Revenge Tragedy was a genre which lasted from 1590 until 1615. The
genre appealed to the Elizabethan audience’s desire for blood and
violence without emotional depth.
Revenge tragedies originated in the writings of the Roman Seneca
(4BC-AD65) whose plays heavily influenced Elizabethan dramatists.
Seneca’s tragedies, using stories derived from mythology emphasised
bloody action, horrific incidents and ranting speeches. The devices
Seneca used in his tragedies were later imitated by Elizabethan
playwrights. These included the five act structure, the appearance of
ghosts, the one–line exchange known as stichomythia and Seneca’s use
of long rhetorical speeches. English revenge tragedies written in the
Elizabethan era began with ‘The Spanish Tragedy’ written by Thomas
Kyd, in which a father, Hieronomo, avenges a son. The father delays
the revenge in passionate outbursts near to madness.
According to the accepted characteristics, revenge tragedies should
have included ghosts or supernatural beings, violence, sex,
bloodthirsty revenge for family honour and bloody carnage. Most
revenge tragedies end in a bloodbath killing off all the main
characters apart from the loyal best friend. Hamlet’s complex plot is
advanced, compared with most revenge tragedies as it included
subplots. It uses many of the typical themes of a Revenge Tragedy in
order to get points across. The play has depth to it making the impact
of revenge felt deeply by the audience. The audience is able to
empathize with Hamlet and look at the ethics of ...
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personality. Unlike any other revenge tragedy, the unresolved
conflicts in his mind shape the foundations of the storyline.
The verse of the play can be seen in the great soliloquies, which
surpass those of other revenge tragedies. The play contains many
eternal themes, which are timeless and applicable to all cultures.
Although many conventions of Revenge Tragedy are obeyed, ‘Hamlet’, is
unique in its own way and therefore should not be considered only as a
revenge tragedy. If we do so we dismiss all aspects of Hamlet’s
character, as his motives shape the story.
Jenkins, Harold (ed.) : Hamlet, 1982
Hamlet York Notes Advanced (2004 edition)
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- Shakespeare's Hamlet presents the generic elements found in Renaissance revenge tragedies ("Revenge Tragedy"). However, although Hamlet is a revenge tragedy by definition, Shakespeare complicates the basic revenge plot by creating three revenge plots out of one. By adding significant innovations, Shakespeare creates "three concentric rings of revenge" (Frye 90), depicting an indecisive protagonist who is an intellectual rather than a physical hero, an ambiguous ghost, and several problematic aspects of the play, such as the reason for Hamlet's delay, the confusion of time, and the truth behind Hamlet's apparent madness.... [tags: Confusion of Time, Artificial Madness]
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