The Anatomy of the Revenger: Violence and Dissection on the Early Modern English Stage

Attila Kiss

Abstract


The persistent employment of excessive violence on the early modern English stage was studied by Renaissance scholarship for centuries in diverse but rather formal or historicist ways, and this critical focus received no new impetus until the corporal turn in critical theory after the 1980s. Before the poststructuralist, or, more precisely, the postsemiotic and corposemiotic investigations, critics tended to categorize bodily transgression as part of the general process of deterioration that lead to the decadence and all-enveloping perversity of the Stuart and Caroline stage, or they merely catalogued the metamorphoses of iconographic and emblematic elements of the memento mori, the ars moriendi, the contemptus mundi, the danse macabre or the exemplum horrendum traditions through the imagery of violence, mutilation and corporeal disintegration. The reception history of Shakespeare’s first tragedy exemplifies the general hostility towards extreme violence, an attitude which was established by the technologies of canon formation in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

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ISSN: 1892-0888