Top positive review
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A play of perversity, irony and satiric wit.
on 21 June 2001
The Revenger's Tragedy is a morality play in response to a perceived lack of justice and an excess of corruption and hypocrisy in contemporary Jacobean society. Featuring definite elements of Exemplum Horrendum (the displaying of vice in order to denounce it), Senecan Revenge Tragedy, Comicall Sayre and Intrigue Comedy, the play appealed to Jacobean audiences, as to today's due to its pervasive use of comic method (in the style of Kyd), its treatment of revenge, morality and perversity and Tourneur's use of highly poetic and rhetorical language, as best exemplified by the satiric wit and almost farcical nature of the constant banter between Vindice and his brother Hippolito. Vindice's language is characterised by Comicall Satyre, rhetoric and religious imagery interspersed with sexual connotations; it is this language that enhances his stance as a moraliser on the court and allows the introduction of the concept of the 'Tragic Burlesque', a genre that may or may not be applied to the play as a whole. The success of the play comes, in my opinion from the persistent dramatic swings from melancholy to humour (with language alternating between meditative stillness and frivolous yet furious pace respectively), the personification of abstractions throughout (such as in the protagonists' names: Castiza-Chaste, Vindice-Revenger, Lussurioso-Lustful and Spurio-Bastard), and from the continual inclusion of references to food and putrefying flesh - metaphors of poison, hence of death, sin, adulterous sexual pleasure and corruption. Concerned with the exoticism of Italy, the general preoccupations of Mediaeval writers (sin and human frailty) and with insanity, indulgence and excess within the context of conventional Christianity, I would recommend this play to admirers of Marston, Middleton, Seneca and Chettle.