Writing and revenge: The struggle for authority in Elizabethan and Jacobean tragedy

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Mihoko Suzuki - Committee Chair


This dissertation analyzes the effects of publication on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. The dramatists operated within a theater market that placed them in a disturbing relationship to their works. Moreover, with the advent of publication, playwrights were forced into a new relationship with their texts. The effects of the various authorial anxieties facing the dramatists are revealed in the tragedies of the period where writing and revenge are inextricably linked. Allusions to literal and figurative representations of writing tie together writing and revenge by substituting blood, knives, and bodies for ink, pens, and texts. Thus, an act of revenge often takes the form of an assertion of authorship. Writing serves the revenger as he takes on the role of author in order to pursue his revenge; but as is usual with revenge tragedy, the author of the revenge is himself destroyed and becomes a victim of the authority of writing. The plays reveal that just as revenge goes beyond the control of the revenger, so writing goes beyond the control of its author. Finally, the dramatization of writing also appears to be a response to the transition drama was undergoing in this period from am essentially oral art form to a literary genre.


Literature, English

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