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Theatrical Revengers
Bar Harbor
alexx_kay
I've long thought that what made Hamlet so interesting, compared to his dramatic peers, was that from very early in the play, he recognized the fact that he *was* in a play, and moreover, what genre. This leads directly to the realization that he is doomed/damned, no matter what he does. He delays action as long as he can, because he knows that any actions he takes will, ultimately, destroy him as surely as Claudius.

Vindice, in "The Revenger's Tragedy" is /almost/ as clever as Hamlet. Vindice conceives of himself as in a play -- but in his arrogance, he comes to believe that *he* is the playwright.

The notion that he is in a revenge tragedy is brought up formally in the very first speech of the play:
Vengeance, thou murder's quit-rent, and whereby
Thou shouldst thyself tenant to tragedy, (I.i)

By Act 2, Vindice is using the language of a playwright, though still ascribing the action of revising the text to others.
This their second meeting writes the duke cuckold
With new additions, his horns newly reviv'd. (II.ii)

By Act 3, he takes responsibility for setting out props and casting roles:
Now to my tragic business. Look you, brother,
I have not fashion'd this only for show
And useless property; no, it shall bear a part
E'en in its own revenge. (III.v)
After the Duke's murder, he comments on his successful scene in theatrical terms.
When the bad bleeds, then is the tragedy good. (III.v)

By Act 4, Vindice scolds the special effects team for missing their cue.
Is there no thunder left, or is't kept up
In stock for heavier vengeance? There it goes! (IV.ii)
The fact that the thunder seemingly responds to his complaint confirms in him the notion that he is in complete control of events; that he has, in some sense, become God.

In Act 5, the language of theatrical revision comes up again:
I could vary it not so little as thrice over again, 't 'as some eight returns like Michaelmas Term. (V.i)
(The second half of this is simultaneously a pun on legal terminology, and a reference to Middleton's earlier popular play "Michaelmas Term", which may well have already been 'varied' in a 'return' by now.)

In his final act of vengeance, Vindice happily notes that the thunder comes in, literally, on cue this time.
Mark thunder?
Dost know thy cue, thou big-voic'd crier?
Dukes' groans are thunder's watchwords.
Shortly thereafter, he comments on the thunder as proving the approval of a divine audience:
No power is angry when the lustful die;
When thunder claps, heaven likes the tragedy. (V.iii)

When Vindice, in his arrogance, admits his crimes, he is surprised to find himself no longer in the position of control he had become accustomed to. His theatrical metaphors leave him, with one possible exception.
This work was ours which else might have been slipp'd, (V.iii)
"Work" might, with a little stretch of the imagination, be taken to refer to the play itself, "The Revenger's Tragedy".
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Brilliant commentary! But don't forget that Hamlet saw himself as a playwright and stage manager/director/book-holder, confirmed by his lengthy instructions to the travelling players--and of course, the play he revises, and by his composition of "a speech of some dozen or sixteen lines," transforms from "The Murder of Gonzago" into "The Mousetrap."
*******
Whilst searching for the exact quote, I came upon these lines that confirmed a recent interpretation that the play is really about zombies:
HAMLET
Is't possible?
GUILDENSTERN
O, there has been much throwing about of brains.
HAMLET
Do the boys carry it away?

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