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Introduction This Seminar Paper intends to describe and comment three of the great revenge drama plays of the early modern period in English literature: William Shakespeares Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, Cyril Tourneurs The Revengers Tragedy and Thomas Kyds The Spanish Tragedy. Through visiting the direct sources of the plays, but also helped by some recent scholarship and criticism from 1974 up to 2012, inclusive, the plays have been read through the lens of Social Criticism and Satire. As going forward with the course of Revenge Drama, it was interesting to note how a very relevant figure as the malcontent, within the most of the plays, embodied the very thoughts, sentiments and expectations of a real difficult, intricate and exciting age as the period between 1570 and 1660. But the malcontent did not remained just as a depressive figure that comes only to bitterly point at what is wrong or misplaced; this figure also played the important roles of the critic and the satirist, shedding light upon the circumstances giving origin to the plot of the plays. Social matters have been very appealing when stepping in both philosophical and literary grounds. I guess English Renaissance playwrights could not avoid establishing connections between their most profound and transcendental thoughts and reasons, and the stories they wanted to tell. The social questioning works out as a means to enjoy the core of these dramatic pieces. The paper presents, this way, a reflection that tries to make an ensemble of both the figure of the critic and satirist, and the social issues that have been portrayed. The work starts with a view on the critique about social issues and distortions, continues with the satiric expression of the main characters as a privileged shape of the critic speech, and closes with the resource of the Masque, as a way to help this sharp and acute critique; that, nonetheless, preserves its

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aesthetic taste, giving us the chance to be readers and spectators, pretty aware of the claim that once Renaissance drama wanted to express. 1. Social criticism: the response to the symptoms of an age. As an inherent part of revenge plays, social criticism played its role. One cannot understand this historic period and its expression through drama, if not understanding the tremendous strength of artistic expressions in the configuration of societies. When composing these stories, playwrights recollected all of his views and thoughts, much of peoples observations and opinions and, definitely, the symptoms of a system which offered paradoxically at the same time security and skepticism. In the early modern period, drama was related to common daily life; everyday life was a resemblance of the political moves that were effectuated, and those were also linked to a line of tradition, highly attached to the memories of the past. In times of difficult social circumstances, and acute tension, drama (Theatre) was, then, a political stage with a clear and visible effect on the life of common men and women at least those who could have access to the plays (Cf. Lever 1; 3). There was discontent in almost all the social sceneries. Playwrights were aware of that social twist that was undermining the core of human relationships. It was noticed a concentration of State power and the conversion of noblemen into court parasites, together with the concomitant suppression of a wide range of individual freedoms, as well (Cf. Lever 4). A list of issues (among others) was considered as the background for the Elizabethan and the Jacobean stage: The free exercise of atrocities; the indulgence in the macabre; the morbidity of sentiment; the masochism in sexuality; the absence of a social and moral counterweight to the universal corruption; and some other economic and socio political circumstances. Ideology, politics and religion also appeared intertwined, creating an input of morality that was well represented in both Elizabethan and Jacobean tragedies. There was a legitimation

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of systems of power and subjection. In the Elizabethan period religion was increasingly perceived in terms of such legitimation (Dollimore 14). But even if beliefs were strongly attached to sociopolitical considerations, and it was expected a better frame for peoples development, reality showed something different. That is why in all of the plays is represented a terrible disorder: the reversal of relationships of authority, sexuality and status in general; therefore, a licensed misrule could act as a safety valve for social conflict, simulating rebellion (Dollimore 26). Jacobean playwrights were then truly interested in allowing their drama within a new mould, that would be able to offer a wider range of characters and settings that could help a better interpretation of real and common situations. What the protagonists of the plays were committed to was the destruction of evil, even at the cost of destroying in the process their own dignity (Lever 10). It actually happened to the three of them: Hamlet (Hamlet, Prince of Denmark), Vindice (The Revengers Tragedy) and Hieronimo (The Spanish Tragedy). Their individual response as central characters, gave relevance to intolerable situations in a drama that was more a representation of adversity and stance. It was not primarily the conduct of the individual, but of the society which oppressed him, what stand condemned (Cf. Lever 12). When meeting Hamlet, the play is inscribed in a patriarchal, monarchical and nationalistic ground (the very foundations of Shakespeares England), which turns it into a characteristic play of its time. The persona of Hamlet, within, represents both a first state of not being governed as an already adult person with will of determination, and a second state of not governing others; which acts as a rejection of his identity and role as a prince. These features seem to portray a critique on hierarchy that Hamlet wants to make present (Cf. Charnes 54). Linear transmission of power is questioned throughout the play, starting with the issue of a contradictory situation that confronts Hamlets right to access the throne and the apparent usurpation effectuated by his uncle Claudius who occupies the Chair of Denmark. This is

