules in Renaissance Literature (LIT 234) and Restoration and Eighteenth Century Literature (LIT207),


2 seminars a week


1 x 1500-word scene analysis (40% of the final module grade) 1x 2500 final essay (60% of the final module grade)

Contact Details

Dr Marcus Nevitt

Information last changed: Monday 10th of August 2015 :: 12:40:19 PM (BST)

Please note: This module may or may not run in any individual session. Please check with the course convener.


The University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK