Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Although Thomas Kyd was cited by Francis Meres for commendation not only for tragedy but also for poetry, no verse remains that can with certainty be ascribed to him. The translation of Torquato Tasso’s Il padre di famiglia (pr. 1583), published in English in 1588 as The Householder’s Philosophy, is the only nondramatic work now generally attributed to Kyd.

Thomas Kyd (1558-1594) Achievements

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Probably no one questions Thomas Kyd’s historical importance in the development of Elizabethan English drama, and few who read The Spanish Tragedy doubt his power to move audiences even today. Though he has, inevitably, been damned for his failure to be William Shakespeare, modern critics and historians have generally regarded Kyd, along with Christopher Marlowe, as one of Shakespeare’s most important forerunners. Kyd entered the theatrical world of Elizabethan London at a time when medieval popular drama had run its course and classical drama, though influencing such plays as Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville’s Gorboduc (pr. 1562), had not effected a reshaping of contemporary English drama. Kyd brought the traditions together in The Spanish Tragedy, probably the most famous play of the sixteenth century. He combined an intrigue plot worthy of the comic machinations of Plautus or Terence with the revenge motif and violence suggested by Seneca’s closet dramas and presented it all with spectacular theatricality. He rescued blank verse from the boredom of discourse and used it to create the excitement of psychological realism. He exploited the possibilities of the theater by employing imaginative staging techniques. Although his reputation rests safely on The Spanish Tragedy alone, the fact that scholars have so easily believed through the years that Kyd may be responsible for a pre-Shakespearean version of Hamlet suggests the imaginative power most readers attribute to him.

Thomas Kyd (1558-1594) Bibliography

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Ardolino, Frank R. Apocalypse and Armada in Kyd’s “Spanish Tragedy.” Kirksville, Mo.: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1995. Ardolino looks at Kyd’s major work, finding it to be a Reformation play, complete with apocalyptic symbolism. Contains bibliography and index.

Ardolino, Frank R. Thomas Kyd’s Mystery Play: Myth and Ritual in “The Spanish Tragedy.” New York: Peter Lang, 1985. Though somewhat specialized in focusing on a specific aspect of a particular play, this book places Kyd’s best-known tragedy in the context of previous, not subsequent, plays, looking at allegorical and mystery-play elements in The Spanish Tragedy. Includes index.

Barzun, Jacques, and Wendell Hertig Taylor. A Catalogue of Crime. Rev. ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1989. List, with commentary, of the authors’ choices for the best or most influential examples of crime fiction. Kyd’s work is included and evaluated.

Barzun, Jacques, and Wendell Hertig Taylor. “Preface to Blood on the Bosom Devine.” New York: Garland, 1976. Preface by two preeminent scholars of mystery and detective fiction, arguing for the novel’s place in the annals of the genre.

Boas, Frederick S. The Works of Thomas Kyd. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1901. Though the commentary is dated, the general...

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