A noter :
Aucun extrait de ce mémoire ne doit être reproduit sans que le nom de son auteur n'ait été cité au préalable. Le texte original est consultable à la Bibliothèque Angellier de Lille III. La mise en page a été modifiée lors de la conversion du texte en HTML.












Spain and The Spanish Tragedy




Note de recherche présentée

en vue de l’obtention de la Maîtrise par

Benjamin Demolin




Octobre 2002 Directeur de recherche:

Monsieur le professeur Jean-Claude Dupas

Table of Contents








A) Religious and Political Mutations

1. The traditional beliefs and practices *

2. Henry VIII’s reforms *

3. The Reformation in Edward VI’s reign *

4. The Restoration *

5. Elizabeth re-establishes Protestantism for good *


B) Printing, Music, and Society in the 16th Century

1. The rise of printing *

2. Music, Arts, and Reformation *


C) Renaissance Drama and The Spanish Tragedy

1. The apparition of a commercial stage *

2. The polemics about drama *

3. The staging of The Spanish Tragedy *





A) English Interest in Spanish Culture

1. In search of Spain *

2. Juan Luis Vives *

3. Attitudes towards Spain *




B) Genesis of the Quarrels with Spain

1. Henry VIII and Europe *

2. Edward and Mary: a period of transition *

3. Ruling with diplomacy *


C) Growing Tensions

1. The first expeditions *

2. Elizabeth’s intervention in the Netherlands *

3. 1585: the plight in the Netherlands heralds the war *

4. The succession’s crisis in Portugal *





A) The Coming of War

1. Spain obtains the support of Rome *

2. The political claims *

3. The execution of Mary of Scots marks a turning point *

4. The economic rivalry *


B) The Battle

1. The plans of operations *

2. The launching of the Armada *

3. The Spanish Armada collapses *

4. Conclusion: the "miraculous year" *










A) Protestantism and the Apocalyptic Tradition

1. The apocalyptic tradition *

2. The allusions to Daniel in The Spanish Tragedy *

3. The Spanish Tragedy as the fall of Babylon *

B) Mystery and Revelation

1. The notion of "mystery" *

2. Symbolic characters of the play *

3. The "scheme of secrecy and revelation" *


C) "Soliman and Perseda" or the Fall of Babylon

1. The confusion of tongues *

2. The play-within-the-play *

3. The mystery of the fall of Babylon *





A) The Issue of Revenge

1. From revenge to tragedy *

2. Andrea’s ghost *

3. The death of the hero *


B) Symbolism of Divine Justice

1. The temporal structure of the play *

2. The use of symbolic implements derived from the Bible *

3. The symbolism of objects *


C) Private Revenge and Divine Justice

1. Hieronimo’s concern for justice *

2. The dilemma of Hieronimo *

3. Any prospects of divine justice? *


D) The Spanish Tragedy as a Political Tragedy

1. Hieronimo in his period *

2. Spain and the Spanish Tragedy *





A) Plots and Stratagems

1. A structure implying a web of consequences *

2. Weaving alliances *

3. Lorenzo versus Horatio *

4. Treachery, murder, and revenge *

5. The significance of the introductory scene *


B) Language and Deceit: a Study of the Characters

1. Deceiving through words *

2. The reports of Andrea’s battle *

3. Hieronimo also plays his game of deception *

4. Lorenzo as the villain of the play *

5. Conclusion: the failure of words in The Spanish Tragedy *


C) Love and Hatred or the Strife in The Spanish Tragedy

1. The Chorus *

2. The four-act-structure *

3. Plot and subplot *

4. The characterization *





APPENDIX: Biography of Thomas Kyd *








The Spanish Tragedy, written in the 1580’s by Thomas Kyd, is generally considered as the first and most popular revenge play. William Shakespeare only appeared on the Elizabethan stage in the early1590’s.

Favoured by the creation of public theatres in the 1570’s, The Spanish Tragedy was at the origin of a generation of plays deriving from Greek and Latin drama and shaped by the conventions of the late Renaissance period. Of course, we can ascribe the popularity of the play to its originality and theatricality mixing the ancient and the English styles of drama.

However, this argument is not satisfactory and we may assume that the success of The Spanish Tragedy was also due to the fact that it was published shortly after the defeat of the Invincible Armada in 1588. Indeed, in The Spanish Tragedy, Kyd presents a tragedy befalling Spain and Portugal, creating his characters according to the Elizabethan conception of Spain and Italy, which regarded them as the countries of vice. Thereby, the play reflects the fulfilment brought by the English victory and we may speculate that the Protestant audience of the time interpreted Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy as the tragedy of the Spanish Armada.

The Spanish defeat marked a turning point in the serious political and religious crisis that England had been facing for years. First, it was the evidence that England now emerged as a powerful nation on the European scene, thus questioning the Spanish supremacy. On the religious ground, the victory over Spain was considered as the victory of Protestantism over Catholicism.

Setting about the study of "Spain and The Spanish Tragedy" therefore implies the demonstration that Kyd’s play is both a revenge tragedy and a mirror of the struggle of a Protestant England against a Catholic Spain. In order to examine Kyd’s representation of the fall of Spain, we will explain the radical antagonisms causing England and Spain to engage in a war of the utmost importance.

The first part will be dedicated to the historical and cultural context of the play.

The study of the Reformation process and the cultural mutations will drive us to become aware of the shaping of an English national consciousness in the sixteenth century. We will finish by exploring the Spanish failure in 1588, as confirming the irreversible rupture between Protestant England and the countries conforming to the dictates of Rome.

Then, we will turn to the study of The Spanish Tragedy.

What should be established at the outset is that Kyd translates the anti-Spanish sentiment through the evocation of Spain as the figurehead of the biblical Babylon. Accordingly, a parallel will be established between the fall of Spain as described in the play and the fall of Babylon.

The study of Kyd’s version of the fall of Spain as Babylon, hinting at the tragedy striking Spain in 1588, will lead us to associate the two concepts of revenge and tragedy. We will determine how The Spanish Tragedy falls within the framework of a revenge tragedy and to what extent the play conserves a Christian significance. In this respect, the analysis will stress the role of Hieronimo as the hero of the tragedy.

Last of all, through the study of the structure and language, we will bring out three major themes: ambition, deception, and love. Here, we will show that The Spanish Tragedy goes beyond the painting of a decadent Spain, which is the pretext for Kyd to represent an intricate world of conflictual relationships.






A) Religious and Political Mutations

1. The traditional beliefs and practices

Reformation was a long process, with its roots in the early sixteenth century and to a certain extent in medieval England. At this time, traditional practices and beliefs still deeply characterized the religious life of England. People would easily see religious symbols in everyday life so that "at parish boundaries, at street crossings, at stiles and on bridges, carved crosses and statues of saints proclaimed that God was guarding those who lived there and travellers who journeyed through". In addition, people’s lives were regulated by religious festivals. There were, apart from Easter and Christmas, many holy days corresponding to different episodes of the Bible and people were expected to attend religious services and rituals held in these occasions. Through the symbolic re-enactment of biblical episodes, people could learn the Bible; the Creeping of the Cross, for instance, was acted by the worshippers. Although imposed on people, the religious practices also provided comfort and made it possible a communal solidarity. In other terms, religion had a sociable aim and permitted people to be accepted within the community.

The religious practices also endeavoured to fight against evil forces or the devil, haunting popular consciousness. It is important to add that the popular consciousness was strongly concerned with the supernatural. When someone recovered from sickness, found a lost object again, or when hens resumed egg-laying, it was regarded as a sign of God’s presence and many miracles were proclaimed in consequence. In fact, people could not clearly distinguish the religious from the supernatural. Divine powers were conferred to objects often associated to saints and, just touching of a holy object was worth a prayer. At the time, most people did not understand Latin but it was considered that their presence at mass was enough to attain God. As they could only watch the mass and recite the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary, some preachers were dedicated to teach religion within the parishes. People had more and more access to prayer books still in Latin and illustrated with pictures. Nevertheless, they could only identify words they already knew and therefore the prayer books were rather used as holy objects than as books. To take Doreen Rosman words, "the text was less a source of communication than a way of invoking divine power".

Thus, we see that the church was very powerful and structured the life of folks. Let us add that before the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537, the Church owned one quarter of the land. However, even if most people conformed to Church and community, there were some people deviating from the accepted norms. They were the heretics of course but also such groups as the followers of the fourteenth century writer John Wyclif, believing that the "Bible was the sole source of Christian authority"3. In the beginning of the sixteenth century, Wyclif’s followers used to pray through biblical readings and came to be called the Lollards because they prayed in low voices, afraid of being discovered. They did not believe in transubstantiation and were doubtful about the worshipping of saints. In that sense, we may say that the Lollard movement contained the essence of Protestantism. In time, all the people who did not fully adhere the Church were called Lollards, including heretics and non-conformists, although they had nothing to do to Lollard belief.

2. Henry VIII’s reforms

Even if it is possible to find seeds for Reformation at the very beginning of the sixteenth century, its process began with Henry VIII as he undertook a series of reforms that were to finish in Elizabeth reign. Until Henry VIII, England and Europe in general depended on Rome and the Catholic Church was the only recognized church. Catholicism was so ingrained that a religious change was unlikely to take place. The emergence of humanist ideas, mainly diffused by Erasmus and Thomas More was a sign of a future religious change. If the newly arrived ideas were not Protestant yet, there was at least a general wish for improving the church. The big production of religious books at the time shows that the religious leaders aimed at improving the religious teaching. Then, with the ideas of Luther coming to England the underlying change took a clear Protestant touch. His ideas were diffused in the big intellectual areas even though they were not so popular as they were in Germany at the same time. What is more, the English King did not tolerate the propagation of Lutheran doctrine and some of its followers took refuge abroad. When Henry VIII came to the throne, there was no indication that England was destined for any religion other than Catholicism. Indeed, he was a fervent Catholic and in very good terms with Rome calling him the "Defender of the Faith". At the beginning of his reign, Henry VIII did not have in mind to reform the church, he only meant to curb the abuses of the church. But things changed when he asked the Pope Clement VII (1523-34) to declare his marriage to Catherine of Aragon void because he had no male heir. His demand was refused, and Henry’s relations with the Pope deteriorated. Moreover, many of his advisers firmly criticized the papacy and wished the King to have the supreme power over the Church. Influenced by them, he came to judge the Pope’s authority as illegitimate.

Let us consider the religious achievements during Henry’s reign. Even though he broke with Rome, there was not a radical change within the church. Among his advisers, some were still fervently supporting the Catholic faith. In fact, the Church was in full mutation and people did not fully distinguished Catholic from Protestant. This means that you could both encourage the introduction of a vernacular Bible and doubt about transubstantiation. Therefore, the boundaries between the two doctrines were not clearly defined yet. The first ordinances that the King decreed forbade the worship of images and objects, regarded as pure idolatry. Then, through the Act of Supremacy in 1534, it was decided that the King would be the sole head of the church, resulting in the break with Rome. Subsequently, Henry undertook the dissolution of the monasteries because the clergy strongly disagreed with the Act of Supremacy. However, the dissolution was also motivated by economical reasons: selling the lands owned by clergymen would bring money to protect the country in the event of a foreign incursion. In reality, this fear had a definite connection with his divorce to Catherine, creating tensions with Spain. Following that, Henry had to reinforce the political and religious safety of the country by making a series of agreements with Germany, without adhering the Lutheran Church though. Overall, we can say that Henry remained faithful to the Catholic belief, believing in transubstantiation and purgatory and supporting celibacy for priests. Yet, he deviated from it in the sense that he opposed to the confession and to the cult of images. Therefore, when dealing with the change during Henry VIII’s reign one should refer to reformed Catholicism, given written authority through the Six Articles of Religion of 1539.

What marked a real change was the translation of the Bible in English urged by Cromwell and Anne Boleyn. It led to Miles Coverdale’s translation published in1539, implying its diffusion in the churches thus making its understanding easier. In this respect, the translation of the Bible can be perceived as deliverance insofar as it made religion accessible to all without social or gender distinction. However, the coming over of new ideas after the break with Rome led to new interpretations of the Bible and actually represented a danger. Since it could threaten the religious stability, Henry decided to sign the 1543 act of Parliament by which he limited the access to the English Bible. If the break with Rome did not imply a sudden change from Catholicism to Protestantism, it remained crucial in the process of Reformation. Already it created tensions with other Catholic countries in Europe. Besides, it was usual to blame the Catholic faith for being superstitious, having corrupted priests and for burning the heretics. From now on, the background of Henry’s later reign was clearly stamped with Protestantism.

3. The Reformation in Edward VI’s reign

Under Edward VI (1547-1553), England clearly became Protestant. Unlike Henry, Edward did not make a compromise between Protestant and Catholic doctrines. The first measure he made concerned the removal of all religious images. The idea was that prayers should not be made through such intermediaries as the worship of images and saints for example. In addition to this, the prayers for the dead were now regarded as non-conform to the true faith. Edward VI also put an end to the processions, for instance the "Creeping of the Cross" on Good Friday. To recapitulate, we should refer to Doreen Rosman who argues that:

"In Protestant eyes, these colourful and symbolic Catholic ceremonies
were likely to obscure rather than illuminate God’s purposes, providing
the masses with the illusion of religious observance that was no substitute
for meditation on the written word"4.

This quotation reminds us that only the religious scriptures were authoritative thus giving explanation for the introduction of The Book of Common Prayer in 1549.

4. The Restoration

However, all the efforts made to bring in the Protestant doctrine were thwarted with Mary I’s coming to the throne, the latter re-establishing the Catholic faith and restoring the country’s links with Rome. Although she re-authorized the Catholic practices, Mary could hardly contemplate a complete return to Catholicism because the dissolution of the monasteries was irreversible. Neither did she try to reinstate the worship of saints and relics. However, she had a muscular repressive policy and put to death many Protestant followers and heretics. Her policy was the cause of strong anti-Catholic feeling in England. What is more, her marriage to Philip of Spain was quite unpopular insofar as Spain was involved in plots against England. In fact, the bad memories that "Bloody Mary" left to England enabled to strengthen the Protestant faith that was to settle for good during Elizabethan era.

5. Elizabeth re-establishes Protestantism for good

Queen Elizabeth brought back the Protestant rituals and sought to convert Catholics to Protestantism. Her policy was not so rigorous as Edward’s and it explains why she gained the sympathy of many Catholic followers. The 1559 Book of Prayer laid down the Protestant faith, and meant to gain the interest ant trust of Catholics. As a result, some priests and followers converted to Protestantism because they found it was more convincing and appealing than Catholicism. As for those who were sceptical about Catholicism, Protestantism appeared lively, radical, new, and thus became an attractive alternative. Lastly, we should point out that the desire for national independence rising during the Elizabethan period facilitated the conversion to Protestantism, since it proved to be a good way to differentiate oneself from the countries backed by the Pope.

B) Printing, Music, and Society in the 16th Century

1. The rise of printing

The ideas of Humanism were spread more easily with the progress of printing as it enabled the diffusion of books through England. When printing was invented, most of English economy rested on agriculture and cloth industry. England had no great town such as Vienna or Genoa and it had not yet begun her great voyages. Printing really began in 1476, when Caxton set up his press at Westminster. He printed about one hundred works among others the "Canterbury Tales"(1477), "Le Morte d’Arthur"(1485), or the "Fables of Aesop"(1484). Also, we are not to forget that at the beginning of printing, people interested in the English book trade were mainly foreigners. Widespread printing was not created until the mid-sixteenth century and many English manuscripts were still sent to France, Germany or the Netherlands to be turned into print. For instance, William Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament (1526) was printed in Germany. The great success of foreign printers raised a national consciousness in England. In response to this, the English printing press began to develop. The use of Latin by students and scholars also promoted its development. One should observe that Scotland and Ireland did not yet have any printing houses before Walter Chepman and Andrew Myllar imported a printing press to Scotland in 1507 on behalf of King James IV. The effect of this growing nationalism could be found in the Bill against the Alien passed in 1523. It said that foreign printers in England had to employ English-born apprentices. Then, in 1529, another act was signed against foreigners who had not been made natives. This was followed by the 1534 act favouring the English printers and binders. Thus, it is perfectly understandable that Elizabeth’s aim was to have the control over the book industry. To illustrate this idea, we can quote The Stationer’s Company, a printing press company founded in 1557 which was to have the national monopoly of printing. This policy against foreign printers continued throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. For instance, in 1555 another act stated, "no citizen should employ a foreigner except in certain trade"5. It was clear that priority should be given to domestic printers with aliens only employed in exceptional circumstances. At last, in 1597, it was decided "every alien who had served as a journeyman book-binder should be allowed to serve as a journeyman for the rest of his life but should never keep a shop or work himself as a binder"6. To establish the link between printing regulations and Reformation we shall say that their aim was to drive English religious books abroad. But, above all, the Reformation period was translated into a fear of seditious literature. There were very few importations into the realm of book concerning Christian religion. In Henry VIII’s reign, the importing of books was strictly controlled, requiring the sovereign’s license.

To conclude, printing during the reformation period also contributed to the construction of libraries. There were no great libraries before 1597, when Sir Thomas Bodley offered to Oxford a great collection of books he had imported from the continent. For the first time, people have been able to borrow books. Previously, you could view books from monasteries but the ransacking of libraries later in Henry VIII’s reign considerably reduced access to literary works.

2. Music, Arts, and Reformation

The musical evolution in England and in Europe was due to a complex state of social, political and religious conditions. First of all, the spread of Humanism during the sixteenth century helped music to be considered as an art, connecting the words to the music. Indeed, poets and musicians were inseparable and influenced each other. In the beginning of the sixteenth century, Rome was the centre of artistic life in Europe and was the origin of the proliferation of Academies in Catholic Europe. In a humanist background, they originally aimed at promoting antic and Latin literature, before including all intellectual and artistic disciplines. The Academies were places where poets, musicians, and any other scholars could meet and share humanist ideas. They were a mark of the rise of the middle-class. The most famous academies were settled in Italy, among them the influential Intronati of Siena (1527). As for English artistic life at the same period, it was still highly focused on the Church and the Court. For this reason England stood apart from the European intellectual trend possibly explaining why she did not have the same academies.

Another important feature of early sixteenth century is the apparition of confraternities in Europe. To take up Iain Fenlon’s definition, they were:

"associations of the laity, who, under the patronage of the Virgin, the Trinity, Corpus Christi or one of the saints, cared for the spiritual and temporal needs of their members"7.

There were different kinds of confraternities: those that would arrange funerals, provide teaching, run schools, provide help for members in need or give concerts. These associations also played an important part in social life, as they were deeply concerned with religion. The most prestigious confraternity in England was the Holy Trinity Coventry, which employed priests and possessed its own church.

Commercial and diplomatic patterns were also not without consequence on artistic life. For instance, as far as music is concerned, English conserved close links with Italian, French and Spanish music through Venice and Antwerp merchants. On a diplomatic level, some musicians were employed as spies in the service of a sovereign, as there was a competition for the most talented composers. For instance, the Flemish musician Alamire spent four years at Mechlin (1515-1518) to work as a spy for Henry VIII. One should note that the King was himself musician, playing and composing for the lute. At last, the religious mutations in Europe began to contribute new works to England. The persecution of Jews in Europe, for example, provoked an influx of population, bringing with it new music and new ideas into England. Finally, we should not forget the religious changes facing England, which put a brake on artistic blossoming until Elizabeth’s accession to the throne.

Artistic and intellectual activities before the Reformation were mainly diffused through London’s Inns of Court and the other important universities, spreading art, literature, philosophy and furnishing high teaching. The Inns of Court were initially the hostels and colleges established in the early fourteenth century, under Edward I’s reign, for the schooling of law students. Beyond the teaching of law and religion, the students could learn music and dancing, so that the colleges were called the Inns of Court. One should add that the benchers and barristers were also members of these colleges, the benchers being in charge of the affairs of the society. London has four Inns of Court: the Inner Temple, the Middle Temple, Gray’s Inn, and Lincoln’s Inn. Let us note in passing that the proper title of each Inn was initially "The Honourable Society of…" by virtue of being prestigious places. During the Reformation period, the Inns of Courts became the starting point for the staging of plays, leading to the creation of the Inn-theatres and playhouses from the late 1550’s 8.

New colleges were also founded in Oxford and Cambridge to "raise middle-class gentlemen, as well as divines to staff what was now the state church"9, whereas previously they used to form theologians during the medieval period. In a sense, we can say that the attention on the intellectual level was moving towards the sovereign. So, in the Renaissance period, we changed from art propaganda for the church to art propaganda for the sovereign. To reinforce this assessment, let us quote the artistic life around Queen Elizabeth. She encouraged arts and London had a cosmopolitan outlook in terms of cultural life, Elizabethan music being influenced by Flemish and Italian music. John Dowland and William Byrd were the most influential musicians at Elizabeth’s court. The new fashion for the musicians was to play with virtuosity to fill the listeners with wonder. Of course, a performance centred around the sovereign had a political aim as it gave strength and prestige to the ruling of the Kingdom.

