Elizabethan Tragedy

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet very closely follows the dramatic conventions of revenge in Elizabethan theater. All revenge tragedies originally stemmed from the Greeks, who wrote and performed the first organized plays. After the Greeks came the Roman, Seneca, who had a great influence on all Elizabethan tragedy writers. Seneca basically laid the foundation for the ideas and the norms for all Renaissance tragic revenge playwrights, including William Shakespeare. The two most famous Elizabethan revenge tragedies were “Hamlet”, written by William Shakespeare, and “The Spanish Tragedy”, written by Thomas Kyd. These two plays used many of the Elizabethan conventions for revenge tragedies in their plays. Hamlet incorporated all revenge conventions in one way or another, which presented “Hamlet” as the model for Elizabethan drama. “Shakespeare’s Hamlet is one of many heroes of the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage who finds himself grievously wronged by a powerful figure, with no recourse to the law, and with a crime against his family to avenge.” Seneca was among the greatest classical tragedy authors and many educated Elizabethans had read his works and his biography. There were different stylistic devices that Elizabethan playwrights, including Shakespeare, learned and implemented from Seneca’s great tragedies. The five-act structure, the appearance of some kind of ghost, the one line exchanges known as stichomythia, and Seneca’s use of long rhetorical speeches were all later used in Elizabethan tragedies. Some of Seneca’s ideas were originally taken from the Greeks when the Romans invaded and conquered the Greeks, and with the new ideas, the Romans created their own theatrical ideas. Many of Seneca’s works, which dealt with bloody family histories and revenge, captivated the Elizabethans. Seneca’s works weren’t written for performance purposes, therefore English playwrights who wanted to realize Seneca’s ideas had to determine a method to…

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