"reading the Jacobean dramatists, Webster and Middleton, Torneur and Ford"
Thomas Middleton
Public DomainThomas Middleton

 The Jacobean dramas known as 'revenge tragedies' formed a particularly bloody genre of English playwriting in the seventeenth century. Although Shakespeare's Hamlet is a prime example of a revenge tragedy, the genre is more associated with the later works of dramatists such as Thomas Middleton (1580-1627), who wrote such classics as The Revenger's Tragedy, Women Beware Women, and The Changeling (with William Rowley).

Revenge tragedies typically involve complex plots of betrayal and intrigue which see a murder or betrayal committed early on, for which the protagonist takes elaborate, equally violent revenge. By the end of the play the stage is usually littered with corpses including that of the vengeful protagonist, as in Hamlet, where few survive. Written during a particularly eventful time in British history, revenge tragedies provided catharsis by indulging in orgies of distruction which both glorify and condemn violence.