Spanish Tragedy

2 down, 14 to go…

I’m not going to focus too much on these not too well known plays mainly because I want to spend more time actually reading the other plays and analysing the more familiar plays. This play by Thomas Kyd is actually alright. It shares several similar features to Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and although I don’t think that it is as well written, nor creative as Shakespeare, this Renaissance play is definitely readable.

It is a play that discusses the relations between Spain and Portugal, love, death and quests for revenge with revenge even taking the form of a character. Revenge always appears with the ghost of Andrea, having has been killed in a battle by Balthazar. We then learn that the Spanish have won the battle and capture Balthazar. Andrea is partnered with revenge because he wants to see revenge take its toll on the man who has killed him and separated him from being with his love, Bel-Imperia.

The scarf that Bel-Imperia had previously given Andrea symbolises who is carrying out the revenge and is carried by several characters within the play. The rest of the play details how this revenge is carried out and like most revenge tragedies, many characters die along the way. It has even been argued that this play by Kyd was the initiation of Revenge Tragedy.

The play also discusses insanity as the parents of Horatio, Hieronimo and Isabella, discover him dead hanging from a tree. He has been murdered and although this drives Isabella mad, it is this that merges with the previous revenge of Andrea to achieve Hieronimo’s ultimate revenge at the end of the play. This is presented very cleverly in the form of a mini-play, similar to that of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ Here, Hieronimo gets Balthazar, Bel-Imperia and Lorenzo as well as himself to perform a play for the King of Spain and the Viceroy of Portugal  and insists on performing a tragedy. Instead of acting the deaths, Hieronimo performs them will the help of Bel-Imperia and reveals what he has done in the final scene.

Hieronimo and Bel-Imperia also kill themselves and it could be argued that they die to be with their loved ones. The final scenes are a bit confusing to the overall plot as it details Andrea’s treatment of the characters once they get to the underworld. He describes how he will reward the characters who have helped him and let revenge inflict a never-ending tragedy on those that haven’t. It seems that this contradicts the whole idea of revenge and tragedy as none of the characters that have vowed for revenge at whatever cost are punished but instead live happily for eternity.

If you are a fan of plays and the Renaissance and want to learn more about that time then I really recommend this play. It may even help with your understanding of Shakespeare too. It earns a 6/10 and the only thing that really lets it down is its contradictory ending. Enjoy!

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