Vengeance, Variously: Revenge Before Kyd in Early Elizabethan Drama
Though it is a critical commonplace that English revenge tragedy began with Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, there has been little systematic discussion of how revenge fared as a dramatic theme before Kyd’s inaugural work. This essay reexamines the importance of revenge in early Elizabethan drama, by broadly surveying its thematic and rhetorical prominence in the corpus of extant plays that predate Kyd’s tragedy. The prominence of revenge in pre-Kydian drama reveals that The Spanish Tragedy intensifies and systematizes structurally a theme that had for decades already been a well-worn mainstay on the English stage. A study of early dramatic revenge provides the basis for a more contextually sensitive account of revenge tragedy’s origin, and of its larger relationship to contemporary Elizabethan theatre.
Contributors to Early Theatre retain full copyright to their content. All published authors are required to grant a limited exclusive license to the journal. According to the terms of this license, authors agree that for one year following publication in Early Theatre, they will not publish their submission elsewhere in the same form, in any language, without the consent of the journal, and without acknowledgment of its initial publication in the journal thereafter.