The Spanish Tragedy EN302: European Theatre Published in 1592 but probably written and first performed in the late 1580s; a play called Jeronimo was certainly performed at the Rose theatre in 1592 Generally attributed to Thomas Kyd (1558-94), though there is no contemporary mention of Kyds authorship of the play until 1612 Kyd was imprisoned and tortured for possession of heretical papers (which he claimed belonged to
his room-mate Christopher Marlowe); he died shortly after his release. He may have written the first (now lost) play version of Hamlet. It was a highly influential play: Printed at least 10 times between 1592 and 1613; Spawned a sequel, The First Part of Jeronimo, in 1592 (printed 1605); Performed a near-record 29 times between 1592 and 1597, according to the accounts of the
Rose theatre owner Philip Henslowe; 1602 additions (possibly by Jonson, possibly even Shakespeare) in which Hieronimo really does go mad; Easily the most widely-quoted play in subsequent Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. It set the mould for subsequent revenge tragedies, including:
shady murders, ghosts seeking justice, a corrupt court, a revenger seeking confirmation, extended plotting,
disguise, real and feigned madness, multiple bloody deaths, a spectacular climax; meta-theatrical elements. The Elizabethan stage The Spanish Tragedy was written at a key moment in European theatre history, when the communal and religious drama of the Middle Ages was giving way to a new commercial theatre industry. Michael Bristol: Theatre occupies a marginal space as well as a marginal time. This is pragmatically true of the earliest Elizabethan playhouses, which were situated outside the formal jurisdiction of the city
authorities, although they remained de facto an integral part of the citys economic activity. (1983: 648) Cutaway of the Rose by William Dudley, http://shalt.dmu.ac.uk/locations/rose-1587-1604.html See also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EApTZ1QuoHs The Classical World A semi-classical setting? ANDREA. When I was slain, my soul descended straight To pass the flowing stream of Acheron; But churlish Charon, only boatman there, Said that my rites of burial not performed, I might not sit amongst his passengers. (1.1.18-21) Frequent bursts of Latin, most notably as Hieronimo grieves
over Horatios body. Numerous allusions to Seneca Seneca (c. 4 BC 65 AD) Recent translations of Seneca into English (e.g. 1581) Senecas Thyestes begins with a prologue in which a Fury brings the ghost of Tantalus back to the mortal world to observe the events of the play (though here the Fury is punishing rather than appeasing the dead mortal). The Spanish Tragedy also
features direct quotations (in Latin) from Senecas Agamemnon, Oedipus and Troades. Seneca (c. 4 BC 65 AD) Enter Hieronimo with a book in his hand(3.13.1 s.d.) the Bible, or Seneca? Vindicta mihi! (3.13.1) Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (Romans 12:19, King James Bible, 1611) Per scelus semper tutum est sceleribus iter. (3.13.6) [The safest way for crime is always through crime.] This is borrowed from a line spoken by Clytemnestra in Senecas Agamemnon (l. 115).
