The Revenger’s Tragedy was written during the Elizabethan Era, specifically the Jacobean Period. This was the time of the revenge tragedy, and many other plays such as Hamlet by Shakespeare have evidently influenced Tourneur’s work. Hamlet was written in 1601, five years before The Revenger’s Tragedy was first performed. Both were written according to the idea of a Senecan tragedy, so many links can be drawn between these two texts.
One of the most prominent and clear themes Tourneur uses is the role of women. The audience is able to gain a view of Tourneur’s thoughts of women within the context of the early 1600’s in England, through the use of strong statements that would be considered sexist in our contemporary society. Certain stereotypical traits are evident, such as the idea that women are gullible - ‘their sex is easy in belief’ (Act I, Scene i, l. 107); untrustworthy – ‘Tell but some woman a secret over night, Your doctor may find it in the urinal i’th’morning’ (I iii ll. 84-85); and sinful – ‘there’s no pleasure sweet, but it is sinful’ (Act III, Scene v, l. 203). The use of sexual innuendo in these lines adds to the entertainment value of the performance and makes it appropriate for the English audience, while the oxymoronic phrase from Act III Scene v represents the two paths the Duchess can take, a...
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...was written entirely in prose, reflecting Vindice’s disguise as Piato, while its deliverance to Lussurioso is ironic, as he is one of the main characters Vindice is talking about. The question of justice is never fully resolved, however the Natural Order is resolved by the end of the play through the heavens and virtuous characters, such as Antonio. From this, audiences gain the impression that no matter what occurs, the heavens will right the natural order and society will be at peace.
Within The Revenger’s Tragedy, thematic concepts such as women and justice serve to represent the social and literary context of the play, but to also offer society a reflection of itself. The role of women in the play reflects society’s place for them, while justice is used to offer the corrupt society a representation of itself, and show that the Natural Order will be righted.
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