Finally, the rise of the merchants in Europe is an important phenomenon of the Renaissance period. Indeed, the expansion of music occurred within the upper class of the bourgeoisie, which meant professions in trade, finance or office holding. The "bourgeois merchant" was a familiar figure of the time, working for the "major industrial centres, seaports and market towns of Europe from Antwerp to Seville"10 and having international vistas. The bourgeois wanted to consolidate their gains as far as social status and power are concerned and listening and playing the music was very popular to them. This aspect had a profound repercussion upon cultural life in Europe. To illustrate this idea, let us evoke Francis Drake who used to dine with music during his voyages. Also, Thomas Morley, Byrd’s pupil, who composed madrigals in the Italian style and adapted Italian words to English to cater for the prosperous families of England. Meanwhile, Dowland was dedicated to the composition of songs for lute called "ayres" with the same intentions. This is in close connection with the Elizabethan drama as "music was played as overtures before plays and regular free public concerts were given at the royal Exchange from 1571"11.

C) Renaissance Drama and The Spanish Tragedy

Before Elizabeth’s reign, drama was generally seen as a profitable pastime because it aimed at diffusing the religious ideas of the time and gaining the approval of people. Traditionally, it was common for actors to perform for monastic houses and public halls. Drama stopped to have a strict religious aim when productions started to be expanded for a commercial purpose. At first, there were the Inn-Theatres12, inns hired by actors to perform their plays and where drink was served to the spectators. Then, James Burgage’s Theatre was built in 1576 as the first playhouse of London.

This was the beginning of establishment of a commercial stage in London, which was to influence deeply the way people looked on plays. The change also occurred because there were more and more prospects regarding theatre among Protestant reformers, the central debate being the taking part of drama in religion.

1. The apparition of a commercial stage

Let us begin by stating that the attitudes towards drama did not radically change until the late Reformation period. Before Elizabeth, drama offered an entertainment for the parochial life and the religious ideas of the time were to be included in the plays to gain popular support. But, in the Elizabethan period, the religious background changed as the Protestant doctrine defined itself as being opposed to Roman Catholic. As far as drama is concerned, it did not exclusively support the religious cause any longer. In fact, the religious and economic mutations implied new ways of considering theatre. Paul White depicts this idea by saying that the success of playing "altered the character of drama and the conditions under which it was performed"13. Thus, within less than twenty years, public playing settled and came to be strongly promoted because a lot of money was at stake.

From then on, as the market for drama grew, it became usual for the audience to pay for viewing a play. Before that, the writing of plays was the job of ministers and schoolmasters had to fulfil. In this respect, we can say that there was a change from amateur to professional in the writing of plays. An illustration of this is the monthly income of £2000 received by the London Troupe. The money helped the different theatrical companies to be more independent economically from the owners of the playhouses. They were now able to play with more freedom and without external commitment and this was crucial for the development of English drama, rendering it more likely to accept the humanist ideas.

2. The polemics about drama

However, new fashions in staging were slated by some Protestants who thought plays should still aim at promoting the Protestant faith. Others simply criticized the theatre for some more practical reasons, arguing that public performances easily brought infections, and favour prostitution, robbery and begging. Among anti-stage Protestants, we can quote the London Corporation which, thinking it had rights about the regulation of plays "boosted the free publicity it received from the pulpit by patronizing writers such as Gosson and Munday who wrote polemical pamphlets attacking the professional stage"14. Also, the London Corporation prohibited many plays and playhouses that were considered as irreverent. Likewise, the use of icons in playing was condemned in the 1570’s by some Protestant preachers and play writers.

Indeed, at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, some Protestants continued to preach the biblical message to people that could not read by the means of visual images, so that it could be easily understood. In this context, it was frequent to put on display Catholic icons, representing Catholicism as being the Church of superstition. There were many attempts to replace staging by public preaching. For instance, in York, Archbishop Grindal replaced the "city players" by a "city preacher"15. Supposed to be an entertainment in the same way as staging, the public readings encouraged the participating of the audience. Then, it came to the actors themselves to be criticized because they adapted or included biblical stories to the stage. The argument presented to condemn their acting was that they used "bawdy and scurrilous language in treating religious topics"16. In addition to this, the habit of changing roles and assuming the identity of a female character was not accepted among Calvinist Protestants mainly, saying it encouraged depraved sexuality. Calvin’s analysis on this theme can be found in his Sermons on Deuteronomy (1583) and is a reference for opponents to stage.

Furthermore, as conflicts with Catholic countries amplified, Spain in particular, the opponents to stage even compared theatre to popery. In their view, actors just represented Babylon, standing for Rome during the Reformation. Some even got the idea that the plague of Catholicism was replaced by the staging of plays. What is more, to the eyes of Protestant preachers, the struggle was now between the true Protestant House of God and the new evil playhouses, causing public disorder. They deplored the lack of faith in the playhouses, performing plays meanwhile the mass was being performed. One should also note that the stage detractors were also the ones opposed to the humanist ideas.

Towards the 1580’s there was more tolerance in regard to plays. This because many Protestants reconciled themselves to thinking that plays could support the religious belief. Some play writers such as Thomas Nashe and Sir Philip Sidney contributed to this appeasement, upholding that the Protestant faith could be praised onstage by denouncing the vice of the characters. Thus, it is possible to assess that English society was acquiring a cultural and religious identity. Moreover, the threat of a Catholic invasion during the 1580’s favoured the building of a national consciousness. Meanwhile the market of staging worked well, Kyd, Marlowe and Shakespeare were the pioneers of Elizabethan play writing.

3. The staging of The Spanish Tragedy

The Spanish Tragedy is a good illustration of the English national consciousness and anti-Catholic feeling arising during the Elizabethan period, partly explaining why the play was so successful. From 1592 to 1597, The Spanish Tragedy became one of the most popular plays performed by the Lord Strange’s Men at the Rose Theatre held by Philip Henslow: it was produced about thirteen times against thirty-six times for Marlowe’s Jew of Malta. According to Arthur Freeman, there is also direct evidence that The Spanish Tragedy was produced by "no less than four companies between 1592 and 1604"17: the Lord Strange’s Men, the Admiral’s Men, Pembroke’s Men and the Chamberlain’s Men (later the King’s Men).

The play was edited more than ten times before 1633, which testifies to its vitality and success. The popularity of the play was also confirmed by the startling number of allusions to the play by Kyd’s contemporaries and successors and one may presume that The Spanish Tragedy continued to be presented until the closing of the theatres in 1642:

"Professor Claude Dudrap offers one hundred and eleven citations, ranging

from Nashe’s vitriolic attack in 1589 to Shirley’s The Constant Maid of 1640,

and goes on to argue most persuasively that The Spanish Tragedy probably

never totally disappeared from the public theatres of London during the

Jacobean and Caroline period."18

I would finish by mentioning that companies of actors also produced The Spanish Tragedy outside London and even carried the play abroad to Germany and the Low Countries. There, the play was translated and adapted and was given a good reception19.


A) English Interest in Spanish Culture

England maintained a changing relationship with Spain, due to a paradox of desire and fear. For whilst England wanted to know and understand Spain, the continental power was considered as a threat. At the time, there was still a prejudice among English and other European people stemming from the Black Legend with reference to the tyrannical monarchs. The Black Legend arose during the reign of Elizabeth, an age announcing the English supremacy, whereas in Spain, the Habsburgs were showing signs of decadence. As a matter of fact, it was said that the Inquisition prevented Spain from contributing to European progress. Spain was regarded as apart from other European countries, an "intellectual wasteland"1 incapable of becoming a modern nation. The European intellectuals of the time also created the stereotype of the Spaniard pictured as the embodiment of deceit a cruelty and bigotry.

But in reality, those fears mainly reflected a certain misconception about Spain among the English, and the artistic and intellectual activity in Spain was not yet estimated at its true worth. The present study will seek to determine that in spite of the fear of Spain, England showed an interest in Spanish culture during the sixteenth century.

1. In search of Spain

During the Renaissance period, many people from England visited Spain; among them poets, philosophers, musicians, businessmen or simple travellers. The interest in Spain arose particularly among British writers and scholars who had notions of Spanish language. To borrow Metford’s terms, "Britons not only acquired the language, but used their knowledge of it to further the study of some aspect of Spanish culture which interested them"2. Moreover, there were some Spanish scholars settled in Oxford, teaching Spanish in the universities and thus promoting their culture.

In this respect, the Treaty of Medina del Campo marked a new era in the relationship between England and Spain. It was ratified by Ferdinand of Aragon and Henry VII in 1489 and aimed at making easy the commerce between England and Spain. One should remark that this treaty contributed a lot to the induction of Spanish culture in England since it created a real political alliance between the two kingdoms. Indeed, it led to Catherine of Aragon’s marriage to Prince Arthur, heir to the British throne. Their union did not last long, as Arthur died six months after the marriage but she finally married Arthur’s brother, Henry VIII. Thus, by this Anglo-Spanish union, the commercial links between the two countries strongly developed. From the time of this marriage, merchants were free to travel to Spain without passport. English merchants, principally coming from Bristol, settled in Seville where they even had their own church. Also, one can add that this trade was not without consequence on culture. The Spanish merchants began to diffuse parts of their culture with the importation of silk, wine and dies to England. On the whole, the Spanish culture was spread through publicity in the Court, as Catherine was determined to recreate the intellectual atmosphere of the Spanish Court. She probably gave rise to a taste for Spain and making it better known.

2. Juan Luis Vives3

This leads us to introduce Juan Luis Vives (1492?-1540) Spanish scholar who came to England in this context of cultural and commercial diffusion. As far as he was concerned he exerted an intellectual influence at Henry VIII’s court. He was a very influential philosopher and of the Renaissance, deeply marked by the humanist movement of the time and also famous for his pedagogical abilities. Vives had a lot of consideration for the Dutch humanist and scholar Erasmus (1469-1536) and for Thomas More (1478-1535) who influenced his intellectual life, bringing him humanist views about religion, philosophy and politics. In 1523, Catherine of Aragon invited him at the court of England and on many occasions he gave lectures at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. To take up Metford’s words, Vives was "attached to the Royal Court at Greenwich and lived in the tower of London when he was not lecturing at Oxford"4. This quote just shows that Vives immersed himself in the English culture: he was profoundly marked by the strict discipline he found in Oxford and he dedicated to the King his commentary on Saint Augustine’s City of God5, a work commissioned by Erasmus. The book received a very good criticism so that the court honoured Vives for his work. In addition to this, he made friend with Cardinal Wolsey (1471-1530) the latter presenting him with a royal pension. Vives was also well known for his pedagogic work, The Education of the Christian Woman (1523) that he dedicated to Queen Catherine

3. Attitudes towards Spain

However, when Henry VIII found out that he could not have a male heir and decided to divorce Catherine of Aragon, the relationships with Spain deteriorated. From then on, the successive Kings of Spain aimed at avenging the wrong done to the Catholic family. At this time, England was already turning Protestant and started to represent a danger for the dominant Spain and for the diffusion of its culture. So, by marrying Mary in 1554, Philip of Spain had in mind to revive the Spanish influence in England. Besides, to celebrate the wedding he brought Spanish musicians, among others the eminent Antonio de Cabezón. He also had ambitions in politics, attempting to build up a Spanish Party in England paying pensions to English nobles to gain their confidence. But this resulted in a failure since it roused a general opposition to Philip of Spain driving him to leave the country. Thus we can say that this is during Henry VIII’s period that English scholars started to be interested in Spanish literature, but let us note in passing that most of the works came through France and that the majority of the Spanish works were translated from French.

If we look at the interest over the sixteenth century, we can say that the two countries maintained good relationships on the intellectual level. To satisfy the numerous scholars and merchants desirous to learn Spanish, some Spanish Protestant refugees in England took charge of the teaching of Spanish:

"The presence of Spanish Protestant refugees at Oxford assisted the authoritative

teaching of Spanish and one of them, Antonio de Corro, wrote a grammar and

a polyglot dictionary, both of which were later revised and republished by

John Thorius in 1590."6

Thus it is evident that they played a part in the diffusion of the Spanish culture. The defeat of the Spanish Armada did not falter the interest in Spanish literature in England. It was rather in the English literature itself that change occurred.

After 1588, the publications revealed not only the pride of victory but also the hatred of Catholic Spain. The Spanish Tragedy belongs to this trend of literary works caricaturing Spain. All the same, the Spanish learning went on, as it was necessary for the diplomatic missions in Spain. We should also add that during the Elizabethan period many Spanish works were translated into English now directly from Spanish, for instance Montemayor’s Diana was translated by Barnabe Googe. A result of this was the apparition of new words in the English vocabulary like "Major-domo" or "Armada" introduced via Spanish.

B) Genesis of the Quarrels with Spain

The Spanish Tragedy was written after the defeat of the Spanish Armada and one should mention that the play refers to this conflict. Already, the title evokes the tragedy befalling on Spain. Beyond that, the plots, the themes and the characters enable Kyd to give the reader an interpretation of the political and religious reality in England. There are direct references to the Spanish Armada in the play and this will be addressed in the first chapter of the second part7. We shall mention first that the play gave comfort to the audience in anti-Spanish feelings. As a matter of fact, Spain was seen as a place of evil, first because there was a polemic around the Catholic faith, but also because English people feared a Spanish invasion. Describing the collapse of a corrupted Spain, Kyd shows the reader that England proved to be a strong political power and also assumes that the Spanish defeat is "representative of the doom awaiting all nations in which the laws of God are ignored"8. The aim of this chapter is to see to what extent the conflict with Spain is the consequence of a process beginning long before 1588. Indeed, the Spanish attack was not decided on impulse but clearly stems from the reign of Henry VIII, who initiated a religious direction that was to be established with Elizabeth. Of course, the religious matter is one of the keys of the clash but we will discuss that the causes of the clash were likewise commercial and political.

1. Henry VIII and Europe

To understand the 1588 conflict, it is essential to look into the commercial links between England and Spain before Queen Elizabeth. First, we should remark that the discovery of the New World in 1492 destabilised England and gave rise to a national feeling in the country. Following that, England decided it was time to open new routes and to get rid of the trades monopolized by the Spanish and the Portuguese. But let us remind ourselves that English colonization occurred much later, with the foundation of Virginia in 1585 by Sir Walter Raleigh.

At the beginning of Henry VIII’s reign, England only possessed a few commercial settlements abroad and most of the commercial activity took place in England. The first major basis was the "Andalusia Company" founded in 1531 by Henry and establishing English merchants in Seville, trading clothes for iron, oil and wine. Seville was a strategic place because it was the basis for the Spanish trade in America, and therefore gave international horizons to England. In Northern Europe, English merchants were encouraged to trade with the Netherlands, especially with Antwerp which was the hub of the commercial and financial activity in Europe. The big commercial fairs held in the Netherlands attracted customers from Germany, northern Europe, Italy and Spain. As Antwerp was easy of access from London, the English Merchants Adventurers did not feel that they need to travel around Europe distribute their commerce. So, from Antwerp the English products were exported all over Europe and a market with Morocco was even exploited. These trading stations in Spain and the Netherlands strongly developed of course but one should be aware that the great debasement of coinage and the debt put a limit to the English profits made abroad. However, one shall notice that Henry’s policy was mainly centred on national unity with no real international views, according to the idea that "the Crown of England is an Empire in itself"9.

What Henry wanted was a strong state to avoid attempts to thwart his power. This is a reason explaining why he confiscated the monastic lands, reflecting the idea that land was "the chief measure of wealth, prestige and political influence "10. However, the money he gained from the dissolution of the monasteries was used to finance wars against France (1543-46) and Scotland (from 1542). The financing of the wars was also made possible by the debasement of the coinage and by taking out loans at high interest from Antwerp. What was at stake in those wars was the union of England and Scotland. Moreover, the danger of a Spanish invasion, all the more after Henry divorced Catherine of Aragon, motivated the need for a bigger country and therefore the possession of Scotland would have been very helpful. Yet, all the efforts Henry undertook to obtain Scotland ended in a failure. The situation in England at the time of Henry’s death was revealed to be disastrous. Although Henry managed to remain at peace with the Emperor Charles Quint (1500-56), the growing religious divergences between England and Spain began to undermine their relationships and, in a way, foresaw the sea conflicts endured in the late sixteenth century.

2. Edward and Mary: a period of transition

Edward VI ascended the throne in 1547 but was deemed too young to rule. For this reason England was ruled by two Lord Protectors, successively the Duke of Somerset (1547-49) and the Duke of Northumberland (1549-53). Edward’s reign was marked by financial instability and by wars. In fact, Somerset’s main preoccupation was the war with Scotland, which had begun during Henry’s reign, but the Lord’s actions triggered off the military intervention of France, which resulted in Somerset being overthrown by Northumberland. The new regent came to power and decided to make peace with France and Scotland, therefore stopping the economic disaster. Yet, the harvests of 1550 and 1551 added to the commercial crisis (1551-52) came to destabilize the trade with Antwerp and ruined all his efforts, thus announcing hard beginnings for Queen Mary.

Once she was crowned in 1554, Mary restored Catholicism and accepted Philip II of Spain’s proposal. The latter obtained the Netherlands from his father Charles Quint in 1555 before he was crowned in 1556, inheriting the rest of the Empire (Spain, Spanish Italy and Spanish America) and thus becoming the richest ruler of Western Europe. Mary assisted Spain and declared war on France in 1557, resulting in a defeat and in the loss of Calais to France. The Queen also faced an economic war from 1557 with the Hanseatic League, a big corporation of merchants based in Germany and trading abroad, because she deprived them of their privileges in England. In addition to this, considering the famine due to the bad harvest of 1555 striking many countries in Europe, one may say that Mary’s reign was fraught by undesirable conditions. Her marriage to Philip of Spain could also be considered to be unsuccessful given that she did not make a male heir. However, Palliser underlines that Mary’s reign was not only negative:

"Mary re-established the legitimacy of the Tudor succession and put

Elizabeth in her debt. She bequeathed to her sister a stable throne

and manageable finances"11.

Among the positive measures she undertook, let us evoke the foundation of the "Moscovy Company"(1555), the reorganisation of the militia and the reconstruction of the navy. To recapitulate, one can state that Mary prepared the ground for Queen Elizabeth, providing her with an uncontested legitimacy, and a country ready to face the enemy. Spain was not as fortunate for while England prospered, Spain was bankrupt with her finance being used to fund the war against France. The decline of the Spanish Empire had begun.

3. Ruling with diplomacy

Elizabeth’s first concern was to secure the peace with France and Spain. With the treaty of Edinburgh in 1560, the Queen brought an end to the military intervention in Scotland (1559-60) and made easier the creation of a Protestant government north of the border. From now on, Elizabeth’s policy, encouraged by her chief minister Sir William Cecil, consisted in building up a strong army independent of importation and capable of resisting foreign attacks. Economically, she managed to achieve the reconstruction of England through the parliament of 1563, which prohibited manufactured importation, maintained the navy and also decided of the Statute of artificers (law regulating labour and wage-rates). The Queen also privileged the relationships with Antwerp though she struggled to limit the importing from abroad. But she saw the trade with the Netherlands interrupted due to Spain’s repressive policy. As far as the overseas trade was concerned, during the first years of her reign, Elizabeth was opposed to the English trade with West Africa, afraid of the expansion of the Portuguese Empire. Nevertheless, one should note that the merchants actually used to trade without the Queen’s authorisation.

These arguments show how much Elizabeth was anxious to preserve an English independence, above all before the great expeditions launched in the late 1560’s. On the whole, one should remark that she tried hard not to repeat the past tensions and to maintain stability. However, she had to deal with Mary Queen of Scots’ accession to the throne in 1568. Indeed, the latter organized a plot against Elizabeth in order to take the English throne and to restore Catholicism in England. The plot was thwarted by the Queen and the Chief Minister but caused Elizabeth’s excommunication and deposition by the Pope Pius V in 1570. As a consequence, waves of persecution against Catholics occurred in England:

"The first Catholic priest was executed in 1577, and by the end of the

reign, some 200 priests, laymen and women had suffered death"12.

Notice that Spain was not involved in Mary’s plot although she asked Philip II for help. In fact, helping the Scottish Queen to overthrow Elizabeth would have immediately triggered off an open war with England and the King of Spain refused to "involve himself in an open struggle with England merely to pull Mary’s chestnut out of the fire"13. If truth be told, the two rulers were anxious to maintain relative peace by diplomacy. Nevertheless, the Spanish embassy in London encouraged the Scottish Queen to conspire against Elizabeth but never managed to endanger Elizabeth totally. To round off this section, English and Spanish relations were delicate; they were not totally at peace and it seemed that the slightest trouble on the question of religion or the empire would lead to a general conflict.

C) Growing Tensions

In reality, what was at stake for Spain was not really taking place in England but rather in the Netherlands and in America, where England had already begun to expand its market. So, we can say that the plots undertook by Mary of Scots highlighted the underlying tensions between the two countries; both the religious divergences and the struggle for the expansion of overseas trade. Also, all this indicated that England had decided to move ahead and emerge as a powerful maritime power, comparable to the "Invincible Armada". However, Spain and Portugal were in a more comfortable position in terms of Empire since they shared America and Africa in accordance with the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494. This treaty was signed to make incontestable the possession of the Spanish and Portuguese empires and had been given authority by the Pope. Later, William Cecil strongly opposed this treaty, arguing that the Pope had no right to decide of the partition of the world. In reality, England could not confine her expeditions in Europe, and was now bound to turn towards the New World.

