2023-2024 Catalog

ENGL 222 The Literature of Revenge

What, if any, is the relationship between revenge and justice? This course will pose that question primarily through a careful study of English Renaissance revenge tragedy (Kyd, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Webster, Middleton) and its dialogue with ancient models of the genre (Aeschylus, Seneca). We will also read Renaissance romances about the challenges of tempering the desire for revenge (Cervantes, Spenser). Our study of these literary works will enable us to understand key developments in the legal and religious thinking of Renaissance Europe (especially England), and the relevance of these innovations to the complex role revenge plays in our current moment. We will likewise survey some influential philosophers of revenge from antiquity to the present, and if time allows, we’ll examine the importance of revenge to contemporary fiction and film. Some questions we’ll ask include: How have artists imagined the desire for and consequences of revenge? What cultural and legal structures have been constructed to produce, mediate, temper, or sublimate vengefulness? How have modern conceptions of justice relied on, or occluded, revenge? When does revenge uphold structures of oppression and when can it aid in resisting or abolishing them? This class will give you tools to analyze the long history of revenge and its ramifications for literature and law in Renaissance England, and enable you to think more critically about the role of revenge in our own legal, political, and cultural worlds today.

Major Requirement Met: Group I


4 units

Core Requirements Met

  • Pre-1800
  • Regional Focus