The Spanish Tragedy
  • Publication Date: May 10, 2016
  • ISBN: 9781554812059 / 1554812054
  • 248 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Spanish Tragedy

  • Publication Date: May 10, 2016
  • ISBN: 9781554812059 / 1554812054
  • 248 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The Spanish Tragedy became one of the most successful plays on the Elizabethan English stage and laid the foundation of the revenge tragedy, a genre that playwrights returned to throughout the early modern era and that endures even today. The story surrounds the civil servant Hieronimo, who joins Bel-imperia of the royal family to take revenge on her own brother for murdering Hieronimo’s son, the object of her affection. The work goes far beyond a story of intrigue and brings up questions of aristocratic privilege, the moral hazards of revenge, the spectacle of violence, and the agency of women at court.

This Broadview Edition includes a freshly edited text based on the 1592 edition, notes designed to help first-time readers understand and enjoy the work, an extensive introduction that situates the play in its literary and historical context, and extensive historical documents. The documents open up avenues of inquiry for students interested in the life and work of Thomas Kyd, the construction of women at court, the question of revenge, violence, and entertainment in Elizabethan England, and Spain in the Elizabethan imagination.


“This is a superb edition of The Spanish Tragedy — a work of exemplary scholarship and sensitive critical intelligence. The notes and annotations are admirably clear and informative, and the introduction to Thomas Kyd’s enigmatic life and work is enthralling and illuminating. As well as providing us with a fresh, updated play text, Patrick McHenry gives us a vivid account of the political and cultural background to this great, foundational work of revenge tragedy. Readers of this edition of the play will be rewarded with abundant critical insights and thought-provoking commentary.” — Stephen Regan, Durham University

“This foundational text of Renaissance drama and cultural history has been conservatively edited, helpfully glossed, and well annotated. In addition, a judicious selection of background materials (on revenge, honor, and forgiveness; Elizabethan blood lust; female agency; and Elizabethan perception of the Spanish temperament) makes this an excellent all-round edition for classroom use.” — Raymond-Jean Frontain, University of Central Arkansas

Thomas Kyd: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Spanish Tragedy

Appendix A: Additional Passages of 1602

Appendix B: Documents in the Life of Thomas Kyd

  1. From Richard Mulcaster, Positions (1581)
  2. Letter from Queen Elizabeth’s Privy Council (11 May 1593)
  3. Thomas Kyd, Two Letters to Sir John Puckering (1593)
  4. Thomas Kyd, Dedication to Robert Garnier’s Cornelia (1594)

Appendix C: The Question of Revenge

  1. From the Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Romans
  2. From Seneca, Thyestes (first century CE)
  3. From “A Sermon against Contention and Brawling” (1547)
  4. From Richard Jones, The Book of Honor and Arms (1590)
  5. From William Westerman, Two Sermons of Assize (1600)
  6. From Ben Jonson, Introduction to Bartholomew Fair (1614)
  7. Sir Francis Bacon, “Of Revenge” (1625)

Appendix D: Violence and Entertainment in Elizabethan England

  1. From Robert Langham, A Letter (1575)
  2. From William Harrison, Description of England (1586)
  3. From Philip Stubbes, The Anatomy of Abuses (1595)
  4. John Norden, Map of London (1593)
  5. The Triple Tree at Tyburn

Appendix E: The Social Construction of Women at Court

  1. From Baldesar Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier (1528)
  2. From Juan Luis Vives, Instruction of Christian Women (1529)
  3. Queen Elizabeth’s Armada Speech to the Troops at Tilbury (9 August 1588)
  4. Lady Arbella Stuart, Letter to King James (c. December 1610)
  5. From Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Mariam (1613)

Appendix F: Spain in Elizabethan Culture

  1. From Richard Hakluyt, A Discourse on Western Planting (1584)
  2. From A Fig for the Spaniard (1591)
  3. From Sir Walter Raleigh, A Report of the Truth of the Fight about the Iles of Azores (1591)

Works Cited and Further Reading

Patrick McHenry is Professor of English and Associate Dean of the College of Letters and Sciences, Columbus State University, Columbus, Georgia.