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what Linda Charnes stands when speaking about A political double-consciousness where Shakespeare reveals a structural narcissism at the heart of primogeniture and linear royal descent. Inheriting a throne or position of power is fundamentally anti-political (68). This is a reason wherefrom adultery seemed to be the only political form to transcend this barrier. This also means that political change may only come through the lack of resemblance between parents and their offspring. Charnes reinforces this argument: Hamlet offers no recuperable models of paternal sublimity, nothing with which to reconstitute the foundation of the royal state. In his refusal to take up the crown, a wife, the state, and father offspring, Hamlet breaks the continuity of production that would enable the dream of patriarchal inevitability to continue (70). From this Hamlet situation another question is posed: Why to break the patriarchal approach? Because there is the urgent desire to not perpetuate a dynasty of corruption and sorrow, of misrules and continuous errors. Adultery and bastardy appeared to be some ways to hold this line in place. The image of a spurious child that also takes place in early modern plays, constitutes a living affront to the patriarchal order, seeming to cancel the father out, implicitly denying the exclusive function of the womb as patriarchal mint. In the case of The Revengers Tragedy, there is a character that allows a speech regarding this affront: Adultery is my nature () I was begot in impudent wine and lust. Stepmother, I consent to thy desires; I love thy mischief well, but I hate thee, And those three cubs, thy sons, wishing confusion, Death, and disgrace may be their epitaphs () Duke, on thy brow Ill draw my bastardy. For indeed a bastard by nature should make cuckolds,

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Because he is the son of a cuckold-maker (I. ii. 178; 191-5; 201-3). With these lines, the persona of Spurio (the character) does more than simply justify incest with his stepmother as a wittily symmetrical revenge against his adulterous father. His selfdescription concentrates, in its bitter oxymoron, a whole history of cultural stigmatization; and in the process it foregrounds the symbolic significance of the bastard in Middletons [sic] (Tourneurs) tragical satire (Neill 399; my parenthetical clarification). In The Revengers Tragedy, bastardy constituted a challenge to the patriarchal order in early modern England, and its fictions of legitimate descent (Cf. Neill 398). The figure of Spurio shapes, then, both Tourneurs misogynistic social vision and his critical response to the social degradation of the age. Derived from the anterior, it can also be affirmed that the aim of The Revengers Tragedy, within this frame of social criticism, is to work as a response to the disintegration of a whole social order, especially by the cynical taste of Vindice (the main character) who often becomes identified with the corruption he attacks. Ironies and grotesque effects on his addresses intend to foster a profound awareness of reality (Cf. Lever 28). The court is seen here from below-stairs; that is to say, from the streets, from rumor and report, where they present a strong affront to all popular conceptions of human behavior. As a matter of fact the names of the Dukes sons (Lussurioso, Ambitioso, Supervacuo and Spurio) are all personifications of vice. These characters embody the excesses of a court that washed apieces patrimonies and whose abuses were speeded up by a tremendous inflation and a growing parasitism which eroded all established positions and values (Lever 31). Vindice certainly portrays this critique: Whod sit at home in a neglected room, Dealing her short-livd beauty to the pictures, That are as useless as old men, when those

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Poorer in face and fortune than herself Walk with a hundred acres on their backs, Fair meadows cut into green foreparts? (II. i. 208-13). A sense of waste and futility shows a frame of indifference and injustice that leads to irony and some kind of resentment. These moral feelings are connected to the claim for fair structures that may allow people to get what they actually need. Vindices critique wants to bring into the light a corrupt system that resembles evilness and stays hidden without any control; and a question immediately bursts out: How can this be stopped? It seems that only by infiltrating that system, living right inside of it. But the prize to be paid is remarkably high, since there is no less than dignity, integrity and life itself to be given away. The Revengers Tragedy poses, this way, the question about the meaning of an inevitable and tragic death: a sacrifice of the protagonist in order to stop corruption by becoming also corrupt. Why is it that the protagonist must lose his identity and eventually die? Rather being killed or committing suicide, what does it mean that in order to make justice and complete revenge, death must be accomplished? Whether is a matter of justice or not, has to be carefully explained, because what it really appears within the plot is not properly a punishment on to the avenger, but an immediate consequence of a twisted and corrupt social system. Kistner stands that what Tourneur precisely wanted to show in this play, was a sense of inevitability on the death of the main character. It reads: The source of the necessity of Vindices death lies in the playwrights representation of the two agesthe iron age that prevails through the main portion of the play and the silver age that is initiated with the succession of Antonio (V.iii.84-85).The author carefully and elaborately depicts the corruption and cynicism of the iron age (37). As a matter of fact Tourneur presents the evil of the iron age in the first lines of his play:

