The Influence of Spenser's Faerie Queene on Kyd's Spanish Tragedy
Frank Ardolino
University of Hawaii

Ardolino, Frank. "The Influence of Spenser's Faerie Queene on Kyd's Spanish Tragedy." Early Modern Literary Studies 7.3 (January, 2002): 4.1-70 <URL:

  1. The Spanish Tragedy, one of the most popular plays of the Elizabethan theatre, was the first important revenge tragedy which initiated and influenced the genre of revenge tragedies in the next two decades, including Hamlet (Smith 129). As such, "It . . . exert[ed] a compulsive force--which ran to at least nine separate editions and innumerable partial imitations--while simultaneously inspiring scorn and parody" (Knapp 147). Its highly rhetorical language was parodied by Jonson, Dekker, and Greene, among others, and Hieronimo became a favourite character whose impassioned speeches and excessive violence were celebrated and ridiculed in dramatic citations (Boas lxxviii-ciii).

  2. The play's bloody qualities prepared the way for the host of grand guignol effects found in Jacobean tragedies. Kyd includes a sensational scene of coitus interruptus in a bower, accompanied by a stabbing, hanging, and kidnapping. Following this mayhem, there is another murder, hanging, and a suicide. In the gory climax, Hieronimo and Bel-imperia kill Balthazar and Lorenzo, Bel-imperia commits suicide, Hieronimo bites out his tongue, stabs the Duke of Castile, and then commits suicide. All of this violence is framed by an underworld justice system which sends the ghost of Andrea back to earth with Revenge to witness the earthly play-within-the-play and finally to pass judgment on the characters in Hades. This bloody Senecanism hardly appears to be the stuff of Spenserian poetry and vision, but, as I will argue, Spenser is nevertheless the primary influence on Kyd's use of popular theatrical sensationalism to present the mystery of the fall of Babylon/Spain to Protestant England.

  3. Critics have pointed to some similarities between Spenser and Kyd. Sacvan Bercovitch has compared Spenser's use of the Empedoclean opposition between discord and concord in The Faerie Queene with its appearance throughout The Spanish Tragedy. C. L. Barber has noted that "Bel-imperia's strange name [is] like a name in The Faerie Queene [and] suggests ruling power that is beautiful . . .," like the names of Gloriana and Belphoebe. Barber has also pointed out the parallel between Redcrosse's contemplation of suicide with a knife and halter (1.7.51-54) and Hieronimo's suicidal despair represented by the dagger and noose he carries at the outset of 3.3 (139, 150).

  4. Further, in his article "Senecan and Vergilian Perspectives in The Spanish Tragedy," Eugene Hill has compared Kyd's use of the underworld descent to the sixth book of the Aeneid. Andrea journeys through the underworld and returns to see England victorious over Spain, a theme which connects the play with Virgil and Spenser's imperial visions for Rome and England, respectively (161). In addition, G. K. Hunter has equated the harsh justice represented by Revenge, Proserpine's infernal emissary, with the merciless execution of justice by Talus in Book 5 (93). Further, in my monograph Apocalypse and Armada in Kyd's Spanish Tragedy, I have linked Kyd's subtext of apocalyptic justice leading inevitably to the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 to Spenser's similar use of apocalyptic motifs to depict this contemporary victory. Finally, Eric Griffin, drawing upon my and Hill's work, has suggested that Kyd and Spenser share a similar perception of Protestant politics versus Spain (221-22). These studies have demonstrated some of the ways in which Kyd was influenced by Spenser, but the extent to which the play's themes, patterned language, and dramatic action are directly indebted to Spenser has not been established.

  5. Spenser probably attended the Merchant Taylors' School from 1561 to 1569, while Kyd was in attendance from 1565 to 1573-75 (Freeman 9). Hence, they were schoolmates for about five years, and this early acquaintance could account in some measure for the subsequent Spenserian influence on Kyd. Although most critics date The Spanish Tragedy before the appearance of The Faerie Queene, it is possible that Kyd saw an early manuscript of The Faerie Queene, which was mentioned in the correspondence between Harvey and Spenser in 1580. Moreover, since Philip Edwards and I argue that the play was written between 1590 and 1592, it is also possible that Kyd was directly influenced by the publication of The Faerie Queene in 1590 (Edwards xxi-xxvii; Ardolino passim).

