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The Revenger's Tragedy

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3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  1,528 ratings  ·  53 reviews
The Revenger's Tragedy is an anonymous masterpiece of tragic burlesque first staged in 1607 and produced at a crucial phase in Jacobean theatre with Hamlet, Measure for Measure, Volpone and King Lear all recently performed. Written with vivid imagery, the play contains energetic, high-spirited action and brooding, slow-paced scenes on the subjects of death, revenge and evi ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published February 29th 2008 by Bloomsbury Methuen Drama (first published 1606)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,414)
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Bill  Kerwin

Vindice, seeking revenge for the death of his betrothed who has been poisoned by the lascivious Duke she spurned, enlists the aid of his brother Hyppolito, dons a disreputable pimpalicious disguise, and eventually destroys the corrupt world he inhabits together with what little was left of his own innocence.

Unlike the works of that universal genius Shakespeare, this play--which most modern scholars attribute to Thomas Middleton--could never be mistaken for a modern drama, for it is concerned ne
...more
Jenn
If I had never read a Shakespeare play in my life, I may have found this incredibly bloody and unsubtle play interesting or entertaining. It still may be, and, as I will be seeing a performance of it at the National Theatre in London in a few days, that may change my mind a little. However, it has all the elements of a typical revenge tragedy with none of the beauty or complexity of Hamlet. The characters are named things like Vindice (he's the revenger, if you couldn't tell), and like the evil ...more
Dfordoom
If you want murder and mayhem you really can't go past the Jacobean playwrights. This one, originally performed in 1606, is terrific fun. If Quentin Tarantino had been alive 400 years (and if he possessed any actual talent) he'd have written plays like this.
Greg
Salingar, in a quote found in the introduction, said that The Revenger’s Tragedy “is the last, as well as the most brilliant, attempt to present the emotional conflicts of Renaissance socity within the framework of moral allegory.” This is a fantastic and succinct analysis. Throughout the play, themes of revenge intersect with themes of sin, justice, the role of women, and lust. The play continues to reverse flow, with multiple plot twists that provide layers of understanding for each of these t ...more
Leanna
Let me begin by saying, I hate everything in this play. But I don't hate everything about it. It's one of my favorite Renaissance tragedies even though it constantly makes me cringe. It provides such an interesting look into Elizabethan gender relations and assumptions that I can't help but to enjoy it, if only to better understand what seems to be another world entirely. It's not because I agree, but in order to see how far we've come (and, when I recognize something from the play in my own lif ...more
Matt
The first time I read The Revenger's Tragedy, I hated it. One has to have an affinity for Jacobean revenge tragedy to "get" this play. Now, after several dozen examples of the genre have passed my eyes, I'm able to appreciate the humor built into this strange, strange play. From Vindice's entrance - skull in tow - to the abrupt and no-nonsense parody of Hamlet's "Mouse Trap," this play takes all the expectations of a revenge tragedy and flips them, comically, on their butts. I get it now, and it ...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in January 2001.

Originally published anonymously, The Revenger's Tragedy was attributed to Tourneur later in the seventeenth century - but as part of a list of plays others of which were linked to the wrong authors. It is today apparently considered to be by John Middleton, but nobody can really know. Anonymous publication was not particularly uncommon, and the play has political nuances which may provide a motivation for the author to hide their identity.

The
...more
Esdaile
There is utter confusion about the authorship of a series of plays, whether they were written principally by Thomas Middleton or the shadowy Cyril Tourneur or a combination. Of the spate of revenge plays which followed in the wake of Thomas Kidd, this is a supreme masterpiece, albeit very limited in scope and intention. It is a relentless allegory of sin and death and it would be better to say of the writer of this play than of Webster as Eliot famously wrote of Webster "much possessed with deat ...more
James Nicolay
The experience of reading Thomas Middleton's "The Revenger's Tragedy" feels like so many things: there's a sense of guilty pleasure reading about the Kill Bill-esque bloodbath at the end of the play as well as the thickening conspiracy among family members and revengers ala HBO series Game of Thrones; it also feels like I'm reading a more mature and complete upgrade of the revenge tragedy genre that I read in Shakespeare's Hamlet and Titus Andronicus; and finally, it feels rewarding to recognize ...more
Peter Heavenheld
Vindice’s sister was raped and destroyed by a powerful family of scoundrels. Like a monomaniac, he sets out to bring about the downfall of those responsible, whose names themselves are caricatures Lussurioso [lecherous], Spurio [spurious ie. bastard] with his brother Hippolito’s aid. To achieve his vengeance, Vindice gains employment in their family.

A brilliantly dark and apocalyptic vision, the product of twisted genius. No tragedy is complete without revenge, and this is the most perfect expr
...more
Lisa
I studied this at university, and was impressed. Thousands of words have been written about revenge, but IMO Tourneur said it best.
I see that modern scholars attribute this to Thomas Middleton, but Brian Gibbons in this edition is unconvinced.
Kyra
I would need to see it performed before I know if I'd enjoy this or not. Like, I feel like productions would either be a hit or oh-my-god-you-weren't-even-close.
Josh
A rich and satisfying read, The Revenger's Tragedy is one of the best Jacobean plays. Its message is clear, its pace swift, and conclusion wholly satisfying.
Thomas Jancis
This text was incredibly helpful for a presentation and essay on the comparison between the play and the film “Revengers Tragedy”.
I have to say I feel the film does manage to get the best parts of the play in as well as editing some of the parts that drag. (Much of Vindici’s opening monologue is placed throughout the first act of the film).
I would recommend you have an interest in dark comedy and have tolerance for Jacobian dialogue.
I have to say old Vini is in my “Top Ten Characters Who Monolog
...more
Resa
melodramatic, sardonic, sarcastic, over-the-top = just my kind of play!

