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Flashcards in The Spanish Tragedy Deck (30):

Who wrote The Spanish Tragedy?

Thomas Kyd


When was The Spanish Tragedy written?

c. 1587; published 1592

The date is hard to pin down, and has important ramifications for the development of Elizabethan tragedy (and thus English literary history).


Who are the main characters in The Spanish Tragedy? What are their relationships to each other?

Hieronimo, Bel-Imperia, Lorenzo

Hieronimo is Horatio's father and a loyal servant of the King - the Knight Marshal of Spain.

Bel-Imperia and Lorenzo are the Duke of Castile's children and niece and nephew to the King of Spain.

Balthazar, Horatio, Ghost of Andrea

Balthazar is the Prince of Portugal who is captured in war. Kills Andrea. Falls in love with Bel-Imperia.

Horatio is Hieronimo's son and Lorenzo's rival on the battlefield. Bel-Imperia's lover after Andrea dies, and Andrea's best friend.

The Ghost of Andrea is a Spanish soldier killed in the war; Bel-Imperia's lover, it is his death and quest for revenge that frames the play.


What famous author was Thomas Kyd's classmate at the Merchant Taylors school?

Edmund Spenser


What university did Thomas Kyd attend?

He did not attend university


What classical author was a model for Kyd?

The Roman playwright Seneca

Particularly Senecan elements include: the theme of revenge, the framing device of Andrea's Ghost, Senecan quotes, tags, and stylistics.


What contemporary playwright was Kyd's roommate?

Christopher Marlowe


When did Kyd live?

b. 1558. d. 1594


What is the name of Hieronimo's wife?



Who are the two servants who aid Lorenzo and Balthazar in their plot to kill Horatio?

Pedringano and Serberine


What dramatic conceit does The Spanish Tragedy share with Hamlet?

The use of a play-within-a-play


What caused Kyd's imprisonment?

Authorities found a blasphemous pamphlet (denying the divinity of Jesus) in his living quarters.


What were contemporary opinions on revenge?

Elizabethan law forbid personal vengeance, and the Bible clearly states that revenge is the duty of God, not Man - but there was still sympathy the idea among thinkers of the day.

The play embodies the contradiction of a quest for vengeance that exists within a Christian ethos.


What is one significant consequence of the framing device?

We (the audience) knows that anyone who opposes Andrea's revenge will pay a heavy price; the audience knows something significant that the characters do not.


What is Hieronimo's occupation?

A Judge ("Knight Marshal")


Compare Hieronimo and Hamlet

Both agonize over what is right and what will establish justice. Though Hamlet is more introspective, the seeds of self-questioning are in Hieronimo. Both are unwilling to compromise and pursue similar quests, and Hieronimo's soliloquies prefigure Hamlet's famous musings.

Both also seem to exhibit some kind of madness (perhaps feigned in Hamlet's case). Hieronimo is accused of madness by Lorenzo to discredit him, and acts erratically in his day-to-day life, causing confusion among those he knows.


What is Lorenzo and Horatio's initial conflict?

Both claim credit for the capture of Balthazar on the battlefield.


Who misleads the Viceroy of Portugal into believing his son is dead?



Who is adamant in telling the Viceroy of Portugal that his son is alive?



What is Bel-Imperia seeking revenge for? How does she carry out her revenge?

She wants revenge on Balthazar for killing Andrea, her love; she does this by intentionally pursuing a relationship with Horatio. Ultimately, she takes part in Hieronimo's plot to kill Lorenzo and Balthazar before taking her own life.


How does Lorenzo try to hide his crime?

By hiring Pedringano to kill Serberine, but making sure Pedringano is caught in the act. He falsely promises he will get a pardon for Pedringano.


How do Lorenzo and Balthazar contrive to murder Horatio?

They bribe Bel-Imperia's servant, Pedringano, to tell them where Horatio and Bel-Imperia plan to meet. They murder him in front of her eyes.


How do Isabella and Heironimo's reactions differ upon discovering the death of their son?

Heironimo vows to get revenge; Isabella is more passive, claims that time will make sure justice is served.


How does Heironimo learn who is responsible for Horatio's murder?

Bel-Imperia sends him a letter telling the truth.


What is a striking feature of the play-within-a-play?

It is polyglot; each character speaks a different language.


What is Isabella's fate?

Although she initially believes that time will bring justice for her son's murder, she eventually succumbs to frustration and grief. She kills herself, making a dying plea for Hieronimo to get revenge on Horatio's killers.


What does Hieronimo do when being interrogated by the king after the play-within-a-play?

Vows silence Bites out his tongue


How does Hieronimo die?

He asks for a knife to sharpen his pen to write out his confession; upon receiving it, he stabs the Duke and himself.


What roles do each of the characters play in the play-within-a-play?

Bel-Imperia: Perseda
Balthazar: Solimon the Turkish Emperor (loves Perseda)
Lorenzo: Erastus, Knight of Rhodes (Perseda's husband)
Hieronimo: Nobleman who kills Erastus


What are some characteristics of Revenge Tragedy?

- Ghosts; figures of the dead come back to haunt and make demands on people

- Horrors heaped on horrors; crimes become ever more extravagant as the story continues

- Ethical moments of debate expressed in rhetorical speeches

- Big climax (Often through theater or masque)

- Madness (feigned and real); thin line between sanity and insanity