  6. Whatever the provenance of their relationship, Kyd imbibed Spenser's allegorical vision and themes. I am not going to argue this thesis on the often ambiguous basis of stylistic parallels, but rather on the essential similarity between their conception of their works as mysteries or allegories and their use of three closely related schemes involving concord/discord, justice/revenge, and "Truth, the daughter of time." When seen in this light, The Spanish Tragedy emerges as a play that uses the genre and sensational motifs of the revenge tragedy to present the triumph of Protestant England over Catholic Spain. First performed and published in 1592, two years after the appearance of the first three books of The Faerie Queene, The Spanish Tragedy represents the theatrical translation of the Spenserian world view.


  7. The most basic and important concept the two writers share is the notion of literature as mystery, as multilevelled expression with hidden meanings. For Spenser poetry is an ancient and sacred mystery, to be practiced only by the "Priests and ministers of the holy misteries" (Puttenham 4) and to be understood only by the most adept and truly initiated. By contrast, the vulgar contemporary practitioners pander to the lowest audiences, and, as Polyhmnia laments in The Teares of the Muses, "pollute her hidden mysterie. . ." (568). The vates expresses the highest truths and creates immortal beauty, but the contemporary age does not appreciate or celebrate such poetry, thus creating a decline from a past golden age of sacred, aristocratic, esoteric, and national poetry.

  8. Such exalted and learned poetry requires an elite audience which can understand its most profound meanings. For the profane audience, these meanings remain hidden. The distinction between initiated and profane audiences emanates from the meaning of the word mystery to refer to pagan rituals enacted at Eleusis, which are described in Apuleius' Metamorphoses and in the works of the Renaissance mythographers Gyraldi, Conti, and Contari, among many other sources available to Renaissance writers. As Edgar Wind has explained, Renaissance neoplatonists used the mysteries' distinction between initiated and uninitiated audiences to create mystères littéraires, allegories, which they described with words such as secret, arcana, shadows, veil, darkness, obscurity, and enigma (Wind 1-10).

  9. In this way, mystery and allegory became synonymous in the Renaissance as designations for the hidden meanings in allegorical works and for allegorical literature in general. Thomas Elyot's Dictionary (1538) defines mysteria as "thynges secrete or hid in wordes or ceremonies," while John Rider's Bibliotheca Scholastica (1589) also emphasizes the difference between the literal surface and the hidden meanings beneath that surface by defining misteries as "things plaine in woordes, but hid in sence." And in Queen Anna's New World of Words (1611), John Florio adds the idea that only a select audience can arrive at an understanding of the concealed meanings when he defines the Italian cognate misterio as a "misterie or secret . . ., a thing secretly hid in wordes or ceremonies, whereunto the common sort might not come." All of these related meanings of mystery are similar to Puttenham's definition of allegory as consisting of "a duplicitie of meaning . . . under covert and darke intendments," which appears "when we do speake in sence translative and wrested from the owne signification, neverthelesse applied to another not altogether contrary, but having much conveniencie with it . . ." (128, 155). Puttenham's analysis of the process involved in understanding allegory emphasizes the ability of the knowledgeable reader to find the hidden meanings beneath the literal sense.

  10. Spenser's poetic ethos and practice are informed by the nature and structure of the ancient mystery rites. The myth of Eleusis involved the rape of Proserpine by Pluto, the search for her daughter by Ceres, and the final restoration of Proserpine to her. During the rites, the aspirants experienced an initiation during which they underwent a labyrinthine journey, simulating an underworld descent, were confronted by frightening spectacles, and finally were rewarded with the vision of the resurrected goddess Proserpine, the tutelary deity of the Eleusinian mysteries. As a result of this experience, the initiates were said to have received a special illumination into the secrets of the universe, which they were sworn never to reveal.