Revenge Like a verbal chime throughout the play: around 60 individual uses! REVENGE. Then know, Andrea, that thou art arrived Where thou shalt see the author of thy death, Don Balthazar, the prince of Portingale, Deprived of life by Bel-imperia. Here sit we down to see the mystery, And serve for Chorus in this tragedy. (1.1.86-91) BEL-IMPERIA. But how can love find harbour in my breast Till I revenge the death of my beloved? Yes, second love shall further my revenge. I'll love Horatio, my Andrea's friend, The more to spite the prince that wrought his end. (1.4.64-8)
Revenge BALTHASAR. Glad, that I know on whom to be revenged; Sad, that she'll fly me, if I take revenge. Yet must I take revenge, or die myself, For love resisted grows impatient. (2.1.114-17) HEIRONIMO. To know the author were some ease of grief, For in revenge my heart would find relief. (2.5.40-1) HEIRONIMO. Behoves thee then, Hieronimo, to be revenged! The plot is laid of dire revenge. On, then, Hieronimo, pursue revenge, For nothing wants but acting of revenge. (4.3.27-30) How did Don Andrea die? Andrea himself is oblique: in the late conflict with Portingale
My valour drew me into danger's mouth, Till life to death made passage through my wounds. (1.1.15-17) The underworld judges are unable to agree on his fate. We hear two competing accounts of his death (and might remember that Andreas reactions to each will be visible to the audience) How did Don Andrea die? GENERAL. In all this turmoil, three long hours and more, The victory to neither part inclined, Till Don Andrea, with his brave lanciers, In their main battle made so great a breach That, half dismayed, the multitude retired;
But Bathazar, the Portingales' young prince, Brought rescue, and encouraged them to stay. Here-hence the fight was eagerly renewed, And in that conflict was Andrea slain Brave man at arms, but weak to Balthazar. (1.2.63-72) HORATIO. When both our armies were enjoined in fight, Your worthy chevalier amidst the thickst, For glorious cause still aiming at the fairest, Was at the last by young Don Balthazar Encountered hand to hand. Their fight was long,
Their hearts were great, their clamours menacing, Their strength alike, their strokes both dangerous. But wrathful Nemesis, that wicked power, Envying at Andrea's praise and worth, Cut short his life to end his praise and worth. She, she herself, disguised in armour's mask (As Pallas was before proud Pergamus), Brought in a fresh supply of halberdiers, Which paunched his horse and dinged him to the ground. Then young Don Balthazar with ruthless rage, Taking advantage of his foe's distress, Did finish what his halberdiers begun, And left not, till Andrea's life was done. (1.4.9-26)
Legal justice? Hieronimo is Knight Marshal, an officer in the royal household with judicial functions HIERONIMO. Thus must we toil in other men's extremes, That know not how to remedy our own, And do them justice, when unjustly we, For all our wrongs, can compass no redress. (3.6.1-4) HIERONIMO. I will go plain me to my lord the King, And cry aloud for justice through the court, Wearing the flints with these my withered feet, And either purchase justice by entreats Or tire them all with my revenging threats. (3.7.69-73) Legal justice? VICEROY. They reck no laws that meditate revenge. (1.3.48)
Compare Francis Bacons famous essay Of Revenge, published some years later: Revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more mans nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out. For as for the first wrong, it doth but offend the law; but the revenge of that wrong, putteth the law out of office. (Of Revenge, 1625) Legal justice? ISABELLA. Tell me no more! O monstrous homicides! Since neither piety nor pity moves The king to justice or compassion, I will revenge myself upon this place, Where thus they murdered my beloved son. She cuts down the arbour. (4.2.1-5)
Machiavellianism English revenge tragedy is frequently set in a corrupt court in which legal justice has become impossible; often in Spain or Italy. Lorenzo lies to and manipulates not just his enemies but also his allies. He is an early example of what will become a recognisable stage type: the Machiavel. (Its notable that he frequently speaks in Italian despite his supposedly Spanish identity.) LORENZO. Thus must we work that will avoid distrust; Thus must we practise to prevent mishap; And thus one ill another must expulse. (3.3.105-7) Niccol Machiavelli (1469-1527)
