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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: November ::
Re: Revenger's Tragedy
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1964  Friday, 12 November 1999.

[1]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 Nov 1999 13:11:25 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1955 Re: Revenger's Tragedy

[2]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 Nov 1999 18:33:25 -0500
        Subj:   Authorship of The Revenger's Tragedy

[3]     From:   David Kathman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 Nov 1999 19:20:19 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1955 Re: Revenger's Tragedy


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 Nov 1999 13:11:25 -0000
Subject: 10.1955 Re: Revenger's Tragedy
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1955 Re: Revenger's Tragedy

Gerda Grice writes:

>Wasn't The Revenger's Tragedy traditionally attributed to Cyril
>Tourneur?  In the 70s, as far as I can remember, editions of the play
>normally had his name on the cover.  Tradition, I guess, has a short
>shelf life these days.

This would be correct in that an early ascription was to Tourneur, the
(undoubted?) author of +The Atheist's Tragedy+, to which +The Revenger's
Tragedy+ was linked.  This was called into question, since it seemed (on
the basis of style) unlikely that the same author wrote both plays.  At
that point (I think) it shifted to "anon" (or "Tourneur" with obligatory
quotation marks round the name).  Then after various possible candidates
(Webster? Chapman?) seems to have settled currently on Thomas
Middleton.  I find this utterly implausible as a marked characteristic
of all Middleton's plays is their (relatively) thin imagery, while RT
exhibits extremely dense imagery.

I stand duly chastened over my sloppy use of "traditional" in my
previous post.

Robin Hamilton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 Nov 1999 18:33:25 -0500
Subject:        Authorship of The Revenger's Tragedy

Thank God there are scholars other than myself who work in detail on
authorship problems. The detailed analysis that goes on in these studies
is more than I have the patience for. However, I will recommend two
sources on the authorship of The Revenger's Tragedy. The first is the
introduction to the Penguin edition of Five Plays by Thomas Middleton.
The editors Bryan Loughrey and Neil Taylor offer a succinct explanation
for why they think the play is Middleton's rather than Cyril Tourneur's.
Also useful is R. V.  Holdsworth's essay, "The Revenger's Tragedy as a
Middleton Play" in _Three Jacobean Revenge Tragedies: A Casebook_, ed.
by Holdsworth, London:
Macmillan, 1990.

My usual approach to these problems is to see how the works claimed for
the author fit with those we know are by the author. The use of sickness
and health metaphors for a character's spiritual condition in The
Revenger's Tragedy fits very well with similar metaphors in a number of
Middleton works. The repentance of Gratiana also accords nicely with
repentances throughout Middleton's canon. But I will resist making this
a Middleton list. Feel free to email me personally if you'd like me to
draw out these comparisons.

Jack Heller

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[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Kathman <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 Nov 1999 19:20:19 -0600
Subject: 10.1955 Re: Revenger's Tragedy
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1955 Re: Revenger's Tragedy

Gerda Grice wrote:

>On Wed, 10 Nov  Robin Hamilton wrote:
>
>> Jack Heller writes:
>>
>> >>Second, there is a major gap in Middleton's writing from
>> >>1608-1613.  The playwright prior to this gap wrote only bawdy comedies.
>> >
>> >This is inaccurate on two counts. The Revenger's Tragedy and A Yorkshire
>> >Tragedy are notable extant tragedies in Middleton's canon dating before
>> >1608.
>>
>> Is there any evidence other than stylistic for Middleton's authorship of
>> +The Revenger's Tragedy+?  I've yet to see anything which challenges the
>> (once) traditional attribution of "anon" as the author of RT.
>>
>> Robin Hamilton
>
>Wasn't The Revenger's Tragedy traditionally attributed to Cyril
>Tourneur?  In the 70s, as far as I can remember, editions of the play
>normally had his name on the cover.  Tradition, I guess, has a short
>shelf life these days.

The "traditional" attribution to Tourneur originated in several printed
playlists from the late 17th century, which contain many doubtful or
demonstrably wrong attributions.  This doesn't necessarily mean that the
attribution is wrong, but it's a slender basis.  Still, with nothing
else to go on, the attribution to Tourneur became the traditional one.
But in this century, some scholars have explored other possible
attributions based on internal evidence, and have uncovered quite a bit
of such evidence for Middleton's authorship.  I think the attribution to
Middleton is reasonably solid but not proven.  There's a good discussion
of the whole issue in Samuel Schoenbaum's *Internal Evidence and
Elizabethan Dramatic Attribution*, and there's a good summary of the
case for Middleton in Macd. P. Jackson's 1983 facsimile edition of the
play.

Dave Kathman

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