WiSe 16/17: PS-Surveying English Literatures II: Revenge Tragedy
This class is designed to introduce students to one of the most popular types of drama on the Early Modern stage – the revenge tragedy. Starting in the mid-1500s and strongly influenced by Seneca, ... read more
This class is designed to introduce students to one of the most popular types of drama on the Early Modern stage – the revenge tragedy. Starting in the mid-1500s and strongly influenced by Seneca, English playwrights developed a dramatic genre that featured revenge as its central plot device: typically, the protagonist is charged with avenging the murder of a relative, a complex sequence of plotting and counterplotting employing highly theatrical strategies (disguises, plays-within-plays, etc.) ensues, and all culminates in a spectacular and catastrophic ending that sees the dramatis personae radically decimated. Revenge tragedy flourished into the early 17th century, yet was subsequently all but disregarded due to its extremely violent and sometimes cynical nature. Since the beginning of the 20th century, however, the plays have been reappraised and are now seen providing valuable insights into Early Modern notions of justice, power, gender, kinship as well as the stage itself. While practicing basic skills and methods of interpreting dramatic texts, we will explore these and other issues, tracing the form’s history from its earlier, Elizabethan manifestations – Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (ca. 1580s) and William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus (ca. 1590) – to later, Jacobean and Caroline, developments – Cyril Tourneur’s/Thomas Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy (ca. 1607) and John Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore (1633).
Participants will have to meet the standard requirements: regular attendance, response papers and a short presentation are obligatory, credits can be obtained by submitting a term paper.
Required texts: Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy; William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus; Cyril Tourneur/Thomas Middleton, The Revenger’s Tragedy; John Ford, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore. Please obtain these plays in a critical, annotated edition. I recommend the Revels (Manchester UP) or New Mermaids (Methuen) series, for Shakespeare the Arden (Methuen) edition.