  11. Spenser uses descent scenes as entrances into secret worlds and knowledge and as the means of creating interpretative mysteries. Spenser's underworld descents parallel the Eleusinian mystery rituals as initiations for the characters undergoing the journey and for the reader who is introduced to a world which ordinarily only the dead enter and from which nobody returns. Through these scenes, we learn about the infernal topography and the afterworld justice system. The secret underpinnings of the world are revealed as well as the hidden keys to the narrative action.

  12. Brooks-Davies has pointed out that in a number of his descent scenes, Spenser also creates demonic inversions of the Eleusinian rite to depict the evil forces set loose by contact with the underworld, which represents the dark psychological and nightmare elements which influence earthly events (485). When Guyon overcomes these infernal forces in his journey to and return from the cave of Mammon, he achieves an heroic endurance and moral illumination. Guyon pursues Mammon down a wide hole leading to his lair of riches. The description of this descent emphasizes initiation into a demonic world of golden riches which will tempt Guyon to lose his soul (2.7.20). Finally, they reach the "broad highway/ That streight did lead to Plutoes griesly rayne" (21), and on their journey they encounter the panoply of allegorical vices that populate Pluto's realm. It is all an infernal trap to ensnare Guyon, who is being initiated into the heart of the world's materialism. But he does not succumb to the temptations of the golden seat or the enticing apples. The chair, as Kermode has argued, is the punitive seat of forgetfulness which Theseus, who violated the secrecy of the mysteries, was forced to sit on to forget what he should have not known (270-71). By understanding and rejecting Mammon's temptations, "Guyon undergoes, like Aeneas in the allegorized Aeneid, a purgatorial experience, and emerges . . . an exemplar of heroic virtue and direct instrument of providence" (278).

  13. The cumulative effect of these descent scenes is to establish Spenser as the poet of initiations. Repeatedly, his characters--and the reader by analogy--face initiatory, liminal experiences joining the earthly with the visionary and mystical, which, as de Gerenday has pointed out, "are fraught with danger, uncertainty, ambiguity, and mystery--all qualities of the . . . passage from one status to another . . ." (687). Similar liminal experiences also occur in analogous cave and labyrinth scenes where characters must interpret puzzling words or texts, situations, and architecture as in the mysteries when the aspirant is presented with things shown, acted, and related. Britomart undergoes this kind of experience at the house of Busirane where she must learn to interpret the mysterious "Masque of Cupid" to release Amoret. William Blisset has argued that by means of such scenes Spenser introduces his characters and readers to "places of dark enchantment, riddles made architecture, first to be penetrated and then either abolished utterly or enjoyed, without anxiety" (308). Like veil and shield motifs, the descent, cave, and labyrinth scenes serve as parallels to the poem itself which is presented as a mystery text whose hidden meanings are to be understood only by the most discerning readers.

  14. When Kyd begins The Spanish Tragedy with Andrea's description of his infernal descent, he couches the underworld journey, like Spenser's descents, in the context of an initiatory mystery ritual. In this way, Kyd introduces the notion of mystery which pervades the play in many senses. The Spanish Tragedy contains an induction based on the Eleusinian mystery ritual, a literal plot which serves as a prototypical detective mystery story, and, finally, hidden political and relitious meanings or mysteries which concern the Anglo/Spanish conflict in the late sixteenth century. [1]

  15. Essentially, Kyd dramatizes the allegorical concept of mystery that defines Spenser's works. Kyd creates a play with popular and learned levels. The popular elements are graphically depicted in its literal plot, which represents the level that can be grasped by the unlearned audiences. The learned meanings are present in the subtext, which is understood only by the initiated audiences.

