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Revenge and Gender in Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Literature$
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Lesel Dawson and Fiona McHardy

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474414098

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474414098.001.0001

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Re-marking Revenge in Early Modern Drama1

Re-marking Revenge in Early Modern Drama1

(p.58) Chapter 2 Re-marking Revenge in Early Modern Drama1
Revenge and Gender in Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Literature

Alison Findlay

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines competing theories for revenge’s appeal in a wide range of plays from 1580-1699. Focusing on the ways that early modern revengers reference and revise earlier classical texts and figures, it examines revenge as a textual practice and affective performance and considers whether classical murderous mothers, such as Medea, embody ancient human anxieties about the uncanny feminine power of revenge to undo human subjects and societies. Exploring the way in which early modern writers take up and rewrite classical texts, it demonstrates how female revengers subvert traditional female roles, exploiting the metatheatrical aspect of revenge as a powerful tool of self-authorship. The chapter also examines different theories as to the genre’s popularity. Using Early English Books Online (EBBO), it surveys the frequency of the words ‘revenge’, ‘avenge’, and ‘vengeance’ (and their derivatives) in order to test whether it was a genre that: peaked in the Elizabethan period and was followed by a period of decline, emerged particularly in periods of political crisis, or has an enduring appeal.

Keywords:   Revenge, gender, female revenger, genre, Early English Books Online (EBBO), metatheatrical, Medea

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