Mourning through murder: the role of psychic mimesis in early modern revenge tragedies AND Shut your trap: hunting metaphors and verbal violence in Twelfth Night

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Maggie S. Kelly (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Jennifer Feather

Abstract: Numerous early modern revenge tragedies illustrate the protagonist's quest to memorialize a loved one who has been murdered. Although revenge tragedy has not always been thought of as serving this memorializing function, this essay will seek to explain the metatheatricality of three revenge tragedies through the psychoanalytic lens of Butler's theory of psychic mimesis. The theory of psychic mimesis is, at its core, about the preservation of memory and the construction of new identity after a loss. However, this theory fails to acknowledge the grieving process for the loss of someone through violent means. Death through murder requires those left behind, not only to internalize the memory of the victim, but also to externalize the memory of the crime done. My work offers a new perspective both for the psychoanalytic theory of psychic mimesis as well as for the literary analysis of early modern revenge tragedies. AND In Twelfth Night, characters like Maria and Sir Toby understand the power of verbal violence, and they utilize it to inflict pain on others. Through their use of animal and hunting metaphors in the play, these characters position themselves as predators and their victims as prey. These juxtapositions along with their sporty diction make their cruel behavior seem comical, because they are ridiculing characters who deserve it, or at least that is what the audience is meant to think. I will argue that the continual appearance of the hunting metaphors in Twelfth Night enables Maria and her friends-- the predators—to behave cruelly toward Malvolio and Sir Andrew Aguecheek-- the prey-- because of their class-jumping ambitions, something that the tradition of the hunt facilitates, but ultimately prohibits. Furthermore, these metaphors create a paradox in the play, where some characters are rewarded for their lofty ambitions while others are punished.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2018
Hamlet, Murder, Psychic mimesis, Revenger's Tragedy, Revenge tragedy, Spanish Tragedy
English drama (Tragedy)
Murder in literature
Revenge in literature
Mimesis in literature
Shakespeare, William, $d 1564-1616. $t Twelfth night
Social classes in literature
Hunting in literature
Cruelty in literature

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