3 of 5 stars to Three Revenge Tragedies: The Revenger’s Tragedy, The White Devil, The Changeling by Cyril Tourneur. I read these plays in an English course in college and have resurrected excerpts from a paper and my notes. I enjoyed the play. Language and style was a little stilted. But it’s very plot and character-heavy, which I always enjoy.
There are three basic families in this play: The Duke’s family, the Duchess’ family, and Gratiana’s family. The Duke has two sons: Lussurioso, the eldest, and Spurio, the bastard son. The Duchess has three children: Ambitioso, Supervacuo, and her Youngest Son. Gratiana also has three children: Vindice (Piato), Hippolito (Carlo), and her daughter Castiza. Recently, the Old Duke was poisoned. When this Duke died, a new Duke, who was the one who murdered him, replaced him. The Duke and the Duchess have recently married, and their family is quite a corrupt bunch. The Duchess’ Youngest Son has raped Lord Antonio’s wife. Vindice is out for revenge against the Duke and his family because the Duke killed Vindice’s lover Gloriana. He now carries around her skull, and often talks to it. Spurio is angry because he is an illegitimate child. He seeks revenge against his family also. In this play, everyone seems to be against everyone else. By the end though, they all end up in jail, or dead.
[I.i] – Vindice tells us that the old duke was poisoned and the new duke has two sons. One is illegitimate (bastard) and now the Duke has remarried. The Duchess also has three sons, and together they are all a corrupt and vile family. Vindice, Castiza, and Hippolito discuss with their mother Gratiana how the Duchess’ Youngest Son raped Lord Antonio’s wife. Hippolito works in the Court and will help Vindice disguise himself to get revenge on the Duke.
[I.ii] – The Youngest Son is in Court. Spurio secretly wants his stepbrother dead. The Duke and Lussurioso do nothing at first about the Youngest Son’s trial. Then the Duke stops the hearing until they meet again. The Duchess wants to kill her husband the Duke because he is doing nothing. She and Spurio are having an affair. Spurio hates his father and his stepmother, but he is sleeping with her to get revenge.
[I.iii] – Vindice is disguised as Piato. He becomes Lussorioso’s attendant with Hippolito’s help. Piato pretends to be very worldly and Lussurioso loves him. They talk about their disgust with women’s lack of trust. Lussurioso wants the virgin Castiza, and asks Piato to get her for him (this is Vindice’s sister). Vindice leaves angry.
[I.iv] – Antonio learns that his wife has died because she didn’t want to be dirty after the rape. Piato and Hippolito agree to get revenge on the Youngest Son for the rape.
[II.i] – Lussurioso sends gifts to Castiza through Piato. She will not accept them, and does not recognize her brother in his disguise. Piato tries to convince Gratiana to get Castiza to accept Lussurioso. Gratiana and Castiza talk about her virginity, and Gratiana asks her daughter to prostitute herself to Lussurioso for money. Gratiana has fallen at this point. Castiza doesn’t believe that Gratiana is really her mother with the way that she is talking. Gratiana tries, but is unsuccessful. Piato leaves.
[II.ii] – Lussurioso thanks Hippolito for Piato. Piato tells him that Castiza hasn’t decided yet. Lussurioso plans to visit her that night. Vindice wants to kill him. The news of Spurio/Duchess affair reaches Hippolito and Vindice. They overhear Spurio talk about how Gratiana lead the Duke to think Castiza was unchaste so he could have her. Hippolito and Vindice talk about cuckolds. Piato tells Lussurioso about the Duchess/Spurio affair, and the plot to kill the Duke. Lussurioso is shocked.
[II.iii] – Lussurioso runs into the Duke and Duchess in their bedroom, but he thinks it is Spurio and the Duchess. He tries to kill him, but the guards come in. He can’t say that he thought it was Spurio though, so he goes to prison. Vindice sneaks out so that he doesn’t get caught. Spurio shows up and wants to kill the intruder. Supervacuo and Ambitioso plead their stepbrother’s case not knowing what was really going on. Lussurioso will be released, but no one knows this yet.
