Revenge is Sweet: Music, TV and Theater for Revenge | Culture


TV

In Desperate Housewives, when her gay son, Andrew, sleeps with her boyfriend, Bree Van de Kamp – Stepford’s favorite Republican wife (played by Marcia Cross, top left) – leaves him on the side of the road . It might be categorized more as punishment than revenge, but it’s as petty as hell. In turn, Andrew goes on television for a segment about homeless teenagers and tells them about his “alcoholic mother”. Whether it’s burning down your neighbor’s house for sleeping with your fiancé or strangling the woman who blackmailed your dead wife, Desperate Housewives is the ultimate tribute to redeem you. They don’t make high profile TV like this anymore. Jason Okundaye

Film

Baykali Ganambarr and Aisling Franciosi in The Nightingale. Photography: Bron Studios/Allstar

In movies, brutal revenge tends to be a manly pursuit, especially when the man is Liam Neeson. But it takes on a feminine – albeit traditionally “feminine” – twist in Jennifer Kent’s murderous tale The Nightingale, set in 1825 Tasmania. Soft-spoken, light-bodied but steely-willed, indentured convict Clare (escape star Aisling Franciosi) tracks down the murderers of her husband and baby, in a dark and noisy quest, clotted with blood and mud and colonial cruelty. But her thawing relationship with her native guide, Billy (Baykali Ganambarr), provides a spark of warmth, like the song of a solitary bird that sounds all the sweeter in the vast cold of hostile forests. Jessica Kiang

Arrange

Ian McKellen in Hamlet at the Theater Royal Windsor.
Ian McKellen in Hamlet at the Theater Royal Windsor. Photography: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Shakespeare avenges himself extremely well. To name a few, there’s the one with the human-flavored pie (Titus Andronicus); the green-eyed officer (Othello); and the bitter pariah (Richard III). Then, of course, there’s Hamlet – a young man so determined to avenge his father’s death that he’s willing to put his sanity, his love, and his life on the line. He’s not exactly effective. He kills a few others along the way and takes a hell of a detour (on a boat to England). But I will say one thing for the Dane, the man is thorough. Stab. And poisoning. It will be ok. Miriam Gillinson

Books

Susan Hill's Woman in Black

Vengeance is served up with gruesome precision and a terrifying lack of discrimination in Susan Hill’s 1983 novel The Woman in Black. Angry at her own loss, the black-clad woman smothers the children’s lives – apparently needing no more motivation than the fact that someone close had the misfortune to see her. Beneath the surface lurks true primal fury, and Hill deftly dresses his narrative with the familiar trappings of an Edwardian ghost story. There are plenty of pleasant fires as well as the necessary chills and sea mists. Sam Jordan

Music

Ireee Theorin (left) and Eva-Maria Westbroek.
Ireee Theorin (left) and Eva-Maria Westbroek. Photograph: Reuters/Alamy

In Richard Strauss’ brutal one-act opera Elektra, the principal is furiously obsessed with revenge for the death of her father, Agamemnon, and seeks to kill his murderers: Klytaemnestra (Elektra’s mother) and her lover Aegisth . She hopes her siblings might feel just as bloodthirsty, but she can’t be sure of her brother Orest (who lives far away) and struggles to persuade her sister, whose outlook is more tolerant. Orest, feared dead, later arrives and kills the two killers, but, after a fit of mad dancing, Elektra falls dead, deprived of the personal retribution she so fanatically sought. Hugh Morris

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