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Duke! royal lecher! Go, gray-haird adultery. And thou his son, as impious steepd as he, And thou his bastard true-begot in evil, And thou his duchess that will do with devil: Four excllent characters. O, that marrowless age (I. i. 1-5). This is an age that leaves no way to escape, in the sense of being different that the masses, and rather perform a stage of authenticity and truth. The avenger (Vindice) has to face the tremendous fate that has been inscribed in such a system: And therefore Ill put on that knave for once,/ And be a right man then, a man o th time;/ For to be honest is not to be ithworld. (I. i. 93-5). Or in an Aside: () tut, this age fears no man./ Tis no shame to be bad, because tis common. (II. i. 116-7; my italics). Decadence is attributed to the symptoms of this age. Tourneur wants to present a period of corruption and degeneracy in order to call for awareness and reconstitution. Vindice as the figure of the satirist and the social criticizer as well, becomes a witness of an age that must be healed. This very persona expresses his concerns: I have been witness To the surrenders of a thousand virgins, And not so little; I have seen patrimonies washd a-pieces, Fruit fields turnd into bastards, And in a world of acres, Not so much dut due to the heir twas left to As would well gravel a petition (I. iii. 47-54). The evident source of the corruption of the time is the court. In The Revengers Tragedy, the Duke and his sons represent that sphere of distorted power, while Vindices family is

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pretended to embody the very contrast to that situation, even though its members will also fall in that spiral of corruption and depersonalization (Cf. Kistner 39-40). Each contact with the court depraves the persona of Vindice and extensively of his brother Hippolito, narrowing the gap between a moralizing set up as the one Vindice shows at the beginning of the play, when criticizing the royal procession: () for banquets, ease and laughter/ Can make great men, as greatness goes by clay,/ But wise men little are more great than they! (I. i. 47-9), and the state they now have reached later on, when realizing they have become: innocent villains (I. iii. 167) innocent in intention but villains in deed. Even being the malcontent and the very personification of the avenger, these figures become attractive and generate a sense of attachment and certain complicity with the spectators which could only mean that the play becomes a means through which social concerns and wishes of change can be channeled. Lever explains this by commenting that The plays mirrored the real feelings and opinions of the common people, but mostly those of the middle-class citizens. Vindices moral ambivalence may have established a rapport with the Jacobean audience. In the popular tradition the Vice was a well-loved figure (33). The character himself speaks to the audience (rather than to his fellow actors, even when involved) and waves goodbye as if provoking a feeling of mercy or at least of commiseration, which relates him to the audiences expectations at the very end of the play: We have enough/ Ifaith, were well: our mother turnd, our sister true,/ We die after a nest of dukesadieu (V. iii. 122-4). Characters, as it has been said above, resemble not only an individual position even if their personal response is a whole set up of the playwrights response to social situations; they become the bearers of an important missive to the world through their dramatic performance. Drama is more than representation; drama is the reading of common life in early modern England (as it is also nowadays). In The Spanish Tragedy the main character,

