Course Description

The study of history is a means of understanding who we are as human beings by understanding the events, documents, places, cultures, and people that make up the past. The task of the historian is to take these elements of the past and interpret them in order to suggest what meaning and relevance they have today. This becomes a subjective pursuit full of speculation, wrong turns, about-faces, and differing stories. However, because of the fluid nature of the endeavor, the interpretation of history is also a rewarding and fascinating ongoing search.

Theatre history gives us a specific discipline that can be interpreted in a historical context. The task of the theatre historian is to take that discipline and show why it has meaning and relevance in both the broad historical context and within the discipline.

However, the idea of relevance must always be uppermost in the historian’s pursuit. As theatre artists, if we do not understand the past, with its various meanings and relevance, it will be difficult to find meaning and relevance in what we do.

Theatre History 1 covers the origins of theatre in ancient Greece and shows the progression of theatre through the Renaissance. We will look at all the elements of theatre from these periods, including playwriting, acting, costuming, directing, and architecture, as well as general historical and philosophical movements that shaped the plays written during these eras.

Theatre theory will also be introduced for each period that we study.

Course Outcomes

  1. Learn to identify influential playwrights in this timeframe and recognize their influences on playwriting.
  2. Understand the development of playwriting and theatre performances through historic periods and genres.
  3. Analyze the influence of certain ages on aspects of theatre culture, like costumes, actors, stages, etc.
  4. Learn to describe aspects of public and private theatre.
  5. Learn to distinguish between religious and secular drama styles.

Thematic and Gospel Insights

Great plays that stand the test of time deal with the universal themes of mankind, such as love and hate, loneliness and companionship, and alienation and redemption. Religious principles also address these themes. As you read through the plays and interact with each other throughout the week, think about the kinds of significant connections from your religious experiences that can bring insight and meaning into your understanding of the themes explored in this course. You will be asked to share these connections periodically throughout the semester.

Course Architecture

Regular and sustained attention to an online course is critical. In this course particularly, there is a lot of interaction between classmates and the instructor, so you will need to be actively engaged throughout each week. Be attentive to the following:

This course is organized around seven historical genres. Each genre has its own style and unique emphasis that explores the human condition. As you study each of the plays, think about what universal themes speak to you the most. Think about the things that makes each genre unique as well. What influences can you see being reflected in the plays?

Most of the course activities have been labeled as follows:

You will be able to see and identify these activities beginning in Week 02.

Most assignments cannot be made up once the deadlines have passed. However, if you feel you have extenuating circumstances that warrant special consideration, let your instructor know as soon as possible. Any accommodations will be made at the sole discretion of your instructor. The earlier you inform your instructor, the more they can work with you, so give them as much notice as possible.

Even though this course is online, it is not an independent study course. It will be necessary to interact with your classmates consistently in order to learn the material and do well in the course. Group interaction, including interaction with your instructor, comprises a significant portion of your activities each week. If you put your best effort into these group activities, they can provide some of the most powerful experiences in the class.

This course is designed to give you significant exposure to the course content. In order to learn the material, you will need to spend 3–4 hours studying each week for every credit earned. Therefore, you will need to be able to commit 9–12 hours each week to the coursework. If you are unable to meet the demands of the course this semester, please consider taking it some other time when you can commit to completing the workload. Others will be depending on your participation to be successful, so please do the necessary preparation for the activities in this course. Remember: the Holy Spirit can provide guidance and direction that will make a significant difference in your life when you are prepared.

As you interact with others, which is a major part of this course, please remember to be kind, considerate, and respectful. Any violation of basic common courtesy—including interaction with the instructor or other classmates—will negatively impact your grade.

Read the following article as a reminder of the promises and warnings Elder Bednar addressed concerning entitlement: Wait Upon the Lord. 

Course Activities

Due Midweek

Worksheet Activities: Students will prepare themselves for the exams by joining and completing a Google Doc-based vocabulary worksheet specific to the era being covered that week.

Study Activities: Students will read from the Brockett text and spend some time reviewing the provided resources, paying particular attention to the resources the instructor assigns the class to focus on. These include different videos and texts of the play.

