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  • Published: 25 July 2012
  • ISBN: 9780141960463
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 464

Five Revenge Tragedies

The Spanish Tragedy, Hamlet, Antonio's Revenge, The Tragedy of Hoffman, The Revenger's Tragedy



A new and authorative edition of five seminal revenge tragedies, edited by Emma Smith

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. In Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy a father failed by the Spanish court seeks his own bloody retribution for his son's murder. Shakespeare's 1603 version of Hamlet creates an avenging Prince of unique psychological depth, while Chettle's The Tragedy of Hoffman is a fascinating reworking of Hamlet's themes, probably for a rival theatre company. In Marston's Antonio's Revenge, thwarted love leads inexorably to gory reprisals and in Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy, malcontent Vindice unleashes an escalating orgy of mayhem on a debauched Duke for his bride's murder, in a ferocious satire reflecting the mounting disillusionment of the age. Emma Smith's introduction considers the political and religious climate behind the plays and the dramatic conventions within them. This edition includes a chronology, playwrights' biographies and suggestions for further reading.

  • Published: 25 July 2012
  • ISBN: 9780141960463
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 464

About the authors

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, and was baptised on 26 April 1564. His father was a glove maker and wool merchant and his mother, Mary Arden, was the daughter of a well-to-do local land owner. Shakespeare was probably educated in Stratford’s grammar school. In 1582 he married Anne Hathaway, and the couple had a daughter the following year and twins in 1585.

Shakespeare’s theatrical life seems to have commenced around 1590. We do know that he was part of the Lord Chamberlain’s Company, which was renamed the King’s Company in 1603 when James I succeeded to the throne. The Company acquired interests in two theatres in the Southwark area of London, near the banks of the Thames - the Globe and the Blackfriars.

Shakespeare’s poetry was published before his plays, with two poems appearing in 1593 and 1594, dedicated to his patron Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. Most of Shakespeare’s sonnets were probably written at this time as well.

Records of Shakespeare’s plays begin to appear in 1594, and he produced roughly two a year until around 1611. His earliest plays include Henry VI and Titus Andronicus. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice and Richard II all date from the mid to late 1590s. Some of his most famous tragedies were written in the early 1600s; these include Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth and Antony & Cleopatra. His late plays, often known as the Romances, date from 1608 onwards and include The Tempest.

Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. The first collected edition of his works was published in 1623 and is known as ‘the First Folio’.

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