The Revenger's Tragedy Essay

The Revenger's Tragedy Essay

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The Revenger’s Tragedy, assumedly written by the playwright Cyril Tourneur, is a rich and compelling theatric play which functions as a social commentary for the Jacobean period when it was written. Themes such as the immorality and fickleness of women, and the subversion of personal justice over public justice serve as a multifaceted reflection of society’s values during that iniquitous era. These key ideas help secure this tragedy as a classic which has lasted throughout the ages, due to its constant relevance and engaging thematic values.

Right through the play, the immorality and fickleness of women is explored steadily, both directly in speech and implied in action, along with the impact this debauchery has on moral society. Many of the plot devices can be linked directly to women, either as objects of revenge or as representations of corruption. The concept of a typical woman of the time is shown through the “Duchess, that will do with [the] Devil” (as put figuratively by Vindice). Her incestuous relationship with Spurio serves to highlight that immorality and sin are present within all women in society. Furthermore, “the nobler she’s, the baser is she grown” juxtaposes the higher position of power, with the greater likelihood that worse sin will be more intensely cultivated. The hyperbole in “One incestuous kiss picks open hell” supports the notion that the sins of the Duchess are far greater than the petty, everyday indulgences of the average woman. However, in lieu of the moral consequences, Spurio is manipulated into persisting with the relationship, which supports Vindice’s juxtaposition; women can “deceive men but cannot deceive worms”. This supports the manipulative properties of women, but also metaphorically stat...


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...and what was actually occurs is represented consistently throughout the tragedy, and from this Tourneur is giving his own stance on the justice system; “Oh, you must note who ‘tis should die”. The satire in this defining statement fully portrays the playwright’s opinion; private justice is better adept to the courthouse.

In conclusion, The Revenger’s Tragedy does not simply serve to develop an involved plot; it also provides an excellent commentary on prevailing social issues of the Jacobean era. From the criticism of the typical women, to the benefits and drawbacks of public justice vs. private justice, satire is proficiently utilized in order to give the audience an interpretation on the society they live in. Even though this play is now over 400 years old, changing modern times mean that the message that it holds is still relevant to our society today.




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