The Spanish Tragedy
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The Spanish Tragedy

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  1,982 ratings  ·  66 reviews
The Spanish Tragedy is the best-known play by one of Shakespeare's chief predecessors and early contemporaries, Thomas Kyd. Kyd was undisputed master and virtually the originator of what came to be called the revenge play, a genre that became one of the most durable and commercially successful types of drama on the Elizabethan stage.
Paperback, 37 pages
Published December 2nd 2005 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1592)
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Bill  Kerwin

This strange, lumpy drama is oddly effective in its own discursive way, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves Elizabethan theatre in general or Hamlet in particular or who is fascinated by the theme of revenge.

The exposition (political rivalry between Spain and Portugal, events leading up to Horatio's murder) is well executed, but after that Kyd's passion for powerful effect (particularly in Hieronimo's mad scenes) overshadows and occasionally confounds coherent plot development....more
A pesar de que me encantaría hacerlo, no hablaré de las similitudes y diferencias con Hamlet (que todavía no terminé, por cierto) porque esto se convertiría en una monografía. Creo, además, que The Spanish Tragedy puede sobrevivir por sí sola y me gustó más allá de los textos con los que puede cruzarse.

La palabra tragedy no es un adorno del título y marca el tono de toda la obra de una manera implacable. La Venganza (así, con mayúscula) mueve los hilos de cada personaje y hay poquísimo esp...more
This revenge play, the finest and most popular of the Elizabethan era, possesses an admirable structure and many finely wrought, though often over-labored, phrases and rhythms. The words spin out successfully and appropriately (except for those terrible, and long, dips into Latin!); yet are they one and all lacking the necessary passion that undergirds Shakespeare's and Marlowe's greatest exchanges. Although the words each fall with a grace, they, like the notes in a Steely Dan song, in the aggr...more
Robert Sheppard

The Spanish Tragedy of Thomas Kyd (1587) is one of the touchstones of the Drama of the English Renaissance and well worth reading for anyone with an interest in Shakespeare, the evolution of English Drama and Literature and in the history and culture of the Renaissance and Elizabethan Age. The play is notable in the history of English drama in being the first innovative model of the ge...more
Influential Elizabethan revenge tragedy. Old Hieronimo's son Horatio is killed by another Spanish noble who wants to advance his own family's interests and influence through a royal marriage. Unable to gain justice through the state, Hieronimo concocts a scheme for revenge, using a play-within-a-play. The Spanish Tragedy is rife with betrayal, murder, suicide, and madness--both real and feigned. Like most plays, it would be better to see this on stage than to read it, but it was an enjoyable rea...more
Asma Fedosia
This interesting play of the Elizabethan period was worth the day of reading it. Shakespeare's figurative language is better done, but this story was quite decent and well paced and would be nice to see performed. It was utilized in Orhan Pamuk's SNOW as a play within a play/novel and as an historical piece illustrative of unceasing disputes involving power, revenge, jealousy. The Ghost in it is said to precede Shakespeare's ghost in Hamlet. Kyd's play can nevertheless be appreciated on its own...more
Martin Genet
This now, seldom performed play requires careful reading, but if you are interested in revenge tragedies then it is certainly worth reading. I studied this text for a university paper and found it fascinating. It has a lot of similarities to Hamlet and if you have read that, I certainly think you should read Kyd's play. Both plays have inner plays that function as meta- theatrical devices that suggest that art has considerable power and ability to function as an agency for change.
I read it as a source for Hamlet. I actually enjoyed Hamlet too. I can see the similar patterns but for me these two plays are different, really different.
Jade Heslin
I’d be interested in knowing whether or not Shakespeare and Kyd actually got on. There are rumours that Shakespeare actually had a hand in writing part of this play, which suggests that they were like bezzo mates or something. But then there’s evidence suggesting that Kyd is the person that Shakespeare stole the story of Hamlet from. I wouldn’t be happy if somebody pinched my story and became really famous while I sank into deepest darkest oblivion.

