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The revenge tragedy

             The Revenge Tragedy flourished in Britain in the late Elizabethan and Jacobean period for both literary and cultural reasons. Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy (1587) helped to establish the popularity of the genre, and it was followed by The Revenger's Tragedy (1606), published anonymously and ascribed first to Cyril Tourneur and then to Thomas Middleton. George Chapman's The Revenge of Bussy D'Ambois and Tourneur's The Atheist's Tragedy were written between 1609 and 1610. Each of the four plays printed here defines the problems of the revenge genre, often by exploiting its conventions in unexpected directions. All deal with fundamental moral questions about the meaning of justice and the lengths to which victimized individuals may go to obtain it, while registering the social strains of life in a rigid but increasingly fragile social hierarchy.
             The fact that revenge tragedies have been in existence since before the coming of Christ is testimony to the ongoing nature of the genre. That revenge is a self-engaged and retrospective action taken privately against an equal who has injured one's honour was an idea already stated by Aristotle. With the emergence of Christian values of forgiveness and charity, private revenge was no longer acceptable. You might go on to explain that revenge can be said to be a universal human impulse and, as such, knows no time boundaries. That is, it is relevant to people, no matter what the era. It changes, however, according to its context and reflects the values of that context.
             The conventions of a genre are what make it instantly recognizable. These may change and be adapted, however, according to the values and ideology of a particular culture in a particular context. For instance, in Attic tragedy, revenge was considered an honourable imperative by the male head of the household to restore honour to one's self or family, and was essential to the preservation of order .

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