The balance and the sword : a study of just revenge in Elizabethan tragedy
Irvine, Dorene Joyce
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The Revenge Play1 in the form Thomas Kyd gave it in The Spanish Tragedy, and in the form used subsequently by Marston in Antonio's Revenge, Shakespeare in Hamlet, and Tourneur in The Atheist’s Tragedy, to mention a few examples of the type, has several well-known characteristics. The fundamental motive of the tragedy is revenge for a murdered kinsman. The revenge is supervised by a ghost. The revenger is hesitant and delays his revenge. Madness, intrigue, blood and death, are important elements in the play. The main situation of the play is often contrasted and enforced by similar situations. This is the basic formula of the Revenge Play as it inspired the pens of so many Elizabethan playwrights.2 … A short etymological discussion reviving Elizabethan usage of the word "revenge", combined with a survey of Elizabethan attitudes to revenge, will help us to view three plays -- Gorboduc, Titus Andronicus, and Antonio's Revenge -- with some of the preconceptions which an Elizabethan might bring to the theatre. 1. A term used by Percy Simpson in Studies in Elizabethan Drama (Oxford: Clarendon, 1955), ch. VII, and hereafter used to refer specifically to the kind of tragedy of revenge transformed into a convention by Kyd. 2. Ashley, H. Thorndike, "Hamlet and Contemporary Revenge Plays", PMLA, XVII (1902), 143-4.