  16. Kyd uses this basic distinction between ignorant and learned audiences as an ongoing pattern of dramatic irony by which he demonstrates to the theatre audience that it enjoys a detached perspective which enables it to understand the mystery. As Barry Adams has shown, Kyd presents various onstage audiences which are unaware of the meanings of the playlets they watch, but we in the theatre audience are shown how our awareness goes beyond theirs. For us, attending and interpreting the play is a process of initiation into its hidden meanings (221-24).

  17. Kyd uses the induction scene in The Spanish Tragedy to adumbrate the major themes of the earthly play-within-the-play. It is, appropriately, an "induction" scene because it not only provides the introduction but also serves as the initiation into the mystery rubric, the ongoing tension between secrecy and revelation, which informs the rest of the play (Coursen 772-73). This context begins with Andrea's description of his otherworld journey and Proserpine's secret reason for allowing him to return to earth to see a mystery play. In this way, the induction scene establishes the idea that the theatre audience has a privileged perspective on the stage action because from the outset we know that Andrea and Revenge, emissaries from the otherworld, are present onstage, investing the earthly play with a sub specie aeternitatis quality. Kyd uses the audience's awareness of its superior viewpoint as the means of encouraging us to pursue the answers to the play's many mysteries. As is his practice, he presents scenes of characters attempting both to conceal and uncover secrets and, by analogy, the theatre audience is expected to engage in the interpretative activity of discovering the answers to the thematic and metadramatic mysteries.

  18. Kyd establishes the earthly play as a mystery, that is, a literary work with hidden meanings, by means of three key uses of the word mystery in a dramatic context. The first usage occurs after Andrea completes his underworld narrative, and Revenge announces to him and to us "Here sit we down to see the mystery,/ And serve for Chorus in this tragedy" (1.1.90). The second isntance occurs after Hieronimo presents his historical masque to celebrate the Spanish victory; the king declares that although "this masque contents mine eye,/ . . . I sound not well the mystery" (139-40). Finally, when Andrea grows impatient with the slowness of the process of revenge, Revenge produces the Hymen dumb show as proof of "What 'tis to be subject to destiny" (3.15.28). Andrea asks him to "reveal this mystery" (29), and once he describes the characters and the incident, Andrea understands the hidden meaning.

  19. In each of these instances a dramatic production is identified as a mystery, a work with hidden meanings. The first usage invites us as the audience to view what is to come as an allegory whose meanings are yet to be analyzed. The second instance shows us an onstage audience incorrectly interpreting Hieronimo's masque as displaying Iberian prowess, while its real subject is English power over both countries. The final example has Andrea interpreting the dumb show as the foreshadowing of Bel-imperia's ill-fated marriage with Balthazar, although he never explicitly states his interpretation. With these examples linking drama and mystery, the theater audience is encouraged to undertake its own interpretation of the hidden meanings of The Spanish Tragedy, which emerges as an allegorical or mystery text.

  20. The manner in which Hieronimo introduces his revenge playlet to his intended victims creates different audiences with different levels of awareness of its real nature. There is the initiated audience composed of Hieronimo, author/actor/revenger, and his accomplice Bel-imperia; we in the theatre audience are also initiated in that we know the play deaths will be for "real." The intended victims, Lorenzo and Balthazar, are unaware, despite Hieronimo's pointed hints, that they will be killed during the wedding playlet. Finally, the Iberian royal families constitute the most unsuspecting and confused of the audiences as they watch the playlet unfold before them.

  21. The byplay created by the argument over whether a comedy or a tragedy should be played fits the secrecy/revelation pattern. The villains think that a comedy will be best for the wedding celebration, but Hieronimo insists on a tragedy, which he repeatedly hints will be carried out effectively. The true intent of his text remains concealed from the unaware potential victims, who will die because of their ignorance.