[III.i] – Supervacuo and Ambitioso talk about killing the Duke as well. They plot to do it.
[III.ii] – Lussurioso wants to be released. He does not know yet that he has been pardoned.
[III.iii] – Supervacuo and Ambitioso try to trick the guards into killing Lussurioso by saying that the Duke wants it done.
[III.iv] – Supervacuo and Ambitioso visit their younger brother, and talk about how they want their brother killed, meaning Lussurioso.
[III.v] – Vindice and Hippolito talk about the Duchess/Spurio affair. Vindice carries around the skull and talks to his beloved Gloriana. He has dressed her up. He also poisons the mouth. The Duke arrives and sees the skull. He kisses the mouth when no one is around. The Duke realizes that Hippolito has betrayed him, and that he is dying. Vindice and Hippolito ridicule and torture him. Vindice then kills him.
[III.vi] – Ambitioso and Supervacuo talk about letting their brother die, but they also talk about getting their other brother, the Youngest Son, out of jail. Lussurioso, the formerly jailed brother arrives. They think that he was killed already, so they leave to find out what happened. They realize that the guards killed the wrong brother (the Youngest Son!).
[IV.i] – Lussurioso is with Hippolito and they talk about Piato and the Duchess/Spurio affair. Lussurioso wants revenge on Piato for lying to him about the affair. It really happened, but Lussurioso thinks Piato is lying. Lussurioso learns that Hippolito has a brother named Vindice (who is really Piato). He asks to have Vindice made his attendant as well to kill Piato. Now, he has to kill himself. Lussurioso learns that his father, the Duke, is missing.
[IV.ii] – Hippolito and Vindice, now out of disguise, talk about the Duke being dead. Vindice will dress the Duke up in Piato’s clothing, and then become himself again. Then, they will pretend to kill Piato, when they really killing the body of the dead Duke. Vindice promises to become Lussurioso’s attendant and goes off to kill Piato for him. Hippolito and Vindice go off to find their mother.
[IV.iii] – Spurio and the Duchess are together. Ambitioso and Supervacuo want to kill him.
[IV.iv] – Hippolito and Vindice see their mother. They learn how she has fallen and tried to get her daughter Castiza to pretend she is not a virgin. Gratiana begs forgiveness, and they do forgive her. Castiza then comes in and agrees to prostitute herself to Lussurioso. Gratiana has now changed her mind and begs her not to do it. Castiza says to her mother that she was only kidding – it was a test to see if her mother was still crazy. She would never have done it anyway. She is too pure.
[V.i] – The dead Duke is disguised as Piato. Hippolito and Vindice talk. Lussurioso arrives and Vindice stabs the dead corpse. Lussurioso then says that he knows it was the dead Duke. Vindice and Hippolito are scared that he knew their plan. However, Lussurioso says that he knows Piato did this, and that he has escaped. He says that he knows that Vindice and Hippolito did not know it was really the Duke, even though they did. All learn of the Duke’s death at this point. The Duchess knows that Spurio is not happy any more with the actions around the house. Lussurioso is now proclaimed the Duke, and he banishes the Duchess for having the affair. Supervacuo and Ambitioso then want to kill Spurio for what he did to their mother.
[V.ii] – Vindice and Hippolito talk with Lord Piero about the sinful dukedom.
[V.iii] – Lussurioso is made Duke. Lussurioso then wants Spurio the bastard killed. He also wants Ambitioso and Supervacuo killed. Vindice and Hippolito are the ones who will do it. This is when a Revenger’s dance is put on as well as a dumb show pretending to kill people, but they are really killed. They talk about the treason going on. Ambitioso, Supervacuo, and Spurio are all slain. They try to blame it on another Lord in the room who was not even part of the action, but he won’t take the blame. Lussurioso is then killed. Antonio is happy because everyone that has been evil has been killed or banished. His late wife’s rape has been avenged. However, then Vindice and Hippolito step forward and tell him everything that has happened. They confess to murdering the Duke. Antonio is angry, and he has the guards take them away to be killed. Antonio hopes that all the treason and evil is over finally.
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