The Spanish Tragedy: by Thomas Kyd - Summary and Analysis

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      The Spanish Tragedy (1585) is a revenge tragedy by Thomas Kyd, which set the pace for the Elizabethan revenge play which occupies such a large place in the history of Elizabethan tragedy. It is a tragedy of blood and thunder in the Senecan manner, enveloped in the atmosphere of gloom and full of sensational horrors. The story briefly is this: The play opens with a prologue of soliloquy in which the ghost of Don Andrea, Belimperia's first lover tells the story of how he had been treacherously slain in the battle by Prince Balthazar. The ghost calls for vengeance on Prince Balthazar for this murder. Belimperia, the daughter of the Duke of Castile has now a second lover in young Horatio, son of Hieronymo, who is also slain by Prince Balthazar and her intended perfidious brother Lorenzo, who intended the sister for his friend Balthazar. The murder takes place in the moment when Belimperia and Horatio were exchanging love vows in the garden of Horatio's father. The lover is hanged in an arbor. Awakened by the noise old Hieronymo comes out and finds his son dead. He is half-mad with grief. Hieronymo and Belimperia swear to avenge the deed. He must identify those who are responsible for the murder and feels that he has discovered the truth. But the attainment of his objective of vengeance is delayed by the feigned madness that often comes upon him and also by the fact that his enemies are lords of high estate. He conceives the idea of a play to be acted at the wedding of Belimperia with Balthazar and entices the enemies to take part in the performance of the play. Everyone in the course of the play is killed or kills himself.

The Spanish Tragedy

Critical Analysis

      The tragedy is full of bloody, gruesome situations. The ghost appears several times to demand revenge. Hieronymo in the final scene bites out his tongue in order to avoid speaking when the king, the father of Balthazar threatens him with extreme torture. The last scene is a veritable channel-house, littered with dead bodies. "The play has a strong, well-developed and at times intricate plot; the stage effects are excellently managed; throughout the scenes are varied and built so as to hold the spectator's attention, and the whole tragedy rises at the end to a thrilling climax of interest in the 'play within the play' scene" (Nicoll). Kyd introduces the avenging hero. Hieronymo avenging the death of his son is a hero. Revenge is a sacred duty. Kyd also introduces the hesitating type of hero. Hieronymo hesitates a good deal before he takes the revenge. It foreshadows Shakespeare's Hamlet and is, as it were, rough pencil sketch of Shakespeare's immortal play.

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