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Hieronimo, personifies that role of being the person in charge of executing a moral and social overturn. As a matter of fact, The Spanish Tragedy shows not only a pretended critic on what was happening in different geographical and political atmospheres other than England, but a subversive stance toward English society itself (McAdam 33). Kyd wanted to present a text which could express the socially subversive potential of theatrical productions. It could in fact be argued that the play ultimately suggests the potential power of rhetoric, art, and imagination to shape threaten, subvert, even alter the hierarchies of both gender and class (Cf. McAdam 41). Together with those issues, it emerges the question as we did with Tourneurs playabout the existence and sense of justice, in the midst of a system that seems not to allow what is properly fair. What is understood by justice in The Spanish Tragedy? It is not precisely the right to the just, offered and guaranteed by a legal state. This structure is in crisis. It means more a sense of justification through a connection between the political and the religious conscience, that actually played an important role in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods (more in the earlier). Hieronimos quest is a quest for justice in terms of making possible a response to a lack of morality and order. He starts by complaining: For heres no justice; gentle boy be gone,/ For justice is exiled from the earth (III. xiii. 139-40). Justice has to be searched beyond any human legality or any human intent to administrate what seems to be right. If usual justice does not properly work, it was thought to let Gods justice take the place (Cf. Malatches 62); but Hieronimo even goes boldly on to that, transgressing the socio-religious order to operate a particular way of self-justice: revenge. His search for justice, turned now into revenge, is more than a social issue, but rather a personal commitment of a disturbed and grieved father who has lost his son (Malatches 85). Revenge emblematizes that desire for retribution that is within all men; nevertheless we can come to affirm that: While it is true that Hieronimo is a tool of destiny because he ultimately fulfills

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the will of providence by punishing the wicked, it is also true that he becomes as ruthless and bloodthirsty as the villains he seeks to in his quest for justice (Malatches 64). The character of Hieronimo sees himself involved in this turn of involvement and almost escapeless situation. He has also to pay with his own life, as a direct consequence not only of the chain of events that his revenge has carried on, but also as an effect of that connection between religious and sociopolitical justice, that goes beyond any justification and also comprehends the senses of guilt and resentment. Social critique, in this case, is seen as act of compensation but also as a social denounce, through the staging of a tragedy that this character offers as a plot. The text comes close to suggesting the practical and subversive effects of art or rhetoric, as a powerful tool for radical social transformation (Cf. McAdam 45). This opens us the question of how speech in social critique plays a decisive role. The shape that the speech meets, in this case, is called satire.

2. The satirical expression: a way to face reality. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, satire is defined as: A poem, or in modern use sometimes a prose composition, in which prevailing vices or follies are held up to ridicule. Sometimes, less correctly, applied to a composition in verse or prose intended to ridicule a particular person or class of persons, a lampoon. (Satire; my italics). The emphasis remarked in italics underlines what precisely has been said at the end of the last section: this is the shape that speech meets in social criticism, in order to denounce a social sickness. The speech, however, is indirect and tries to provoke a sharper point of view in the readers and spectators of early modern drama, in our case. Our plays try to express human character through masques or speaking pageants, and dramatic processions. These forms exploited the material of common daily life, so that it illustrated not only the virtues of protagonists, but also their weaknesses and limitations. We can say that Rather than portraying characters who became victims of their own misdoings,

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rising to power only to fall to disgrace, the early modern stage showed virtue and vice as intertwineda heros tragic error could also be at the heart of his greatness (Drama and Social Satire). Considering this, the aim of a satirical approach is to unmask the vices and difficult situations that take place in society, which commonly are presented as make-up representations; irony takes off that disguise and leaves them naked, through the dramatic feature, in order to make spectators think and wonder. As Cumhur also stands: Satire confronts people with the foolishness and immorality that humans are capable of (121). In Jacobean tragedy what was mostly satirized was court life, in particuar all the savage contradicting of its self-image of civility (Dollimore 25). To be courteous meant the antithesis of being honest. There was an inversion of terms in an interrogative irony (Dollimore 26). The court was shown as inevitably corrupt. Irony became the aim rather than the means of achieving a particular effect (Stodder 108). Hamlets first address, for example, comes with an ironic tone in order to point at the tense situation of being confronted with his destiny: Claudius. Hamlet (Aside) Claudius Hamlet. But now my cousin Hamlet, and my son. A little more than kin, and less than kind. How is it that the clouds still hang on you? Not so my lord, I am too much i th sun. (I. ii. 64-7)

Hamlets interventions, in particular, leave a trace of a different speech than a direct communication. First, he wants to stand a sense of difference in order to detach from Cladius, which represents discomfort, mistrust and doubt for Hamlet. In line 67, Hamlet plays with the images in order to set his own perception and opinion and to remark that the real light (that of truth and awareness) effectively lies on him, also taking distance from Claudius obscurity, which might mean falseness, corruption and eventually guilt.

