Discuss The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd as a revenge drama.

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The elements of revenge tragedy in Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy are significant both in terms of the performance of this play in its own right and in terms of the fact that Kyd's play was a major source for Shakespeare when he wrote The Tragedy of Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark. Though The Spanish Tragedy does not have the reputation and fame of Hamlet, without the unique violence and the abject goriness of the plot and stage direction of Kyd's play, Hamlet may not exist.

The basics of revenge tragedy require a crime with a victim (in the case of Kyd's play, Andrea), and an avenging interested party who wreaks havoc on the criminals (Andrea's father). Kyd also employs the supernatural, the ghost of Andrea, at the very start of the play, disorienting the audience from the beginning. Shakespeare pays homage to Kyd when he writes in a part for King Hamlet's ghost, who also walks the earth having been murdered, and when the prince and son avenges the death of the king, his father.

Some scholars argue that Shakespeare borrowed the best aspects of Kyd's tragedy and improved upon them, like the figure of the ghost and the plot line. Other scholars, however, see The Spanish Tragedy as a stand-alone, an innovative work of literature and drama that changed theatre forever.

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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. 

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