This study explores both theatrical and metatheatrical significance of role-playing and disguises in The Revenger’s Tragedy. By mounting multiple episodes of revenge, the play exploits the theme of role-playing to an extreme extent. It also delineates the gradual transformation of Vindice from a seeker of justice to a sadistic killer; it reflects upon the generic constraints that impose on a tragic hero who assumes the role of an avenger. The tragedy is also interesting for its comic theatricality. It often blends tragic, even horrible, plots with comic and sometimes hilarious elements, bringing the audience to burst into “horrid laughter.” The murder of the old Duke by a poisonous kiss with the disguised country “wench” (actually Gloriana’s skull in attires, headdresses, and mask) verges on funny but absurd intensity. The figures of death—Gloriana’s skull, Junior’s bleeding head, and old Duke’s corpse—ridicule all the calculating and deceitful characters who indulge in plotting against each other. The final masques, or dances of death, close the play with a series of murders in a domino-like pattern, murders that highlight the self-mockery at the outcome of the complicated plotting. Vindice is undone by his “compulsion to speak”: he gleefully exposes his crime to Antonio.
臺灣英美文學期刊, 3, 13-36 Taiwan journal of English literature