English Essay Example: Revenge Tragedy In European Theatre


The issue focused on the role of the revenge tragedy in the European Theatre.  The Revenge Tragedy defines as a dramatic genre, in which the hero seeks revenge for a real or an imaged  injury.   In order to understand the content and development of the revenge tragedy genre, we need first to understand the imagine of revenge for medieval Europeans. In the life of  European people the existence of custom personal revenge was due precisely to the historical conditions. In the medieval England, the state`s justice was limited. The personal revenge was the only opportunity, that the victim could afford to restore the honor and compensate damages (Bowers, 1966).  It was the time of  origin of  the revenge tragedy genre in the European Theatre. This genre generally refers to a number of dramatic works written from the Elizabethan to Caroline period.

During Renaissance, there were two absolutely distinct traditions of Revenge Tragedy genre in European Theatre. The first one is the Spanish-French tradition, focused on the conflict  between love and duty, the second one is English tradition, based on the Seneca`s traditions. Most screenwriters from the mid-1580s to the early 1640s contributed  to this genre, including  William Shakespeare, Cyril Tourneur, Thomas Kyd and John Marston.

Thomas Kyd is considered to be a founder of Revenge Tragedy genre. The Spanish Tragedy by Kyd  had an influence upon plays written by other Elizabethan writers (Criswold, 1986). A lot of elements of  The Spanish Tragedy, such as the play-within-a-play, ghost`s intent to take revenge, appear in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

To review, the revenge tragedy was not identified as a specific genre until the twentieth century.  Elizabethan playwrights employed the revenge tragedy as the ideal machine by which to depict their concerns about such provocative issues as a social malaise and religious tradition.


  1. Bowers, F.T. (1966). Elizabethan Revenge Tragedy, 1587-1642. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  2. Criswold, W.(1986). Renaissance Revivals. City Comedy and Revenge Tragedy in the London Theatre. 1576-1980. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

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