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The famous Jacobean tragedy: a vivid portrayal of lust and ambition. Vindice seeks revenge for the murder of his lover some ten years earlier...

Vindice has long sought his chance to avenge the death of his betrothed, Gloriana, poisoned by the lecherous but now ageing Duke when she spurned his importunate advances. Now, Vindice's brother Hippolito, in the service of the Duke's son Lussurioso, persuades his master to engage Vindice, disguised as the malcontented Piato, to pursue his own lustful designs - as it emerges, against their sister Castiza. As Piato, Vindice tests the virtue of Castiza, who remains resolute in her honour, but to his distress he is able to persuade their mother Gratiana to plead Lussurioso's cause.

Meanwhile, the Duke's youngest stepson is put on trial for the rape of the courtier Antonio's virtuous wife, who has taken her own life rather than endure the dishonour. But the brazenly guilty princeling is given a stay of sentence by the Duke at the pleading of his mother. The Duchess is herself enamoured of the Duke's bastard son, Spurio, and - hoping to divert Lussurioso from visiting Castiza - Vindice as Piato tells him of this affair. However, Lussurioso surprises not the guilty couple as he expects, but his own father - who assumes that he himself is the object of his son's murderous intentions and packs him off to prison.

Secretly happy at the prospect of their stepbrother's demise, the Duchess's elder sons, Supervacuo and Ambitioso, persuade the Duke to give them a signer ring as token of authority for his execution - but the Duke's guilty conscience prompts him to send a reprieve, and the ring is assumed to authorise the death of their own younger brother.

As Piato, Vindice has been hired by the still-lustful Duke to procure the favours of a 'country lady', and he arranges the meeting to coincide with an assignation between the Duchess and Spurio. The Duke is deceived into kissing the poisoned lips of Gloriana's garishly-adorned skull, and dies in agony after also being forced to watch his wife's guilty embraces.

Lussurioso determines to rid himself of the services of Piato, accusing him to Hippolito and Vindice (now presented in his own person) of seeking to corrupt their sister. The brothers bring Gratiana to repent her earlier laxity, and mother and daughter are reconciled. Lussurioso, as the new Duke, banishes the Duchess, but during the celebrations for his succession he is murdered by Vindice and Hippolito at the climax of a masque. Ambitioso, Supervacuo, and Spurio are also killed in the ensuing confusion, after which Vindice and Hippolito, expecting the gratitude of the newly-elevated Antonio, confess to the old Duke's murder. But Antonio, fearful of their future intentions, orders their immediate execution.

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Richard Banks
Rod Henderson
David Puckridge

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