The Classics Book Tag (AKA Oh My God I Can’t Believe I Still Haven’t Read All These Books Please Don’t Judge Me)

Garden chair

Jillian tagged me for the Classics Book Tag – thanks, Jillian! So, let’s get on with it. Also, please enjoy this completely unrelated but extremely pretty stock photo I’ve included, mostly because I’ve pretty much tapped out Unsplash’s supply of book-related stock images.

1. An over-hyped classic you really didn’t like?

Le Mort d’Arthur. It’s basically 400+ pages of dudes in chain main slicing one another’s bodily appendages off as if they were made of butter. Pass. Continue reading

Knaves and Fools: The Revenger’s Tragedy, by – Thomas Middleton? Or Cyril Tourneur? – (1607)

Four Revenge TragediesWarning: murder, mayhem, and spoilers ahead!

A man walks onstage holding a skull. He starts to speak.

No, you’re not watching Hamlet – though there’s little doubt that it is a cheeky reference to one of the most recognisable scenes in English dramatic history.

The play is The Revenger’s Tragedy, written either by Cyril Tourneur or crowd favourite Thomas Middleton, depending on which scholar you believe. It is a confusing, bloody, and at times hilarious look at the revenge tragedy genre and, like all good revenge tragedies, there are gory deaths aplenty.

The story’s protagonist is Vindice, the aforementioned skull-handler. The skull belongs to his love, Gloriana, who was murdered by an unscrupulous Duke some nine years ago. As you can probably guess (based on the weird and obsessive hoarding of his beloved’s bones) Vindice has had a little bit of trouble getting over it. So he devises a scheme to avenge Gloriana by disguising himself as a servant and insinuating himself with the Duke’s son, Lussurioso. The usual murder, mayhem, and sexual escapades ensue. Continue reading

Revenge Overload: The Spanish Tragedy (1592), by Thomas Kyd

Spanish TragedyPlease note: there are spoilers ahead. Mostly of the who-kills-whom variety. If you’re a fan of mystery, I’d recommend you get comfy with a copy of Kyd before you read on with my review.

BALTHAZAR
Hieronimo, methinks a comedy were better.

HIERONIMO
A comedy?
Fie, comedies are fit for common wits:
But to present a kingly troupe withal,
Give me a stately-written tragedy,
Tragedia cothurnata, fitting kings,
Containing matter, and not common things.

(IV:i, ll. 155-161)

The Spanish Tragedy is one of those plays that shows up very frequently on college courses and Shakespeare-related reading lists. Yet despite its popularity with Theatre Studies professors the world over, it’s very rarely the first thing to pop into someone’s head when they think of Elizabethan theatre. Or the second thing, for that matter.

I have to admit, this puzzles me a little. After all, The Spanish Tragedy pretty much does exactly what it says on the can: it’s set in Spain; it’s about revenge; and there’s enough tragedy to make even Romeo and Juliet take a break from their incessant adolescent whining to sit up and take notes. Continue reading