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English Revenge Drama
Money, Resistance, Equality


  • Date Published: December 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107463271

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About the Authors
  • Vengeance permeates English Renaissance drama - for example, it crops up in all but two of Shakespeare's plays. This book explores why a supposedly forgiving Christian culture should have relished such bloodthirsty, vengeful plays. A clue lies in the plays' passion for fairness, a preoccupation suggesting widespread resentment of systemic unfairness - legal, economic, political and social. Revengers' precise equivalents - the father of two beheaded sons obliges his enemy to eat her two sons' heads - are vigilante versions of Elizabethan law, where penalties suit the crimes: thieves' hands were cut off, scolds' tongues bridled. The revengers' language of 'paying' hints at the operation of revenge in the service of economic redress. Revenge makes contact with resistance theory, justifying overthrow of tyrants, and some revengers challenge the fundamental inequity of social class. Woodbridge demonstrates how, for all their sensationalism, their macabre comedy and outlandish gore, Renaissance revenge plays do some serious cultural work.

    • Covers a wide range of English Renaissance revenge drama, including plays by Webster, Middleton, Shakespeare, Marlowe and Kyd, among many others
    • Investigates the macabre comedy of revenge plays, considering the issue of whether serious cultural work can coexist with black comedy and sensationalism
    • Discusses revenge drama in terms of economics, political resistance and egalitarian movements of the period, providing a sense of the cultural complexity of revenge plays' milieu
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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107463271
    • length: 350 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.47kg
    • contains: 3 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Rampant Revenge:
    1. Getting what one deserves
    2. Can two wrongs ever make a right? Some theory
    Part II. Economic Unfairness: Revenge and Money:
    3. Balancing the books: revenge, commercial mathematics, and the balance of trade
    4. Payback time: reward, retaliation, and the deluge of debt
    5. The goddess with the scales - and the blindfold
    Part III. Political Unfairness: Revenge and Resistance:
    6. 'A special inward commandment': the mid-sixteenth century
    7. Resistance in the golden age of revenge plays
    8. Revenge and regicide: the Civil War era
    Part IV. Social Unfairness: Vengeance and Equality:
    9. Revenge and class warfare
    10. Quantification revisited: revenge and social equality

  • Author

    Linda Woodbridge, Pennsylvania State University
    Linda Woodbridge is Weiss Chair in the Humanities and Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University. She has published widely on the subjects of English Renaissance literature, women in literature, folklore and revenge. Her books include Women and the English Renaissance: Literature and the Nature of Womankind, 1540–1620 (1984), Shakespeare: A Selective Bibliography of Criticism (1988), The Scythe of Saturn: Shakespeare and Magical Thinking (1994) and Vagrancy, Homelessness, and English Renaissance Literature (2001).

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