Revenger'S Tragedy

This essay will intend to respond to the question above in the following outline. The essay will firstly start off with a brief outline of what is to be discussed, followed by an interpretation of intertextuality and an explanation of the quote used above. Throughout studying this module the realization has occurred that many renaissance revenge tragedies include intertextuality. The main body of the essay will focus on The Revenger’s Tragedy in relation to Hamlet and then Tis Pity She’s a Whore and it’s intertextuality with both Othello and Romeo and Juliet. The essay will then end with a conclusion and brief summary of the assignment.

Firstly, in understanding how to address this question it is important to have an understanding of what intertextuality is and how it operates in revenge tragedies. Intertextuality is the relationship between texts, and in particular literary texts. Intertextuality can also be described as the shaping of a novel of text’s meaning by another text. It is the interconnection between similar or related works of literature that reflect and influence an audience’s interpretation of the text. Intertextuality is often used to influence the reader and to add depth to the text based on the readers prior knowledge and understanding. It is also important to get a greater understanding of the quotation used in the essay question to explore the connection between it and the intertextuality analyzed in the texts studied. My interpretation of this quotation by Roland Barthes is that intertextuality does not require citing or referencing punctuation, such as quotation marks and can often be mistaken for plagiarism. Intertextuality can be introduced into any text by using a variety of different functions such as allusion, quotation, and referencing. Intertextuality is not always intentional but critics have in some texts helped shape their interpretation of the reading in relation to other texts that they have already read.

The Revenger’s Tragedy is an interesting text to analyze in relation to intertextuality and its connection with Hamlet.Discussed in relation to The Revengers Tragedy and Hamlet will be the wages of sin and atonement, avarice, revenge, loyalty, treason, incest and adultery. All of which are themes that crop up in both texts to prove the intertextuality evident. In both The Revenger’s Tragedy and Hamlet the essay will prove the emphasise shown on the range and variety of how an Elizabethan dramatist and a Jacobean dramatist present similar concepts while using extremely different techniques and dramatic conventions to do so. The Revenger’s Tragedy written by Thomas Middleton just a few years after Shakespeare’s Hamlet shows that it was clearly influenced and inspired by it, which took the ideas of Hamlet in presenting a morally corrupt world with the use of vivid language and the use of a satiric tone rather than a tragic tone, in “this villainous dukedom vexed with sin”. In The Revenger’s Tragedy there is the clever use of the skull throughout as a memento but also as a murder weapon. Where on the other hand Hamlet “speaks daggers” to his adulterous mother, Vindice uses a real dagger to threaten his mother. The horrible game that is played with the Duke’s dead body in The Revenger’s Tragedy could be described as a more extreme version of Hamlet’s off-stage game of hide and seek with Polonius’s corpse. The Revenger’s Tragedy and Hamlet both have difference in the way the two protagonists are presented. Vindice ultimately has no interior life, and a developing character is not shown to the audience in terms of struggling with conflicting morals. His identity is formed as a result of the situation rather than a personality, where the audience is shown his death in terms of a farcical twist rather than a tragic pathos. As Brian Gibbons explains in the introduction to Revenger’s Tragedy 1967, Vindice “is not a character but a role”. The swift changes in tone and register throughout Thomas Middleton’s text is clearly influenced by Shakespeare and Hamlet. Revenge is said to be the main theme connection between both The Revenger’s Tragedy and Hamlet where a significant amount of intertextuality is present. Hamlet is revenging for his father because Claudius in a foul act poisoned him in order to obtain the throne. Vindice is revenging for the woman he loves, Gloriana who the Duke has poisoned because she would not sleep with him. Both Hamlet and Vindice have caused treason when they have achieved their revenge and they both use disguises to carry their revenge out. The disguise both protagonists use helps to create the parallel between Hamlet and Vindice and their multi-faceted persona. Much like Vindice’s disguise as Piato, Hamlet’s madness manifests at different times. Both revenge hero’s also use poison on their route to achieving revenge. Francis Bacon described revenge as “a kind of wild justice” and this is the main piece of evidence where intertextuality is present between the characters of Vindice and Hamlet in the texts studied. Incest, similar to revenge is another huge topic in the play which demonstrates intertextuality between the two texts chosen. Vindice is in love with his mother and also his sister as a result of trying to revenge his true lover, Gloriana. And the duchess also has an affair with her step son, Spurio who is a bastard and is of spurious origins. The incestuous nature of Vindice almost runs in parallel strangely with Hamlet. As a result of both protagonists losing their father, this changes both characters greatly and causes them to lose interest in their lovers. Vindice even declares his life as “unnatural” as if he believes he should be dead, “For since my worthy father’s funeral, my life’s unnatural to me, e’en compell’d as if I liv’d now when I should be dead”. (Middleton, I.i. Outside Vindici’s house). Some critics have proclaimed that Vindice should be held responsible for his wife’s poisoning even though the Duke admits to poisoning “many a beauty” who has rejected him. This could be compared as running in parallel with Hamlet and his rejection of Ophelia. The intertextuality of The Revenger’s Tragedy and Hamlet prove the connection between paralleling protagonist characters such as Vindice and Hamlet and both their respected fathers. Both plays however do show some difference where intertextuality is not present in terms of the class consciousness and overtness of magic. The Revenger’s Tragedy makes class struggle an important central theme of the play where the people’s struggle is explained through Vindice’s dialogue and his mother’s laments at her own misgivings, “rich man tricked the beggar- that’s news, is it?” (Middleton). Whereas, in Hamlet class distinction is not seen as a central theme of the play, people are only prevalent in Laertes’ support. The Revenger’s Tragedy is seen as a dark and dull Christian mythology while Hamlet mixes the pagan spiritual world with Christian ideology.