Due End of Week

Discussion Activities: Students will complete activities described in the discussion board prompt and respond to each other's work.

Report Quizzes: These short reports will allow students to give important feedback about the course and their experiences completing the assignments. These reports will not open until later during the week that they are due.

Exams: Students will have three exams to complete throughout the semester. They are found in Week 05, Week 08, and Week 14. These exams will assess the student's understanding of the principles learned throughout the semester. They will focus on using the readings from the textbook and the play resources that they have studied. Students will also be given a list of vocabulary terms that they will need to know. If students conscientiously complete all of their assignments and interact with their classmates, they will be amply prepared for the exams.


If for some reason you cannot complete the exam during the time that it is open, let the instructor know at least one week in advance. Your instructor will determine whether individual accommodations need to be made.


All activities in Week 14 are due in the middle of the week.

Course Materials

Text: History of the Theatre by Brockett and Hildy (8th–10th Editions are fine); ISBN: 0205511864

Compare prices for your textbooks through the University Store Price Comparison site. It will show you all of the options from the University Store and several online options to help you find the best price.

Class members will be required to read the following plays:

  1. Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
  2. Medea by Euripides
  3. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum by Stephen Sondheim
  4. Everyman by Anonymous
  5. Paphnutius by Hrosvitha
  6. The Second Shepherd’s Play by Anonymous
  7. The Farce of the Worthy Master Pierre Patelin by Anonymous 
  8. The Haunted House by Anonymous
  9. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  10. The Tempest by William Shakespeare
  11. King Lear by William Shakespeare
  12. Life is a Dream by Pedro Calderón de la Barca
  13. Tartuffe by Molière

Each play text will be provided by the instructor in the weekly announcements.

Students will have access to video clips of the plays and other resources. The instructor will help you know which ones to focus on.

Participation is critical for this class. A significant part of your grade will be determined by your willingness to teach one another as you work with others and help them master the course material.


The general breakdown of course points is as follows:

Assignment Name Points Total Points
Vocabulary Worksheets 7 x 20 140
Plot Structure Worksheets 12 x 20 240
Weekly Discussions 12 x 55 660
Weekly Report Quizzes 14 x 10 140
Exams 1, 2, & 3 36 + 35 + 47 118
Personal Final 1 x 10 10
Final Reflection 1 x 15 15
Total Points Possible 1323

Grading Scale

Letter Grade Percentage Points
A 100%–93%
A- <93%–90%
B+ <90%–87%
B <87%–83%
B- <83%–80%
C+ <80%–77%
C <77%–73%
C- <73%–70%
D+ <70%–67%
D <67%–63%
D- <63%–60%
F <60%–0%


Class Policies

Course Questions, Problems, and Concerns

You can post general questions, problems, and concerns, as a threaded reply to the announcements. Using this feature will inform the instructor, class members, and others monitoring the course of the issues you find and will allow the proper people to correct them for everyone. Please use this feature as often as needed. If you are experiencing the same problem that another student has mentioned, you can post about it as well so that others know the seriousness of the problem. If you know the answer to a question, please post the solution. Helping to solve your classmates’ problems is another way to teach one another. Additionally, your instructor will use the announcement replies to communicate with you and inform you of fixes and solutions. Check back often for any updates.


You should only email your instructor directly if the problem is of a personal nature or if your instructor informs you that that is the way they would like to be informed of questions, problems, or concerns.

Late Work Policy

Assignments are due on the day indicated. Late work hampers your ability to fully participate in the course. It will only be accepted at your instructor’s discretion and will not be accepted without obtaining their permission before the assignment is due. Any late work that is accepted is subject to a penalty as determined by your instructor.

University Policies

The university has established and posted the following policies concerning sexual harassment, plagiarism, and disabilities services. Please review these policies so that you are familiar with them:


The instructor reserves the right to change any part of this syllabus and/or schedule at any time during the semester in order to adapt to changing course needs. You will be notified prior to any changes that may take place, so please pay attention to communication from your instructor.