Early Modern Tragedy and the Cinema of Violence by Stevie Simkin

By Stevie Simkin

It is a hugely unique research that considers parallel concerns in genres set 400 years apart-revenge tragedies of the early 17th century and violent cinema of the final thirty years. It bargains a sequence of provacative and unique explorations of loss of life and revenge, and gender and kingdom politics. What occurs once we attach The White Devil with Basic Instinct? The Changeling or Titus Andronicus with Straw Dogs? Doctor Faustus with Se7en? Taxi Driver or Robocop with The Spanish Tragedy? beautiful to either literature and picture scholars and students, the booklet additionally reconsiders the high/popular tradition divide and displays at the enduring importance of the revenge motif in Western tradition.

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9 While The Revenger’s Tragedy and even The Atheist’s Tragedy can conceivably be read as parodying the idea of the ‘theatre of God’s judgements’ (to steal a phrase from a popular collection of cautionary tales put together by Thomas Beard), the dramatisation of the Christian dilemma of justice and revenge in Hamlet and a number of other plays of the period offers much more serious engagements with providentialism. In England, then, there seems to have been a gradual shift away from privately exacted revenge and the tradition of feud (wars between families) – with its roots in chivalric codes of honour and vengeance – towards a centrally-organised justice system, as the state became more firmly established, its hegemony underpinned by Christian doctrine.

Cagin and Dray see the low-budget movie Joe as an accurate barometer of the highly charged atmosphere of confrontation that dominated the turn of the decade. Depicting the alliance of the eponymous working-class bigot (Peter Boyle) with an upper-middle-class businessman, Bill (Dennis Patrick), it charts their search for Bill’s daughter (Susan Sarandon) through the shady world of hippiedom, after she has gone on the run in the wake of the murder of her drug-addicted boyfriend – murdered by her own father in an uncharacteristic fit of rage.

9 While The Revenger’s Tragedy and even The Atheist’s Tragedy can conceivably be read as parodying the idea of the ‘theatre of God’s judgements’ (to steal a phrase from a popular collection of cautionary tales put together by Thomas Beard), the dramatisation of the Christian dilemma of justice and revenge in Hamlet and a number of other plays of the period offers much more serious engagements with providentialism. In England, then, there seems to have been a gradual shift away from privately exacted revenge and the tradition of feud (wars between families) – with its roots in chivalric codes of honour and vengeance – towards a centrally-organised justice system, as the state became more firmly established, its hegemony underpinned by Christian doctrine.

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