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Painted Devils, Siren Tongues

The Semiotic Universe of Jacobean Tragedy


Justyna Galant

The book outlines the semiotic universe of Jacobean drama, examining both canonical tragedies by Thomas Middleton, John Webster and less known dramas such as Anonymous Lust’s Dominion, Markham and Sampson’s Herod and Antipater or Thierry and Theodoret by Beaumont and Fletcher.
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Chapter I: The semiotics of revenge.



The semiotics of revenge.

Revenge in Jacobean tragedies transpires as a many-layered system of behaviours and attitudes. Aiming to impair the dominant order, it is fostered by it, constructed by coalescing the revengers’ private drives and inspirations with the stimuli of the order they are opposing. Repeatedly depicted from the perspectives of its aesthetic and artistic functions, it becomes a tool for shaping reality according to the wishes of its directors.

To analyse the three revenge plays in this chapter I have adopted Jurij Lotman’s conception of “semiosphere” in its broad understanding as applicable not only to cultural systems but also to any textual entities – semiotic systems with an identifiable centre and periphery which function within a given text in relation to other semiotic systems constructed in the same manner.18 An identification of the influential “semiotic I’s” as the crucial meaning- and world-forming centres of each play allows for an insight into the semiotic processes employed by the revengers conflicted with the worlds they inhabit. ← 19 | 20 →

The Revenger’s Tragedy by Thomas Middleton. Permutations of revenge.

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