Isabel C. Guerrido
Prof. Frances Bothwell
17 January 2011
Analysis of themes in The Spanish Tragedy
The genre of the revenge play was greatly influenced by the work of the Roman playwright Seneca (4 B.C. to 65 A.D.). He wrote nine tragedies that were meant to be recited rather than acted on a stage. His main themes were revenge and recompense and his plays were mainly violent, including crimes such as incest, adultery, and mutilation. Ghosts were always main characters in these plays and they always ended in chaos. Seneca’s main argument was that fate was inescapable and those who accepted it would, in a way, be triumphant.
Senecan influence is portrayed in Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy’s themes of murder and revenge, the presence of the ghost of Andrea, and the catastrophic events that lead to the end of the play. One major change in the Senecan tradition was the acting of mutilation and murder directly on stage rather than being recited. This appealed more to the Elizabethan audience considering that public hangings and whipping were their form of entertainment. It also maintained the public’s attention and caught their interest, much like it still captivates modern day readers. Interestingly, these tragedies were dramatic because, even though the audience in plays, such as The Spanish Tragedy justified revenge, in the Elizabethan society a murder committed to avenge another was treated just as if it was done for no reason at all.
The Spanish Tragedy was one of the earliest revenge tragedies to be performed on the English stage. The personified spirit of Revenge gives it an interesting twist that makes it stand out from the rest of the similar tragedies written at that time. The constant struggle between justice and revenge, seen mostly in the character of Hieronimo, are the themes that predominate the play giving it a complex framework that involves supreme beings ant the working of an inescapable fate.
In The Spanish Tragedy, Kyd uses the...