restricted access The Shapes of Revenge: Victimization, Vengeance, and Vindictiveness in Shakespeare by Harry Keyishian (review)
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80Rocky Mountain Review four pages, it discusses only the shape of the debate between commutative rights and distributive justice in the twentieth century, ignoring novels, the novel as a genre, or how the relationship between economic theory and the novel developed after the 1830s. While it has much to offer in reading a few texts in light of specific economic theories, Kaufmann's study finally disappoints in satisfactorily complex and nuanced conclusions about the novels and about the relationship between economics and the novel generally. JOHN E. LOFTIS University ofNorthern Colorado HARRY KEYISHIAN. The Shapes of Revenge: Victimization, Vengeance, and Vindictiveness in Shakespeare. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1995. 182 p. In his preface, Harry Keyishian clearly establishes the overall aim of his study: "to shed fresh light on Shakespeare's treatment of revenge by relating it to the psychology of victimization, particularly as conceived in Renaissance works on the passions" (ix). In achieving this goal, Keyishian articulates the differences between what he terms "authentic" (2) revenge and sheer vindictiveness, and explores the psychological (not psychoanalytical ) aspects of Shakespeare's characterizations of revengers, grounding his analysis in the intellectual context ofthe English Renaissance. The Shapes of Revenge is largely successful in attaining these goals. Situating revenge as "a response to victimization" or a character's perceived sense of injury, Keyishian is able to make useful distinctions between the revenge which serves as "just" retaliation for real injuries and vindictiveness which is spurred by malignant motives, chronic jealousies, or selfloathing (2). For Keyishian, Shakespeare's handling of revenge is inextricably linked to issues of power and powerlessness: characters who suffer "severe, malicious, and unjustified injuries" (1) find in revenge a means of redemption, a path which leads them to the reclamation of wholeness and honor and their dramatic world to a restored sense of equity and justice. In his introduction, Keyishian offers a concise overview of both the critical discussion surrounding the issue of revenge in Shakespeare's corpus and the paradoxes implicit in Elizabethan and Jacobean thought concerning the morality of revenge. As Keyishian reminds us, Shakespeare writes in a culture supported by the metaphysical premise of a cosmos grounded in justice and governed by a deity who rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. Given this context, Keyishian's notion of victimization is illuminating in its application to Shakespeare's revengers. Keyishian argues that Shakespeare's audiences expected "justice and closure," (6) if not in this world, then certainly in the world hereafter and in their cultural fictions; and that in spite of the ethical moral problems implicit in the idea of Book Reviews81 revenge, the rhetoric of drama and the givens of cultural expectations encouraged audiences to applaud a victim's struggle to vindicate selfhood, repair a tarnished reputation, and mend a damaged fabric of social relationships (even should the revenger exacerbate the damage to this fabric a bit more prior to its eventual restoration). The shapes revenge takes—vengeance and its "evil twin" (4) vindictiveness —in turn shape Keyishian's subsequent argument and discussion of Shakespeare's dramatic characterizations of revengers. Keyishian is careful to fix his definitions of revenge and vindictiveness in Renaissance speculation on the causes and consequences of vengeance, drawing upon the writings of Francis Bacon, Peter de la Primaudaye, and Edward Reynolds, among others. In chapters 2 through 4, Keyishian makes distinctions amongst types of authentic revenge, establishing legitimate revengers as those who suffer an undeserved or wrongful injury, and whose response to such injury involves action intended to result in the reclamation of personal power, the thwarting of a dangerous enemy, and the restoration of personal and social justice. Here, Keyishian leads the reader across a spectrum of revenges which begins in the "redemptive" (40) revenges of Titus, Lucrèce, and Junius Brutus and moves towards revenges which are less successful and more ambiguous in their means and ends. Hamlet, Lear, and Edgar's revenges exemplify "problematic" (52) vengeance, wherein the revenger achieves socially redemptive ends, but only at great personal, ethical, and social cost. The "destructive" (81) revenges pursued by Antony and Othello demonstrate a type of vengeance which borders on vindictiveness, in that these revenges are tainted by the moral...