revenge tragedy



  • A popular genre of the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage, in whichthe main character seeks revenge on the murderer of a relative orfriend. The action was often precipitated by a ghost returning toa descendant or friend, who promises to exact retribution. The genreusually combined violent and sensational action with intense meditationson the morality of revenge. The first Elizabethan revenge tragedywas Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy (1585 - 89),in which Hieronimo seeks revenge for his son's murder. Shakespearewrote two, the grotesquely violent Titus Andronicus (1592)and Hamlet (1600), the undoubted masterpiece of the genre. Other examples include George Chapman's Bussy d'Ambois (1604), the anonymous The Revenger's tragedy (1607), Cyril Tourneur's The Atheist's Tragedy (1611), John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi (1619), Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's The Changeling (1622),John Marston's Antonio's Revenge (1599), and James Shirley'sThe Traitor (1631).