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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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‘She’s Turned Fury’: Women Transmogrified in Revenge Plays

‘She’s Turned Fury’: Women Transmogrified in Revenge Plays

(p.221) Chapter 11 ‘She’s Turned Fury’: Women Transmogrified in Revenge Plays
Revenge and Gender in Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Literature

Janet Clare

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter explores early modern responses to Hecuba, arguing that whereas Euripides’ Hecuba is a sympathetic tragic heroine and successful avenger, this model was not replicated in early modern plays. Instead the two aspects of Hecuba’s role, that of lamenting mother and ruthless avenger, bifurcate in English revenge tragedy. Pitiful, mourning mothers such as Isabella from Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy are unsuccessful, while savage ones, such as Tamora from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and Queen Margaret in Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy, are abhorrent and aberrant, inflicting violence from a position of power. In contrast to Germany and France – where artistic treatments of the Biblical Judith decapitating General Holofernes offer a heroic, political image of female vengeance – the chapter argues that in early modern England revenge was definitively not a woman’s business.

Keywords:   Revenge, Hecuba, Euripides, Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy, Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus, Henry VI, Holofernes, Judith

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