‘Nimble In Damnation, Quick In Tune’

Douglas M. Lanier

in The Oxford Handbook of Thomas Middleton

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199559886
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

‘Nimble In Damnation, Quick In Tune’

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Shakespearian tragedy is a popular choice for opera due to its affinity between the expressive virtuosity and melodramatic nature of opera as a form and the orientation of Shakespeare's dramaturgy towards relishing the passions of his characters – passions rhetorically intensified with hyperbole, ecphonesis, copia, and the like. This raises the question of why composers of musical theatre have by and large not taken up the works of other early modern English playwrights, for Shakespeare is certainly not alone in crafting scenarios that afford myriad opportunities for emotional display, nor in using rhetorical resources to embellish those moments. This article considers two such examples: Middleton's Vice and The Revenger's Tragedy. The heightened pathos, eventful plot, Italian setting, and themes of love, betrayal, and vengeance in The Revenger's Tragedy seem especially well suited to operatic adaptation. Vice is billed as ‘a jazz opera’, and that formulation captures its hybrid musical style.

Keywords: Thomas Middleton; plays; opera; Shakespearian tragedy

Article.  10844 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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