Synopses & Reviews
A new, authoritative edition of five classic revenge plays
As the Elizabethan era gave way to the reign of James I, England grappled with corruption within the royal court and widespread religious anxiety. Dramatists responded with morally complex plays of dark wit and violent spectacle, exploring the nature of death, the abuse of power, and vigilante justice. This anthology presents five crucial tragedies of the era collected together for the first time, including Shakespeare's 1603 version of Hamlet and Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy, a ferocious satire that reflects the mounting disillusionment of the age.
The introduction by Shakespeare scholar Emma Smith explores the political and religious climate behind the plays, as well as their dramatic conventions.
“Five Revenge Tragedies
makes the core texts of the genre available to students in an affordable, accessible edition. Emma Smiths introduction is scholarly and at the same time engaging, and will likely prove useful to undergraduate and graduate students a like. This is a volume which is long overdue, and a welcome edition to the Penguin catalog.”
—Gabriel A Rieger, Assistant Professor, Languages and Literature, Concord University
These four plays, written during the reigns of James I and Charles I, took revenge tragedy in dark and ambiguous new directions. In The Duchess of Malfi
and The White Devil
, John Webster explores power, sex, and corruption in the Italian court, creating two unforgettable anti-heroines. In The Broken Heart
, John Ford questions the value of emotional repression as his characters attempt to subdue their desires and hatreds in ancient Greece. Finally, Ford's masterpiece 'Tis Pity She's a Whore
explores the taboo themes of incest and forbidden love in a daring reworking of Romeo and Juliet
About the Author
was born in about 1578 in London. He studied law at the Middle Temple before embarking on a career in the theater, collaborating on many plays with contemporary dramatists. But it was his two solo-authored tragedies, The White Devil
(1612) and The Duchess of Malfi
(1614), that sealed his reputation. He died in the 1630s.
JOHN FORD was born in 1586 in Devon, England. His early career was wholly concerned with poetry and philosophical works, and it was not until the 1620s that he began writing stage plays, including The Broken Heart (1620) and'Tis Pity She's a Whore (c.1630). Nothing more is known of Ford after the performance of his last play in 1638.
JANE KINGSLEY-SMITH (editor) is a reader at Roehampton University, London, and author of Shakespeare's Drama of Exile and Cupid in Early Modern Literature and Culture.