1. The first expeditions

John Hawkins was one of the precursors of English expeditions in America and West Africa. In 1562, he was in charge of a first mission aiming at supplying black slaves to the Spanish planters in Santo Domingo in the West Indies. Notice that the expedition was not so pacific as it may appear, given that Hawkins had to fight to get his slaves in Africa. In any case, for his first voyage, Hawkins was very welcome by the Spanish merchants with whom he made his business and then came back to England with gold, silver and sugar. There, the Queen who began to have international vistas supported him for his future voyages. However, although he "had taken the precaution of obtaining certificates from the authorities as to his good behaviour and honourable intentions"14, the Spanish government still regarded his actions with suspicion. Then, when Hawkins sent a part of his cargo to be sold in the port of Seville, it was immediately seized by the local authorities although this did not stop him undertaking new adventures abroad. Neither was Hawkins disturbed of having violated treaty of Tordesillas by intervening both in the trade of West Africa and Spanish America. Therefore, as the first expedition revealed to be successful, the Queen merely encouraged him to undertake a second expedition that proved to be profitable once again. Although Hawkins was conscious that further adventures abroad would lead to trouble with Spain, he was determined to carry through further experiences. So that when he returned to Spanish America in 1568, he sailed with seven armed-ships. Yet, this third expedition failed; Hawkins’s landing in the port of San Juan de Ulua in the Gulf of Mexico aroused the suspicion among the Spaniards and resulted in the destruction of most of the English fleet. Hawkins and his cousin Francis Drake fled back to England with the three remaining ships with difficulty and finally reached England in February 1569. This overthrow aroused the national feeling that England should try hard to be a front rank maritime power. Certainly, promoting the navy was a way of taking revenge on the San Juan de Ulua defeat. One should note that even if England was not officially at war, English seamen considered themselves at war with Spain. As regard, Elizabeth was fully aware of what was happening overseas and incidentally provided funds to encourage the overseas expansion, although she was not involved in a military conflict yet.

2. Elizabeth’s intervention in the Netherlands

From then on, it was difficult to reckon on a peaceful overseas trade between England and Spain, besides which the Queen was dragged into the Dutch conflict while Hawkins was still struggling in the Caribbean. In fact, before 1563, there was neither a monopoly in the exchange between England and the Netherlands nor an opposition to the entrance of English goods. But Elizabeth’s resolution to restrict the privileges of Flemish merchants undermined the relationships. It consisted in placing an embargo on Flemish goods exported to England, giving the preference to English ships. In addition to this, the Queen obliged the Flemish merchants to buy English products before sailing back to the Netherlands. Those measures provoked responses from the Spanish government in Brussels, imposing severe restrictions on English trade. Consequently, England was temporarily obliged to interrupt her commerce with the Netherlands but very quickly began a new trade with the German port of Emden, which was outside Spanish jurisdiction. However, the Netherlands were so dependent on England that the trade had to be reopened from March 1564.

One shall also consider the question of piracy insofar as it seriously embittered the European situation. Indeed, the pirates, mainly French and English used to rage along the Channel. This was a problem the Spaniards and the Dutch wanted to suppress but both encountered great difficulty to take measures against piracy. The English government also endeavoured to foil the Channel pirates through measures taken by the Privy Council, but in fact it came to nothing since the French Huguenots and the Dutch also turned to piracy to protest against the French and Spanish monarchies. What is more, given that the pirates were frequently English, Philip II of Spain came to think that Elizabeth was party to this sea traffic and would not make any alliance with English. Therefore, the matter of piracy contributed to the growing quarrel with Spain as it made worse the situation of the Netherlands.

Thus, from 1565, Philip II was trying hard to maintain his powers in the Netherlands and decided of a strong repressive policy upon the Dutch, led by the Duke of Alva, viceroy of Spain in the Netherlands. In fact, Spain possessed the Netherlands in accordance to a dynastic marriage and apart from this there were no real links, so that the Spanish authority could be easily contested in the Dutch territories. Also, the Spanish repression caused many Flemish Protestants to take refuge in England. Furthermore, despite bad finances, Philip II was obstinate to keep the control over the Dutch territories and in 1568 he managed to obtain an important loan from Italy that would help to curb the Dutch resistance. However, the fleet transporting the loan was attacked by French pirates. Furthermore, when the latter sought refuge in England, the Queen seized the Spanish funds. Elizabeth was fully conscious of the danger stemming from the Spanish King and so she kept the money for herself to break to the Spanish authority in the Netherlands. All these elements were considered as a real affront and the idea of invading England started to be considered seriously on the Spanish side.

The conflict worsened when the French became involved in the conflict by sending an army to thwart Spanish authority in the Netherlands. Indeed, the intervention of the French forces would represent a real danger on England. As far as the Queen was concerned, she was more in favour of a Spanish victory than a Dutch victory supported by the French because the French presented a greater threat:

"a Dutch victory, under French patronage, would replace

the relatively weak Spanish hold on the area by a much

greater menace from neighbouring France"15.

This is why Elizabeth tried to be the mediator between the Dutch leader William of Orange (1555-1584) and Philip II of Spain. But her attempt failed and all the perspectives for peace were ruined by the "Sack of Antwerp" in 1576, rebellion of unpaid Spanish troops against the Spanish government, leading to a general revolt against Spain. Following that, the Duke of Alva was urged to leave his functions and was replaced by Don John of Austria. The new governor, a famous European soldier, was given the mission to restore peace in the Dutch territories but he was also planning the invasion of England.

3. 1585: the plight in the Netherlands heralds the war

Restoring the peace in the Netherlands was difficult to contemplate, insofar as Spain was reluctant to enter into a dialogue with the Dutch and refused to lose its influence. It was obvious that the governor, on behalf of Philip II, was just anxious to keep the full control over the country and one should know that a military intervention of France or England was doomed to create a general conflict. On the English side, Elizabeth supported the idea of a compromise between the Dutch and the Spanish. In fact, she wished that the Netherlands could live in peace under the rule of the Spanish governor without having to involve England in a costly war. Therefore, the Queen tried hard to deal with the Spanish government in the Netherlands by sending mediators though she never obtained satisfaction. As a matter of fact, Philip did not trust Elizabeth; first because she represented Protestantism and also because he suspected her of fostering the Dutch rebels, all the more he knew she continued to back the explorations in the New World. This drives us to believe that England was not in a secure position neither with Spain nor with France. Indeed, the Massacre of Paris in 1572 had been the alarm that France was still a threat for England. This event occurring during St Bartholomew’s Day was translated by the assassination of thousands of Protestant Huguenots on behalf of the Catholic Queen, Catherine de Medici. In England, it became clear that having to deal with the French patronized by the Pope would be ominous for the unity of England. That is one reason why England was so reticent to support France in the Netherlands. A link with The Spanish Tragedy may be established insofar as Kyd makes a reference to the Massacre of Paris in Act IV scene i, through Lorenzo’s remark "I have seen...French Tragedians"(167-8) and Hieronimo’s retort: "In Paris? Mass, and well remembered!"(169)16.

In the end, England was compelled to react to the alarming plight of the Netherlands, the assassination of William of Orange being decisive, therefore gave a financial and military support to the Dutch rebels by the Treaty of Nonsuch (1585). In regard to the English intervention, one should remark that Elizabeth did not aim at taking possession of the Netherlands, since she only endeavoured a diplomatic campaign for peace. Of course Elizabeth was aware of the risk she incurred in taking side and intervening military, but did not expect the campaign to be such a failure. In fact, the generals sent to the Netherlands disobeyed the Queen by trying to get the power, which was contrary to the Queen’s declaration:

"the letter and spirit of the Queen’s declaration that she had no intention

of governing the Netherlands either directly or indirectly"17.

In response to the English incursion, the Spanish government ordered to seize all the English ships lying in the Spanish ports among others Bilbao and Vigo, hence many English sailors were imprisoned, with only a few English vessels managing to escape. When the news reached England, it raised a general outcry and the Queen immediately commanded an embargo on Spanish goods and charged Drake to go to Spain and secure the confiscated ships. In that sense, 1585 marked the beginning of an open war between Spain and England, culminating in 1588 with the incursion of the Spanish Armada in England.

4. The succession’s crisis in Portugal

Before we conclude, one should not forget the importance of the succession’s crisis in Portugal, coming on top of the climate of war in Europe.

Indeed, Philip was not exclusively in conflict with the Dutch Provinces and with England. He also had expansionist plans on Portugal that England viewed unfavourably. The Spanish intervention in Portugal did not decisively contribute to the Battle of 1588 but is worth evoking because it represented an additional danger for England. Certainly Portugal was narrowed by the rise of the English and Dutch Empires in the 1580’s; though, it was still a powerful and dangerous European power. Also, we shall consider Portugal inasmuch as Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy deals with the union of the Spanish and Portuguese Kingdoms. Beyond that, the issue of Portugal is symbolic in the sense that it is the last territory colonized by Spain.

In 1578, King Sebastian of Portugal leads an army to restore the deposed sultan of Morocco and is killed by the Moroccans during the battle of Alcaza-quivir on 4 August, letting Portugal in a succession crisis. Indeed, King Sebastian’s only successor, King Cardinal Henry, was old, unmarried and what is more died two years later in 1580. After King Henry’s death, Philip II claimed the throne of Portugal in accordance to his Portuguese lineage (his mother was the Portuguese Empress Isabella). However, Spain was not popular to Portuguese because of the danger of the Inquisition, resulting in little Portuguese support for Philip’s claim. Consequently, he undertook to launch the Spanish forces into Portugal, encountering little resistance and Portugal finally fell under Spanish control, thus becoming a semi-autonomous state. Let us note in passing the vain intervention of the English to help Don Antonio, the Portuguese leader, reject the Spanish influence. Then, by promising to respect the Portuguese law and government, Philip came to be recognized as King Philip I of Portugal in April 1581. He remained in Lisbon until 1583 before he gave the control of the Kingdom to Portuguese representatives. Although he was king, many concessions had to be done: Philip could not rule the Portuguese Empire nor could he intervene in commerce. Yet, Spain subsequently took total control of the Portuguese Empire, this until the independence in 1640.

If the crisis of Portugal did not affect the course of events, it was to strengthen the Spanish power and therefore confirmed the unsecured position of England at the dawn of war.

To conclude, the English intervention in the Dutch territories clearly marked a turning point in the relationship between England and Spain. Already, the conflict with Scotland awoke the underlying tensions between the two countries of opposite religious beliefs. After that, the beginning of the great expeditions conducted by Hawkins and Drake in the 1560’s provoked a commercial war overseas against Spain. Lastly, the conflict of interest in the Netherlands was the sign that an open conflict was inescapable and the military campaign launched in 1585 marked a watershed for England. On top of this came the unwelcome union between Spain and Portugal. Thus, we understand that the Spanish campaign of 1588 was not decided on impulse but was the result of years of commercial, religious and political disputes.



This last chapter will focus on the defeat of the Spanish Armada, result of years of political, religious and imperial quarrels and marking a turning point in the balance of power between England and Spain. Before we begin the study, one should be reminded that the Spanish decision to launch an attack against England was in part due to the conflict with the Netherlands, which accelerated the course of events and provided an atmosphere of war in Europe. Having addressed the conflict of the Netherlands in the previous chapter, we are now compelled to review the immediate causes that led Philip to send his Armada against England.

A) The Coming of War

1. Spain obtains the support of Rome

One should first consider the implication of the Pope in the conflict. His prominence can be seen in June 1586, when Olivarez, the Spanish ambassador at the court of the Pope Sixtus V declared he was ready to launch the expedition to England provided the Pope gave a financial support to it. As it was delicate to ask money just for a warlike purpose, so the reasons given to the Pope were religious ensuring he did not suspect the political motives of Philip. Despite this, the Pope was sceptical and still suspected that Philip sought the power for himself. To overcome the Pope’s doubts about the enterprise of England, Olivarez was driven to furnish religious arguments:

"His game of mystification at Rome, ‘weaving his web’ and ‘placing his snares’

about the pontiff, until at length, in December 1586, the contest ended with the

conclusion of a contract pledging the Holy See to contribute a million crowns

to the Spanish war chest"1.

Although the Pope finally accepted the demands of Olivarez, one should retain he remained rather cautious. The Pope enforced conditions; payment would be gradual, money would be allocated providing the Armada landed in England and in the case of a Spanish victory, the benefits would have to be shared with the Pope. Notice that the clergy and the nobility also contributed to cover the financing of the Armada through taxes on wine, oil or meat. This suggests that the Spanish Armada was not only representative of Spain but of the Catholic world relying on the Pope. The Spanish Tragedy takes into account this reality, placing Spain and Portugal at the same level, with England’s revenge inflicted on them without distinction, thus predicting the fall of the Popish countries. At the beginning of the play, we have a glorious Spanish court in full possession of the defeated Portuguese, whilst the end of the play shows that the two countries suffer the same fate, indicating that both Catholic countries are the same and embody evil. This shall be shown in further detail in the chapter dedicated to "The Evocation of Babylon in The Spanish Tragedy". Within the Spanish diplomacy in Rome, it must be said that Philip tried hard to give religious motives to his political campaign. It is true that he intended to convert England to Catholicism. Besides, there were "several hundred priests, friars and officers of the inquisition embarked, partly to administer spiritual comfort on the voyage, partly to convert a conquered England"2. In this respect, the days’ watchwords were given holy names to remind the seamen of the religious purpose of the expedition: Sunday was called Jesus, Monday was Holy Ghost, Tuesday Most Holy Ghost, Friday All Saints and Saturday Our Lady. In England, Elizabeth knew about the possible Spanish invasion, therefore she took the precaution to arrest the more fervent Catholics who would represent a danger in Wisbeach castle. Thus, one can assess that the war between England and Spain was a war of religion. For Spain, it consisted in restoring the Catholic faith in England; for England what was at stake was the preservation and reinforcement of the Church of England.

2. The political claims

But Philip had other reasons that he did not unveiled to the Pope straight away, in which case the financial support would have been refused. In fact, the interests at stake were above all political, national, dynastic and economic. The political reason is closely akin to what has been said in the previous chapter. As a result, all the political tensions around the Netherlands were translated by the strong involvement of England and France. Philip tried hard to prevent an alliance between Spain’s great rival France and England, which would definitively move Spain away from the Low Countries and endanger the prestige of her Empire. This point underlines the national motive of the attack. Indeed, victory over England would signify a strengthening of the Spanish position in Northern Europe. First, it would ensure the establishment of the Spanish authority in Scotland and England. Afterwards, it would mean not only the Spanish domination of the Dutch territories but an unhindered continuation of the African and American traffic to Spain.

As far as dynasty is concerned, Philip could claim the throne of England by two means. First, it must be said that Philip was the direct descendant of John of Gaunt (1340-1399), Duke of Lancaster and one of the seven sons of King Edward III (1312-1377), who married Constance of Castile; thereby could Philip officially pretend to inherit the English throne by "right of birth". Incidentally, John of Gaunt helped his brother Edward "The Black Prince" against Pedro "The Cruel" of Castile during the Hundred Years War. On this occasion, he was sent on an expedition to Spain but yet did not achieve a great success. However, he managed to marry Constance of Castile, thus becoming King of Castile. Advisedly, we should note in passing Kyd’s reference to this same John of Gaunt in The Spanish Tragedy, presenting him as leading an English army to victory:

"Was as the rest a valiant Englishman,

Brave John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster,

As by his scutcheon plainly may appear.

He with a puissant army came to Spain,

And took our King of Castile prisoner"(I, iv, 163-167).

As Arthur Freeman affirms, Kyd’s account is not accurate but stems from a secondary-school textbook3. So, Kyd alters the historical account of John of Gaunt, making a romance of it, as a support for the play, thus praising the valiant and defiant enterprise of a small England against a powerful Spain. Moreover, in the context of the Anglo-Spanish conflict, one may speculate that Kyd’s purpose was to celebrate the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

The second dynastic factor regarded Elizabeth’s legitimacy. In fact, the Queen, daughter of Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn, was illegitimate as she was born out of wedlock. According to the Pope and many European Catholic rulers, the nature of Elizabeth’s birth prevented her from legitimately claiming the English throne. However, one can argue that, in England, Elizabeth only remained illegitimate until her succession to he throne. Finally, unable to marry Elizabeth, Philip took the matter of legitimacy as an argument in favour of the invasion of England.

3. The execution of Mary of Scots marks a turning point

Before we turn to the economic rivalry, we shall study the issue of Mary Stuart, who as one knows was also candidate to the throne. If truth be told, Philip first supported Mary’s claim as he strongly expected a Catholic successor in England, which proved to be impossible. Already, as we mentioned before, the plots that Mary conspired against Elizabeth resulted in her imprisonment in 1569 (which lasted until her death in 1587) and provoked ticklish reactions among European Catholic countries. In France, for instance, this was taken seriously since it was in complete alliance with Scotland. And for Spain, the question was obviously the security of Catholicism.

Even while she was imprisoned, Mary Stuart continued to be a problem for Elizabeth who could not offer any solution to the situation in Scotland. For more than fifteen years, the English Queen lived with the fear that Mary might escape and launch a campaign against her. This fear was justified considering that Mary, although she was imprisoned, still managed to weave plots, such as the Parry plot in 1585, which aimed at murdering the Queen. Eventually, a bill was passed, removing the right of succession and condemning to death the person who would attempt any conspiracy against the Queen, thus leading to Parry’s execution. Under this climate of conspiracy Mary Stuart’s correspondence became more and more subject to inspection and in the end it was decided she could no longer receive visitors. Mary’s execution had been contemplated for years, but one has to admit that Elizabeth was scrupulous and had always held the execution back. However, when Mary’s second plot came out in 1585, the Babington conspiracy, Elizabeth had no other choice but to apply the death sentence to the chief executant of the plot, Anthony Babington4 and to the Scottish Queen since she was found guilty "not only accessory and privy to the plot, but also as an imaginer and compasser of her majesty’s destruction"5. In England, the execution of Mary Stuart was seen as a great deliverance insofar as it announced the dominance of the Protestant descendant on the English throne despite the violent protests arising against Elizabeth in Scotland. In a sense, it was the last step towards the unification of England. For now, Elizabeth was still in an uncomfortable position with the succession of Scotland, considering that in Spain, the Scottish Queen was the subject of debate about whether or not the war should be made. There was no official answer yet but in any case, Philip was getting ready for the attack and the launching of the armada seemed to be a question of months.

Until the execution, Philip II of Spain could not reach the decision to invade England, because Mary Stuart still may have become Queen of England. After her death, the last obstacle was Mary’s son, Prince James, who according to Philip, could not ascend to the throne because he was Protestant. More to the point, when Mary knew she would be executed, she had declared in a letter6 that the throne would go to Philip unless James turned Catholic. But James was far from turning Catholic having already signed in July1586 the Treaty of Berwick, "treaty of alliance with Elizabeth, each promising the other full aid in the event of invasion by a foreign power"7. From then on, Philip was convinced that the only way to get rid of James and to have a Catholic ruler in Scotland was to conquer England by force.

4. The economic rivalry

Finally, one shall not forget the economic rivalry at stake, which visibly accentuated the antagonism between England and Spain. One should note that Spain and Portugal were more and more confronted to competition in the New World. First the opposition of the French in the overseas traffic created hostility but did not cause any big wars as the conflicts were localized. In the Netherlands, the problem was of a different kind because it had been a Spanish possession since 1565. So, the Dutch and Flemish were more regarded as "ordinary rebels" than "sovereign rivals"8. But the English seamen were inclined to represent a danger to Spain. In reality, until Elizabeth’s accession the relationships were rather peaceful as long as the English merchants tried hard to avoid any confrontation with the Spanish colonists. But later, the new spirit of enterprise represented by the rising class of merchants that appeared in England was to determine the warlike adventures led by Hawkins and Drake. So, when Elizabeth was sure of the strength of England, she could but encourage the adventures, whether economic or military.

To conclude on the pre-war period, one has to add that the last English action launched by Drake before the great Battle of 1588 made unmistakable the excellence of the English at sea. Already, the spy service in England was of such high-performance and calibre that the Spanish preparations carried out in Cadiz had been reported since 1585. According to the English leaders, the best way to thwart the Armada was to destroy it before it set sail for England. So, it implied that Drake should be sent on an expedition to impede the Spanish preparations in the port of Cadiz. In his task, Drake managed to cause a lot of damage in Spain, destroying many ships and cutting off the provisions kept for the battle against England. However, though he could not ruin the Spanish enterprise, he could at least delay the attack for one year. So, in time, Drake had been vilified by the Spaniards, the latter even calling him "El Draque" to compare him with a dragon. Thus, one may consider that Drake’s successive victories as a proof that England was a dominant sea power at the dawn of the Spanish invasion. Finally, one should add that The Spanish Tragedy is a reflection of the historical context if one bears in mind that the play aspires to strengthen the prestige of a Protestant England in the same way that the Battle of 1588 strengthened the place of England on the European scene.

B) The Battle

The study of the war motivations leads on to recount the Battle of 1588, combat between two great naval forces that was to determine a new balance of power in Europe. First we have to be reminded that the expedition of Cadiz led by Drake in 1587 was a great strike for Spain. True, they were getting prepared for the invasion of England but they did not expect to be pushed back so soon. In reality, it was well known in Europe that Spain planned a sea campaign against England, so it is clear that the English held ready for a possible attack. Ironically, the Spaniards were aware of this, but did not take into account the English preparations carefully enough. Nevertheless, they could hardly obtain information from England, since the secrecy was strictly preserved. In point of fact, Drake’s victory gave time for England to reinforce its military preparations whilst for Spain it signalled the time to put an end to her preparations and to set full sail for England.

