What Are the Four Elements of Shakespeare's Revenge Tragedy?

The theater of Shakespeare's time was crowded with examples of revenge tragedy. Shakespeare was one of the genre's most prolific playwrights. Four elements common to all of these plays are: murder, a ghostly vision of the murder victim, characters afflicted with madness, and a concept known as meta-theatricality.

Though these four are present in all of Shakespeare's major revenge tragedies, they require a little further explanation for an understanding of their role in the literature.

For example, the murder victim's ghost is also responsible for suggesting a revenge plot, which generally leads directly to the madness required of a true revenge tragedy plot. As for "meta-theatricality," that's just a fancy word for a "play within a play." Think of the play put on in Hamlet as an attempt to accuse a murderer. Such meta-theatrical moments were common in almost all Elizabethan examples of revenge tragedy, including William Shakespeare's work.