What is a revenge tragedy in Elizabethan England?
A revenge tragedy, popular from around 1580 to about 1640, a period spanning the reign of Queen Elizabeth to that of Charles I, featured many of the elements familiar to readers of Hamlet. These features included elements of the supernatural, a person seeking to avenge a wrong committed against them or a member of their family, madness, and complicated intrigue. Unlike Hamlet and other Shakespearean tragedies, however, other revenge tragedies tended to graphically portray violence on the stage. Still, Shakespeare's masterpiece is considered to be the greatest example of the genre.
Many scholars have pointed to the work of Roman playwright Seneca, whose works Thyestes, Medea, and Agamemnon, which featured physical pain, torture, murder, and betrayal, as being influential in the development of revenge tragedies. Others point to Italian drama, with its self-serving, scheming villians as important as well. Aside from Shakespeare's works, other important examples of revenge tragedy include Thomas Kyd and George Chapman.