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In Hamlet, then, the biter satire scourges the play. Humor and wit are combined in a set of questionings and dialogs that shed light upon the social need of catharsis. The persona of Hamlet is a satirist throughout the play. He reacts to a world that has become: () an unweeded garden/ That grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature/ Possess it merely. That it should come to this! (I. ii. 135-7). Or even draws his ironies to several characters, as Polonius, for instance: Hamlet Slanders, sir, for the satirical rogue says here that old men have grey beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and plumtree gum, and that they have a plentiful lack of wit () For yourself sir shall grow old as I am, if like a crab you could go backward. Polonius (Aside) Though this be madness, yet there is method int. Will you walk out of the air, my lord? (II. ii. 193-5; 198-201). In this passage wit and an apparent lack of sense appear to awake a reaction. Before Hamlets satirical comment, there is a cautious response by Polonius. What happens here is that: satire wanders its own verbalizing wayWords, words, words. Were Hamlet here not the complete satirist, Polonius would be certain whether he really is the target. Thus, Hamlets words strike without the victims knowledge of what is hitting him, only that it hits. (Synder 95, qtd. in Cumhur 123). Almost at the end of the play, there is also a satirical move on the issue of death and the question about the utter limits; that is to say the question on the final edge of life. Hamlets persona embodies not only that deep question, but also the almost immediate reaction to death, which involves troubling and mockery at the same time, but a mockery that is more a critic on the futility of life rather than a deliberate laughter (Cf. Cumhur 124).

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Sociopolitical issues are present here and implicated in an irony about class positions. Death appears then to be the great leveler, destroying class boundaries and presenting the common destiny of men: Hamlet That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once. How the knave jowls it to the ground, as if t were Cain's jaw-bone, that did the first murder. This might be the pate of a politician, which this ass now o'er-reaches; one that would circumvent God, might it not? Horatio Hamlet It might, my lord. Or of a courtier; which could say Good morrow, sweet lord, How dost thou, sweet lord? This might be my Lord Such-aone, that praised my Lord such-a-ones horse, when he meant to beg it, might it not? (V. i. 64-72).

When now approximating The Revengers Tragedy, the satire concentrates in the theme of depravity in the court. There is a gradual degeneration resulting from King James policy of paying for farm lands with court funds (a plain sign of corruption). Vindice laments on this: When farmers sons agreed and met again, To wash their hands, and come up gentlemen. The commonwealth has flourished ever since: Lands that were mete by the rod, that labors spard; Tailors ride down, and measureem by the yard. Fair trees, those comely foretops of the field, Are cut to maintain head-tiresmuch untold (II. i. 215-21).

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Also on the proliferation of titles: Vindice Office, my lord! Marry, if I may have my wish, I would have one that was never beggd yet. Lussurioso Nay, then thou canst have none (II. ii. 73-5).

And on the world of appearance: Does the silkworm expend her yellow labors For thee? For thee does she undo herself? Are lordships sold to maintain ladyships For the poor benefit of a bewitching minute? (III. v. 71-4). Such speeches of social satire, coming from both Hamlet and Vindice, come to be a voice for something that was not yet spoken, but that was urged to have an expression in public life. The satirical speech puts together the aims of a society but also the personal experiences of the satirist himself, even within those same expectations. The satirist character acquires a different perspective on the society over which he once exerted power or in which he once moved, a perspective that is both broader and more philosophical, if we can say so. His satire conveys a sense of frustration to be certain, but it is a frustration born out of his lost position and, in a broader sense, the general breach of order which produces the satiric impulse. Satirists as Hamlet and Vindice are embittered, and at times they express their bitterness in intensely sexualized language, but they do not on the whole evince the same agonized desire for the world; rather, they deploy their satire as a means of establishing a perspective on the world over which they once ruled (Rieger 5). Satire holds not only laments or complaints but also acute opinions and bitter comments in the shape of an ironic cover. It is a speech that seems to be disguised, although it is addressed in a very conscious way. A particular and effective way to channel the satiric speech was the construction of a meta-dramatic resource as the Masque, which helped the

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expression of more than only a plain message. It allowed the whole representation of a series of social and political situations, completing a better instance for what the playwrights critique wanted to say. Masque and anti-masque are to be described as follows.

