Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Joshua Eckhardt


This paper explores the depiction and function of madness on the Renaissance stage, specifically its development as trope of the English revenge tragedy from its Elizabethan conception to its Jacobean advent through a representative engagement of Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi. Madness in these plays selectively departs from popular conceptions and archetypal formulas to create an uncertain dramatic space which allows its sufferers to walk moral lines and liminal paths unavailable to the sane. “Madness” is responsible for and a response to vision; where the revenger is driven to the edge of madness by a lapse in morality only visible to him, madness provides a lens to correct the injustice. It is the tool that allows them to escape convention, decorum and even the law to rout a moral cancer, and, in this capacity, is enabling rather than disabling.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

October 2013

Available for download on Sunday, October 17, 2213