Document Type


Publication Title

Studies in English Literature 1500-1900


Rice University

Publication Date

Spring 1994


A surprisingly large number of Elizabethan and Jacobean plays represent or culminate in the murder of a wife, the reason cited almost always being her infidelity.' The plays construct these murders, often led up to by beating and torture of the wife, as tragedy, yet endorse them as a form of justice. These tragedies have come to be known as "domestic tragedies," suggesting that the events are private, springing from a familial relationship, unlike tragedies which involve political murders and take place in the public sphere. An unresolved contradiction is evident in the titles of these plays which signal the intention to preach a public sermon to women, for example, Women Beware Women, A Woman Killed with Kindness, and A Warning to Fair Women. In Othello, this contradiction is forced to the surface, as the private is insistently made public.