Night and Day: Wednesday, November 07, 2002
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Revenger’s Tragedy

Box Theatre has a new production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet at the Ridglea. If the idea of yet another melancholy Dane taking the stage doesn’t excite you, some supplementary reading might inspire you to take another look. This lengthy heterogeneous play may seem strange, but it’s because relatively few people are familiar with the genre of Renaissance revenge tragedy that it belongs to. It’s a mystery why the plays written by Shakespeare’s contemporaries aren’t better known. There are enough bizarre murders, weird sexuality, and black humor in them to give any comic book reader pause. Consider the absurd scene in The Revenger’s Tragedy (variously attributed to Cyril Tourneur or Thomas Middleton) where a villain finds that his officer has mistakenly executed his brother instead of his enemy, and hits the officer in the head with his brother’s severed head. And the title character of George Chapman’s Bussy d’Ambois dies by an outrageous accident, but not before delivering a lengthy monologue with an axe embedded in his head.

These colorful splatterfests for the stage revel in their depravity, but many of them also contain serious ruminations on the ethics of revenge, as Hamlet does. Non-Shakespearean plays in the same mold include Middleton and William Rowley’s The Changeling, John Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, and John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, which is good enough to stand with any single play of Shakespeare’s. These plays make for fascinating reading in themselves and also show that Hamlet wasn’t produced in a vacuum but was part of a particular landscape that constituted a high point in English literature.

Hamlet plays Nov 8-Dec 1 at Ridglea Theater, 6025 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW. Tickets are $12-15. Call 817-994-7201.


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