• Genres: Cinematic and Early Modern

    Emma Smith (see profile)
    Shakespeare and early modern drama, Hollywood cinema
    Item Type:
    revenge tragedy, western
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    My aim in this essay is to draw together two areas of study from cinema and theatre. The first is the theory of popular genres, their evolutionary cycle, and their role in the industrial development of Hollywood in the first half of the twentieth century, as explored by theorists and historians of cinema. The second is the early modern genre of revenge tragedy and its generic self-consciousness and metatheatricality. Insights from the film industry can build our understanding of the so-called Wars of the Theatres at the very end of the sixteenth century as a distinctly commercial phenomenon haunted by one genre in particular: revenge tragedy. Following Roslyn Knutson, I see the phenomenon of theatre rivalry in the period from around 1598 to 1601 as mutually beneficial industrial partnership rather than bitter ideological and interpersonal competition. Using the industrial organization of the studio system in Hollywood as an analogue for the developing business of theatre, I argue that revenge tragedy is an under-recognized generic engine of this serial commercial theatre experience developed by a mature entertainment industry operating as a kind of professional cartel. Just as revenge tragedy implicates its characters in a web of action and reaction, so the genre enacts and codifies early modern theatre’s commercial bonds.
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    Last Updated:
    9 months ago
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