1. The plans of operations

Let us first focus upon the Marquis of Santa Cruz who was the best Spanish Admiral Philip II ever had. Indeed, he had been very triumphant in America, had defeated many fleets and played a key role in the conquest of Portugal. One can argue he was for Spain what Drake was for England, Lewis defining him as "the man who had built the fleet, administered it, commanded it and won its battles for it so many years that he had become an institution"9. Importantly, the Marquis of Santa Cruz was the first one to establish a strategy to invade England. His scheme was to combine the military and the naval forces, enabling the unity of command. The advantage of this was that coordinating the naval and military forces would be simpler to manoeuvre. However, it would require a large fleet and his strategy did not take any account of the strong army commanded by the Duke of Parma in the Netherlands. A second strategy was put forwards in 1586 by Mendoza (1540-1604), who was the Spanish ambassador at Paris, but also a soldier trained for military operations. He submitted the plan that the attack should privilege the land armies, maintaining the idea that fighting on sea would be more hazardous than a military campaign. Accordingly, he proposed to send a small army to Scotland, therefore keeping the naval forces for defensives purposes only. However, his plans could only work so long as he received the help of the Scottish Catholics.

Notwithstanding the advice of Santa Cruz and Mendoza, Philip preferred following his own plans; his objective was to land his troops not in Scotland but in the southern coast of England by invading Margate. The key of the success rested on the junction between the Spanish Armada and the army of Parma settled in the Netherlands. If the two forces were able to gather effectively they could contemplate the invasion with confidence. Moreover, we can point out that as the English were known to be weaker military, it would let the advantage to the Spanish in case of invasion. In the event the junction with Parma did not work, Philip had prepared to seize the Isle of White in order to use it as a base of operation. However, one should call attention to the fact that if Philip made such plans it is because he strongly relied on the help of the Catholics of England. He had been informed by the "Spanish diplomatists that if an invasion of England took place it would be supported by a general rising within the country"10. But the truth is that the English Catholics did not intervene in the conflict, which meant that when the Spanish Armada set sail, Philip was unaware that his plans were already distorted. However, on the surface conditions appeared to be in Philip’s favour. The Armada totalled 130 warships, 20000 Spanish soldiers with an additional troop of 17000 men coming from Flanders. In other words, it was not unthinkable that England may become a Spanish province. Yet, what the Spaniards were lacking was a good headquarter in the Channel where the vessels could regroup in safety but unluckily there were no suitable port on the Flemish coast to receive the great Armada.

In England, it was Howard that controlled Her Majesty’s naval defences, building up a fleet of 190 vessels to defend the Channel with its headquarters in Dover. Having a base of operations was an asset because all the English towns could supply the English fleet with ships and men. If we compare the two positions, we can notice that the Spanish strategy was offensive as aiming at invading the enemy. As for the English this was a war of defence, confined in the Channel they knew very well. The situation was also favourable to the English, if one regards the triumph of Drake in Cadiz as the presage of future successes. The fact is that Drake’s achievements gave confidence for further operations. In this respect, another attempt to thwart the Spaniards was undertaken in 1588 under the command of the commander-in-chief Howard but it proved to be a failure. Howard was back to Plymouth in July 1588, a few days before the Spanish attack. There, Drake was by now surveying the entrance the Spanish fleet in the Channel and ready to move into the attack.

The Spanish King was conscious that the English had the advantage of operating in known waters, and so regarded the attack with some apprehension. On the event of the departure, Philip was worrying about the safety of his fleet, spending many hours everyday praying for the success of the enterprise. Moreover he was preoccupied with the mourning of the eminent Santa Cruz who died a few months before the invasion, whom he replaced by Medina Sidonia. This drives us to state that the Spanish attitude was quite religious, whereas the "secular optimism based upon the consciousness of superior naval power and skill"11 translated the patriotic feeling in England. Noting in passing that if The Spanish Tragedy hints at the Battle of 1588, it does it on a religious and national ground, describing both the fall of the Antichrist and the fall of Spain. As for Elizabeth, it may be said that her motives relied more on a national awareness than on a pure religious fight against Spain as the Antichrist. Evidence to support this assumption can be found in the symbolism of the names given to the ships like, Lion, Tiger, Dreadnought, Revenge, Victory, Ark or Hercules, translating the English patriotic attitude. As for the Spaniards, they preferred giving names of Saints such as San Juan, Santa Ana, San Martín, San Salvador or San Mateo, mirror of the solemn atmosphere in Spain.

2. The launching of the Armada

The Spanish Armada set sail from Lisbon on 20 May 1588 under the command of Medina Sidonia, arriving in the English Channel on 30 July having endured difficulties, with the bad weather causing supply problems and damages to the fleet. However, these hitches were not deciding for the rest of the operations and the Spaniards could continue their expedition to England. The situation became complicated on 31 July off Plymouth, when the Armada unexpectedly met the English fleet. The Spaniards, who had not foreseen this encounter, first scheduling to join the troops of the Duke of Parma, decided to be on the defensive. Consequently, they were forced to retreat towards Calais, trying hard to keep the enemy at distance. The Spanish Armada was able to advance in the Channel without incurring serious material loss although it was pursued by the English.

If this first encounter did not end in a decisive fight, it is essentially because the Commander Howard could not afford it yet. So far, the Spaniards were still dominating the situation, and one may assume that in the eyes of the English, the Spanish fleet was still the "Invincible Armada".

3. The Spanish Armada collapses

The appearance of the "Invincible Armada" began to shutter when the junction with Parma in Flanders, which was the core of the Spanish strategy, fell through. The troops of Parma were blockaded at Dunkirk and Nieuport, the Dutch and the English preventing them to set sail. What is more, at the same time when Parma was in trouble, the English were launching an attack on the Armada off Calais, resulting in the Battle of Gravelines on 8 August. This was a big defeat for the Spaniards, causing severe losses and urging them to beat a retreat for the second time. Now, the only solution was to get back to Spain safely, since it was unthinkable to pitch into another battle. The English fleet pursued the remnant of the Armada up the North Sea until it reached the Firth of Forth on 12 August. However, they were becoming short of supplies and exhausted, so that Drake decided to abandon the chase and let the Armada go away. In reality, there was nothing at stake anymore since the Spanish campaign was over and absolutely ruined.

Medina Sidonia found the safest way to return to Spain was to use the North Sea, thus circumnavigating Scotland and Ireland. The Armada was subsequently subjected to quirks of weather off Scotland and Ireland, consequently suffering hunger, disease and shipwrecks, before it finally reached the Spanish coast in late September.

4. Conclusion: the "miraculous year"

The inescapable conclusion is that the defeat of the Spaniards was overwhelming, dealing a humiliating blow to the Armada. As a matter of fact, it was the first time that the strength of Spain had been seriously challenged. Among Protestants 1588 has often been regarded as the "Annus mirabilis", which means that the victory was a sign of divine intervention, bringing storm and calamity to the Catholic enemy. It must be added that interpreting 1588 as the "miraculous year" pertains to superstition, characteristic of the society of the time. Notice that in The Spanish Tragedy, Kyd also resorts to superstitious beliefs to present the reader his own interpretation of the Spanish tragedy.

But actually, the defeat was mainly due to errors made in the Channel, the Spaniards being unable to join the troops of Parma. The fact that the English fleet was built according to more advanced techniques may be another explanation of the victory. In truth, the English ships were lighter, more manoeuvrable, better armed and therefore could sail much faster than the ones of the Armada, higher and bigger. Besides, a part of the Spanish fleet was not prepared to navigate in the Atlantic and the northern seas but in the Mediterranean Sea.

Finally, I would follow Joel Hurstfield’s interpretation, saying that the victory can be explained by the initiative and the flexibility of the English strategy, unlike:

"the rigidity of…an articulated, hierarchical social order, or of an

exclusive and intolerant creed wholly victorious in its battle against


If the English society was more diverse, it is insofar as there were different Protestant churches proliferating in England, being a reflect of the Elizabethan life, this in contrast with the rigid Spanish society headed by the Pope. One can state that this theme of social order is to be found in The Spanish Tragedy and will be the object of the section " The Spanish Tragedy as a political tragedy "13. We should finish this section by linking the social and religious diversity to the unity of land. If truth be told, 1588 had been more than a naval victory: it was a decisive accomplishment towards the unification of England, strengthening the power of the Queen and ensuring a Protestant succession.

















A striking element in The Spanish Tragedy is the close relationship that can be established between Babylon and Spain as described in the play. The drama takes place during the Reformation in England, a period marked by a strong rejection of Catholic countries, Italy and Spain in particular; indeed, there was a real fear of the Spanish Dons, called the "Inquisition dogs and the devildoms of Spain". What is more, it was known that the Spanish were justified in crossing the Channel to invade England, partly on account of the disputes over the colonial Empire. This chapter will analyse the Protestant view about Babylon and will link it to the play. First, we will deal with the apocalyptic tradition of Protestantism. Second, we will see study the representation of Mystery and Revelation in the play. Last, the analysis will centre on the fall of Babylon as evoked in "Soliman and Perseda".


Protestantism and the Apocalyptic Tradition


1. The apocalyptic tradition

Let us begin by saying that in the second half of the sixteenth century, there was a general pessimism in England due to manifestations of natural phenomena as well as scientific progress: "the appearance of the nova of 1572, the comet of 1577, the earthquake of 1580, and the ominous conjunction of planets in 1583, 1588, and 1593"1. From these spectacular phenomena arose all sorts of superstitions that caused people to believe that they were apocalyptic signs that the world was in "an irreversible process of decay"2. Furthermore, many Protestants of the time were seeking an interpretation of the world in the Bible, mostly in the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation. The Protestant Reformation also suscited a fear of Rome, insofar as the Pope was likely to launch a military campaign on England to restore Catholicism. As a result, English Protestants felt both threatened by God’s power and by Catholic countries, which shows that they were not yet completely secure in their religious belief.

Therefore, when the English defeated the Spanish Armada, it was interpreted as a sign that Protestant faith was established for good; in other words, 1588 marked the fall of Babylon. Ardolino asserts that in a sense, it was for Protestants the "inevitable triumph of the Christ over the Antichrist"3. Indeed, pushing forward the argument, the English victory was seen as the fulfilment of the biblical predictions.

Turning to the Revelation of St. John The Divine (the primary Protestant source concerning the struggle against Catholics), it is evident that the Pope was regarded as the Antichrist and the Roman Catholic Church was compared to the Whore of Babylon in the Revelation. In fact, the Apocalypse describes a whore who is accused of all the wickedness and abominations of the world:

"I will tell thee the mystery of the woman and the beast that carrieth

her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns "(Rev. 17: 7).

According to that perspective, the sinful woman represented in the Apocalypse is symbolic of the excesses reproached to the Catholic doctrine by the sixteenth century Protestants. In this respect, the Catholic followers were said to incarnate "murderers, and whoremonger, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and liars" condemned in Revelation 21: 8. Kyd’s caricature of Spain follows this interpretation. Another important example connects Kyd’s fall of Babylon (IV, i, 195-6) to the one predicted in the Bible:

"Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation

of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit"(Rev. 18: 2).

The religious parallels provide a key to understanding The Spanish Tragedy as a version of the fall of Babylon. Furthermore, the Book of Revelation was often seen as an interpretation of the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament, insofar as it presents the same themes and also predicts the downfall of the Babylonian Empire. Some Protestants thinkers followed the Lutheran reading of the Book of Daniel, arguing that the Antichrist was the enemy of the true Church and was embodied by the Pope, Rome, The Turkish Empire and Spain under Philip II.

2. The allusions to Daniel in The Spanish Tragedy

Daniel is the hero and prophet of the Book of Daniel, presented as a Jew exiled at the court of Babylon where he spent his life as a prisoner, interpreting the dreams of the King Nebuchadnezzar and making prophecies. He was finally delivered from death in a lions’ den by God. The book contains his prophecies and was presumably written at the outbreak of waves of Jewish persecution under Seleucid4 rule. More precisely, Daniel predicted the fall of Babylon that we are interest in.

From a Protestant perspective, The Book of Daniel showed the triumph of the Protestant Church over the vicious Catholics: it contains the same prophetic visions as in the Apocalypse, especially as regards the Antichrist and the fall of Babylon. The first, second and fifth chapters of Daniel deserve close attention in the study of The Spanish Tragedy.

When Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem, he asked the master of his eunuchs to bring well-favoured children to serve at his court. Daniel was one of the children of Israel expected to "teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans"(Dan. 1: 4). In chapter two, the King has a dream he forgets and commands the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to interpret the dream he had. It followed that Daniel was the only person able to tell and interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, so that he has come to be privileged because of his prophetic powers. In fact, the King dreamt of a composite beast with a golden head, silver breast and arms, belly and thighs made of brass, iron legs and iron and clay feet. After the appearance of this image, a stone is cut by no hand, breaks its feet and the beast falls into four pieces representing the four kingdoms ruling the earth. These four kingdoms are doomed to disappear one by one and when the fourth kingdom identified as Rome falls down, thus shall arise the Kingdom of God that shall stand forever:

"And in the days of these kings shall the God of Heaven set up a kingdom,

which shall never be destroyed"(Dan. 2:44).

In chapter 5, Belshazzar, grandson of Nebuchadnezzar and the last King of Babylon organizes a drunken feast, during which fingers of a man’s hand appear to write some words on the wall of the King’s palace. Unable to decipher and interpret them, the King calls for Daniel, whom he knows to have the powers. Daniel predicts Belshazzar’s tragic doom and Babylon ‘s fall to the Medes and the Persians.

Thus, the Book of Daniel and The Spanish Tragedy can be compared side to side insofar as, during the Reformation, the persecuted Protestants supported Daniel’s prophecies and looked upon them as the representation of their struggle against the Roman Catholic Church. It was a sort of "consolation", to quote Ardolino. As for The Spanish Tragedy, Kyd provides us of an evocation of the fall of Spain as the image of Babylon, that an enlightened Protestant audience would clearly regard as the re-enactment of the Book of Daniel.

3. The Spanish Tragedy as the fall of Babylon

In this way, The Spanish Tragedy is placed in its religious context and we have a greater understanding as to why Thomas Kyd makes a reference to the fall of Babylon in Act IV:

"Now shall I see the fall of Babylon

Wrought by the heavens in this confusion" (IV, i, 195-196).

In that quote, Hieronimo lets the reader know that that he will take revenge on Horatio’s murderers. His revenge strategy has been planned and in a way, it discloses the mystery of Horatio’s death. What is more, the use of the term "heavens" absolves Hieronimo from being cast as an evil avenger, driven by uncontrolled passion. In a way, Hieronimo’s responsibility is lessened by the help and the prophetic powers conferred by God.

However, for the audience of the time taking pleasure in their anti-Catholic feelings, the fall of Babylon also represents the failure of Spain during the Battle of 1588. Indeed, when the Spanish Armada was defeated, one could speculate there had also been some kind of divine intervention, for the Spanish fleet had been extremely weakened by successive storms. Besides, some Protestants even found some visions relating to the overthrow of the Spanish fleet in the Book of Revelation. For instance, the shipwrecks and various misfortunes suffered by the Spaniards were said to be brought about by "a sea of glass mingled with fire"(Rev. 15: 2). More to the point, the defeat of the Armada was interpreted as the fulfilment of the vision of the destruction of Babylon, whereupon "every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off"(Rev. 18: 17).

B) Mystery and Revelation

1. The notion of "mystery"

The preceding arguments lead us to look into the notion of mystery as a crucial element of The Spanish Tragedy. Three Christian meanings for the word mystery can be found5: firstly, the Hebrew conception defined mystery as "the secret assembly of the Gods where the privileged seer, through an otherworldly journey receives the esoteric knowledge revealed only at that assembly". It also refers to the idea that "God sometimes reveals his secrets in visions to chosen prophets". This second definition fully applies to Daniel’s account as shown previously. Thirdly, a mystery can be the "promise of the resurrection of the faithful, the final state of God’s plan of salvation". This third meaning carries an underlying reference to the final judgement and the eternal life stated in the Apocalypse. We will retain the third definition of mystery in this study. To summarize, a mystery is something revealed to a privileged character, conferred a divine reward. In The Spanish Tragedy, mystery has both a Christian significance and a pagan significance for it is possible to speak of a Christian mystery insomuch as the play is constructed around an apocalyptical frame and symbolism, yet there is a pagan aspect in the play if we examine Hieronimo’s strategy of vengeance. Indeed, his mind is divided between his desperate desire to obtain divine justice and his passionate aspiration for personal revenge.

2. Symbolic characters of the play

Thus, we have established the connection between the fall of Babylon seen by sixteenth century Protestants and the Bible. We are now in a position to study Kyd’s version of the fall of Babylonian countries. Although the fall of Babylon is only quoted once in the text, it plays a fundamental role in the interpretation of the play and this theme impregnates The Spanish Tragedy. In the first place, attention should be drawn to the symbolism of the key characters, as some of them can be associated with the Bible. The name of Balthazar for instance, is very similar to Belshazzar, last King of Babylon in the Book of Daniel. Balthazar has been doomed to death since the introduction scene. Indeed, this scene informs the audience that Andrea was killed by Balthazar during a battle between Spain and Portugal. However, Andrea’s sense of injustice towards his defeater provides the motivation him being sent back to the earthly world. His journey on earth constitutes the framework of the play. This scene presents an apocalyptical prediction in the sense that the audience is aware Bel-Imperia will take revenge on the fated Balthazar. Besides, Revenge informs the audience that a mystery has to be elucidated:

"Here we sit down to see the mystery,

And serve for Chorus in this tragedy"(Act I scene i, 90-91).

In other words, the fact that both death and mystery evoked in the first scene pronounces The Spanish Tragedy as a play stamped with apocalyptic features6. The process of divine justice is established and foretells Andrea’s revenge on the earthly world. However, there is something more beyond Balthazar’s predicted death which is not revealed at the outset of the play. What is concealed behind the revenge taken on the Portuguese prince unfolds as the plot progresses and provides the substance to the play. An understanding and interpretation of the plot are necessary to appreciate "the full significance and symbolic import of Balthazar’s death"7. Nevertheless, the audience has to await the final play-within-the-play in Act IV scene iv to fully reveal the mystery and its interpretation.

Hieronimo may be regarded as a biblical character, in that significant comparisons may be drawn with Daniel. Ardolino defines him as "the bearer of the sacred name, whose role as the judge/revenger makes him like Daniel"8. To reinforce the quote let us say Hieronimo is the one elected to dispense justice on stage and reveal the fall of Babylon. Thus, the first scene anticipates the Victory of Spain over Portugal stated in Act I scene ii, when the King of Spain gives divine signs to the victory in his replica invoking the heavens:

"Then blest be heaven, and guider of the heavens,

From whose fair influence such justice flows."(I, ii, 10-11).

The quote suggests the intervention of divine forces to do justice to a deserving Spain. Consequently, the Spanish Kingdom is enlarged by this victorious acquisition of Portugal. However, Kyd puts a damper on Spanish triumph in Act IV scene iv, during a banquet held to honour the victory. During the celebrations, Hieronimo is asked to entertain the guests with a "pompous jest" (I, iv, 137), a device used ironically by Kyd to give an apocalyptical connotation to the entertainment. Hieronimo is accompanied by three knights bearing shields and armour. Just before the performance begins, the King lets Hieronimo know about his contentment although he does not understand the hidden meaning of the masque. At this moment, the sentence "I sound not well the mystery"(139), foretells the revelation of a secret. And so, in this playlet, Hieronimo successively praises the three knights. The first two succeeded in battles against Portugal and it comforts the King and his advisers in their victory. However, it becomes apparent that the last English knight conquered the King of Castile. What is striking here is the bold account of a Spanish defeat in front of the Spanish King; the irony is that the third account was expected to be a tale of another Portuguese defeat. Implicitly, it aims at putting Spain and Portugal on the same level and obliging them to acknowledge the superiority of "Albion". Beyond that, Kyd portrays the glory of the English army and in a religious context the fall of Catholic countries. Thus it has been argued that the caricatural playlet introduces a prophetic revelation and to a certain degree depicts the fall of Babylon. This passage can be interpreted on two levels: as regards the King, the "pompous jest" reinforces his position, as regards the audience taking pleasure in anti-Catholic feelings, it stands for the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Back to Hieronimo, and although he possesses prophetic powers inasmuch as he predicts the failure of Spain and Portugal represented in the play, Hieronimo's prophesy in Act I scene iv, unlike Daniel’s, is subconscious. It serves to provide the audience with a foretaste of the final play-within the play when all the elements of the mystery gather together. To another extent, Hieronimo is the implement Kyd uses to unveil the hidden meanings within his play: the mystery of the masque is revealed but only understood by an enlightened audience. In this case, its true significance is concealed from the King. Thus, what has just been said reinforces Johnson’s idea that Kyd means to be as "a confirmed Anglophile who somehow has the best interests of Protestant England at heart"9.

Bel-imperia, whose name means "beautiful power" is an allegorical character and can be considered as a "ship at sea:

She wisheth port, where riding all at ease,

She may repair what stormy times have worn"(II, ii, 8-10).

