The Spanish Tragedy

"Just and Sharp Revenge": The Question of Underworld Justice in "The Spanish Tragedy"

"'Send him,' quoth [Minos], 'to our infernal king, / To doom him as best seems his majesty" (1.1.52-3). Nestled in the lengthy opening monologue by Don Andrea, these lines introduce the overarching question that Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy seeks to answer - the question of Don Andrea's "doom." In the underworld, Aeacus and Rhadamanth argue about Don Andrea's fate, about whether he should spend his eternity "walk[ing] with lovers in our fields of love," or if he "must to martial fields" (1.1.42, 47). While Don Andrea's role in the play can easily be overlooked for the revenge plots taking place among the living characters, his importance should not be minimized. Don Andrea serves as the instigator and the Chorus for the revenge plots, which are all under the heading of his own revenge. Yet, if he is so important, why can't the underworld decide where he should spend eternity? Many episodes in the play suggest that the underworld operates as an inefficient system. The question is thus one of Kyd's intentions: The Spanish Tragedy is either a well-intentioned but unflattering portrayal of the underworld, or a deliberate statement of its inefficiency....

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