Now, this is the only dabbling I’ve ever had in...more
This was Hamlet before Hamlet. Name any trope in Elizabethan revenge drama and you'll find that this play started it all. The difference is that the main female protagonist is Bel-imperia, who is strong, independent, sexy, and badass in such a way that isn't seen on the English stage for another several hundred years later.
Steven Walle
Thomas Kyd, a contemperary of William Shakespere, wrote a wonderfully beautiful tragedy. It is complex for there are at least 5 subplots within the play. It was fun trying to figure what was going to happen next. I think anyone who enjoys Shakespere and his era, will enjoy this play.
I liked it, but for all the wrong reasons. It has a certain magnetism of plot and the opening describing a descent into hell is fairly inspired. Unfortunately, the energy of the play is seeing how all the characters get killed and when the revenge does come, it feels incidental. The play-within-a-play is not transformative like in Shakespeare, but just results in stage bodies. Also, the murder in Act II would never have been kept as much a secret if that many characters really knew about it. Ham...more
Martin Michalek
I'm not sure what to make of this play. It's impossible—for me anyway—to read it sans Hamlet in the mind. And with that comparison, it's not very good. It's also a play that probably thrives on the stage more than it does on the page. (I watched a clip of Horatio's murder on YouTube and it was very engaging, whereas that scene on the page felt tedious.) Like a good tragedy by Seneca, we start to see how bloodlust yields to only more bloodlust, how evil begets more evil, etc, etc, etc. The only p...more
I had to read The Spanish Tragedy several times before I could get the rhythm and "enact" it in my head. It is, most certainly, a play to perform on stage, not one to read like a book. Very likely, that was why it was more popular than William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, before either were printed, and why it is less popular now.

Thomas Kyd’s language has a rich, rolling sound and some of the speeches are splendid. It is not at all like Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, which is w...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in June 2001.

Given how many devices are new in The Spanish Tragedy, it is absolutely astounding how well it works. Written in the early 1590s, possibly not by Kyd, it was the innovative precursor of techniques used by Marlowe, Shakespeare (Hamlet might be based on another, lost, play by Kyd), and the Jacobean revenge tragedies.

The plot of The Spanish Tragedy is a complicated revenge story, which is set up by the characters of Revenge personified and the recen...more
Leaving aside the well-heard speech of “this is a very important work in Elizabethan drama that inaugurates the genre of the revenge tragedy, and proves to be a great influence in its time and a source of inspiration to Shakespeare´s Hamlet” The Spanish tragedy is a enjoyable play even for our times, or at least I think so. The most important feature that I would want to enhance is the use of the Chorus, or Andrea and Revenge, because despite the mythological references and the elaborated langua...more
the rock opera among Elizabethan drama!

It's certainly a bit difficult to get into at first and it has its lenghts, but it's quite entertaining all in all.

highlight: play within a play (bear with the rest until the end!)
Jazzy Lemon
This is the story that Hamlet was based on. A popular play in it's time, fraught with murder, suicide and tragedy. Imagine the surprise though of those who knew this play well and then saw Hamlet being performed and how it skewed off in another direction. There was no television and few could afford books. If you were of limited means you could get standing room only. How utterly enthralled everyone must have been, acting it out at home with friends and family. But without this play, there might...more
Keith Davis
I read this play on my phone using Amazon's Kindle for Droid app, just to give that a try. I have wanted to read The Spanish Tragedy for years because of the references to it in T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, but could never find a copy until it became available as a free ebook. Thomas Kyd was an Elizabethan playwright who is largely forgotten today because he wasn't Shakespeare; but I think the quality of The Spanish Tragedy is comparable to any of Shakespeare's early works. The recent assertion...more
Zerin Tasnim
The first of its kind in English Literature and perhaps the inspiration for Shakespeare's "Hamlet". A revenge tragedy in its true sense, albeit there are a few loose ends which leave the story a little unsure at times. A short and good read nontheless.
K Gomez
This is obviously an important text when it comes to a study of Elizabethan literature. The plot is pretty complicated and, as others have noted, having a dramatis personae list nearby can help! The issues surrounding Bel-Imperia's relationship with her brother Lorenzo were pretty interesting and Hieronimo's grief is quite astoundingly represented. This is certainly a bloodthirsty play, with people biting out their own tongues and LOTS of stabbings.

