In Francis Bacon’s 1625 essay, “On Revenge,” the philosopher writes that “Revenge is a kind of wild justice.” While society at that time was increasingly bound by law and order, its playwrights were increasingly interested in lawlessness. Thus the “revenge tragedy” was born, a quick hit with audiences, who delighted in scenes of unbridled violence. John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi typifies the anarchy. The play includes a renaissance-era private investigator, boundless incestuous subtext, fratricide, sexually corrupt cardinals, and a poisoned bible. It’s a mad and creepy cacophony, a play in which even the avengers (there are several) are doomed, and everyone dies. —C.J.F.
Almeida Theatre Almeida St, The Angel, London N1 1TA, United Kingdom Get Directions »