Tis Pity She’s a Whore is the next text to be discussed in relation to intertextuality. The essay will firstly mention the text in relation to Shakespeare’s Othello and then also Romeo and Juliet. There is a very strong correlation and intertextuality in terms of how the characters are presented in both texts. The character of Iago and Vasquez are just one example of this where both characters purpose in the play is to serve their masters. Both characters are presented similarly in being master manipulators as they plot and scheme throughout both texts. Both characters commit the ultimate crimes of treachery such as Vasquez punishing Putana by taking her eyes out and also Iago who brutally stabs Roderigo to death. There is an element of difference in the intertextuality presented in these two characters however. Vasquez does remain loyal to Soranzo throughout the play whereas Iago’s master plan is to eliminate his own master, Othello. The female protagonists of both plays also have an important role throughout both texts. The intertextuality evident between both Desdemona and Annabelle is an interesting concept to analyse. Many may say that both female characters are presented as being almost stereotypically pure and meek, both characters actually present themselves to be quite self-determined and self-possessed throughout. Both women are very capable of defending their selves and their marriages, this can be seen when Desdemona defends herself against Iago on numerous occasions throughout. Both the characters of Desdemona and Annabelle stand out from the way in which other female characters are represented throughout renaissance drama in that time period, they both show compassion to their lovers even throughout their incomprehensible jealousy. Towards the ending of both plays the two female protagonists meet their inevitable death carried out by their lovers. Both male protagonists are fueled by possessive passion in murdering their wives to prevent them from being with another. Ultimately, both love interests are murdered on beds where they have conceived their love with their murders. Because of the strong intertextuality between Desdemona and Annabelle, their fathers can be seen in similar terms. Both Florio and Brabantio are the fathers of the female protagonists and they both lose their daughters to men they have felt betrayed by. It is also interesting to note that Ford seemed to have a general interest in Shakespeare’s Othello throughout all his texts where intertextuality from Othello is shown in his earlier works. Love’s Sacrifice (1633) and The Lady’s Trial (1638). Through discussing both the characters in Tis Pity She’s a Whore and Othello the essay has proved that Tis Pity She’s a Whore includes strong intertextuality along with also discussing Ford’s interest in Shakespeare.

There is also strong intertextuality evident in Tis Pity She’s a Whore in association with Romeo and Juliet. Smallwood proclaims that Ford uses Romeo and Juliet as a source and inspiration for Tis Pity She’s a Whore but instead he keeps his own artistic focus on the individual, on the despair, and the human response to hopelessness, Ford twists elements of Shakespeare’s play in a darker version of tragic young love. Intertextuality is most clearly seen in these two texts in terms of melancholy. Both writers use language and characterizations which shows they both understand the use of melancholy and in extent of this Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy. Ford takes the concept of melancholy from Shakespeare and this is seen in regards the afflictions of both main characters in terms of religious melancholy and heroical love. Ford ultimately manipulates Shakespeare’s idea of melancholy and adds a darker element to it, while also focusing on the individual. The fantasies that both Romeo and Juliet live and end in shows the affliction of religious melancholy where the young lovers are separated by society. Ford can be seen to mimic this concept put forward by Shakespeare where Ford presents this in the treatment of Giovanni and Annabelle. Similarly to Romeo and Juliet violent and tragic incidents take place as a result of old quarrels, misunderstandings and ultimately love. Even if Tis Pity She’s a Whore does not include as many biblical injunctions as Romeo and Juliet it is still equally seen as an example of a morality play where the wages of sin is death. Giovanni and Annabelle both spiral in symptoms of melancholy as the play progresses similarly to Romeo and Juliet, “Given the nature of the world in which they find themselves, the narrow, claustrophobic, corrupt world of Parma, there is a kind of inevitability about Giovanni and Annabelle’s turning inward to each other, a turning which can only lead to death”. (Smallwood 64). Ford’s incorporation of Shakespeare’s play familiarises the relationship of Giovanni and Annabelle that we might usually reject as being unnatural, immoral and unthinkable which in turn causes the audience to think of the love story underneath all the taboo. It does however defamiliarise Shakespeare’s more conventional love story where the implications and complications of the unruled are amplified. It is interesting also to note that many theatre’s who have recreated both Tis Pity She’s a Whore and Romeo and Juliet have actually used the same actors for the characters of Romeo and Juliet and Giovanni and Annabelle because of the close connection in the two texts. For example, in the Global Theatre’s productions Matthew Sincell and Miriam Donald played Shakespeare’s lovers and Fords incestuous lovers while Jessica Dunton played both Juliet’s Nurse and Annabelle’s tut’ress Putana. The double casting of both productions points out the corruption and hypocrisy that the cities of Verona and Parma have on these two couples. When Giovanni and Annabella consummate their forbidden love in the bedroom scene this reminds the audience of the intertextuality with Romeo and Juliet where we see a similar bed scene after Romeo and Juliet’s surreptitious marriage. While society is keeping Romeo and Juliet separated from being lovers it is biology which is separating Giovanni and Annabelle which is the darker twist of Shakespeare’s concept mentioned above. Although the similarities in the structure of the intertextuality of both texts is overwhelming throughout there is elements of difference presented. One of these elements may be the audiences’ reaction to both plays on their release. Romeo and Juliet are condemned to be together but Shakespeare does captivate an element of empathy for these two characters throughout, did the audience react in the same way to the incestuous lovers of Giovanni and Annabelle? Ford was extremely ambitious in writing this play where the play can only become grossly divisive for even a modern audience, let alone the more morally stringent generations of the past. Because of this, the play has actually only received a wider discourse within the scholarly and theatrical world in the last century. Throughout analyzing the structure of both Tis Pity She’s a Whore and Romeo and Juliet it is evident that intertextuality is present in the forbidden love of both Romeo and Juliet and Giovanni and Annabelle and also through the melancholy that is presented throughout both texts from Robert Burton’s concept of Anatomy of Melancholy.

