Dramatic reading project

July 3, 2019

Seeking advice from readers: I am planning a slow-boil reading project in early(ish) modern drama — say, 1500-1800. Here are the plays I am currently planning to read:

Doctor Faustus (Marlowe) – c.1590
Volpone (Jonson) – 1606
The Alchemist (Jonson) – 1610
The Duchess of Malfi (Webster) – 1612
Life Is a Dream (Calderón) – 1635
Le Cid (Corneille) – 1636
Tartuffe (Molière) – 1664
The Misanthrope (Molière) – 1666
The Country Wife (Wycherley) – 1675
Phèdre (Racine) – 1677
All for Love (Dryden) – 1677
The Way of the World (Congreve) – 1700
The Beggar’s Opera (Gay) – 1728
The School for Scandal (Sheridan) – 1777
The Marriage of Figaro (Beaumarchais) – 1778
Wild Oats (O’Keeffe) – 1791

No Shakespeare because the point is to get to know playwrights other than Shakespeare.

Any suggestions for additions or deletions?

7 Responses to “Dramatic reading project”

  1. Matthew Says:

    Here are some suggestions from my wife who studies gender and sexuality in non-Shakespearean drama. The first five are from Thomas Middleton, who she studies, all from the Jacobean period.

    Two great comedies.
    A Chaste Maid in Cheapside.
    A Mad World, My Masters.

    Two great tragedies.
    The Changeling.
    Women beware Women.

    A political-religious topical satire.
    A Game at Chess. Read up on the occasion for this first.

    Finally, you seemed to have missed a Jacobean classic.
    The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster.

  2. cburrell Says:

    These are really good suggestions; thanks, Matthew. If I read five plays by Middleton he will be, by a good margin, the most read playwright in this little project! I see that Oxford publishes an inexpensive volume with four of the plays you suggest.

    Actually, The Duchess of Malfi is on the list, near the top. I’m looking forward to it.

    • Matthew Says:

      Oops about the Duchess of Malfi. Go for the Collected Works but realize that a lot of the works in there are of interest only to academics. Still cheaper than buying them individually, if they can be found at all.

      Also, I should note that these plays are gritty and satiric in a way that Shakespeare is not and may not fit the high-minded canonical mold that you’ve pined about in the past.

      • cburrell Says:

        I did order the Collected Works. The price was too good to pass up even if, as you say, I read only a thin slice.

        One of the reasons I’m happy about these Middleton recommendations is that I’d like to know how typical or atypical Shakespeare’s style and methods were. Reading a few plays of his contemporaries is a reasonable way to find out. Grit and satire are no impediment.

  3. cburrell Says:

    Well, it turns out one can buy Middleton’s Collected Works, from Oxford, for the cost of a modestly sized cheese at Whole Foods. Overkill?

  4. dollymix Says:

    I’m not qualified to judge your suggestions, but Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy was a fairly important play (supposedly an influence on Hamlet) that might be interesting.

    • cburrell Says:

      Yes, thank you for this suggestion. It is right on target: I also came across Kyd, and this play, a short time ago, and added it to my list.

      In fact, I may as well share here that I discovered an imprint called New Mermaids which publishes English plays from this period (mostly). There are a lot of intriguing titles there.


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