The passage quoted refers to the declaration love between Bel-imperia and Horatio. In that scene, apocalyptical elements can be found insofar as the passage presents the revelation of a secret. The lovers arrange to declare their love in confidence. However, Pedringano has betrayed them and revealed the secret to Balthazar and Lorenzo, who now witnesses the scene whilst hidden from view: "Pedringano showeth all to the Prince and Lorenzo placing them in secret [above]"(II, ii). The dark atmosphere of the scene and the dramatic irony foretell Horatio’s murder and Bel-imperia’s capture in Act II scene iv. Indeed, the "pleasures past, and dangers to ensue"(II, ii, 28) are elements contributing to the revelation of the mystery and also to creating a dramatic irony. All the better since this line by Balthazar follows the one by Hieronimo saying "on danger past, and pleasure to ensue"(II, ii, 27). Lastly, during their meeting, Bel-imperia reveals she is determined to mourn the death of Andrea. Of course, as we know from the introductory scene, Bel-imperia’s mourning will materialize through her revenge on Balthazar in the final playlet.

So we have seen that Bel-imperia, Hieronimo and Balthazar are the major characters symbolically enacting the fall of Babylon and also brought in to glorify England.

3. The "scheme of secrecy and revelation"

Thus, it is possible to affirm that The Spanish Tragedy follows the "scheme of secrecy/revelation/concealment"10, an expression used by Ardolino in reference to the Book of Revelation. This signifies that Kyd uses the ambivalence between secrecy and revelation to create a tension between the initiated and those doomed to ignorance. In fact, the mystery is only revealed to Hieronimo, Bel-imperia and to the theatre audience. The other characters except Revenge and Andrea who stand apart, mirror the corruption and injustice in Spain.

The tension grows as soon as Hieronimo discovers who has murdered Horatio. When he received the first letter written in blood in Act II scene ii, he had doubts about the identity of the murderers. But when the hangman delivers the second letter in Act III scene vii, Hieronimo at last realizes that Lorenzo and Balthazar have murdered his son. Hieronimo links the letter to God’s intervention for justice:

"and now, I feelingly perceive

They did what heaven unpunished would not leave."(III, vii, 55-56).

Hieronimo tries very hard to resort to justice but all his attempts are vain as Lorenzo’s influence towards the King is too strong. This is further illustrated when Hieronimo asks the King for justice and is interrupted by Lorenzo accusing his enemy of being "not well advised"(III, xii, 67). This explains why Hieronimo is driven to undertake his own justice that he will plan in secret. In this respect, It is interesting to establish a parallel with Isabella’s concern for justice. As a matter of fact, as Hieronimo, she challenges the idea of Divine justice by rebelling against the authority, thus advocating a private revenge:

"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."(IV, ii, 2-5).

Beyond that, Isabella is symbolic in terms of Secrecy and Revelation all the more since she "cuts down the arbour" recalling the Hanging Gardens11 laid desolate as a consequence of the wickedness prevailing over Babylon:

"Her cities are a desolation, a dry land, and a wilderness, a land

wherein no man dwelleth, neither doth any son of man pass

thereby. (Jeremiah. 51: 43).

According to Johnson, by cutting the arbour before she commits suicide, to some extent, Isabella prefigures Hieronimo’s fall of Babylon achieved through the final bloody playlet. So, there is evidently a byplay between secrecy and revelation going on throughout the play whereby the plot is constructed on a series of such sequences until the final outcome.

C) "Soliman and Perseda" or the Fall of Babylon

1. The confusion of tongues

Let us now focus on the last play-within-the-play. Hieronimo stages the playlet "Soliman and Perseda", which is Kyd’s adaptation of the play Soliman and Perseda. The context of the play is the war between Cyprus and Turkey. Erastus and Perseda’s love turns tragic when Soliman, the Turkish Emperor captures Cyprus and consequently puts Erastus to death in order to gain Perseda’s love. The tragedy involves Perseda’s revenge on Soliman by administering poison to him before he finally kills her. Returning to The Spanish Tragedy, the playlet performed is the invention of Hieronimo to celebrate the fated marriage of Bel-imperia and Balthazar. By using the playlet as a vehicle of symbolism, Hieronimo not only achieves his revenge but also reveals the fall of Spain and Portugal. The acting of "Soliman and Perseda" is preceded by a short introduction in italics informing the audience that it is going to be performed in English and not in sundry languages (corresponding to French, Italian, Greek and Latin languages) to make its understanding easier. The language used for the playlet was previously questioned by Balthazar who argued that nobody would understand it:

"But this will be a mere confusion

and hardly shall be understood."(IV, i, 180-181).

Mulryne points out in the footnotes of his edition of the play, it is "not clear whether ‘the sundry languages’ will ever have been used on stage"12. In this regard, Ardolino argues that the play has been translated in English for the theatre audience but the sundry tongues are kept for the onstage audience because "the playlet and its playbook are the mystery text, the parable whose true meaning the uninitiated can never understand"13. To this idea, Mac Alindon14 goes further arguing that the four languages apply to the four onstage actors but any case, its translation indicates the triumph of Protestantism over Catholicism and suggests the neat contrast between the confusion of the sundry languages and the clearness of English. Indeed, the adoption of English within the text is redolent of the translation of the Bible into English, for the establishment of a vernacular Bible was first advocated by Protestants to make it more accessible to the people unlike the Roman Catholic Bible in Latin. Therefore, the introductory note calls to mind the essence of Protestantism and insinuates the imminent fall of Babylon. In addition, the bloody plans of Hieronimo and Bel-imperia are supported by a Protestant audience expecting a tragic end for the Babylonian characters. Ironically, the onstage audience can not understand the mystery even after Hieronimo’s long soliloquy in "our vulgar tongue" (IV, iv, 75), asking him about the motives of his revenge:

"For now have thee I will make you speak-

Why hast you done this undeserving deed?" (IV, iv, 164-65).

2. The play-within-the-play

The acting of "Soliman and Perseda" is the most significant passage of the play in terms of secrecy and revelation. It is important to connect the playlet to the main plot. In reality, the tale of "Soliman and Perseda" is not really a marriage celebration but rather a way to "determine of their death that causeless thus have murdered my son" (IV, i, 44-45). As soon as he has in mind his plan of revenge, Hieronimo is in full control of the situation. Indeed, his strategy is achieved without a hitch. Firstly, Hieronimo assigns all the parts to the characters and takes for himself the role of Bashaw, who is the Turkish officer in the service of Soliman. Balthazar plays the part of the Turkish Emperor, Bel-imperia is Perseda and Lorenzo plays Erasto. During the playlet, Lorenzo and Balthazar are killed and Bel-imperia commits suicide. As a matter of fact, Hieronimo murders Lorenzo/Erasto on behalf of the Turkish Emperor eager to get Perseda. Following that, Bel-imperia/Perseda takes revenge on Balthazar/Soliman before killing herself for the love of Erasto. As we may expect, the acting of "Soliman and Perseda dramatically ends in a mere confusion, the King being unable to perceive what has been "bravely done!"(IV, iv, 68).

Eventually, following the performance, Hieronimo reveals to the onstage Portuguese and Spanish audience that the deaths are real and declares the motives for his vengeance. So, the revenge has been fulfilled and the Knight Marshall has acknowledged his secrets plans to Castile and the King. However, as they prove to be deaf to Hieronimo’s revelation, one can review that the onstage Spanish Court incarnates the ignorance of the Catholic monarchs.

3. The mystery of the fall of Babylon

The play-within the-play is the outcome of the play and to some degree "the culmination of the Danielic mystery, and political contexts of The Spanish Tragedy"15. This quote asserts that the playlet is closely related to the Book of Daniel. In fact, considering his reaction towards "Soliman and Perseda", Balthazar can be compared to Belshazzar, last King of Babylon falling with his realm, following the prediction written "on the plaster of the wall of the King’s palace"(Daniel, 5: 5). Whereas Belshazzar cannot decipher the handwriting on the wall and calls for Daniel, Prince Balthazar is not able to understand the play-within-the-play written in sundry languages. Ironically, although Balthazar and Belshazzar have something in common, the Prince can also be compared to Daniel considering that both are prisoners of war: Daniel is taken prisoner by the King of Babylon and Balthazar by the Spanish officers. As for Hieronimo, he has an official power since he embodies the Knight Marshall of Spain and this explains his comparison with the Babylonian King. What is more, Hieronimo is linked to Daniel because of his prophetic powers. To recapitulate, in the Book of Daniel, we have a king conferred an official status doomed to fall and Daniel, prisoner of war having prophetic powers. On the contrary, in The Spanish Tragedy, if we link Balthazar and Hieronimo to Daniel and Belshazzar, the status and roles are reversed. This explains why, in the play, Hieronimo is conferred with an official status and retains prophetic powers, and Balthazar, prisoner of war is doomed to fall. Thus, through the vehicle of the play-within-the-play, the predicted death of Balthazar comes about and Hieronimo reveals the mystery of the fall of Babylon. By establishing a parallel with the Book of Daniel, Kyd makes the scene ironical and implicitly presents England as a nation chosen by God that "shall not be left to other people"(Dan. 2:44).

To conclude, through the evocation of the fall of Babylon, Kyd presents England as a political force emerging on the European scene, thus questioning the prominence of the Spanish Empire. In a way, Hieronimo’s struggle exemplifies the triumph of England over Spain. Moreover, we should underline the importance of the religious references in the play, inasmuch as the establishment of the Protestant faith and the political unity go hand in hand. To some extent, The Spanish Tragedy can be regarded as a reflection of the national consciousness arising during the late Renaissance period.




The previous chapter gave us an understanding of the representation of Babylon in the play. Firstly, the Protestant view about Babylon and the Apocalyptical tradition during the Reformation period was examined. Then, by studying the pattern of Mystery and Revelation, it has been argued that The Spanish Tragedy represented an expression of English Protestant belief. This in turn led to a consideration of the play-within-the-play as the most significant passage concerning the fall of Babylon.

Furthermore, The Spanish Tragedy establishes Kyd himself as a precursor of the Elizabethan Tragedy, his work being one of the first revenge tragedies of Renaissance England. That said, the revenge play is not an invention of the sixteenth century but stems from Greek and Latin tragedies whose plots were inspired by ancient legends. Indeed, Kyd resorts to those old traditions of the tragedy, though without challenging the Christian interpretation of the play. So, by writing a tragedy based upon ancient tradition, Kyd seeks to highlight the Protestant view of the time, namely the rejection of Babylonian countries. In other words, The Spanish Tragedy stands for the revenge of England against a decadent Spain.

First of all, this chapter will show how The Spanish Tragedy falls within the framework of a revenge tragedy, according to the ancient tradition. After that, the focus will centre on the symbolism of Divine justice. Lastly, the significance of Hieronimo’s struggle for revenge and justice will be studied.

The Issue of Revenge

By way of introduction, it should be noted that in essence, a revenge tragedy puts on stage someone who is planning a criminal action to respond to the offence done by an enemy. Another important feature is that the avenger takes the revenge into his own hands either because the people with higher status, the king or any representative of power, are unable to mete out justice, or simply because they are themselves the offenders. In The Spanish Tragedy, the process of revenge is twofold: firstly, the death of Andrea killed by Balthazar during a battle between Spain and Portugal, awakening Bel-imperia’s disposition for revenge; secondly and this is the focus of our attention: the murder of Horatio by Lorenzo and consequently Balthazar urging Hieronimo to take revenge. The King being deaf to his grievance, one can acknowledge that in a way, Hieronimo is an innocent victim stricken by injustice and driven to undertake a criminal action against his son’s murderers. This idea is to be found in the soliloquy of Act II scene v, showing Hieronimo’s reaction when the news of Horatio’s murder reaches him. In fact, at this moment, such is the calamity of the event that Hieronimo scarcely believes the reality of it:

"What audiences pluck me from my naked bed,

And chill my throbbing heart with trembling fear

Which never danger yet could daunt before?"(III, v, 1-3).

This quote demonstrates how Hieronimo is just an innocent caught unprepared and as such, one can presume that he will receive the support of the audience. However, the rest of the soliloquy is full of dramatic irony if we consider that Hieronimo associates two opposite notions, explicitly: death and pleasure. In fact, the association of contradictory concepts is revealed to be a dramatic confusion and here is the key to understanding the process of revenge. Indeed, suggesting that the past pleasures of Horatio have been coupled with death, Hieronimo turns his love for his son into a hatred for the merciless murderers. The ironic juxtaposition of death and pleasure had already been flagged up in Act II scene ii, when Horatio had established the relationship between the "Danger of war and pleasure of our love"(II, ii, 30). In the same way, the "darkness pleasures" (II, iv, 3) translate the same irony and reduce the distance between pleasure and death thus giving a dramatic atmosphere and foreseeing the tragedy.

1. From revenge to tragedy

After that, Hieronimo will call upon all his human faculties to take revenge on the "savage monster, not of human kind"(II, v, 19). The former example is fully characteristic of a revenge tragedy, underlining the discrepancy between the justified desire for revenge and the way the revenge is taken. In reality, Hieronimo is the victim of two misfortunes. The major misfortune is of course the death of his son, but the second one lies with the "indifference of a powerful individual" who "refuses to acknowledge the claims an inferior has upon him"1. In a way, one can say that the revenge is a revolt against the King, blind to injustice, forcing Lord marshal to take his own revenge and leading him into a spiral of violence. Lastly, MacAlindon suggests that the decisive factor, which transforms the justified revenge into a real tragedy, is "the wilful passion or passionate will, the impulse to reject bonds or to turn the bonds of the others into mere bondage"2. Put differently, a revenge tragedy shows someone complying with evil when suffering evil. So, what makes the avenger the hero of a tragedy is the fact that he relieves the world of a curse and consequently emerges as the representative of justice. As far as Hieronimo is concerned, he will punish the wrongdoers before committing suicide according to the classical view of the tragedy. Yet, bearing in mind the providential view of the time, that by provoking disorder within society, Hieronimo stands as an opponent of the political system and consequently of the Church. In line with this perspective, it should be added that he is an opponent of hierarchical order, a dissenter in confrontation with the Early Modern England doctrine requiring that the "natural" order chosen by God be respected.

2. Andrea’s ghost

In addition to this, what really renders The Spanish Tragedy a play marked by the classical tradition, is the use of the ghost, a device that has its origins in the tragedies of Seneca. In the play, Andrea’s ghost is allowed to return to earth to watch the revenge play performed; indeed, he will see the play unfold and his own desire for revenge will be fulfilled by Hieronimo’s scheme against Balthazar and Lorenzo. Moreover, Kyd puts on stage the conceptual character Revenge in control of the play, assisted by the ghost of Andrea. In relation to this, we should specify that the Christian conception of vengeance relies upon an action exclusively reserved to God and therefore regarding the private revenge as a criminal action. But, in the present case, Revenge embodies the divine revenge, having a hand on the course of the play hence deciding of the fate of the characters. As Edwards gives us to understand, the references to Destiny are frequent in the play and draw attention to Revenge as "an attendant of the gods and an agent of Destiny"3. One reference can be found in Act III scene xv, when Revenge tries to relieve Andrea’s anxiousness about the performance of revenge:

"Behold, Andrea, for an instance how

Revenge hath slept, and then imagine thou

What ‘tis to be subject to destiny"(III, xv, 26-28).

Thus, by placing Andrea and Revenge onstage, watching the play unfold, in a sense, Kyd mingles both the ancient tradition of the ghost and the early Modern English conception of Revenge.

3. The death of the hero

Finally, the death of the hero constitutes the last evidence that makes The Spanish Tragedy a revenge play of in accordance to the ancient conception. In reality, the action of revenge implies by definition the self-sacrifice of the hero. In that sense, McMillin defines revenge as the "realisation of self-loss, and self-loss thus takes the form of an intention carried through to its completion in time"4. This meaning of revenge is put forward as soon as Hieronimo discovers the corpse of his son. Indeed, from this moment, Hieronimo has ceased to live for himself, as his only motivation to keep himself alive is the accomplishment of revenge induced in Act II scene v:

"At tamen absistam properato cedere letho,

Ne mortem vindicta tuam tum nulla sequatur." 5 (II, v, 79-80).

Thus, this last quote suggests that by announcing he will complete revenge, Hieronimo figuratively delivers his own deathblow, being the realization of revenge itself. To explain it in other words, we may say that the hero’s bloody and barbarous revenge is weight of guilt and eventually costs him his life. I would finish on this topic by quoting Katharine Maus acutely maintaining concerning the revenger that "the success of his plot incurs a bloody-guilt, for which his life must satisfy"6.

B) Symbolism of Divine Justice

So far, the study has led us to consider The Spanish Tragedy as a play stamped with Apocalyptical features, predicting the fall of Babylon. Also, discussion has focussed on the fact that The Spanish Tragedy is a revenge tragedy in accordance with the ancient tradition, whereby a hero is driven to take a passionate revenge on the offenders and doomed to die through the fulfilment of this revenge. Now, it may be said that the play appeals to the sense of Destiny achieved with the completion of revenge. This leads to the present study dedicated to the symbolism of Divine revenge. As a starting point, the Apocalyptical features used by Kyd to point up the strategy of revenge will be examined; in other words, how Divine justice is represented in the play.

The study will successively focus on the temporal structure of the play, the symbolic implements derived from the Bible, before considering the objects as a symbol of Divine revenge.

1. The temporal structure of the play

What should be established at the very outset is that Kyd creates a temporal structure in the play to reinforce the apocalyptic framework of his drama. It is reasonable to assess that the process of time has an effect upon the development of the play. First of all, let us consider that it is Revenge that controls the process of time throughout the play. Presenting himself as serving for "Chorus in this tragedy"(I, i, 91), he can be defined as an arbiter deciding on the rhythm of the scenes. The recommendation Revenge makes, asking Andrea to be still in Act I scene v shows he has full control over the past, if one considers Andrea to be a figure of the past returning to the earthly world:

"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"(I, v, 5-7).

In the first scene, we are given the account of his relationship with Bel-imperia, then his lethal fight against Balthazar and lastly his return to the earthly world. Andrea’s tale constitutes the foundation of the plot influencing the whole play as was shown before when studying the major characters7. The first scene, dedicated to Andrea’s past anticipates the victory of Spain described in scene ii insomuch as the temporal progression in the scenes creates "the awareness of how divine providence works in the universe"8. As a matter of fact, it announces that the following scenes of the play will be based upon the re-enactment of the past in the present. In other words, Andrea’s account of the battle is made in the underworld and, like an echo, the second scene portrays the Spanish victory in the earthly world. The next quote shows how Andrea’s return to the earthly world is made possible by the use of classical elements:

"Forwith, Revenge, she rounded the in th’ear,

And bade thee lead me through the gates of horn,

Where dreams have passage in the silent night"(I, i, 81-83).

These lines may be interpreted by saying that through the intercession of Pluto and Proserpine, respectively the Greek god and goddess of the underworld, Kyd establishes the transition between the past and the present: Proserpine enables Andrea’s passage through the "gates of horn" to return in the earthly world. Yet, the scene still maintains an apocalyptical character related to the Protestant belief signifying that Andrea’s return to earth is in fact the beginning of the strategy of revenge and more precisely, the realization of Divine Justice against Babylon.

As far as the "acting" characters are concerned, they only have a hold on the process of time if we bear in mind that their actions do actually contribute toward its achievement. For instance, after the murder of Horatio, Lorenzo tries hard to "smooth and keep the murder secret"(III, x, 10) so that the marriage can take place the soonest". But in truth, all his attempts to hide the murder are thwarted by "inexpected harms"(III, iv, 5), dramatically anticipated by Revenge at the end of Act II:

"Be still, and ere I lead thee from this place,

I’ll show thee Balthazar in heavy case"(II, vi, 10-11).

More precisely, the revelation of Horatio’s murder to Hieronimo constitutes the "inexpected harms" evoked just before. Furthermore, the expected final union of Balthazar and Bel-imperia will never even take place as Revenge intervenes in time to fulfil Andrea’s request for vengeance.

However, owing to his role of avenger in the tragedy, Hieronimo has a privileged position in that he " acts in concert with Revenge’s time scheme by predicting and then effecting the deaths of Horatio’s murderers and the fall of Babylon/Spain"9. Hieronimo is provided with a hold over time in the sense that he unveils how his son was murdered by re-enacting the scene when Horatio was found hanging "in the arbour"(II, v). In addition to this, with "Soliman and Perseda", Hieronimo ironically recreates the rivalry between Horatio and Balthazar for the sake of Bel-imperia, but the results are reversed since the two associates are killed. Thus, Revenge controls the temporal scheme assisted by Lord Marshal whose access to the temporal scheme is translated by his powers of prediction and revelation. All in all, Revenge remains the powerful character of the play, and his role is recapitulated in the final lines:

"For here, though death hath end their misery,

I’ll there begin their endless tragedy"(IV, iv, 47-48).

These words suggest ironically that Revenge not only controls the time on earth, but also eternity, implying that Kyd makes the tragic fall of Babylon and Spain irreversible to emphasize the lasting and glorious Destiny of English Protestants. One may conclude this topic by quoting Johnson who pushes forwards the idea that "destiny, in this play, is arranged by Kyd to gratify his audience"10.

2. The use of symbolic implements derived from the Bible

Now, what is also noteworthy about The Spanish Tragedy as a play tinged with the sense of Destiny, is the use of symbolic implements derived from the Bible. In this respect, the four-act-structure and the four sundry languages are important because they parallel the four empires cited in the Book of Daniel. Indeed, the four languages used in the playlet apply to four characters, and each one may stand for one of the four Empires in Daniel. As a matter of fact, the end of the fourth act, where four characters are on stage acting in "unknown languages" (IV, i, 173), leads to the overthrow of the Spanish Kingdom and praises an overwhelming British victory in correlation with the overthrow of the four Empires and the rise of a mighty kingdom that "shall not be left to other people"(Dan. 2: 44). In the play, of course, the "other" applies to those of the Roman Catholic faith and what "shall not be left" is the revelation of a mystery accessible to a select Protestant audience.

