In Elkanah Settle’s Love and Revenge (Duke’s 1674), the lascivious king Clotair dispatches the object of his lust (who also happens to be his brother’s fiancée) to the dungeon after she rejects his advances. When he visits her, Clotair’s ardor is once again aroused, and he turns on his ‘Slave’ Burbon, deriding him for carrying out his orders:

How, obey me Villain! Obedience To a command so barb’rous and so monstrous, Deserves more than an enraged King can utter, Or torments act: What if you had been commanded To Whore your Sister, Stab your Father, Ravish Your Mother, Curse your God, or Kill your King? Dog, would you have obey’d and done all this? (Act 3, p36)1

The sensational taboos – these barb’rous and monstrous acts – that Clotair vocalises here are elemental features of the horror plays. Essential violations of a social order that was put in place to protect individuals and their communities, they are repeatedly re-enacted in the horror plays. Communities, depicted as fractured and chaotic in these plays, have no recourse to moral, political or social certainties, allowing perverse individuals to transgress boundaries freely – often with little or no meaningful retribution.