Article in Edited Volumes
(Original article)


Jacobean Gothic and the Law: Revengers and Ineffectual Rulers in Middleton and Massinger


Publication Details
Author(s): Gruß S
Editor(s): Redling Ellen, Schneider Christian
Title edited volumes: Gothic Transgressions: Extension and Commercialization of a Cultural Mode
Publisher: LIT
Publishing place: Zürich
Publication year: 2015
Pages range: 35-53
Language: English

Abstract

A fairly recent development in early modern studies is the analysis of Renaissance literature through the lens of the Gothic by establishing a critical link between the Gothic tradition and the 'proto-Gothic' qualities of early modern texts, which allows critics to expand the 'limits' of the Gothic into the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries (see Drakakis and Townshend 2008). At the same time, the exploration of the intersections between the stage and legal practices in Renaissance England has been well established by critics over the last ten years (see, for example, Jordan and Cunningham 2007, Kezar 2007, Mukherji 2006, Raffield 2004 or Sheen and Hutson 2005). This article looks at ways in which these two approaches might be combined in order to analyse Jacobean tragedy in an innovative way, and discuss in how far 'Jacobean Gothic' can serve to explore the limits of Gothic. The works of Thomas Middleton and his often little canonised contemporaries can be read as an intertextual haunting of canonical Gothic texts that also explains the more recent resurfacing of Jacobean drama in Gothic criticism. At the same time, the interconnection of Gothic literature and the law can be put to use for Gothic (legal) readings of Jacobean tragedy. As Stevie Simkin points out, the depiction of revenge in Jacobean drama is closely linked to the development of the judicial system and its gradual shift "towards a centrally-organised justice system" (Simkin 2006, 30). The revengers' determination to seek their own private (or wild) justice conflicts with established law, but at the same time serves to highlight "the state's failure to deliver justice [... as] a result of its own insidious corruption" (38). Politics and, therefore, the law, are used in this paper to read Jacobean tragedy as 'Jacobean Gothic'. The plays by Middleton and Massinger serve as exemplary texts that illustrate legal practice in crisis – through necrophilia, poisoning, and tyranny – and in which not only the figure of the revenger, but also the figure of the ruler as tyrant can be employed to show how the law (or the 'name of the father') becomes ineffectual.



How to cite
APA: Gruß, S. (2015). Jacobean Gothic and the Law: Revengers and Ineffectual Rulers in Middleton and Massinger. In Redling Ellen, Schneider Christian (Eds.), Gothic Transgressions: Extension and Commercialization of a Cultural Mode (pp. 35-53). Zürich: LIT.

MLA: Gruß, Susanne. "Jacobean Gothic and the Law: Revengers and Ineffectual Rulers in Middleton and Massinger." Gothic Transgressions: Extension and Commercialization of a Cultural Mode Ed. Redling Ellen, Schneider Christian, Zürich: LIT, 2015. 35-53.

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