3. Masque and Anti-Masque: an effective meta-dramatic resource. The masque used to be a symbolic and ritualistic celebration of royal power, together with its inversion, the antimasque, which, at times, resulted more meaningful than the masque itself. The antimasque was a representation of vice and corruption, whereas the masque tried to overcome those previous features already staged (Cf. Dollimore 26). What happens otherwise in the most of revenge tragedies is quite the opposite: the antimasque occupies the place of the masque, becoming the central scenario for an intensive critique that tried to show how contrariety was a universal principle of intelligibility and a statement about how the world was actually constituted (Clark 110; qtd. in Dollimore 26). These tragedies are dances of death (Danse Macabre, Masques) that foster a satire directed against the very age and body of the time. As seen in Hamlet: () Now this overdone, or come tardy off, though it makes the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve, the censure of the which one must in your allowance oerweigh a whole theatre of others (III. ii. 20-4). Stepping forward, in The Revengers Tragedy, the figure of Vindice is already turned into someone that excepts his own dignity and morality, in order to fulfill the requirements of a revengeful state; at that moment it appears the resource of the mask (masque). Vindice, in the persona of Piato, resembles that hidden condition of society; that is to say, the actual happenings behind. But there is also the need to underline that this state of degradation and self-loss, provokes a new state of indifference that presents Vindice undisguised, and willing

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to introduce himself in the figure of the avenger that claims for justice, right by showing his true face. This action speaks rather of a rebelling act than one of actual revenge (Cf. Kistner 42). He therefore condemns his other self, Piato: O rascal! Was he not ashamd (V. i. 65) and deprecates Piato and the other corrupt characters, with some adjectives that speak of the sickness and weariness of that condition: O villain! O rogue! O slave! O rascal! (V. i. 95). The iron age, which means an age of decadence, violence, blood-shed, loss of dignity, has to pass away by urging corrupts to fall. That is why Vindice also prepares that stage where the succession of masques takes place (V. iii. 40-78). Being this a moralistic play, as Tourneur wanted it to be, the question of the plays claiming for a new system of values has to do with the inevitability of the protagonists death, searching to reestablish a possible social order. Kistner comments on this: Having shown Vindice's descent into evil and the logical need for his removal, the playwright must supply a moral criterion which will provide for the removal of evil; for the inevitability of Vindice's death depends upon the institution of a morality at least superior to his own. The author's positive values are embodied in the new duke, Antonio. With Antonio's succession, the new age commences: his years and wisdom will make the silver age again (V.iii.84 ) in contrast to the iron age that has preceded (44). The persona of Hieronimo, his way, in The Spanish Tragedy, takes forward the social critic spirit of early modern plays, even when not being aware of the subsequent aftermath that an act of revenge might bring. He operates a social quiver when writing and performing a masque, at the end of the play, that has somehow started with a premonitory move of an antimasque (I. iv. 140-167). He becomes, then, the protagonist of a protest. How is it going to be constructed? Through a masque that theorizes a subjectivity of resistance: a resistance to authority that exposes the gaps in the exertion of political power. Burke is going to affirm

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that: Protest was expressed in ritualized forms, but the ritual was not only sufficient to contain the protest (203, qtd. in Rollins 44). This is the reason why the character of Hieronimo appropriates the play as a weapon where rebellion is disguised as festivity (Rollins 45). Hieronimo overturns himself from a fixed social structure as the court, where he felt he belonged adequately: King But now, Knight Marshal, frolic with thy king, For tis thy son that wins this battles prize. Hieronimo Long may he live to serve my sovereign liege, And soon decay unless he serve my liege (I. ii. 98-9). But later in the play Hieronimo takes also part in a space of conscience, that draws attention on how the court is torn in its grounds and performance, since there is a series of rhetorical and thematic moves which calls into question the very logic of difference (Cf. Rollins 51). The King himself has lead this situation in a state of wheeler dealing, that blurs the image of the sovereign and the security provided by a structure of power. Signior Horatio, wait thou upon our cup For well thou hast deserved to be honoured. Now, lordings, fall to; Spain is Portugal, And Portugal is Spain, we both are friends, Tribute is paid, and we enjoy our right (I. iv. 130-4). If this assertion of the King portrays a possible treat of peace and offers tranquility to the kingdom, it can also invoke the anxiety and terror associated with the dissolution of boundaries. The King continues to turn the safe system of ruling upside down. This situation is going to affect Hieronimo at the end of the play, connecting his sons death with this lack of social decency and morality. Places that used to be occupied by noblemen are now taken by