Italian philosopher whose works, especially The Prince (1513), had been translated into English and read widely. In 1552, for example, the scholar Roger Ascham condemned those who with consciences confirmed with Machiavelles doctrine think, say or do whatsoever may serve best for profit or pleasure (A Report and Discourse); Marlowes The Jew of Malta has Machevill deliver a prologue in which he declares religion but a childish toy (l. 14) and asserts
the primacy of might over law (l. 20). Niccol Machiavelli (1469-1527) those princes who have done great things have held good faith of little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of men by craft, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their word.  But it is necessary to know well how to disguise this characteristic, and to be a great pretender and dissembler  A prince, especially a new one, cannot observe all those things for
which men are esteemed, being often forced, in order to maintain the state, to act contrary to faith, friendship, humanity, and religion. (From Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter 18: Concerning The Way In Which Princes Should Keep Faith) Divine justice? This seems to be at work in the sub-plots. As he is being bound to the stake in preparation for his execution, the innocent Alexandro says: ALEXANDRO. My guiltless death will be avenged on thee, On thee, Villuppo, that hath maliced thus, Or for thy meed hast falsely me accused. (3.1.51-3)
Just in time, the scheming Villuppo is exposed by the entrance of the Ambassador. But which god, if any, is in control here? Divine justice? HIERONIMO. Down by the dale that flows with purple gore Standeth a fiery tower; there sits a judge Upon a seat of steel and molten brass, And 'twixt his teeth he holds a firebrand, That leads onto the lake where hell doth stand. Away, Hieronimo, to him be gone! He'll do thee justice for Horatio's death. (3.12.7-13) HIERONIMO. Vindicta mihi! Ay, heaven will be revenged of every ill,
Nor will they suffer murder unrepaid. Then stay, Hieronimo, attend their will, For mortal men may not appoint their time. (3.13.1-5; note move from singular to plural) Divine justice? HIERONIMO. O sacred heavens, if this unhallowed deed, If this inhuman and barbarous attempt, If this incomparable murder thus Of mine, but now no more my son, Shall unrevealed and unrevenged pass, How should we term your dealings to be just, If you unjustly deal with those that in your justice trust? (3.2.5-11) HIERONIMO. Why then, I see that heaven applies our drift, And all the saints do sit soliciting
For vengeance on those cursed murderers. (4.1.32-4) Human agency? Does Revenge drive, or merely embody, human actions? REVENGE. Be still, Andrea; ere we go from hence I'll turn their friendship into fell despite, Their love to mortal hate, their day to night, Their hope into despair, their peace to war, Their joys to pain, their bliss to misery. (1.5.5-9) REVENGE. Content thyself, Andrea; though I sleep, Yet is my mood soliciting their souls. Sufficeth thee that poor Hieronimo Cannot forget his son Horatio. Nor dies Revenge, although he sleep awhile, For in unquiet, quietness is feigned,
And slumb'ring is a common worldly wile. (3.15.19-25) Human agency? It is a mortal sign (Bel-imperias letter, written in her own blood), and not a supernatural one (though it has the appearance of one), which announces Lorenzo and Balthazars guilt. The plays speeches emphasise Hieronimos moments of decision-making: HIERONIMO. This way, or that way? Soft and fair, not so; For if I hang or kill myself, let's know Who will revenge Horatio's murder then? No, no! Fie, no! Pardon me, I'll none of that. He flings away the dagger and halter. (3.12.16-20)
Hieronimo describes himself at the end in metatheatrical terms, both Author and actor in this tragedy (4.4.147). We might return to the title page to think about this question more fully: why is this moment in particular depicted? Video clip, starting at 2.30: http://www.youtube.com/wat ch?v=-PdwrQdcs1Y Until this moment, the play has been intensely patterned
(think about the visual and verbal contrasts set up between Horatio and Lorenzo, for example, or the parallels between the Spanish and Portuguese courts); the presence of Revenge may suggest that we are in a pre-ordained, fatalistic universe. At this moment, though, Hieronimo enters the stage looking for an interlocutor, but encounters a drawn-out moment of anagnorisis in
soliloquy. In the satirical play the Return from Parnassus (1606), we see this speech enacted by a fictional version of the actor Richard Burbage and a student: BURBAGE. I think your voice would serve for Hieronimo; observe me how I act it, and then imitate me. STUDIOSO. Who calls Hieronimo from his naked bed? And &c.
