The Revenger’s Tragedy


Thomas Middleton

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Themes and Colors
Revenge and Justice Theme Icon
Lust Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Revenger’s Tragedy, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Revenge and Justice

Many of the characters are out to right wrongs in The Revenger’s Tragedy—not least the play’s protagonist, Vindice, whose fiancée, Gloriana, was poisoned by the Duke ten years earlier. Revenge is Vindice’s obsession, just as sex is both the Duke’s and his son and heir Lussurioso’s. The play works hard to reflect the moral complexity of revenge, however, leaving it up to the audience whether the acts of revenge depicted truly represent…

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There’s hardly a moment that goes by in The Revenger’s Tragedy that doesn’t involve lust. Middleton shows lust to be a strong force, and to be especially volatile when mixed with power. In fact, lust is so powerful in this play that, for characters like Lussurioso and the Duke, sexual desire governs almost everything they do. Acting on lust becomes a kind of expression of power itself; sex is used both for gratification and…

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Women and Misogyny

Though in part a reflection of the time in which the play was written, women are treated terribly throughout The Revenger’s Tragedy—both by those men wishing to sexually exploit them and those who believe themselves to be more morally forthright. Even Vindice, technically the “hero” of the play, has a shallow and disparaging view of the opposite sex. That said, when looked at as a whole, it is women who provide the only…

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The revenge tragedy genre was notoriously gruesome, full of gore and murder—and even by those standards, The Revenger’s Tragedy is a bloody play. Whether this is Middleton poking fun at the genre or simply trying to outdo the revenge tragedies that came before is hard to say, but it certainly lends the play an anarchic streak of dark humor. When the play ends, there is the curious sense that perhaps none of the characters’ actions…

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