Next, one can add that the Final Judgement in the Book of Revelation, showing the fall of the Antichrist also recalls the final scene of the drama presenting Andrea and Revenge’s judgement of all the actors. This aspect is demonstrated by Andrea’s last speech saying that Balthazar represents the fated Spanish and Portuguese realms and that only the English Kingdom is granted an eternal reign:

" Hang Balthazar about Chimaera’s neck,

And let him there bewail his bloody love,

Repining at our joys that are above"(IV, v, 36-38).

From this quote, one can notice that Divine justice has been applied to Balthazar, condemning him to hell whilst reserving a privileged Destiny "above" for Protestant followers.

The last symbolic implement that holds one’s attention is the evocation of the fall of Babylon in one hour. Actually, the Book of Revelation maintains that the destruction of Babylon was achieved in one hour, "for in one hour is thy judgement come. …For in one hour so great riches is come to naught. …For in one hour is she made desolate"(Rev. 18: 10-17-19). In Act IV scene i, Hieronimo announces he will perform a tragedy to celebrate the wedding, the last stage of his scheme of revenge. Here, Johnson establishes a parallel with the Bible by quoting the sentence "all shall be concluded in one scene"(IV, i, 188), that would recall the "suddenness of the destruction of Babylon"11. Finally, one may add that the reference to the "Italian tragedians…so sharp of wit" and "able to perform in one hour’s meditation"(IV, i, 164-5), also hints at the fall of Babylon as described in the Bible. Thus, using implements derived from the Bible, in a sense, Kyd managed to change the strategy of revenge into a real Divine intervention.

3. The symbolism of objects

The Spanish Tragedy also resorts to momentous objects symbolizing Divine revenge. In this regard, the study will be successively concerned with the symbolism of the key, the evocative "nuptial torches" and lastly the knife used by Hieronimo to kill Castile.

Firstly, the key Hieronimo uses to lock up the actors of "Soliman and Perseda" provides a good illustration of Divine revenge. The key is only mentioned once in Act IV scene iii, in a passage dealing with Hieronimo’s request to Castile for the key that will ensure him of the success of his device. Before disclosing an interpretation of the key in the play, one should pay attention to the key of David in the Book of Revelation. In fact, the biblical keys are significant in the sense that they represent the power of God to decide life and death and accordingly to choose the one who "may enter in through the gates into the city" (Rev. 22:14) namely the gates of heaven. Returning to the play, the key chiefly suggests that only Hieronimo has the power of deciding on the deaths of the actors and that the mystery will be disclosed only to an initiated audience. Furthermore, the fact that Hieronimo holds the key and locks up the fated actors "creates an enclosed arena of death, similar to the bower but which cannot be opened until the deaths of the murderers who earlier had invaded the enclosed bower"12.

In the second place, the "nuptial torches" in Act III scene xv, in the same perspective as the key, foreshadow that the marriage agreed by the King and the Viceroy will be brought to nought. An explanation of this is that Bel-imperia challenges the marriage insofar as she is devoted to Horatio’s revenge. Therefore, we may infer that the dramatic extinction of the "nuptial torches" mirrors what happens onstage: Revenge actually reminds the attentive audience that Bel-imperia means to yield to the family and political pressures she suffers. In addition to this, let us notice the symbolic reference to Hymen, the Greek God of marriage running up to prevent Bel-imperia and Balthazar’s alliance. One can also interpret this passage in relation to the last part of the Apocalypse, giving a picture of Babylon after its fall, and representing the marriage by a candle as a symbolic reflection of the torches in the play: as Hymen "blows them out, and quencheth them with blood" (III, xv, 34), the Lord ordains that "the light of the candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee"(Rev. 18: 23). One may note in passing that once again, Kyd makes use of classical elements (Hymen) and establishes links with the Bible.

Lastly, we should analyze the significance of the knife used by Hieronimo to kill Castile after his soliloquy, informing the audience that the deaths of the actors in the playlet are real. In the light of these revelations, the three Iberian leaders urge Hieronimo to provide further explanation but the successful avenger prefers cutting his tongue rather than unveiling "the thing which I have vowed unviolate"(IV, iv, 188). In fact, Hieronimo only informs the King about his version of the facts and refuses to disclose anything about Bel-imperia’s motives. In this sense, we may assume that Hieronimo remained faithful to the mutual vow made in Act IV scene i:

"And here I vow, so you but give consent,

And will conceal my resolution,

I will long determine of their deaths"(IV, i, 43-45).

Nevertheless, Johnson holds that disclosing that Bel-imperia " miss’d her part in this"(IV, iv, 140) constitutes a violation of that vow13.

Hence, fatally determined to be reveal the secret, the three Babylonian representatives provide Hieronimo with "a knife to mend his pen" which he uses not to sharpen his pen but to kill Castile and then to commit suicide. The association of the knife and the pen recalls the biblical warrior on the white horse "called the Word of God" (Rev. 19:13) having in his mouth "a sharp sword that with it he should smite the nations"(Rev. 19:15). Similarly as Hieronimo is speechless and refuses any "written" concession to the remaining actors, he opts for the use of violence, striking the representatives of the Iberian nations.

Thus, we have seen how some objects present in The Spanish Tragedy make reference to the Bible, and to what extent they contribute to understanding the representation of Divine justice. Beyond that, the use of signs or symbolic objects in the play epitomizes the characteristics of a revenge tragedy:

"It is standard…for revengers to muse upon the relationship between

their actions and God’s justice, and to seek some transcendental sign

of divine collaboration or approval"14.


C) Private Revenge and Divine Justice

In the first two sections, we have highlighted the fact that The Spanish Tragedy contains both ancient and Christian meanings as far as revenge is concerned. We should add now that this ambivalence applies to Hieronimo insofar as he is the major performer of revenge. As a matter of fact, his struggle for revenge and justice is double. In one respect, his revenge is the one of an individual who renounces to his royal functions to repair the injustice done to his son, thus becoming a criminal. In another respect, Hieronimo’s strategy of revenge refers to the divine revenge advocated by English Protestants of the late sixteenth century. The present study will explore this ambivalence between the private justice and the divine revenge, characteristic of Hieronimo’s struggle.

1. Hieronimo’s concern for justice

On the first hand, we should tell again that Hieronimo is the character the most concerned with the topic of justice. Being Knight Marshal, Hieronimo detains the judicial function to enforce the law. In Act III scene xiii, Hieronimo is at work and receives a few petitioners asking him " to plead their cases to the king"(III, xiii, 48). Through this scene, one becomes aware of Hieronimo’s social position but also of his great experience in the domain of justice. Also, one should notice that if Hieronimo holds the title of Knight Marshal, this is by virtue of his hard work and experience:

" There’s not any advocate in Spain

That can prevail, or will take half the pain

That he will, in pursuit of equity"(III, xiii, 52-54).

These lines also suggest that he seems to be an exception in the Spanish judicial system where "any advocate…can prevail". In this respect, one may assess that the "worthy sir"(III, xiii, 70) is a character to be reckoned with in terms of justice and morality. An evidence of this can be found in Act III scene vi, passage dealing with Pedringano’s trial and execution. As one knows, Pedringano has been corrupted by Lorenzo, forcing him to kill Serberine "That hath, I fear, revealed Horatio’s death"(III, ii, 71). At this point Hieronimo’s sense of justice makes clear he will not acquit Pedringano who clearly deserves being judged for corruption and murder. In addition to this, Pedringano’s case dramatically makes Hieronimo remember that Horatio’s murderers still remain unpunished. So, the execution of Pedringano is inevitable and in a way can be interpreted as a presage of the future executions designed for Horatio’s justice. In other words, justice has been made for Serberine, now it is time for Horatio to be avenged. Accordingly, the trial of Pedringano shows Hieronimo’s integrity and moral concern with justice.

2. The dilemma of Hieronimo

Nevertheless, when it comes to Horatio’s case, the application of justice takes a different turn. As regard this, I would rightly quote Johnson evoking " the tragic…

dilemma of the officially appointed minister of justice who is forced

by circumstances to take justice into his own hands"15.

In reality, the dramatic irony rests on the fact that Lord Marshal will have to enforce the justice for himself. This means that the justice to which Hieronimo aspires is not of royal nature anymore but becomes his own justice, this because he has failed in pleading his own case to the King.

His incapacity to plead his case is partly due to Lorenzo’s intervention (III, xii) but also to his fits of madness: using his dagger to show his anger is a sign that Hieronimo has lost control of himself and, beyond that, it constitutes a pure offence to the King. In a sense, we can state that Hieronimo’s growing madness marks a break with the established order, since it shows he deviates from royal authority to impose his own justice. Nevertheless, this social clash is also brought about by the King himself, considering that he ignores Hieronimo’s lament:

"What accident hath happed Hieronimo?

I have not seen him to demean him so."(III, xii, 80-81).

We should note in passing that Isabella, in a way, echoes Hieronimo’s obsessive concern for private justice although she does not take part in the revenge. Like Hieronimo, she is driven to lunacy because "there’s no medicine left for my disease, Nor any physic"(III, viii, 4-5) to do justice to Horatio. In fact, Isabella reckons on Hieronimo to perform his rightful revenge but her last soliloquy shows her despair of "Thy negligence in pursuit of their deaths"(IV, ii, 30). Isabella’s soliloquy reveals that she has no faith in divine justice and therefore is led to "revenge myself upon this place"(4). In that sense, one can state that Isabella stands for pagan revenge. This final speech ends with Isabella’s suicide, ultimate solution of an unfulfilled claim for justice.

Thus, we understand that Hieronimo’s integrity and appeal for justice dies out as his madness grows. To strengthen this idea we should focus on the scene dealing with the petitioners expecting Hieronimo to "plead their cases to the king"(III, xiii, 48). This scene can be conferred two meanings. The first meaning has been evoked before with the study of Hieronimo as the embodiment of justice. In this respect we have shown that the citizens give weight to his struggle for justice when asking Hieronimo to plead their cause. Moreover, insofar as the citizens represent the voice of the people, Hieronimo would stand for the main representative of the nation. From another angle, the same scene also portrays Hieronimo as unable to serve justice, since his personal dissatisfaction makes him mad, unjust, and evil. In that sense, Hieronimo’s madness has already overridden his concern for royal justice. For instance, when the citizen Senex sets forth the case of Bazulto, his murdered son, Hieronimo just blindly brings the matter to himself, taking Senex’s son for Horatio. After that, Hieronimo’s tearing the citizens’ declarations symbolically reveals that he disowns his functions as a royal revenger, therefore that he rejects the political system. Said differently, Hieronimo cannot but become the personal avenger finding his vengeance in folly since:

"Here’s no justice; gentle boy be gone,

For justice is exiled from the earth;"(III, xiii, 139-40).

Hence, Hieronimo as minister of justice becomes a disruptive character insofar as he gives up his political functions, distorted by his obsession for personal revenge. Hence, in that perspective, Hieronimo’s revenge is individual and consequently dissident, insofar as it is translated by a rejection of authority.

Also, we can argue that by depicting Hieronimo’s unconcern with royal justice, Kyd makes a mock of the corruption of the Spanish Court in which "There’s not any advocate in Spain…That can prevail…in pursuit of equity"(III, xiii, 52-4). Besides, the use of irony in these lines confirms that Hieronimo does not distinguish himself from the other Spanish advocates.

Lastly, Hieronimo’s revenge can be questioned considering the way the revenge is performed. In fact the clash between the rightful desire of revenge and the barbarity of the revenge playlet creates the moral ambiguity of the play. If Hieronimo is led to make evil it is possibly because he is unable to find justice in a world of "murder and misdeeds"(III, ii, 4) where "only I to all men just must be, And neither gods nor men be just to me"(III, vi, 9-10). In this respect, Jensen interprets Hieronimo’s dilemma as "the address of a man defeated by evil, of a man who is unable to reconcile his experience of an evil world with the concept of a beneficent deity"16.

3. Any prospects of divine justice?

It is striking to notice that despite his disposition for private revenge, Hieronimo still keeps the consideration of the Elizabethan audience. This idea is shared by many critics and, among them, I would quote Edwards who asserts that:

"there can be no doubt that the audience is on his

side, whatever the Elizabeth preachers and moralists

said about private revenge"17.

Then, we should indicate that the support "Good Hieronimo"(IV, v, 11) gets from the audience is not a coincidence but can be explained in relation to the Elizabethan’s conception of justice. This implies that Hieronimo’s revenge is double: in one respect, his revenge proves to be individual since he is headed by madness; in another respect, it is possible to analyze Hieronimo as fulfilling the duty of divine vengeance praised in the late sixteenth century, that we are going to explain now.

The first thing one should remember is that during the Renaissance period, only the divine vengeance, namely the one coming from God was acceptable. As far as this topic is concerned, it is relevant to refer to R. Broude explaining that the divine justice should ideally performed through the judicial system by God representatives. Then, he carries on the explanation testifying that in reality, the Court was not always competent, or simply was blind to the grievances so that "Renaissance Englishmen expected God to step in and reveal the criminal’s identity"18. So, when a person was murdered and not avenged, it was the duty of the revenger of blood, i.e. the next of kin of the murdered man to find the criminal and complete the vengeance, this in reference to the Bible:

"The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer:

when he meeteth him, he shall slay him"(Numbers 35: 19)

In addition to this, the revenge of blood supposed that the revenger should wait for the moment appointed by God to perform the vengeance. This means that he should find signs from the heaven telling him it is time for revenge. In Act III scene xiii, it is noticeable that Hieronimo fulfils his role as a revenger of blood. Indeed, perfectly aware that only God will decide of the right moment, Hieronimo shows his audience he is the elect, the one that will be given the "opportunity" to execute the revenge:

"Wise men will take their opportunity,

Closely and safely fitting things to time;

But in extreme advantage hath no time;

And therefore all times fit not for revenge."(III, xiii, 25-28).

The divine "opportunity" will come in Act IV when the course of events enables him to realize his ambitions. In a sense, Hieronimo’s trust in Providence explains why he delays the revenge until Act IV.

The first sign of Divine Providence is the release of Bel-imperia who was previously sequestered by Lorenzo and now deciding to become Hieronimo’s ally. Indeed, Hieronimo interprets Bel-imperia’s vow to "Join with thee to revenge Horatio’s death"(IV, i, 48) as a sign of divine intervention, a confirmation that "heaven applies our drift And all the saints do sit soliciting For vengeance on those cursed murderers."(32-4). Moreover, Bel-imperia is concerned with divine revenge for she shows patience and accepts the things as they are:

"Well force perforce, I must constrain myself,

To patience, and apply me to the time

Till heaven, as I have hoped shall set me free."(III, ix, 12-4).

Thus, planning the revenge of Andrea and Horatio in accordance to God’s justice, Bel-imperia emerges as Hieronimo’s righteous accomplice in the revenge strategy. Finally, we should end by stating that the issue of divine justice is relevant to understand the revenger’s role in the play: Hieronimo embodies the revenger of blood praised by God and in that sense comes out as a mirror of the Elizabethan society of the late sixteenth century. Beyond that, Hieronimo symbolically accomplishes the revenge of England over Spain and to some extent, stands for a national hero, notably since he eliminates the Duke of Castile, personification of the dominant Spanish province. Finally, "these…spectacles to please my soul"(IV, v, 12) illustrate the fulfilment of Andrea’s request and figuratively translate the satisfaction brought by the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

We must conclude that Hieronimo is a representative of the Elizabethan society, embodying the "revenger of blood", appointed by God to repair an injustice done to a kinsman. Hieronimo accomplishes his revenge of blood successfully and consequently becomes a hero praised by Renaissance gentlemen. Furthermore, considering the historical context and the final revenge taken on the Catholic leaders in Act IV, Hieronimo symbolically re-enacts the English triumph of 1588 and in a way emerges as a national hero.

D) The Spanish Tragedy as a Political Tragedy

The study of revenge and justice led us to understand that Hieronimo is a hero on different levels. Firstly, he stands for the tragic hero, led to undertake revenge against an offender and dying with the fulfilment of the revenge. Secondly, Hieronimo is illustrative of the hero appointed by God to perform a "revenge of blood" to repair the injustice done to a kinsman. Lastly, The Knight Marshal embodies the concept of national hero, insofar as he figuratively acts out the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

To close this chapter, one shall focus on the body politic in order to find out how Kyd portrays the hierarchical system in the play. In other words, we will show the struggle of the aristocracy to maintain the social order.

In the first place, we should examine Hieronimo’s position in relation to the social changes of the late Renaissance period. Subsequently, we will portray The Spanish Tragedy as the tragedy of Spain

1. Hieronimo in his period

Hieronimo can be depicted as a reflection of his time if one bears in mind the economic changes affecting the social hierarchy. Indeed, many individuals could now obtain higher political and social positions. This meant that people descended from noble families but without wealth did not necessarily occupy positions of authority. This was illustrated by the fact that many governmental tasks could be given to civil servants:

" Many governmental tasks were performed by local magnates or their

powerful functionaries, who operated with considerable impunity

within their sphere of influence. In the sixteenth century, however,

monarchs in England, France and Spain consolidated their supremacy

at the expense of the aristocracy"19.

To establish a link with Kyd’s universe, we note that, in his plays, the heroes are not aristocrats. In Soliman and Perseda, for instance, the hero is not a member of the nobility but an "Italian dame"(IV, i, 111), who tries hard not to yield to corruption for love of Erastus. As for The Spanish Tragedy, Hieronimo is a civil servant struggling for justice in an aristocratic environment where kings and nobles are depicted as secondary, weak and corrupted characters although "they still lead armies and hold the key of life and death"20. In a way, we can assume that Hieronimo has realized the dream of many competent men from modest origins. He has managed, by virtue of his hard work and abilities to procure a distinguished place in society for himself. However, according to Katharine Maus, this power is only apparent because the noble class tried hard to preserve its privileges and refused to be challenged by what she calls the "meritocrats". Accordingly, when The Spanish Tragedy was written, high birth still meant power and privilege:

Birth rather than worth remains decisive in a Renaissance court, and the rare meritocrat finds himself awkwardly situated. The social strains are finely captured at the royal banquet: Horatio, who has captured Prince Balthazar in battle, waits upon the table where the King’s erstwhile enemy is welcome as a guest. As the action unfolds we realize, sooner than do Horatio and Hieronimo, that for most powerful men in the play caste loyalties override the national interests for which Horatio fought and Don Andrea died."21

Said differently, a gentleman could be powerful economically but would remain socially inferior. That is what we understand if we look upon the struggle of power between Hieronimo and his social rival, Lorenzo. As the King asks the "gentle brother" to "go give to him his gold, The Prince’s ransom; let him have his due"(III, xiii, 12-3), Lorenzo shows he is not so much concerned with the "ransom" but yearns to take Hieronimo’s "office":

"But if he thus be helplessly distract,

’Tis requisite his office to be resigned,

And given to one of more discretion."(96-8).

Here, Lorenzo is unquestionably frustrated by his position in comparison with Hieronimo’s and would try every possible means to get rid of him. As for the King, his main objective is to weave a web of friendship with the Portuguese court so it is in his interest to favour Lorenzo rather than tangling with the problems of Hieronimo.

Thus one may infer that The Spanish Tragedy pictures a universe in which the royal interest prevails over the national interest for which Horatio, Hieronimo and Andrea are fighting.

2. Spain and the Spanish Tragedy

Above all, one should also regard Hieronimo as a disruptive character inasmuch as he is constantly in discord with the nobility, therefore contesting the power of God. To illustrate this, one may argue that by undertaking revenge, Hieronimo challenges the established order and, to some extent, overthrows it. Indeed, by putting on stage Lorenzo, Balthazar, Bel-imperia and himself in "Soliman and Perseda", Hieronimo, seeks to reduce the gap between the social classes; thereupon, the descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese Kingdoms are eliminated, thus breaking the alliance between Spain and Portugal. The Viceroy’s last lines are a good illustration of the tragic doom that strikes the two Catholic Kingdoms reduced to abandoning their hope of union and friendship:

"To weep my want for my sweet Balthazar:

Spain hath no refuge for a Portingale."(IV, iv, 216-7).

In this respect, Ardolino argues that this political alliance, which is represented by Bel-imperia and Balthazar, hints at Mary’s marriage to Philip II of Spain. According to him, while Mary’s marriage resulted in the persecution of Protestants, the play itself stages the persecution of the Catholic rulers in order to represent the fall of the Spanish monarchy.

In that sense, The Spanish Tragedy can be read as a political tragedy in two ways: first, the failure of a noble class challenged by the middle class, as embodied by Hieronimo; second, the tragic destruction of the Spanish succession. As for the English audience supporting "good Hieronimo", the political tragedy striking Spain and Portugal figuratively celebrates the defeat of the Armada.




As far as revenge is concerned, we have noticed that Hieronimo was torn between private revenge and divine justice. Indeed, the point of the previous study was to underline this ambivalence by comparing tragic elements to Christian elements.

The last chapter of this second part will deal with the question of ambition and deception, major themes that enable us to understand the strife of the play. What has to be found out here is that Kyd creates conflictual relationships, in order to represent the complexity of the human feelings. So, we will try to push forwards the strife of the play in relation to the topics of ambition and deception.