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the prisoner, the enemy, who receives the Kings acknowledgement in some kind of distortion of political matters: Now come and sit with us and taste our cheer. [They] sit to the banquet. Sit down young prince, you are our second guest; Brother sit down and nephew take your place (I. iv. 127-9) Rollins comments on the situation: These fluid class boundaries rupture the fabric of bonds and duty upheld by Hieronimo, who firmly roots himself in Spanish culture. In order to operate in a shifting world, in which prisoners act as kings and class difference dissolves, Hieronimo must assume a protean nature that also questions categorical boundaries (52). Hieronimo, then, feels declassed and fragile in his exertion as Marshal within the court. He wants to claim for justice on the death of his son, but realizes that no one is to grant it. Structures have become weak. This is one of the reasons why this play mirrors the tensions in the decline of the perceived efficacy of legal justice and also displays the radical questioning of divine justice (Cf. Rollins 52). Hieronimo feels impelled to follow a path where he laments his own impotence and alienation. He expresses his frustration and discouraging, because he has precisely been aware of the indifference of the establishment before his personal tragedy: Thus must we toil in other mens extremes, That know not how to remedy our own; And do them justice, when unjustly we, For all our wrongs, can compass no redress () That only I to all men just must be, And neither gods nor men be just to me (III. vi. 1-4; 9-10).

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Through the resource of the masque that will eventually turn into antimasque, in that move of necessary overlapping, Hieronimo rebels against any official sense of justice. He travels from the public scenery, where he used to belong and interact, to the private stage, where he is going to resist social norms by separating himself from society. Rollins underlines this aspect by saying that: Hieronimo degrades public affairs, and his subversive act prepares the audience for the line to be avenged on you all for this (III.xii.78). Defying class boundaries, he not only imagines vengeance against the elite as a real possibility, but in seeking revenge on every public figure present, he also removes all class barriers or distinctions in revenge (57). All social orders and hierarchal structures are collapsed with Hieronimos rebellion. His grief prevails over any other feelings and displaces his morals. He is disenchanted of life and stands a strong critique on those elements that have provoked his suffering: O eyes, no eyes, but fountains fraught with tears; O life, no life, but lively form of death; O world, no world, but mass of public wrongs, Confused and filled with murder and misdeeds! (III. ii. 1-4). Eyes that cannot see reality; life that cannot be lived; a world completely ruined and mistrusted; terrible actions all over. This scenario makes the character to reject his official role (social identity) and all of his public and courtly duties, also losing his dignity and moral authority. He becomes a selfish or, at least, a solipsistic and enclosed human being, to the point that his revenge becomes the center of his purposes; it might also mean the fight against a universal evil. The masque, therefore, allows this selfish and vengeful expression, while rejecting the processes that established everyday order and rather expressing his frustrated desires (Rollins 61).

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The masque intended, then, to embody the Carnivals (or Danse Macabre) power to subvert the order of a no longer operative court, and also demonstrate how a meta-dramatic resource can operate a social critique emerging from the force of speech within a play. Hieronimos last address portrays this last argument: Now behold Hieronimo Author and actor in this tragedy, Bearing his latest fortune in his fist: And will as resolute conclude his part As any of the actors gone before. And, gentles, thus I end my play: Urge no more words; I have no more to say (IV. iv. 146-52).

Conclusions When finishing the course of this paper it can be said that it was possible to taste the dramatic core of the referred plays, in a very aesthetic approach, but also that an ethical position occurred as well. As it has been a pretended reflection, thoughts and feelings have come to produce a result, which has drawn at least five points of interest regarding to both the aesthetic and the ethical identifications. First: These plays actually respond to their own age, not only because they describe the life in the court or resemble some elements of English daily and common life, but mostly because they appear inscribed in a historical frame which is resolutely complicated, and they try to give shape to a concrete frame of time: recalling the past (tradition and earlier social circumstances), anticipating the future (premonitions, predictions, extensions) and stating the present as the time when critique has to be performed and conscience is to be awaked.

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Second: Although these plays were conceived as pieces of art, they do not remain as merely written scripts to be saved as historic files or guides for a temporary staging. These plays are committed with a social denounce and a subsequent social reaction. The strength of their characters, the solidity of their classic dramatic grounds (all of them recall Senecas work one way or another), the impeccability of most of dialogs, and the structured construction of their plots, make of them a treasure in which History can be also read, in a different way. Beyond simple chronicles, revenge plays are the portrait of the way a society functions and breaths. Third: Literature, considering these plays, leads always an important role. Drama, in this case, turns to be the voice of the voiceless; the privileged mean through which the playwright has collected emotions, opinions, thoughts, concrete events, stories and descriptions and has devoted himself to create a world in which all of the social spheres can be represented. It can be affirmed, somehow, that these plays are the mirror in which all can be reflected, providing identity to everyone and also allowing eternity through a memory (memoir) for History. Fourth: Language has many faces in these plays. It is interesting, on one hand, to visit ancient English, prior to its standardization, in order to follow the advance of a language and a culture. On the other hand, language permitted playwrights to afford themselves the use of precise terms, to contract or to expand them (according to the needs of versification), to impress more strength or to weaken some other lines, in order to express feelings, emotions, psychological states or social concerns. Language also resembles the way in which a society understands itself and how it is projected to other people. Language becomes the vehicle for self comprehension and external clarification.