The Revenger's Tragedy begins with Vindice vowing vengeance to a skull that he is holding. The evil and cuckold duke has wronged Vindice and so he goes in disguise in order to get his vengeance. Revenge quickly turns into a disaster where the line between right and wrong is traversed. In between are a mother selling her daughters chastity, a son being wrongfully executed, and a kiss from a poisoned skull.

This play is slightl
...more
Jay Eckard
This is one of the dark gems of the English Renaissance. Murder it has, and plenty of it, but there's a rich mine of black humor in it, too (and skillful production could unearth even more than what's textual). What other, earlier editions don't stress -- and what Gibbons does in this -- is the strong ties this plays has with many other period pieces. And not just the Shakespearean notables you'd expect, but those by 'lesser' playwrights, too, like Heywood, Tourner, Marston and Middleton. And it ...more
Nathanael Myers
One of the great Jacobean tragedies. Poison. Incest. Skulls. Political corruption. And, of course, revenge.
M.J. Logue
Read it many years ago and didn't think it was as great as Webster...
Benji
One of my favorite revenge plays.

It can be said that this play is like a version of Hamlet that started in the graveyard, where all the brooding, melancholy back & forth of Hamlet's earlier character disappeared, and we are left only with his revenging ghost persona.

The Alex Cox film adaptation of this play is a bit odd and not quite as good as reading the play. But it's an interesting companion piece.

Now how is that for a heady review!

Sincerely,

Ben's Hubris
Thom Dunn
3-26-2010 Find this note in my New Mermaids edition: June 24, 1972 "This is more of a farce than a tragedy, a revenge farce, a bit like Arsenic and Old Lace." I can't remember a thing so am grateful for this note, wrong-headed as it may be. If you want to know what Shakespeare accomplished in Hamelt, Barroll told us, you best read Fredson Thayer Bowers REVENGE TRAGEDY and some of the {300?} examples he studied of the form before Shakespeare broke the mould.
Laura
Jan 30, 2009 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Shakespeare's tragedies
Recommended to Laura by: indirectly- Pamela Dean
Shelves: plays
A play to show you just how completely convoluted revenge can be. I read this one since it was referenced in Dean's "Tam Lin".
There is lots of humor, disguises, backstabbing, and gore in this crazy play. Its definitely worth a read. After reading, watch the 2003 movie version. Its a very interesting depiction of the play. Costumes, language, acting, all put a very strange twist on the play that is both funny and weird.
Aaron C. Thomas
I think I am actually convinced that Middleton wrote this. I've been skeptical for years, but this time on re-reading I see just how sexist it is and misogyny was Middleton's middle name. The sexual morality in Revenger's Tragedy is about on par with WOMEN BEWARE WOMEN. I still like this play a lot, though, even if Middleton DID write it. It's no MAID'S TRAGEDY, but it's good.
Dom
Great book; a must read for those who liked Shakespeare's 'Hamlet', the allusions to it are numerous and effective. 'The Revenger's Tragedy' is full of action; if you crave bloody murders and other such dramatic things, look no further. There are also thought-provoking themes and characters which can be empathised with even by a modern audience.
Tim Hodkinson
This was fantastic. A truly bloody, gory revenge tragedy and easily the best example of this genre of plays from the Jacobean age. Hamlet, Shakespeare's attempt in this arena, is a sickly, pale comparison. I had the privilege of seeing a revival performance of this play also a year ago and it was genuinely unsettling. Great stuff!
Jennifer
The highlight of 'The Revenger's Tragedy' for me was Vindice's embittered speech about beauty to Gloriana's skull. It's creepy, sad and has a depth that I felt wasn't present in the rest of the play. That said, I appreciated the comedic and subversive elements and would be very interested in seeing a performance of it.
Knucklefish
This play delivered what I wanted out of a revenge tragedy. The plot was fast-paced, exciting, and convaluted. The characters were certainly not admirable, but almost universally interesting. If you want to read some early English drama besides Shakespeare, give this a go.
Drew4gr
More like 3.5 stars or 7-10. I liked it alot more than I though I was going to. It kept me reading. It's a quick read, and it is entertaining enough. Two brothers with no concience or well you'd have to read it to wonder yourself if they're good at all or not.
Alvinenator
Great stuff: sardonic revenge, murders conducted with an ex-lover's skeleton. Basically, an incredibly fun romp, and at times reads more like a comedy than a tragedy. For maximum enjoyment, read it with a light heart and be delighted by the gruesomeness of anon's mind.
Valerie
Hard play to read, it was really dense and 16th English language is such a bitch. Saying that, it had some pretty funny parts and quite witty in some places. Plus, who can go past adultery, violence, revenge, "incest" and treason?
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