Firstly, the study will focus on the plot of the play, essential and complex, developing into a web of consequences and bringing about a series of stratagems. Secondly, we will deal with the themes of language and deception by establishing links between language and action. This will bring us to the last section concerned with the strife between love and hatred.

A) Plots and Stratagems

1. A structure implying a web of consequences

First of all, let us start by saying that the plot of The Spanish Tragedy involves more than a main line. In fact the diagram of the play is complex, implying interactions and subplots. In this respect, I would centre the present study upon Edwards’ analysis of the topic. His main idea is that the plot of The Spanish Tragedy builds up on a main action surrounded by what he calls "layers of causation", suggesting that "every event in the play looks a long way backwards, or a long way forwards"1. The play starts with the account of Andrea’s ghost disclosing to the audience that he was the lover of Lorenzo’s sister, Bel-imperia, and was killed by Balthazar during the Spanish conquest of Portugal. Said differently, Balthazar broke the love of Andrea and Bel-imperia by killing Andrea:

"Death’s winter nipped the blossoms of my bliss,

Forcing divorce betwixt my love and me"(I, i, 13-14).

This introductory piece of information constitutes the origin of this web of consequences just mentioned and weaving all through the play. Also, it is important for the present study to mention again that the first scene informs that Andrea is sent to the earthly world to "see the author of thy death"(87), therefore to take revenge. Indeed, it is not clear whether the revenge is justified or not, since, according to Carol Kay, Andrea does not expressly feels resentment against Balthazar nor does he resort to justice. Indeed, describing the way he was killed, Andrea merely indicates that "death made passage through my wounds"(17) and specifies that his friend Horatio performed his funeral (25-6). In other words, he provides Revenge with a factual account of the battle, without expecting anything from Revenge but to explain him why he is returning to the earthly world. More to the point, Andrea does not even mention that he wants to take revenge.

Carol Kay pushes forwards the interpretation emphasizing a clash between Andrea’s report and Revenge’s appeal to revenge at the end of the scene:

"Revenge’assumption that Don Andrea demands a blood revenge does not

coincide with Don Andrea´s manner or speech, thus giving us the first of

numerous instances in the play in which characters speak from differing


In Act I scene ii, the killing of Andrea is once again related and we must say that the audience does not learn much information about it. This second report just states that Andrea died in a sharp battle opposing two strong armies and resulting in a Spanish victory. Also, let us notice that the scene does not imply that Balthazar took unfair advantage of Andrea since:

"in that conflict was Andrea slain-

Brave man at arms, but weak to Balthazar"(I, ii, 71-2).

Perhaps we could find one element implying Balthazar’s cowardice during the battle, thus justifying Andrea’s coming back to earth for revenge: the fact that after Balthazar killed Andrea, he "insulted over him"(I, ii, 73). In any case and considering the main plot, we should retain that Andrea’s death resulted in Bel-imperia’s hating Balthazar. Accordingly, one may presume she will try hard to thwart the murderer of Andrea. Here starts the web of consequence we have mentioned before, entailing a succession of stratagems to deceive the enemy.

2. Weaving alliances

So far the plot has remained simple as it just relied on a conflict opposing two characters, namely Bel-imperia and Balthazar. From then on, the play becomes more complex as other issues come on top of Bel-imperia’s concerns, for instance as we find out that Balthazar falls in love with Bel-imperia. Here, she realizes that she will need the help of a man to push Balthazar away. For that reason, she finds in Horatio a lover that will help her to strive after her ambitions and thus to take revenge on Balthazar. In that sense, we can assess that Horatio now takes a part in Bel-imperia’ stratagem:

"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"(I, iv, 66-8)

This quote reveals to be a good illustration of the "layers of causation" or the web of consequence suggested previously. Indeed, by choosing a "second love", Bel-imperia certainly implicates someone else in her stratagem but to some extent, she also creates a second revenge. As a matter of fact, Horatio is likely to be a good accomplice insofar as Balthazar is also Horatio’s proper enemy. So, while Bel-imperia aspires to avenge her lover, Horatio is looking forwards to take revenge on the murderer of his friend Andrea. We can underline that this idea goes in the same way as Mulryne’s interpretation, arguing that Bel-imperia’s love for Horatio is too sudden and too calculated to be convincing and honest. He also makes clear that Kyd explicitly wants to present Bel-imperia as a "formidable woman, decisively able to control and direct her emotions" adding that "her decision is also of course vital joining the two revenges"3.

Consequently, it is right to assess that Bel-imperia’s vengeance is both motivated by her ambition to get rid of Balthazar and by her sexual desire for Horatio. We can underline that if Kyd intermingles the revenges, it is in order to create the setting of the play, and let us note advisedly that the combination of the revenges also heralds the "mere confusion" suggested in Act IV scene i.

3. Lorenzo versus Horatio

Now, let us take into consideration Lorenzo, playing a significant part in the whole play. First, we should remember that he took part in the battle and so in Balthazar’s capture with Horatio. Nevertheless, one presumes that Horatio appears to be the real hero of the battle considering Andrea’s account of the battle: "By Don Horatio, our Knight Marshal’s son, My funeral and obsequies were done"(I, i, 25-6). Be that as it may, both men agree about their respective participation in presence of the King, Lorenzo saying he "seized his weapon, and enjoyed it first"(I, ii, 157), Horatio retorting "But first I forced him lay his weapon down"(158). As a result, the King’s conclusion on the matter is that they both deserve to be rewarded for their bravery. However, the share of victory seems unfair to Horatio who does not obtain anything but the Prince’s weapons and horse whereas the deceitful Lorenzo is put in charge of keeping Balthazar at his service and therefore gains an accomplice to carry his stratagems through. Also, the way the reward is shared underlines the social differences between the aristocrat Lorenzo and Horatio, knight in the service of the King. In this respect, one could likewise wonder why Balthazar obtains such a good hospitality at the Spanish court. Here, I would refer to Empson´s assuming that Andrea’s death would have been arranged by the Duke of Castile and Lorenzo. In that sense, they would have made Balthazar kill Andrea to arrange his marriage with Bel-imperia, thus joining the two Kingdoms. Although there is no proof of this in the text, this interpretation should gain our consideration. Indeed, it would explain well why the King treats Balthazar so friendly: "And feast our prisoner as our friendly guest"(I, ii, 195). These words, quite ironical, imply that the King is fully on the side of Lorenzo and therefore that he chooses to privilege the royal interests rather than the interests of a humble civil servant.

Yet, about the confrontation Lorenzo/Horatio, we should not necessarily focus on the social differences4 but also on the balance of power between the two characters. So we would rather evoke Horatio’s lack of personality, and dependence on the other characters. An example of this can be found before the King’s speech about Balthazar’s judgement, with Horatio’s saying "Nor I, although I sit beside my right"(I, iii, 177). This line first suggests Horatio’s bitterness and dissatisfaction towards the honours he gets from the King. Beyond that, the word "nor" implies that he fears contradicting the Duke’s son. As far as the latter is concerned, he cannot suffer the little consideration Horatio gets from the King, as he is socially inferior. This enables us to establish the link between Lorenzo and Bel-imperia’s struggle for revenge: by refusing the love of Balthazar, Bel-imperia gets his hostility, and consequently the one of Lorenzo, the latter supporting his prisoner. Hence, one may regard Lorenzo’s induction in the plot as an illustration of the web of consequence that we are dealing with.

4. Treachery, murder, and revenge

Until now, the issue of revenge has not really been dominating the play. If truth be told, it has been question of quarrels of personal or royal interest embodied by ambitious or deceitful characters. But as soon as Bel-imperia explicitly says she refuses Balthazar’s proposal, the audience becomes perfectly aware that a villain stratagem is going to be designed by the two acolytes:

"My lord, be not dismayed for what is passed,

You know women oft are humorous:

These clouds will overblow with little wind;"(I, iv, 104-6).

These lines first show that Lorenzo is the actual conspirator of Horatio’s murder, but also underline Balthazar’s weakness and compliance. This may be explained by the fact that he is expected to behave as a prisoner. Though, the Portuguese prince remains a submissive character, whether it comes to Lorenzo or Bel-imperia. This is clearly shown at the opening of the second act, when Balthazar pronounces a plaintive speech, deprecating himself and lamentably expecting to get Lorenzo’s comfort: moaning for twenty lines (8-28) that "My feature is not to content her sight"(13), that "she loves me to uprear her state"(25), Balthazar acquires an "irresolute, dependent, puppet-like role"5. When it comes to Bel-imperia, Balthazar keeps the same self-deprecating attitude. So, when he becomes aware of Bel-imperia’s love for Horatio which has been betrayed by Pedringano in Act II scene i, Balthazar comes to reject the reality of it by uttering a desperate lament:

"O sleep mine eyes, see not my love profaned;

Be deaf, my ears, hear not my discontent;

Die, heart, another joys that thou deservest."(II, ii, 18-20).

Let us note in passing the dramatic irony suggested by the word "joys" foreseeing the death of Horatio. As for Lorenzo, the embodiment of evil in the play, his design is simple: undertaking "Horatio’s fall"(23) to allow Balthazar’s marriage to Bel-imperia. Therefore, we can say that from the murder of Horatio, Kyd has settled the components of the play as being as a revenge tragedy. Now, we are in a position to state that the main action of The Spanish tragedy starts at the end of Act II, as soon as Hieronimo discovers the murder of Horatio and expresses his desire for revenge. From then on, the focus of the play will be Hieronimo’s struggle to do justice to his son, reaching its climax in the conclusive play-within-the-play.

5. The significance of the introductory scene

Let us finish by saying that what has been said about the first two acts in terms of plots and stratagems enables us to realize how "the turn of events suddenly thrusts the role of hero on a minor character a third of the way through the play"6. Said differently, we clearly see that the main action is laid down as the result of a combination of circumstances, involving most of the characters. From the account of Andrea’s death, the play weaves a web of consequence striking the Knight Marshall from the third act, thus becoming the main focus of the play. There is another reason explaining why the main action of The Spanish Tragedy is actually delayed. Here, I would refer to Wolfgang Clemen in his comment on the various reports of the battle. According to him, they are significant to understand the play in the sense that they provide the atmosphere of the tragedy, having "their consequences in the events of later scenes; they become mainsprings in the action of the play"7. In other words, Kyd would report the revenge to install the dramatic atmosphere of the play. An evidence of this can be found in the last two scenes; without doubt, the play-within-the-play deals with Hieronimo’s revenge for Horatio, but if one looks at the play in its whole, this is Andrea’s revenge that prevails. Indeed, the Chorus reminds the audience of Andrea’s request all through the play, finally satisfied in the conclusive scene:

Ay, now my hopes have end in their effects,

When blood and sorrow finish my desires"(IV, v, 1-2)

Hence the importance of the opening of the play, dedicated to Andrea, being the framework of the play. Certainly, the main action rests on Hieronimo’s revenge, but in reality the "layers of causation" go back to Andrea’s initial request.

B) Language and Deceit: a Study of the Characters

By studying the plot and the scheming of the different stratagems, we have been led to raise the question of deception, inherent to the play. As we have seen, Bel-imperia’s intention is to deceive Balthazar in order to avenge Horatio and Andrea. As for Lorenzo, there is no doubt that he is a misleading character since he would deceive any character to achieve his ends, even his friend/accomplice Balthazar. In his turn, Hieronimo’s success as an avenger depends on the way he deals with his enemies and requires that he plays cunning tricks on them, this culminating in the final playlet. Carol Kay points out the bond between deception and language, arguing that the play can be negotiated through the study of one of the play’s principle themes: "deception through words", a point she considers to be rather neglected by other critics of The Spanish Tragedy. To enforce this view, Kay notes that Kyd issued clues to bring out the duplicity of words, such as the frequency of certain terms. For instance, words referring to language like "word", "speak", and "tell" appear more than eighty times in the text, whereas the words "revenge" and "vengeance" occur less than thirty times. This does not mean that the theme of deception through words is more important than the theme of revenge, but it may lead us to read the play in a different way.

We will now concentrate on the topic of deception through a consideration the language in the play; more pertinently to seek an explanation of how the characters resort to deception to fulfil their ambition.

1. Deceiving through words

Let us begin the analysis by examining words and expressions marking duplicity. Presenting Andrea’s judgement in the underworld, the very outset of Act I scene i provides an initial illustration of the topic of deception. Kyd’s making use of the words "honey speech"(30) shows that Andrea resorts to cunning words to pass the three-headed dog, guardian of the underworld, and resulting in his acceptance in the "Elysian Green", abode of the blessed in the after-life. This first example of deception through words induced since the very first scene implies that the theme of deception is intended to be the underlying theme of The Spanish Tragedy. However, one should note that Andrea only resorts to deception this one time; consequently we cannot say he is representative of deceit.

Balthazar’s words in Act II also deserve attention inasmuch as they define how deception through words is represented in the play:

"Now in his mouth he carries pleasing words,

Which pleasing words do harbour sweet conceits,

Which sweet conceits are limed with sly deceits"(II, i, 124-6)

This quote deals with Balthazar’s speech about Horatio, disclosing that Horatio presents his account of the battle by means of pleasant words in order to gain Bel-imperia’s love. Beyond that, the quote provides a good representation of Kyd’s world in which words are manipulated for deception. Indeed, the lines could easily apply to other characters making use of "pleasing" and deceitful words to carry their ambition through, namely Balthazar himself, Bel-imperia, Hieronimo and Lorenzo.

Then, the first scene of Act III provides a good explanation of the feature of deception through language. This passage deals with the Viceroy’s speech about the "Infortunate condition of kings"(1) "subject to the wheel of chance"(5), commenting that kings rise to "extremest heights"(3) to be stricken by defeat and death, i.e. the defeat of Portugal and the death of the young prince. The fact that the audience knows that Balthazar is still alive makes the passage quite ironical, all the more since the Viceroy will witness his son’s death in the final playlet. The coming onto stage of three noblemen brings noteworthy information, one of them stating that what a man says does not always reflect what he means:

"But now I see that words have several works

And there’s no credit in the countenance"(III, i. 17-8)

The nobleman’s remark is fundamental in the sense that he is not implicated in the plot and, accordingly, his assessments are neither interested nor corrupted. Therefore we can say that the latter quote characterizes well what is at stake in The Spanish Tragedy: words cannot be trusted as they often translate dishonest purposes. All in all, we can define The Spanish Tragedy as a play marked with deception through words.

2. The reports of Andrea’s battle

This idea is reinforced by reference to certain significant passages in the play, notably the different versions of Andrea’s battle. Those who recount the battle alter the facts for personal gain; their deception is intended to convince the onstage audience.

It is only the first account, delivered by Andrea, which does not reveal declared ambitious and deceitful projects, since his description "neither names his slayer nor contains any hint of rancor"8. Next, the General’s report to the King points out the use of language for corruption. Once the Spanish victory has been announced, the triumphant King mentions he will reward his General for giving good news:

"Will deeper wage and greater dignity

We may reward thy blissful chivalry"(I, ii, 20-1).

Clearly the General expects a reward, so we may presume that his account will be affected in order to please the King and thereby get greater reward. Besides, the General puts forward that the two strong armies fought very hard, thus implying that the victory was especially commendable. In that sense, the account only means to impress the King all the more since it presents courageous and heroic soldiers struggling for Spain in contrast with the rude and cowardly Portuguese. As a result, the General successfully gets the King’s greetings for "these good news"(85) and therefore the promise of more reward. Here, Kyd highlights the power of words through the King’s line "These words, these deeds, become thy person well"(95), indicating that the General’s recompense is both due to his qualities to lead an army and to deliver the war report.

The next account is given by Villuppo, a Portuguese nobleman in the service of the Viceroy. Villuppo assumes that his enemy Alexandro murdered Balthazar, having "discharged his pistol at the prince’s back". However, we are aware that this is "ill news"(I, iii, 53) since we know that Balthazar has been made a prisoner within the Spanish court. So, there is no doubt that Villuppo’s version directed against Alexandro cannot be trusted, all the more so Villuppo unscrupulously admits afterwards that he has invented "an envious, forged tale"(93) to gain the esteem of the King. The Viceroy actually trusts Villuppo’s assumptions, given that he arrests Alexandro with no judgement. Still, in Act III scene i, Villuppo is finally punished for his false information and Alexandro is released:

"Let him unbind thee that is bound to death,

To make a quital for thy discontent"(III, i, 78-9).

We should gather from Villuppo’s study that he is with Lorenzo the most vicious character of the play, the embodiment of villainy and cynicism.

Let us now consider Horatio’s account in Act I scene iv, which aims at winning Bel-imperia’s love. Horatio first centres the story on Andrea’s death, praising his courage and bravery before showing how much he cared for the body of his friend. Trying to focus the attention on himself, Horatio deviously shows Bel-imperia "This scarf I plucked from off his lifeless arm, And wear it in remembrance of my friend"(42-3). The critic Mulryne points out that by wearing the scarf, a gift formerly offered by Bel-imperia to Andrea, Horatio "becomes visually Andrea’s representative"9. In that sense, by praising Andrea, Horatio intentionally praises himself, directing his speech not to Andrea but to himself. Carol Kay notes the evidence for this idea, how the repetition of "I", "mine", "my" at the end of Horatio’s speech (32-43) is a mark of narcissism. Thus, whilst the general was rewarded for giving good news, Horatio is rewarded for "pleasing words, for a similar manipulation of language and trust"10.

All in all, we should say that through the different accounts of the battle, Kyd creates a world in which language is used for depicting corruption and deceit.

3. Hieronimo also plays his game of deception

This study of deception would be incomplete without considering Lorenzo and Hieronimo. It is noticeable that Lorenzo’s relationship with Hieronimo is peculiar in the sense that the two enemies do not communicate. In fact, Lorenzo is aware that the truth has been revealed to Hieronimo about his son’s death, and thus represents a threat to him. This explains well why, in the presence of Hieronimo, Lorenzo resorts to brief sentences, afraid of betraying himself. As for Hieronimo, whose claim is justified, he is eager to unveil the truth about Lorenzo and Balthazar’s guilt but is always thwarted by Lorenzo. Here are two examples showing Lorenzo trying to reject any dialogue with Hieronimo: Act III scene xii, in which the Knight Marshal appeals for "Justice, O, justice, gentle king!" (63), while Lorenzo tries hard to make diversion by resorting to the King: "Back, see’st thou not the king is busy?"(28). Act III scene xiv provides another illustration of the lack of communication between the two characters. Here, Castile wants to make sure that Lorenzo is not Horatio’s murderer as a consequence of Hieronimo’s revelation (III, xii), thus soliciting Hieronimo to clarify his doubts. More precisely, we should call attention to Lorenzo’s intervention: "Hieronimo, my father craves a word with you"(III, xiv, 159-60). Through this quote, Kyd underlines Lorenzo’s relief not to have this "word" with Hieronimo and also suggests that, Lorenzo once again manages to escape Hieronimo by resorting to royal authority. However, this time Hieronimo will play his game of deception by pretending that he is reconciled with Lorenzo "For divers causes it is fit for us That we be friends"(159-60). This scene marks a change in the play, in the sense that Lorenzo’s evil plots are now overcome by Hieronimo’s stratagems, reflecting his craving for revenge. In that sense, Hieronimo’s feinted reconciliation can be regarded as a form of hatred.

This interpretation may be linked with Carol Kay’s comment on the scene, maintaining that "each character has his own secret and his own purpose, so that each person speaks only to and for himself"11: the Duke of Castile asks for Hieronimo just because he wants to preserve the reputation of his family; Lorenzo and Balthazar try hard to keep their crime secret; as for Hieronimo, he shrewdly hides his plans of revenge.

4. Lorenzo as the villain of the play

Before we conclude, we should focus on Lorenzo’s cunning devices in relation to Bel-imperia and Pedringano by remarking that Lorenzo does not succeed in deceiving his sister insofar as Bel-imperia is aware of the use that can be made of language. When she retorts to Balthazar "Alas, my lord, these are but words of course, And but device to drive me from this place"(I, iv, 98-9), she is fully aware that Lorenzo and Balthazar are trying to mislead her. Ironically, she will fruitfully use deceit against the two accomplices further on in the play, by pretending that she will accept Balthazar’s love:

My looks, my lord, are fitting for my love,

Which new begun, can show no brighter yet"(III, xiv, 101-2).

These lines reveal Bel-imperia’s determination to avenge Andrea and Horatio and, to some extent, we may assume that deception through gentle words is the way she wants to take revenge.

As far as Pedringano is concerned, he will succumb to Lorenzo’s mischievous device to kill Serberine, suspected of revealing Horatio’s death. Urged by a vicious corruption "for thy further satisfaction, take thou this"(III, ii, 80), Pedringano is persuaded to perform the murder, resulting in his imprisonment. Following that, Lorenzo sends him a box supposed to contain his pardon, but which is in fact "nothing but the bare empty box"(III, v, 6), thus explicitly announcing his trial and execution. Carol Kay maintains that this "empty box" exemplifies the complete emptiness, not only of Lorenzo’s words but also of language in general throughout the play. Beyond that, one can interpret this last example by stating that Lorenzo stands for the mastermind of perfidy, making of Pedringano both his accomplice and his victim. Nevertheless, one should not forget that it is also self-interest that urges Pedringano to betray Bel-imperia and murder Serberine. Likewise, Edwards defines Lorenzo:

"a master of deception and cunning, of winning confidence

of those he proposes to use or to betray, he continues his plots

for two reasons, the delight of it, and self-preservation.12

5. Conclusion: the failure of words in The Spanish Tragedy

To conclude, Hieronimo’s playlet constitutes the culmination of the theme of deception through words. As we have seen previously, the play-within-the-play is the most significant passage since it shows all the themes at a culminate point. Considering the play as a caricature of Catholicism during the sixteenth century, the final playlet represents the fall of Babylon. In terms of revenge, it is the final stage of the tragedy, translated into the fulfilment of revenge. As for the theme of deception through words, we should say that "Soliman and Perseda" epitomizes the failure of words in The Spanish Tragedy.