The two main texts analysed The Revenger’s Tragedy and Tis Pity She’s a Whore could also be said to have a certain element of intertextuality because of the strong evidence of incest presented throughout both texts.Vindice is in love with his mother and also his sister as a result of trying to revenge his true lover, Gloriana. And the duchess also has an affair with her step son, Spurio who is a bastard and is of spurious origins. This could be compared and contrasted in terms of the relationship between brother and sister, Giovanni and Annabelle in Tis Pity She’s a Whore. This proves the notion of the strong evidence of incest throughout Renaissance Revenge Tragedies which in turn leads to intertextuality in many texts. Throughout studying this essay topic and module the realisation has occurred that many Renaissance Revenge Tragedy writers and playwrights where actually in fact very inspired by Shakespeare’s concepts and writing which is clearly evident and presented throughout this assignment.

Throughout the course of this essay the notion has been proven where there is strong evidence of intertextuality presented in both The Revenger’s Tragedy and Tis Pity She’s a Whore. The quote featuring the essay topic above was discussed in terms of the essay question followed by a brief understanding of intertextuality in literature in general. The Revenger’s Tragedy and its intertextuality was analysed in terms of examining Shakespeare’s text of Hamlet. This concept was proved by discussing the following elements, the wages of sin and atonement, avarice, revenge, loyalty, treason, incest and adultery which proves the strong connection and intertextuality between the two texts. Tis Pity She’s a Whore was then dealt with in terms of its intertextuality with Othello, this was done by analysing the similarities and differences between the characters presented in both plays and discussing Ford’s interest in Shakespeare’s Othello in particular. Tis Pity She’s a Whore and the intertextuality evident was also analysed with Romeo and Juliet. These two plays where discussed in terms of describing the melancholy evident in both texts which comes from Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy which shows a strong correlation between the two texts and also by examining the treatment of both love couples throughout the progression of both plays. Intertextuality has been proven in The Revenger’s Tragedy and Tis Pity She’s a Whore from the use of relevant secondary information and the deep analysation of both texts in question.

Works Cited

Ford, John, and N. W. Bawcutt. Tis Pity Shes a Whore. E. Arnold, 1966.

Gibbons, Brian, and Cyril Tourneur. The Revengers Tragedy. A & C Black, 2008.

Honigmann, Ernst Anselm Joachim, and Ayanna Thompson. Othello. Bloomsbury, 2016.

Middleton, Thomas. The Revengers Tragedy. Oxford University Press, 2012.

Publishing, Balberry. “Hamlet: AS & A2.” York Notes Study Guides, www.yorknotes.com/alevel/english-literature/hamlet-new/overview.

Sagar, Keith M. Hamlet (Shakespeare). Blackwell, 1969.

Sawyers, Dean. A Brief Compassion of The Revenger’s Tragedy and Hamlet. www.dean.roushimx.com/essays.

Shakespeare, William, and David Garrick. Romeo and Juliet. Cornmarket Pr., 1969.

Smallwood, R.L. “Tis Pity She’s a Whore and Romeo and Juliet”. Cahiers Elizabethans 20 (1981): 49-70.

Smith, Emma, and Garrett A. Sullivan. The Cambridge Companion to English Renaissance Tragedy. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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