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. . . A revenge tragedy is a story of crime and retribution. Revenge tragedies find their origin in the violent Roman drama of Seneca. Shakespeare’s very first tragedy was the enormously popular and excessively violent, barbaric and bloody revenge tragedy Titus Andronicus. As character’s seek revenge against one another for real and perceived abuses, one character’s tongue and hands are cut off while severed heads and a hand are delivered on a platter. Another character is tricked into eating her own children who have been killed and baked into a meat pie and served to the mother at a banquet! Imagine our reaction today to a film with such content! Well — you don’t need to imagine! For the first time ever, Titus has recently (1999) been made into a film (starring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange) and is available at video stores! Here’s a link to a review if you’re curious. http://www.cinemasense.com/Reviews/titus.htm While popular, especially with Elizabethan audiences, Titus is generally viewed as an inferior effort on Shakespeare’s part. On the other hand, his later brilliantly and cleverly written revenge tragedy Hamlet (from the middle of Shakespeare’s career around 1600) is critically acclaimed as one of the finest plays ever. Additionally, Hamlet has been produced on stage and in film (25 film versions!) more than any other Shakespearean play.In Hamlet, evil is embodied in the wicked Claudius. He kills his brother King Hamlet, takes his throne (which rightfully should have gone to young Prince Hamlet), marries his victim’s widow Gertrude, later attempts to kill Prince Hamlet, and kills (though inadvertently) his wife (Hamlet’s mom). Young Prince Hamlet’s task/challenge that is set before him near the beginning of the play is to avenge his father’s death. By the time he carries out the revenge, the stage is literally littered with bodies. What we witness is that both good and bad are inherent in the human condition.
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