While this is not my favourite play from the er...more
Jay Eckard
(Introduction not read.)
Another gap in my reading filled (only a few thousand more to fill now!). This is important reading if you are interested in theatre history, but as a play it's rather flawed. The sometimes clunky verse is generally effective; it reads well enough and its redundancies and repetitiveness sometimes help to communicate the irrationality of some of the characters. Kyd isn't much interested in developing consistent or nuanced rationales for his characters' actions; as long as bodies are falling, he j...more
Turns out this is the prequel to Hamlet. Or maybe Hamlet is The Spanish Tragedy II? Anyway, total madness.
Revenge borne of inequity, and class conscious (in)justice. This play seems the proto-text of Hamlet, but is shockingly more violent. All children in the play are murdered, leaving fathers and mothers to grieve their list kin.

Play within a play.
Figures of Andrea and Revenge operate as a chorus/ on stage audience (and are referred to as occupying a dream space).
The reality/suspension of theatrical reality played with.

Most dominant theme: power/authority
I found this hard to keep up with if I put it down, not least because the characters were difficult to separate and remember (and pronounce).

I read this as part of a Renaissance stage study, comparing and contrasting with Shakespeare...


I'm a Shakespeare fan through and through.

I appreciate some of the moments of spectacle within this, but I can't tell you much now (having only read it last week) about the actual story..

Elizabeth (Alaska)
If you like Shakespeare's tragedies, you might like this one.The verse was quite good. I chose to read it aloud to myself to better hear and interpret the meaning, which made it very understandable. In that way I need to reference the many footnotes only when the lines were in Latin - not often. But it gets only 3 stars because I'm just not a fan of this type of work. Still, I'm glad to have had the opportunity to read it.
Noelia Alonso
What can I say... I'm a sucker for tragedies
Jan 23, 2008 Karyn rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Theatrics.
The problem with this play, is that it is a tragedy. I don't seem to like tragedies very much. They are rather predictable. It was a pretty cool idea though, it reminded me of A Chirstmas Carol, with Scrooge and the Ghosts on stage while they watch something happen.

Massive love triangle of revenge leads to death of all players.
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Thomas Kyd (baptised 6 November 1558; buried 15 August 1594) was an English dramatist, the author of The Spanish Tragedy, and one of the most important figures in the development of Elizabethan drama.

Although well known in his own time, Kyd fell into obscurity until 1773 when Thomas Hawkins (an early editor of The Spanish Tragedy) discovered that Kyd was named as its author by Thomas Heywood in hi...more
More about Thomas Kyd...
Soliman and Perseda Six Renaissance Tragedies Four Revenge Tragedies: The Spanish Tragedy, The Revenger's Tragedy, 'Tis Pity She's A Whore and The White Devil The Spanish Tragedie Assassinio all'università - I Gialli del Corriere della Sera, 17

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“Qui jacet in terra non habet unde cadat. In me consumpsit vires fortuna nocendo, Nil superest ut iam possit obesse magis." (loosely translated: "He who lies on the ground can fall no farther. In me, Fortune has exhausted her power of hurting; nothing remains that can harm me anymore.")” 4 likes
“Let dangers go; thy war shall be with me,
But such a war, as breaks no bonds of peace.
Speak thou fair words, I'll cross them with fair words;
Send thou sweet looks, I'll meet them with sweet looks;
Write loving lines, I'll answer loving lines;
Give me a kiss, I'll countercheck thy kiss.
Be this our warring peace, or peaceful war.”
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