BURBAGE. You will do well after a while. The 1602 additions to The Spanish Tragedy themselves commemorate this moment, as Hieronimo asks a painter to depict it: HIERONIMO. Well, sir, paint me a youth, run through and through with villains' swords, hanging upon this tree. Then, sir, after some violent noise, bring me forth in my shirt, and my gown under mine arm, with my torch in my hand,
and my sword reared up thus; and with these words: What noise is this? Who calls Hieronimo? May it be done? PAINTER. Yea, sir. (Fourth Addition, ll. 131-45) Human agency? Hieronimo was clearly the break-out character: the 1602 additions are dominated by long speeches for him. Hieronimos speeches are by far the most frequently quoted and parodied ones. See, for example, Ben Jonsons Every Man in his Humour (1601): MATHEO. Indeed, here are a number of fine speeches in this book: O eyes, no eyes,
but fountains fraught with tears!; there's a conceit, fountains fraught with tears! O life, no life, but lively form of death! Is't not excellent? O world, no world, but mass of public wrongs O, Gods me! Confused and filled with murder and misdeeds. Is't not excellent? Is't not simply the best that ever you heard? Ha, how do you like it? BOBADILLA. Tis good. In many ways, Hieronimo literally takes control of the play, becoming his own author, and even takes on a life beyond it. Where words prevail not? HIERONIMO. But wherefore waste I mine unfruitful words, When naught but blood will satisfy my woes? (3.7.67-8) Hieronimo singularly fails to communicate the facts of
Horatios murder to the King. His line And to conclude, I will revenge his death! seems to be an illogical conclusion to the speech opening 3.13. Dissembling / false fronts: Lorenzo throughout, and Hieronimo chooses to in Act 3: HIERONIMO. Thus therefore will I rest me in unrest, Dissembling quiet in unquietness, Not seeming that I know their villainies (3.13.29-31) HIERONIMO. Each one of us must act his part In unknown languages, That it may breed the more variety, As you, my lord, in Latin, I in Greek, You in Italian; and for because I know That Bel-imperia hath practised the French,
In courtly French shall all her phrases be.  BALTHAZAR. But this will be a mere confusion, And hardly shall we all be understood. (4.1.172-81) HIERONIMO. Now shall I see the fall of Babylon, Wrought by the heavens in this confusion. (4.1.195-6) David Bevington notes that the English Bibles of the Renaissance tended to confuse Babylon with Babel (p. 117). (Presumably the play-within-the-play was really performed in English, despite the printed texts insistence that it was not.) The failure of language reaches its violent climax in the final scene, of course, culminating in the highly symbolic moment when Hieronimo bites out his own tongue. What is the appeal of a revenge narrative?
A vicarious rebellion against social authority? Blood-lust? if you will learn to rebel against princes, to commit treasons , if you will learn to contemn God and all His laws, to care neither for Heaven nor Hell, and to commit all kind of sin and mischief, you need to go to no other school, for all these good examples may you see painted before your eyes in interludes and plays. (Philip Stubbes, The Anatomie of Abuses, 1583) A moral warning? Vengefulness as hamartia? Plays are writ with this aim, and carried with this method, to teach the subjects obedience to their King, to shew the people the untimely ends of such as have moved tumults, commotions, and insurrections  If we present a Tragedy, we include the fatal and abortive ends of such as commit notorious murders, which is aggravated and acted with all the Art that may be, to terrify men from the like abhorred practises. (Thomas
Heywood, An Apology for Actors, 1612) A fantasy of human agency? Revenge triumphs over death (Francis Bacon, Of Death, Essays, 1612) Metatheatrical revenge Is it significant that the audience is presented with numerous onstage spectators of revenge tragedy? Andrea and Revenge Lorenzo and Balthazar The court audience of Soliman and Perseda Gregory Semenza: the play offers multiple fictional counterparts for the real persons involved in its performances, thereby establishing an
identificatory dynamic similar to that provided by a mirror (Semenza 2010: 154) There is a kind of demonic humour in Hieronimos line But Belimperia plays Perseda well (4.4.69), as she, Lorenzo and Balthazar lie dead or dying, and the court remain under the impression that they are watching fiction. How are we positioned in relation to the ending? Bel-imperias suicide? Castiles murder? Then he makes signs for a knife to mend his pen. CASTILE. O, he would have a knife to mend his pen. VICEROY. Here, and advise thee that thou write the truth. (4.4.199-200) Castile is punished in the afterlife by vultures permanently tearing at
his liver (4.5.31-2). Is this simply because he opposed Bel-imperias engagement to Don Andrea? What are we to make of Andreas gloating over the ending? ANDREA. Ay, now my hopes have end in their effects, When blood and sorrow finish my desires:  Ay, these were spectacles to please my soul. (4.5.1-2, 12) References Bristol, Michael D. (1983) Carnival and the Institutions of Theatre in Elizabethan England, ELH, 50: 4, 637-654. Semenza, Gregory M. C. (2010) The Spanish Tragedy and Metatheatre, in Emma Smith and Garrett J. Sullivan [eds.] The Cambridge Companion to English Renaissance Tragedy, Cambridge University Press, 153-62.
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