Revenge Tragedy Meeting City Comedy : Alan Ayckbourn’s The Revengers’ Comedies

Hui-chuan Wang

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. 
Key words
 Ayckbourn, Jacobean, revenge tragedy, city comedy, dramatic convention