Write short notes on Revenge Tragedy in English Drama?


Revenge tragedy is a form of a play or drama that generally deals with the problem of a central character i.e. protagonist, leading an unhappy or tragic life due to the unwanted fate or circumstances. Because of that fate or tragic error, the protagonist forced to live in a psychological trauma or socially pressurized life.

What is revenge tragedy?

Revenge tragedy refers to the drama in which the dominant motive of characters is to take revenge for real or imagined injury. It is used to be one of the fevourite form of the English drama in Elizabethan Age and Jacobean Era.

Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ is one of the greatest example of revenge tragedy in history of English literature drama.

Revenge tragedy mainly disclose or share some basic elements like; play within a play, mad scenes, a vengeful ghost, one or more gory scenes and most importantly a central character who has a serious grievance against a formidable opponent.

In Elizabethan era, private revenge was officially forbidden and was punished severely as only God himself was supposed to have the power to take revenge, this attitude was also spread among the religious people. The people were not supposed to avenge their murdered relatives, but to leave the revenge to God.

How revenge tragedy started in the play?

The revenge tragedy was established on the Elizabethan stage with Thomas Kyd’s “The Spanish Tragedy” (1587), in this play Hieronimo’s discovery of his son Horatio’s dead body leads him into a grief fit of madness when he discovers the identity of his son’s murderer and plan to take revenge through a play within a play in which he enacts his revenge after that he kills himself.

With Hieronimo’s quest for justice in the face of a seemingly powerless state, “The Spanish Tragedy” introduced the thematic issues of retributive justice that explored genre gained popularity and developed on the Elizabethan and Jacobean Stage.

What are the features of revenge tragedy?

According to Aristotle, tragedy should be defined on the basis of following feature such as;

  • It should be mimetic
  • It should be serious
  • It should narrate the full story in appropriate length
  • It should contain rhythm and harmony
  • It should be performed rather than narrated

For instance; the Elizabethan tragedies are marked by melodramatic scenes which is based on murder, bloodshed, rape, extreme outburst and excessive emotions. It’s usually about morality.

In which period revenge tragedy became popular?

Although, revenge tragedy started and used much earlier in the play but in the Elizabethan Age it gets huge popularity as it becomes the major turning point and one of the fevourite form of drama during this particular period. Multiple plays were written on revenge tragedy like; Othello, Macbeth, Hamlet, etc.

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