Karen Britland

6133 Helen C. White Hall
(608) 263-2832
E-mail Karen Britland
Shakespeare, early modern drama, print culture, performance, women’s writing, the English civil wars, Anglo-continental exchange

Degrees and Institutions

PhD, University of Leeds, 2000
MA, University of Reading, 1995
BA, University of Oxford, 1993

Selected Publications

Drama at the Courts of Queen Henrietta Maria (Cambridge University Press, 2006; paperback 2009)


James Shirley’s The Imposture, for The Complete Works of James Shirley (1596-1666) (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Now scheduled for publication in 2018)

The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson, 7 volumes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), General Editors: Martin Butler, David Bevington, Ian Donaldson; Associate Editors: Karen Britland, Eugene Giddens

CWBJ print edition

Editor of Ben Jonson’s Mortimer His Fall (a play fragment) in The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson, 7 volumes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), vol. 7, pp. 403-16

CWBJ electronic edition (2013)

Editor of the “Dubia” section of the electronic component of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson (and author of essays on Jonson’s putative involvement in The Widow, The London Prodigal, and The Fair Maid of the Inn)

“Amateur and professional productions of Ben Jonson’s plays and masques to 1850: a database”

“Ben Jonson’s early folios and quartos: a finding list” (with Eugene Giddens)

“An archive of documents relating to Ben Jonson’s masques and entertainments” (with Katharine Craik)

Elizabeth Cary’s The Tragedy of Mariam (London: A&C Black, 2010), xxxii + 101pp.

Recent Articles and Book Chapters

“Henry Killigrew and dramatic patronage at the Stuart courts,” in Thomas Killigrew (1612–1683), ed. Philip Major (London: Ashgate, 2013)

“‘My God! Madam, there must be only one black figure in this play’: Hamlet, Ophelia and the Romantic hero,” Shakespeare and Romanticism, ed. Joseph M. Ortiz (London: Ashgate, 2013)

“Middleton and the Continent,” Oxford Handbook to Middleton, ed. Gary Taylor and Trish Thomas Henley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012)

“Exile or homecoming? Henrietta Maria in France, 1644-1669,” Monarchy and Exile, ed. Philip Mansel and Torsten Riotte (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

“Kings are but men: Elizabeth Cary’s histories of Edward II,” Etudes Epistémè, 17 (May, 2010) (an online, peer-reviewed journal from the Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, France: http://www.etudes-episteme.org/2e/spip.php?article114)

For a full publication list, click here

Biography and Current Projects

I received a BA from the University of Oxford and a half-blue for Women’s Lightweight Rowing. At the time, it was impossible to decide which was most important. I then completed an MA thesis under the supervision of Diane Purkiss at the University of Reading (their MA program was truly interdisciplinary and taught by faculty from both the English and History departments), and was awarded AHRC-funded PhD place to work with Martin Butler at the University of Leeds. I also received a Leverhulme Trust fellowship to complete research for my dissertation project in Paris (for which, I believe, Professor Butler was truly grateful because it got me away from York City Rowing Club). Before arriving at UW-Madison in 2008, I worked as a faculty member in the English department at Keele University and, since 2000, I have also been involved, first as a research associate and then as an associate editor, on the Cambridge Complete Works of Ben Jonson edition. My first book investigated how Queen Henrietta Maria’s French background affected her cultural activites at the English court. I have also published articles on women writers such as Lady Eleanor Davies and Elizabeth Cary, and I have edited Elizabeth Cary’s play, The Tragedy of Mariam in a New Mermaid edition. I am currently working on two projects: a short book about Shakespeare and a longer book about royalist and parliamentarian agents during the English civil wars and Interregnum.


I teach large lecture courses on Shakespeare and smaller-group undergraduate classes on Shakespeare and early modern dramatists such as Ben Jonson. Recent graduate classes have discussed Shakespeare, city comedy, and “Royalism and gardens.” I am happy to work with senior-thesis students and graduate students who are interested in early modern literature, particularly those whose focus will be on drama and/or the post-1603 period.

Recent Books

  • Book Cover for "The Tragedy of Mariam"

    The Tragedy of Mariam, by Elizabeth Cary

    Karen Britland, Ed.

    Methuen Drama


    The Tragedy of Mariam, the Fair Queen of Jewry is a Jacobean play written by Elizabeth Tanfield Cary. First published in 1613, it was the first original tragedy written in English by a woman. Never performed during Cary's lifetime, and perhaps not intended for performance, it tells the story of Mariam, the second wife of King Herod. This new edition is accessible for students and contains an up-to-date introduction that discusses the current state of scholarship on the play.

  • Book Cover for "Drama at the Courts of Queen Henrietta Maria"

    Drama at the Courts of Queen Henrietta Maria

    Karen Britland

    Cambridge University Press


    Drama at the Courts of Queen Henrietta Maria considers Queen Henrietta Maria's patronage of drama in England in the light of her French heritage. Britland challenges a common view of Henrietta Maria as a meddlesome woman whose actions contributed to the outbreak of the English civil wars and demonstrates how the queen consort's cultural and political positions were reflected in the plays and court masques she sponsored.  She also provides new information about Henrietta Maria's civil war exile.