According to Carol Kay, the playlet is a mirror of what people have been doing with language throughout the play. In other words, Kyd reveals to the audience that the deception through words has reached its climax. In this regard, Hieronimo assigns "unknown languages"(IV, i, 173) for each character, thus creating a playlet of "mere confusion"(180) where people cannot understand each other.

Hereupon, we should establish an analogy with the biblical episode of the Tower of Babel whilst noting that the Geneva version of the Bible13 used the name Babel both for the site of the tower and the city of Babylon. This episode presents the confusion of tongues brought by God as a punishment for ambitious men who seek to be like gods:

"Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that

they may not understand one another’s speech."(Genesis. 11: 7).

Regarding this, Johnson emphasizes that Hieronimo’s declaration that "Now shall I see the fall of Babylon, Wrought by the heavens in this confusion" is redolent of the confusion of tongues applied by the Lord at Babel. To some extent, we can say that the play-within-the-play shows what happens to men when they try to change God’s justice. The playlet also symbolizes the isolation of the characters confined within a language that they do not understand except Hieronimo. The playlet reminds us of Lorenzo’s words concerning the empty box in Act III scene iv, uttering that "E quel che voglio io, nessun lo sa; Intendo io: quel mi basterà"(87-8)14. In this scene, Lorenzo had let the audience know about his mischievous design of sending the empty box to Pedringano. So, whilst Lorenzo is the only one that understands the action in Act III scene iv, Hieronimo establishes himself as the mastermind of "Soliman and Perseda". Furthermore, the performance of revenge in the present scene is in fact the re-enactment of all the deceitful stratagems realized during the play: Lorenzo’s designs, Horatio’s pleasing words or Bel-imperia’s reconciliation with her brother. Following the play-within-the-play, Hieronimo’s explanation reveals that words are no longer useful as he has given as much information as possible:

"And gentles, thus I end my play:

Urge no more words: I have no more to say"(IV, iv, 151-2).

However, it seems that Cyprian and the King are not inclined to listen to Hieronimo’s speech, blocking his words with their constant questioning. As for Hieronimo, he cannot give them more information, given that everything has already been revealed. Accordingly, Hieronimo is driven to bite his tongue out, providing the audience with a visual proof of the lack of communication in the play.

C) Love and Hatred or the Strife in The Spanish Tragedy

The foregoing analysis presented the theme of deception through language as crucial to understand the play. We have reviewed the different plots and characters and noticed that words were often used as a means of deception. We should remember for instance the general’s account, prepared to impress the King or Balthazar’s device against Horatio in order to gain Bel-imperia’s love.

This raises a further question about how love and hatred are represented in The Spanish Tragedy. To carry through the study of love and hatred in the play, we should think about Empedocles (c.493-c.433 BC), putting forwards the theory of the four elements, air, water, fire and earth which compose the universe. According to him, they would mingle under the influence of Love15 and would separate when subjected to Hatred. This theory which was frequently applied in English Renaissance literature, is a significant topic of The Spanish Tragedy. Moreover, let us note in passing that the educated audience of the time was familiar with the Greek philosopher’s principles of Love and Strife.

The present study will be based upon Sacvan Bercovitch’s article, putting forwards the importance of the dialectics of Love and Strife in The Spanish Tragedy:

"The opposition, alternation, and interaction between the two forces in

their various forms - friendship and revenge, peace and war, desire and

hate, - serves as the framework of the action and as the internal dynamic

of character conception and motvation."16

To analyse Kyd’s representation of the Empedoclean theory, we will successively focus on the chorus, the structure of the play and the characterization.

1. The Chorus

As a starting point, let us say that the Chorus provides a good illustration of the topic of Love and Strife. Controlling the onstage characters, the Chorus constitutes the framework of the play since it "keeps before us the full meaning of the play’s action"17. Since the first lines of the text, Andrea has made the audience aware of the clash between Love and Strife, underlining that his "duteous service and deserving love"(I, i, 9) has led to "divorce betwixt my love and me"(I, i, 14). Put differently, we learn that Andrea’s love has been broken by death, without knowing if he was killed because he loved Bel-imperia. What is to be retained about this example is that Strife has followed Love.

The Love and Strife alternation is given further understanding in Act I scene v, when Andrea laments that his death at war has resulted in a banquet celebrating "league, and love"(I, v, 4), regardless of his "death’s wound"(2). This quote is an echo of Andrea’s initial account insofar as it explains to what extent "my rites of burial not performed"(I, i, 21). As for Revenge, he emerges as the agent of God18, put in charge of turning "their friendship into fell despite…

Their love to mortal hate, their day to night,

Their love into despair, their peace to war,

Their joys to pain, their bliss to misery"(I, v, 6-9).

Through these lines, Revenge highlights the opposition between the contrary forces of Love and Strife to suggest the injustice done to Andrea. Beyond that, Revenge makes it clear that the revenge will be performed. This passage from love to hatred foreseen by Revenge actually designates the main strategy of revenge embodied by Hieronimo. In this regard, the Divine justice and Destiny, associated to Hieronimo’s struggle, are the main constituents of the revenge. Beyond that, Sacvan Bercovitch presents the Empedoclean system as a further element contributing to the process of revenge insofar as "love must take possession in order for its opposite to ‘bring its revenges’ "19. This signifies that Love grows out of Hatred and therefore Hatred grows out of Love. Accordingly, Love and Hatred are in continual confrontation and both triumph alternately.

To conclude with the Chorus, it is worth referring to the last scene of Act IV, disclosing the "mystery" of the play: Andrea’s fulfilment in scene v (belonging to the sphere of Love) is in fact the result of the Strife of the play-within-the play, whereby the friendship between Spain and Portugal turns into "blood and sorrow"(IV, v, 2).

2. The four-act-structure

Through the study of the Chorus, we have brought out the dialectics of Love and Strife, creating the general structure of the tragedy. Bercovitch’s analysis demonstrates that the Love-Strife clash also applies within the four-act-structure. Put differently, Kyd accents the ambivalence of the two dual forces within each one of the four acts.

In the first Act, the strife created by Andrea’s death and by war originates the love between Horatio and Bel-imperia and leads to the peace between Spain and Portugal. The consolation that Bel-imperia finds with Horatio in scene iv exemplifies the triumph of Love over Strife:

"But, for thy kindness in his life and death,

Be sure while Bel-imperia’s life endures,

She will be Don Horatio’s thankful friend"(I, iv, 50-52).

As for the declaration of peace, the King’s comment that "we pleasure more in kindness than in wars"(I, iv, 118) emphasizes the triumph of peace over war. In Act II, the process is reversed. Starting with Bel-imperia and Horatio’s love "turned to open flame"(II, ii, 2), the act ends with the murder of Horatio, victim of the "fruits of love"(II, v, 55). Hence, Act II is marked by the domination of Strife over Love. The same dialectics operates in Act III. Here, Kyd first informs the audience about the relief of the Viceroy who learns that:

" ‘Thy son doth live, your tribute is received,

Thy peace is made, and we are satisfied"(III, i, 70-1).

Subsequently, the end of the act expectedly gives way to the force of Strife characterized by betrayal, madness and murder.

The concluding act gives us the best representation of the Empedoclean system in the play. We should first examine the suicides of Isabella and Bel-imperia for the love of "thy noble son"(IV, ii, 33). In this task, let us refer to Bercovitch discussing that the two women are led to suicide "for love of him that they did hate too much"(IV, iv, 144). This assumption is closely akin to Edwards’s analysis of the human spirit of revenge arguing that "Men and women are subject to a destiny created by their own unforgiving wrath. In a world of relationships too involved for the to understand or control, their fates are hidden from them"20. Thus, the worship engendered by Horatio’s death becomes so consuming that it fatally changes into a destructive hatred.

One the whole, one should retain about Act IV that all the characters initially pretend a friendship before the performance of "Soliman and Persida", being the culmination of Strife in The Spanish tragedy. Ultimately, Hieronimo recapitulates the Love-Strife alternation in his last soliloquy, declaring that "The cause was love, whence grew this mortal hate"(IV, iv, 98).

3. Plot and subplot

To conclude the study of the structure, we should mention that the Empedoclean theory also constitutes a bond between the plot and the subplot. In the main plot, there is a move from Love to Strife: the satisfaction of the victory over Portugal results in a "loose chain of events which lead by an inner dynamic to murder, executions and plans of revenge"21. As for the subplot the dialectics is reversed: the defeat of Portugal first brings pain and "helpless doubts"(III, i, 2), and finishes with the blissful prospect of Balthazar’s marriage.

Then, the plot and subplot are brought together at the end of the play, when the two courts meet for the marriage ceremony. Here, Kyd means to show that this last encounter carries unity in Strife since both Kingdoms are gathered in complete disarray, mourning for "such monstrous deeds"(IV, iv, 202). This makes the originality of The Spanish Tragedy, which associates contrary forces all through the play, finally resulting in a general "dead march".

4. The characterization

After studying the chorus and structure of the play, it is worth now considering the characters. The analysis will focus on the bower scene (II, iv), which shows Horatio and Bel-imperia secretly consuming their love. The point, here, is to explain to what extent Strife overcomes the love between Horatio and Bel-imperia. Already, the beginning of scene v is tinged with dramatic irony, if one takes into account that "the night begins with sable wings To overcloud the brightness of the sun"(1-2). As for Horatio, he is unaware of the "pleasures past, and dangers to ensue"(II, ii, 28) whilst Bel-imperia is conscious that their love is doomed to "some mischance"(II, iv, 15) because their secret relationship constitutes a disobedience to the King.

The reference to Flora, goddess of the growing plants, in the same way translates Horatio’s unawareness:

"The more you sit’st within these leafy bowers,

The more will Flora deck it with her flowers."(24-5).

However, by declaring that "Her jealous eye will think I seat too near"(27), Bel-imperia presents their love as illicit and against Nature. Kyd also resorts to mythology to create a dramatic irony establishing a parallel with the myth of Venus and Mars. By assuming that "If I be Venus, then thou must needs be Mars, And where Mars reigneth, there must needs be wars"(34-5), Bel-imperia dramatically foretells Horatio’s murder. Beyond that, the reference to the myth ironically reveals that the two characters have an illicit love affair if one considers Bel-imperia as symbolizing Aphrodite (Venus), the goddess of beauty and love, who was unfaithful to her husband Hephaestus with Ares (Mars), the god of war. For the audience aware of Lorenzo and Balthazar’s design, there is no doubt that the scene of the bower carries Strife, materialized by Horatio’s murder. In this respect, Lorenzo’s conclusion that "these are the fruits of love"(55) reflects Bel-imperia’s declaring to Horatio that secret passion leads to death:

"O let me go, for in my troubled eyes

Now may’st thou read that life in passion dies"(46-47).

Lastly, McAlindon points out the responsibility of Bel-imperia in Horatio’s death, arguing that:

"It is she too who takes the initiative in the love affair; and,

although this is dictated by his social inferiority, it is also indicative

of her masterful nature and of her intent to commit him to a course

where passionate love and passionate hate are one"22.

This quote also applies to Hieronimo in the sense that his love for his son is as passionate as his hatred for Lorenzo and Balthazar; consequently we may argue that passion is, in a way, the bond between love and hatred. On the whole, I would say that Hieronimo’s struggle is neither dominated by Strife nor by Love: both of them characterize his desire for revenge. In fact, there is a clash between his legitimate desire for revenge and the way the revenge is actually performed. Lord Marshal thus appears as a double-sided character, torn by Love and Strife. As Bercovitch states, as a result of this clash, Hieronimo will finally "turns his will into a criminal villain"23.

We must conclude by saying that the Empedoclean dialectics applies throughout the play: in the representation of the Chorus, within the four-act-structure and through the different characters. According to McAlindon, This alternation and dualism in Kyd’s universe is a good representation of his time, insofar as it illustrates the fact that "A society publicly committed to love, peace and celebration is secretly at war with itself, racked with private griefs and hatred"24.

















When all is said and done, The Spanish Tragedy symbolizes the beginning of a new era. As far as drama is concerned, the play reflects the flowering of a commercial stage in England. Politically, Kyd celebrates the defeat of the Spanish Armada and figuratively shows that England has succeeded in acquiring a national identity.

First, by depicting the fall of Spain as Babylon, the play is meant to be the expression of an established Protestant faith distinguishing itself from the Roman Catholic Church.

Second, as far as revenge is concerned, I would argue that Hieronimo’s tragedy is a consequence of the corruption and mischief reigning at the Spanish court, making of him both a victim and a national hero: on one side, Hieronimo is a victim of the Spanish court, which lets him no other choice but perform his own revenge; on the other side, performing revenge enables Hieronimo to bring about the destruction of the Spanish succession, thus echoing the English gratification after the destruction of the Spanish Armada.

We should finally gather that the English victory was not a mere naval victory over a strong fleet; it challenged the myth of the "Invincible Armada" and therefore announced the decline of the Spanish Empire. It was the outset of the maritime expansion of England.











Biography of Thomas Kyd (1558-1594)

Thomas Kyd was baptized on 6 November 1558 at the Church of St Mary Woolnoth, in London, eleven days before Elizabeth’s accession to the throne and six years before Shakespeare’s birth and Marlowe’s in 1564.

He was the son of a rich middle-class family living in the commercial district of Lombard Street, located near their parish Church. His father, Francis Kyd, was a scrivener or more formally "a Writer of the Court Letter", serving the Company of Scriveners, and appointed Warden of the Company in 1580.

In 1565, Kyd’s father decided to provide him with schooling at Merchant Taylors’ School, where he learnt Latin, Italian, French, and was introduced to drama. Merchant Taylors’s School was considered as the largest and the most celebrated school in London and we should note that Edmund Spencer and Thomas Lodge were Kyd’s schoolfellows.

We do not have specific data about Kyd’s life between Merchant Taylors’ School and 1583. One may presume that he started to work as a scrivener considering his neat and formal handwriting. There is no evidence that Kyd attended university.

Kyd started his career as a play-writer for the "Queen’s Company" formed in 1583. However, there is no trace or testimony of Kyd’s first works.

By 1587-8, Kyd worked in the service of a Lord, possibly the Earl of Sussex whom he may have served as secretary or tutor.

Reports on Kyd’s later life lead us to the time of his arrest by the Privy Council on 12 May 1593. He was imprisoned suspected of having written heretic manuscripts directed against foreigners living in London. These manuscripts were found among Kyd’s papers in the room that he shared with Christopher Marlowe, working for the same patron.

Kyd denied the charge made against him maintaining that the writings were in fact Marlowe’s. According to Kyd, the papers would have been muddled up together.

After Marlowe’s death on 30 May 1593, Kyd sent a couple of letters to Sir John Puckering1, in which he assumed that the papers were Marlowe’s and asked for release. Whether Kyd’s claim was true or false, what we do not know, it followed that Marlowe was posthumously accused and Kyd finally released. Not for long however since Kyd, exhausted and in great poverty, died less than one year later. He was buried on 15 August 1594 at St Mary Colchurch in London.

The records we have about Kyd’s works are quite limited and we can safely attribute four works to Thomas Kyd2: The Householder’s Philosophy (a translation from Italian Tasso’s Il Padre di Famiglia) 1588, Cornelia (a translation from French Robert Garnier’s Cornélie) 1593, Soliman and Perseda 1592, and The Spanish Tragedy3 1592.


Primary Sources:

Kyd, Thomas. Works of Thomas Kyd. Edited from the originals texts, notes, and facsimiles by F.S. Boas. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1901. 470pp.

Kyd, Thomas. The Spanish Tragedy. Edited by J.R. Mulryne. London: A&C Black, 1995. xxxviii, 137pp.

Four Revenge Tragedies. Edited by Katharine Eisman Maus. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995. xxxvii, 426pp.

The Holy Bible. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. 1152pp.

Secondary Sources:

Ardolino, Frank. Apocalypse & Armada in Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy. Kirksville: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1995. xvi, 187pp.

Ardolino, Frank. "The Influence of Spenser's Faerie Queene on Kyd's Spanish Tragedy" in Early Modern Literary Studies 7.3. Edited by Lisa Hopkins. EMLS, 2002. Available from internet: < http://www.shu.ac.uk/emls/07-3/abstracts.htm>

Bercovitch, Sacvan. "Love and Strife in Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy" in Studies in English Literature (1500-1900) 9. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1969. 215-229.

Black, John Bennett. The Reign of Elizabeth, 1558-1603. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1959. 539pp.

Broude, Ronald. "Time, Truth, and Right in The Spanish Tragedy" in Studies in Philology 68. Chapel Hill: the U of North Carolina P, 1971. 130-145.

Clemen, Wolfgang. English Tragedy Before Shakespeare: The Development of Dramatic Speech, translated by T.S Dorsch. London: Methuen, 1967. 301pp. (Kyd p100-112)

Coursen, Herbert R. "The Unity of The Spanish Tragedy" in Studies in Philology 65. Chapel Hill: the U of North Carolina P, 1968. 768-782.

Edwards, Philip. Thomas Kyd and Early Elizabethan Tragedy. Published for the British Council. London: Longmans Green & Co, 1966. 48pp.

Eliade, Mircea. The Encyclopedia of Religion, Volume 4. New York: MacMillan, 1987. 237-238.

Elliot, John Huxtable. Europe Divided, 1559-1598. London: Fontana P, 1968. 432pp.

Empson, William. "The Spanish Tragedy" in Elizabethan Drama: Modern Essays in Criticism. Edited by J. Kaufmann. New York: OUP, 1961. 60-80.

Fenlon, Iain. The Renaissance: from the 1470’s to the end of the 16th century. Basingstoke: MacMillan, 1989. 418pp.

Freeman, Arhtur. Thomas Kyd: Facts and Problems. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1967. 200pp.

Halliday, F.E. A Shakespeare Companion 1550-1950. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co, 1952. 311-312.

Hurstfield, Joel. Elizabeth and the Unity of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1971. 169pp.

Ibañez, Ricardo Martin. "Juan Luis Vives" in Prospects: the Quarterly Review of comparative Education xxiv, no. 3/4. Paris: UNESCO, 1994. 743-759. Also available from Internet: <http://www.ibe.unesco.org/International/Publications/Thinkers/ThinkersPdf/vivese.pdf>.

Jensen, Ejner J. "Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy: the play explains itself" in Journal of English and Germanic Philology 64. Urbana: University of Illinois P. 7-16.

Johnson, S.F. "The Spanish Tragedy or Babylon revisited" in Essays on Shakespeare and Elizabethan Drama in Honor of Hardin Craig. Edited by Richard Hosley. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1962. 23-36.

Justice, Steven. "Spain, Tragedy, and The Spanish Tragedy" in Studies in English Literature (1500-1900) 25. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1985. 271-288.

Kay, Carol McGinnis. "Deception Through Words: "A reading of The Spanish Tragedy" in Studies in Philology 74. Chapel Hill: the U of North Carolina P, 1977. 20-38.

Kunitz, Stanley J. and Howard Haycraft. British Authors Before 1800. New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1952. 308-309.

Lewis, Michael. The Spanish Armada. London: Batsford, 1960. 216pp.

Maltby, William S. The Black Legend in England: The development of anti-Spanish sentiment, 1558-1660. Durham: Duke UP, 1971. 180pp.

McAlindon, T. English Renaissance Tragedy. Basingstoke: MacMillan, 1986. 55-81.

McMillin, Scott. "The Book of Seneca in The Spanish Tragedy" in Studies in English Literature (1500-1900) 14. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1974. 201-208.

Metford, J.C.J. British Contributions to and Spanish-American Studies. Published for the British Council. London: The Longmans Green & Co, 1950. 86pp.

Palliser, D.M. The Age of Elizabeth: England under the later Tudors 1547-1603.

Plant, Marjorie. The English Book Trade: an economic history of the making and sale of books. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1939. 500pp.

Rosman, Doreen. From Catholic to Protestant: Religion and the people in Tudor England. London: University College London (UCL), 1996. 104pp.

Rowan, D.F. "The Staging of The Spanish Tragedy" in The Elizabethan Theatre V. Edited by George R. Hibbard. London: MacMillan, 1975. 112-123.

Rowse, A.L. The England of Elizabeth. London: MacMillan, 1961. xvi, 547pp.

Stevens, William Oliver, and Allan Westcott. "L’Invincible Armada" in Sea Power: histoire de la puissance maritime de l’antiquité à nos jours. Translated by Commandant André Cognet. Paris: Payot, 1937. 161-174.

White, Paul Whitfield. Theatre and Reformation: Protestantism, Patronage, and playing in Tudor England. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993. xiii, 268pp.


Cover illustration:

Martin, Colin, and Geoffrey Parker. The Spanish Armada. London: Hamilton, 1988. 189.