Revenge Tragedy Meeting City Comedy : Alan Ayckbourn’s The Revengers’ Comedies
pp. 121~146 (26 pages)
Since the 1980s there has been a marked interest, in the British
theatre, in the non-Shakespearean early modern plays, particularly two
subgenres of Jacobean drama—revenge tragedy and city comedy. Jacobean
drama finds renewed favour because it seems strangely modern and
familiar, staging conflicts and tensions that preoccupy many minds in
the late twentieth century.
It is in this context of recent Renaissance revivals that we can
read British playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s The Revengers’ Comedies
(1989). The play charts the double revenge plans of two complete
strangers who undertake each other’s revenge, a scheme reminiscent of
the plot of Patricia Highsmith’s thriller Strangers on a Train. The
title of the play, however, clearly alludes to a Jacobean precedent,
Middleton/Tourneur’s The Revenger’s Tragedy.
Initially famous for his comedies about the dullness of suburban
English middle-class lives, Ayckbourn turned his attention in the 1980s
to broader social issues, condemning the materialism of Thatcherite
Britain in several plays. The Revengers’ Comedies satirizes the
unscrupulous and irresponsible behaviour of the multinational
corporation and points to the harmful effects it has on the society.
The playwright adapts conventions of both revenge tragedy and city
comedy to a modern story.
Ayckbourn, Jacobean, revenge tragedy, city comedy, dramatic convention