chapter  1
43 Pages

Introduction

Revenge plays are structured around contests involving what René Girard calls “reciprocal violence” (which is to say, exchanges in violence). Though stage revenge is usually pursued on behalf of family (e.g., Hamlet’s father) and often against those at the highest levels-duke, prince or king-criticism has so far been blind to what early modern revenge drama has to say about such topics as the structure of the family, the proper relation between the families that supposedly compose civil society and the constitution of the state and government that tries to regulate their conduct vis-á-vis each other and the state itself. To look for information about the early modern family or state, critics have turned to contemporary sources such as works of philosophy, treatises on government, or speeches made by monarchs, as well as sermons, pamphlets, conduct books and manuals on household management but have ignored what revenge plays have to say about households and governments.