English Literature MA

Dragged off the Street: Queer Players on the Renaissance Stage ENGLIT4131

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Critical Studies
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course offers a timely reassessment of the practice of child acting in the early modern theatre. Exploring the output of companies such as the Children of the Chapel Royal alongside works by Shakespeare, Marlowe and Middleton, it will question the repeated use of child and adolescent actors to portray female and sexually marginalised characters on stage; and situate the strategies attendant on boy playing in relation to embryonic queer art-forms such as drag and punning cant.


1x2hr seminar per week over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus. This is one of the Honours options in English Literature and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Excluded Courses





Dramaturgical exercise (1500 words) - 25%

Essay (3000 words) - 50%

Presentation (7 minutes) --15%

Seminar contribution - 10%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. Where, exceptionally, reassessment on Honours courses is required to satisfy professional/accreditation requirements, only the overall course grade achieved at the first attempt will contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ Study theatrical texts which employed boy players to create popular entertainment, and critically scrutinise the cultural function of plays featuring child and adolescent actors in a number of early modern contexts;

■ Engage with a range of early modern plays by canonical writers and less well-known playwrights;

■ Analyse the dramatic strategies associated with boy playing, particularly in relation to queer performance practices;

■ Explore the methodological overlaps between the disciplines of literary analysis and theatrical staging.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Understand and critically evaluate the contexts of boy playing and the stage-craft used to facilitate the performances of children and adolescents;

■ Critically engage with debates prompted by culture of boy playing;

■ Identify the aesthetic and dramaturgical techniques used by dramatists to represent female and sexually marginal characters designed to be played by children and adolescents on stage;

■ Critically assess overlaps between literary criticism and devised performance into critical practice when engaging with the effects generated by early modern dramatic texts;

■ Place the culture of boy playing in a recovered history of LGBT performance practices and contexts.

■ Communicate responses to the material studied on the course both orally and in written form through coherent and sustained argument

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.