Performing Ethics in English Revenge Drama: Wild Play

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Adapting Francis Bacon's notion of revenge as a 'kind of wild justice', Noam Reisner shows how English Renaissance revenge drama takes the form of 'wild play'. These plays drew on complicated modes of audience participation and devices of metatheatricality, allowing audiences to test how abstract moral or ethical concepts play out in a performative arena of human action. Reisner demonstrates that their overwhelming popularity is best understood in terms of these 'mimetic ethical exercises' which they generated for their audiences. This study surveys a range of revenge plays from the period's commercial theatre, beginning with Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy and tracking the development of similar plays responding to Kyd's original design in late Elizabethan and early Jacobean drama. In the process it also provides a stage history of Kydian revenge drama with fresh readings of select plays by Marlowe, Shakespeare, Marston, Middleton and other early Jacobean playwrights.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages292
ISBN (Electronic)9781009462433, 9781009462488, 1009462482
ISBN (Print)9781009462440
StatePublished - 2024

Cite this