The Spanish Tragedy

Definition

Theater

  • A play in blank verse by Thomas Kyd. First performedin 1592 in London, it was one of the most popular dramas of its day,initiating the fashion for revenge tragedies. Since its plotis similar to that of Hamlet, many scholars have suggestedthat Kyd wrote the earlier, now lost, play about Hamlet that Shakespearedrew upon to create his masterpiece. The Spanish Tragedy wascertainly one of Shakespeare's sources. The play was frequently revived,sometimes with additions by other hands. The continuing popularityof the work is demonstrated by Samuel Pepys's note that he saw itin 1668.

    Set in Spain in 1592, the play focuses on the plight of Hieronimo,marshal of Spain, whose son Horatio has been murdered for politicalreasons. Having failed to secure justice, he carries out his personalrevenge by having a play acted out in which the two murderers, employedas actors, are killed. Hieronimo himself bites off his tongue beforerunning from the stage to commit suicide.

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