The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd was considered the first major revenge play in English. The genre is derived from Roman tragedy, especially the works of Seneca. The major characteristic of the genre is a plot revolving around a protagonist getting revenge for an injustice committed before the beginning of the play. Typically, the protagonist is a member of the nobility, as are the villains. The villains are distinctly evil, and usually powerful. The settings of English revenge tragedies are normally exotic and European, rather than England itself. Stylistically, revenge tragedies are melodramatic with major plot twists, vehement emotions, and substantial amounts of violence (dead bodies often litter the stage at the end).
Kyd's Spanish Tragedy is set in Spain, and begins with Don Andrea’s ghost seeking revenge for his own murder. The main characters are members of the Spanish nobility, and the plot convoluted. Eight people die over the course of the play. Perhaps the most dramatic scene is a play within a play in which Hieronimo having gone insane, brings his dead son's body onto stage, bites out his own tongue, and then stabs himself.