For the last few sessions we have been focusing on Restoration Comedy and various plays and playwrights from that era, however in this session we moved and onto exploring Jacobean plays and playwrights. The play we focused on was ‘The Revenger’s Tragedy’ which was originally thought to be written by Cyril Tourneur but later became acknowledged and now recognised as the work of Thomas Middleton.
‘The Revenger’s Tragedy’ is a five act play, first performed in 1606 and published a year later during the reign of James I, mocking society at the time. It fell out of favour before the restoration happened in 1660 but was revived in the 20th century, and was eventually even turned into a film, released in 2002.
As always, Lynn drew our attention to the character list as, like in restoration comedies, the chosen names generally link to the characters personality, appearance or character traits, often using puns to do so. One example of this is from a character in the play called ‘Supervacuo’ which literally translates into being empty of something. As a class we discussed the possible meanings and context of the word and what kind of character type that may suggest. The first responses we had to ‘being empty’ and what it might imply about the character was that it may potentially indicate being empty of emotions or alternatively empty of knowledge. I thought it was really interesting and clever how the playwrights used the names to give a preconceived impression of what the characters are like and the potential use of contradicting the stereotype or addressing it in an ironic way.
We then read through the plot so we could understand what we were looking at; admittedly I had to read through the plot a couple of times until I could get a rough understanding of what was happening, as it quickly became very confusing to keep track of all the characters and how they are related. Luckily, after talking this over as a group we were able to decipher the rough outline of each of the five acts.
We were given three different parts of the script which we looked at in turn. The first extract was from the beginning of act 5 between Vindice and Hippolito who are carrying the Duke’s body while dressed as Piato. On the first read through I must admit that I remained slightly confused as to what was happening and their objective in the scene, however luckily the mini glossary in the footnotes of the script helped me translate some of the language that was unfamiliar. While I understood the outline of the action there were some aspects that I wanted to clarify with Lynn and the rest of the class when we reconvened such as when Vindice asks about the Duke’s son and whether Piato was infact dead already etc.
The next extracts were split between the boys and the girls: The girls were given a scene in act 4 between Gratiana and her daughter, Castiza, while the boys looked at a scene in act 5 when Vindice and Hippolito kill the Duke (which takes place shortly after the first scene we studied as a group).
When reading through the script initially it was unsurprisingly confusing as to whether the characters were referring to themselves or talking about each other or women in general . I was comforted by the fact that the other members of the class and even Lynn herself were also slightly confused at times too which was probably due to there not being much indication given in the translation section at the bottom. However, we were all able to understand the intentions of the characters in the scene and the emotions and general mood behind it.Daytona and I worked together to try and come up with a rough translation in ‘modern day’ language for each line, which I think helped me understand the text far more!
The boys on the other hand looked at a scene in act 5 which is shortly after the first scene we all looked at when Vindice and Hippolito kill the Duke. Unlike the other two scenes, I was able to quickly understand what was going on. The two characters along with Lussurioso talk about killing the Duke while he is drunk and then end up doing it further on in the page.