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The Savagery in this play excludes laughter. Explore this argument in relation to Hamlet in comparison with The Revengers Tragedy

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Introduction

"The Savagery in this play excludes laughter." Explore this argument in relation to Hamlet in comparison with The Revenger's Tragedy. The term "savagery" means an act of violent cruelty. Without a doubt, both Hamlet (H) and The Revenger's Tragedy (RT) both contain multiple acts of extreme savagery in the form of acts such as torture, poisoning, murder and rape. But is there a place in plays which contain such dark acts for moments of comedy and humour? There are many different opinions in answer to this question which will be explored; but at first glance one might think that humour would not be an appropriate addition to the plays. In H the protagonist is cruel to his lover and his mother dies. He also kills a man and organizes the murder of two friends before he is himself killed at the end. It is even harder to accept humour in RT where we are presented with the protagonist nearly killing his mother and then torturing and killing the duke. In addition there are scenes involving rape, severed heads and mass murder. Perhaps the most obvious example of a scene that includes comedic and savage elements in either of the plays is the discovery of Polonius' corpse in H. Claudius asks Hamlet where Polonius is to which he informs him that he is "At supper". When Claudius asks him where he's having supper he states that it's "Not where he eats, but where he is eaten". ...read more.

Middle

The motif of the skull is one that is obviously alluding to Hamlet (In which Yorik's skull plays an integral part in the gravedigger's scene). This skull is the centre of both the savagery and the laughter in this scene as the duke is murdered in a very brutal and disgusting fashion. He is poisoned with acid by the skull of the woman he himself killed, while he thinks he is to have sex with a beautiful woman. There is comic wordplay introduced by Vindice when he tells the duke that the woman he is about to have sex with has a "grave look to her", the pun being that the "woman" is about to kill him and send him to his grave. There is humorous irony in the fact that the duke wanted to seduce Gloriana, but when she refused he killed her with poison and he is eventually killed by her poison-laced skull; almost as if she had exacted her revenge and murdered him. There are further parallels with H in this scene when Vindice says "then those that eat are eaten" which bares more than a slight resemblance to when Hamlet says "Not where he eats but where he is eaten". The duke's murder is almost ridiculously over the top. It is perhaps the kind of shock humour that works because it played upon what were very real fears and dangers in Jacobean life. ...read more.

Conclusion

Overall, these plays provide an excellent show of how to combine elements to tragedy and comedy. Its use is perhaps summed up best by Dr.Johnson4 when he said that "what distinguishes Hamlet from the rest of Shakespeare's plays is its variety". This wealth of different aspects to the play is created largely through the inclusion of comedic moments. Critically, however the level of comedy and how it is used can be widely varied by interpretation and performance. Moments of humour can be played up for big laughs from the audience that provide comic relief but equally they can be suppressed to create a darker and grittier production. This is even more important with productions like RT in which a lot rides on whether the true horror of the events is portrayed or a more black comedy production is created. With the many different modern adaptations on show in the 21st century it is easy to forget about the context in which these plays were performed in at the time of their conception. While comic relief is an obvious reason for the laughs to exist, plays were watched by a very broad spectrum of people not necessarily the educated. For the less educated members of the audience comedy was a necessity. The audience can take these complex and dynamic plays in an infinite number of ways but the fact is that there is clearly room for comedic elements to exist in both of these amazing plays. ...read more.

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