English Revenge Drama

English Revenge Drama

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Linda Woodbridge
Cambridge University Press, 9/16/2010
EAN 9780521884594, ISBN10: 0521884594

Hardcover, 350 pages, 23.4 x 16 x 2.1 cm
Language: English

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.

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