Short Paper #2: Staging Your Revenge

“Are you so barbarous to set iron nipples/Upon the breast that gave you suck?” (Gratiana, Act 4, Scene 4)

As the quote above suggests, The Revenger’s Tragedy is very much a work of its time, and its language and allegorical characters might confuse or disturb modern audiences. And yet, the revenge tragedy has many contemporary cousins (The Godfather, etc.) and would not be out place in any movie or TV show. The trick is to restage it in such a way that we could see the universal themes and ideas, without getting lost in the trickier innuendos or conventions of 17th century society.

PROMPT: With this in mind, how could you translate the play into a modern genre and/or setting to help audiences appreciate the dark humor and vicious satire of the play? I want you to write a short paper that suggests a modern way to stage this play that would help people go, “oh, I see what this is about,” or “oh, I know that character!” Middleton made his characters allegorical, each one representing a specific vice or virtue; consider how you might do the same with characters or setting we immediately respond to. Could you set The Revenger’s Tragedy in space—a new version of Alien or Terminator? Or is this a modern hip hop musical? (the rhymes might work!). Or perhaps it’s the latest Bravo reality show (The Housewives of Venice County)?

APPROACH: Choose TWO PASSAGES to briefly close read as a way of illustrating your basic approach. So, for example, if you decide that The Revenger’s Tragedy would make sense as a prequel to Star Wars, show us how you would stage two specific passages: how does your staging/genre help us understand the characters, the action, the satire/humor, and the lines themselves. You don’t have to do much, but give us a few details that suggest your general approach. Pretend that you’re making a case for this staging to potential investors: why would this work and make money and not be simply nuts? You might also want to explain what a revenge tragedy is to help justify your approach—so use Chapter 6 from Hackett as your secondary source.


  • 4-5 pages, double spaced
  • Close reading from two specific scenes
  • Use of Hackett as a secondary source, either Ch.6 or other (quote!)
  • Quote and cite using MLA format throughout
  • Due Thursday, April 6th by 5pm (we do have class that day!)