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The Revenger's Tragedy is a Jacobean Revenge play written in 1606 by (scholars now believe) Thomas Middleton.
It's convoluted, disgusting and full of over-the-top gory acts of vengeance. Some people think that it was intended as a parody of the revenge-tragedy genre so popular at the time. And of Hamlet in particular (see Take That, below).
There is a 2002 film adaptation which sets the play in post-apocalyptic Liverpool (or just Liverpool), and stars Christopher Eccleston as Vindice.
This play provides examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: The 2002 version cuts some of the subplots, to streamline the story. And, you know, updates it a lot.
- Alas, Poor Yorick: Played with; since Hamlet came out a few years earlier, it's clearly poking fun at that scene.
- All-Star Cast: The 2002 film version has Christopher Eccleston as Vindice, Eddie Izzard as Lussorioso, and Derek Jacobi as the Duke.
- Alternate Character Interpretation: In the film, Castiza plays a more active role in helping her brother carry out his revenge.
- Anti-Hero: Vindice.
- Break the Cutie: Vindice plays at doing this to his own sister, and only stops after she realizes who he is.
- Character Filibuster: Vindice soliloquizes a few times.
- Complete Monster
- Crapsack World: One of the most grim.
- Crosses the Line Twice: Try six times, or so.
- Cruel to Be Kind: Vindice does this to Castiza when he sees her again for the first time in nine years.
- Curtain Camouflage: Lussurioso leaps out from behind an arras to confront his mother having sex with her step-son Spurio. Turns out she's with his father, the Duke. Oops.
- Dead Baby Comedy: Some of the characters use this, and the play itself has its share of these moments.
- Dead Little Sister: Or wife, in this case.
- Double Entendre: Dozens.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Vindice.
- I Love the Dead: The Duke, raping Gloriana's corpse.
- Impersonation Paradox: Vindice is asked by Lussurioso to find and kill Piato (his disguised self).
- Incest Is Relative
- It's Personal
- Karma Houdini: Vindice and Hippolito would have got away clean, if Vindice didn't have to go and brag about it on his way out the door.
- Karmic Death: The Duke poisoned Vindice's wife because she wouldn't sleep with him. So Vindice uses her skull, with poison on the lips (the more you think about how this has to be staged, the weirder it gets. And seeing it is stranger still...), as the instrument to poison the Duke.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall/Painting the Fourth Wall: Vindice does both, a few times. Most obviously in the line:
Is there no thunder left, or is't kept up
In stock for heavier vengeance?
There it is!
- Long-Lost Relative: When Vindice returns home, he is one of these.
- Magnificent Bastard: Vindice.
- Master of Disguise: Vindice, as Piato.
- Meaningful Name: Nearly all of the characters are named for their most prominent attribute:
- Vindice = Vengeance
- Piato = Hidden
- Lussurioso = Lecherous
- Spurio = Bastard
- Ambitioso = Ambitious
- Dondolo = Idiot
- Nencio = Dolt
- Sordido = Corrupt
- Gratiana = Grace
- Castiza = Chastity
- Gloriana = Glorious
- Moral Event Horizon: Vindice soars past it, and doesn't care.
- Morality Pet: Gloriana, for Vindice.
- Nietzsche Wannabe: Vindice is pretty nihilistic.
- Parental Incest: Between the Duchess and Spurio.
- Parody: Of revenge-tragedies.
- Reality Subtext: Since this play came out during the reign of James I, but the author is clearly looking back toward the days of Elizabeth I, there are lots of references to women's virginity ("The Virgin Queen"), and anti-royal sentiments.
- Revenge Before Reason: Very much so. In fact, when Vindice brags to Antonio about how they killed the Duke, and everyone else in his family, and Antonio sentences them to death, Vindice seems happy to accept his fate.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Vindice.
- Setting Update: The movie adaptation updates it to Post Apocalyptic Liverpool. Or just Liverpool.
- Sketchy Successor: Played with, as the Duke's sons scramble and backstab each other to be the new Duke.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Somewhat on the cynical side of the scale.
- Sliding Scale of Free Will vs. Fate: Fate crops up a few times.
Vindice: Why, brother, it is fate!
Hippolito: It is, but whose? His or yours?
Vindice: I set my fate at naught, so that I have revenge.
- Stealth Insult
- Vindice's revenge.
- The Duke's admitting to Vindice (while he is disguised as Piato), with a chuckle, that after he killed Vindice's wife for not sleeping with him, he raped her corpse.
- Take That: Several to the revenge-tragedy genre, and at Hamlet (which was first performed six years earlier) in particular.
- Talkative Loon: Vindice, although he isn't loony so much as he's insanely driven toward his purpose.
- Those Two Guys: Vindice and Hippolito.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Gloriana.
- Upperclass Twit: Lussurioso.
- Up to Eleven: Vindice's revenge.
- You Can't Fight Fate: Vindice says, "I set my fate at naught, so that I have revenge."
- Writers Cannot Do Math: Played with. Rather, it's Lussurioso who can't add up.