The Spanish Tragedy

Hieronimo's Transformation in The Spanish Tragedy

By the thirteenth scene of Act III in Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, the character Hieronimo has finally emerged as a major character and transformed significantly. He has gone from a commendable subordinate of the King, to a grieving father, to a man on the verge of losing his wits. Yet it isn’t till Act III, scene XIII that his ultimate, determined character emerges. Until this soliloquy, it is unclear who will be doing the avenging in a play that was framed from the opening scene as being about revenge for the unsettled ghost of Don Andrea. But by the end of the speech, and despite the ensuing delays that occur before the conclusion of the play, it is certain that Hieronimo will become the agent of revenge. This scene can be variously seen as Hieronimo’s transformation from by-standing victim to protagonist, from Knight Marshall of the King to incarnate scythe of God’s judgment, or even from hero to villain. What is unambiguous is that from Act III, scene XIII forward Hieronimo’s mind is determined, his role is active, and revenge is inevitable.

Hieronimo begins his soliloquy with the Vulgate phrase, “Vindicta mihi!” (3.13.1), meaning, “Vengeance is mine,” quoting the passage from the book of Romans that continues: “‘I...

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