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And fifth: Creativity and different resources come to the stage. These plays, when situated in their social feature, offer a variety of images and inclusions that help understand the human condition and the worlds surrounding the composition of a literary work. Early modern playwrights as Shakesperare, Tourneur and Kyd are one of a kind. Their inheritance is the quality of texts that deserve and need to be read once and again; texts to be kept alive and to be shared with future generations; and texts to incite new creativities that can also express the new sociopolitical circumstances, just as loud and clear as early modern drama did.

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Works cited

Primary sources Kyd, Thomas. The Spanish Tragedy. Ed. J. R. Murlyne. New York : W. W. Norton, 1987. Print.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Ed. Philip Edwards. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985. Print.

Tourneur, Cyril. The Revengers Tragedy. Ed. Lawrence J. Ross. Lincoln: The University of Nebraska Press, 1966. Print.

Secondary sources Burke, Peter. Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe. Burlington: Ashgate, 1978: 203 Quoted in Rollins, 2012. Charnes, Linda. Hamlets heirs. Shakespeare and the politics of a new millennium. New York: Routledge, 2006: 53-72. Print. Clark, Stuart. Inversion, Misrule and the Meaning of Witchcraft. Past and Present 87 (1980): 98-127. Quoted in Dollimore, 1993. Cumhur, Yilmaz. Shakespeare as a Satirist and Satire in Hamlet. Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi (Review of Social Sciences, ukurova University in Turkey) 30 (2006): 121-5. < > Web. 20 August 2012.

Dollimore, Jonathan. Radical tragedy: religion, ideology and power in the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993: 9-17; 25-8. Print.

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Drama and Social Satire. The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Ed. David Damrosch. London: Pearson, 2009. Online edition: < > Web. 1 September 2012. Kistner, Arthur L., M.K. Kistner. Morality and Inevitability in The Revengers Tragedy. The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 71 (1972): 36-46. Online edition on JStor. < >. Web. 6 July 2012.

Lever, Julius Walter. The tragedy of state. London: Methuen & Co., 1971: 1-36. Print. Lorant, Andr. Social Criticism in Hamlet and The Revengers Tragedy. Jacobean drama as social criticism. Ed. James Hogg. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1995: 13-9. Print.

Malatches, Leo. Elizabethan revenge tragedy: a study of The Spanish Tragedy and Titus Andronicus. Thesis. Hamilton, Canada: McMaster University, 1987: 61-90. Online edition on Open Access Dissertations and Theses, Paper 6068. < >. Web. 15 August 2012. McAdam, Ian. The Spanish Tragedy and the Politico-Religious Unconscious. Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 42 (2000): 33-60. Online edition on JStor. <>. Web. 6 July 2012. Neill, Michael. Bastardy, Counterfeiting, and Misogyny in The Revengers Tragedy. Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 36 (1996): 397-416. Online edition on JStor. <>. Web. 19 August 2012.

Rieger, Gabriel. Sex and Satiric Tragedy in Early Modern England. London: Ashgate, 2009: 1-28. Print.

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Rollins, Benjamin. Carnivals dance of death: Festivity in the revenge plays of Kyd, Shakespeare and Middleton. Diss. Georgia State University, 2012: 44-80; 110-146. Online edition on English Dissertations, Paper 79. < > Web. 15 Aug 2012. Satire, n.. Oxford English Dictionary Online. June 2012. Oxford University Press. <>. Web. 1 September 2012.

Stodder, Joseph Henry. Satire in Jacobean tragedy. Salzburg, Austria: Institut fr Englische Sprache und Literatur, Universitt Salzburg, 1974: 103-9. Print.

Synder, John. Prospects of power: tragedy, satire, the essay, and the theory of genre. Kentucky: The University of Kentucky Press, 1991: 95. Quoted in Cumhur, 2006.