  22. As the means to helping their readers understand the mysteries of their texts, Spenser and Kyd organize and structure them by means of three closely related schemes of Empedoclean discord/concord, revenge/justice, and "Truth, the daughter of Time." The discord/concord dichotomy is the essential dynamic of an overall Empedoclean context with which Spenser and Kyd infuse their themes, characters, language, and structure. These elements seesaw from concord to discord, from love to war, until the accomplishment of the destined act of justice/revenge. The third related scheme involves the topos of "Truth, the daughter of Time." Despite the discord, destructive revenge plots, and the seemingly unending confusion, there is a process leading to the assertion of Truth. Once we see that apparent randomness is not the rule but that divine justice will be enacted, we can discern the pattern of destiny working itself out in time. In effect, the three schemes present variations of the same process: the onset of Truth, Justice, and English ascendancy in the course of Time.

  23. As Sacvan Bercovitch has demonstrated, The Faerie Queene is permeated by the Empedoclean dichotomy of discord and concord, love and war ("Empedocles and Kyd's Spanish Tragedy" 48-64). [2] In his typical fashion, Spenser creates a series of paradoxes concerning the nature of his epic poem. At the outset, he declares that "[f]ierce warres and faithful loves shall moralize my song" ("proem 1"). But then he petitions Cupid and Venus to lead Mars in a gentle fashion with "his murdrous spoyles and bloudie rage allayd" ("proem 3"). Nevertheless, the ensuing poem consists of constant discord and war as the knights engage in continual battles with their evil antagonists. Throughout Book 1, the Redcrosse Knight keeps encountering and losing Una; he is deceived, attacked, imprisoned, and, finally, resurrected to battle and defeat the apocalyptic dragon. Error, faulty visions, and wandering characterize this book as false tales and delusions lead the good people astray until the revelations of truth and the unfrocking of evil.

  24. Book 4, The Legend of Friendship, represents Spenser's most complete delineation of Empedocles' philosophy through the continued opposition between Mars/discord and Venus/concord. Scudamour's troubled relationship with Amoret provides an epitome of this pattern. Scudamour released her from the Temple of Venus after a struggle in which he wielded the Shield of Love. But he never enjoyed a peaceful love because Busirane kidnapped her from their wedding ceremony and imprisoned her. She finally is rescued by Britomart and sets off with her until they are accosted by a young knight who wants Amoret to accompany him into the castle where it is a requirement for entrance to have a partner. After he loses the ensuing battle with Britomart, it appears that he will be locked out, but Britomart produces harmony by revealing her identity: "So did they all their former strife accord" (4.1.15).

  25. But then two knights ride toward them accompanied by two ladies, who turn out to be Duessa and Ate, the mother of conflict. Spenser describes the discord Ate represents in physical terms, using verbs which signify being divided and quick, disjointed sentences:

    And all within, the riven walls were hung
    With ragged monuments of times forepast,
    All which the sad effects of discord sung:
    There were rent robes and broken scepters plast,
    Altars defyl'd and holy things defast,
    Disshivered speares, and shields ytorne in twaine,
    Great cities ransackt, and strong castles rast,
    Nations captived and huge armies slaine: (4.1.21)

    As befitting her discordant role, Ate's heart and tongue are split, and all she thought about was "[h]ow she might overthrow the things that Concord wrought" (29).

  26. The discord increases as Paridell and Blandamour challenge and are defeated by Britomart. They, in turn, attack Scudamour, who is also verbally assaulted by Ate about Amoret's relationship with the "warrior" Britomart. Scudamour is so incensed that he berates Glauce, Britomart's aged nurse, who tries to mollify his jealousy, but enrages him even more. Spenser translates Scudamour's inner discord into physical movement as he vainly tries to go to sleep in the House of Care:

    And oft in wrath he thence againe uprose;
    And oft in wrath he layd him downe againe.
    But wheresoever he did himself dispose,
    He by no meanes could wished ease obtaine:
    So every place seem'd painefull, and ech changing vaine. (4.5.40)

  27. The discord/concord motif is expressed not only by the external and internal turmoil of the characters but also by their physical alignments. Hostilities erupt in the form of a tournament organized by Satyrane for the possession of False Florimell. After the various knights forge a chain of anger against each other, Satyrane attempts to create concord out of chaos by having Florimell choose her champion. He places her in the centre of the contesting knights, but when she chooses Braggadochio, their harmonious placement is sundered as the enraged knights break ranks to pursue the fleeing couple:

    [T]hey chaft, and rag'd,
    And woxe nigh mad for very harts despight, . . .
    Some thought from him her to have reft by might;
    Some proffer made with him for her to fight. (4.5.27)

  28. Similarly, in The Spanish Tragedy, Kyd creates an Empedoclean world of discord. The dichotomy between love and war influences the play on all levels. Andrea's condition in his underworld descent is like that of the Empedoclean wanderer; he is an exile who encounters the afterworld justice system, which is to decide whether he should reside with the lovers or the martialists. This dichotomy sets up the patterned conflicts of the entire play just as the opposition between "fierce warres and faithfull loves" announces the ensuing conflicts in The Faerie Queene. When the three judges can not reach a decision, he is sent to Proserpine who sends him back to earth with Revenge to see the mystery play, which will resolve Andrea's dilemma. Thus Andrea and Revenge are essential elements in the Empedoclean machinery. Andrea is the personification of the love/war conflict and Revenge serves as the oracle of Necessity or Destiny, who predicts the outcome of the mystery play at the outset.

  29. The plot and structure of The Spanish Tragedy are built on the interplay between discord and concord. Bercovitch points out that the acts of the play represent the four successive rotations of the wheel of Necessity which brings its revenges ("Love and Strife," 221). Act 1 portrays the ostensible triumph of love, while act 2 reverses the dialectic as discord firmly takes hold. Acts 3 and 4 continue the dualism until the climactic revenge playlet which brings about concord through violence.

  30. The language and accompanying stage actions are also determined by the opposition between love and war. Barish has demonstrated that the play's highly rhetorical tropes and schemes are paralleled by the dramatic action (65). When the Spanish General testifies about the decisive bettle between Spain and Portugal, he uses a series of carefully balanced constructions to describe their equal power:

    Both furnished well, both full of hope and fear,
    Both menacing alike with daring shows, . . .
    Both raising dreadful clamours to the sky, . . . (1.2.25-29)

    But the ferocity of the battle shatters the tremulous order, and, as in The Faerie Queene, the language is splintered to reflect the discord:

    On every side drop captains to the ground,
    And soldiers, some ill-maim'd, some slain outright:
    Here falls a body scinder'd from his head,
    There legs and arms lie bleeding on the grass,
    Mingled with weapons and unbowell'd steeds,
    That scattering overspread the purple plain. (1.2.57-62)

  31. The description of the battle is followed by a procession of the returning soldiers which also demonstrates the discord/concord dialectic detailed in the general's testimony. The three warriors proceed in a seeming trinity with Balthazar, the prisoner, flanked by his putative captors, who are called upon to testify about their roles in his capture. After their conflicting testimonies, Balthazar appears conciliatory, saying that "I yield myself to both" (165). But Hieronimo continues the strife by pleading for the primacy of his son's role. The king then attempts to produce a more lasting accord with his judgment: "Then by my judgment thus your strife shall end:/You both deserve and both shall have reward" (178-79). However, his attempt to produce unity by making "our prisoner . . . our friendly guest" (197) engenders more strife as Lorenzo and Balthazar join in their dynastic plot, which leads to ever-widening discord.

  32. The celebrated bower scene contains a more macabre example of the union of language and dramatic action to depict the process of strife destroying love. The lovers imagine that they are Mars and Venus in their secret loveplay; they literally enact the "wars of love," thrusting and pushing, casting love darts (kisses) at each other, and reaching the point of coital "death" as the conspirators enter and turn their loveplay into real strife and death. The hanged Horatio becomes the embodiment of the love/strife nexus, having been slain in the wars of love and then serving as the motivation for more discord which culminates in the revenge playlet.


  33. The second organizing scheme concerns the interplay between revenge and justice, which is closely related to the discord/concord duality. Revenge is a principal cause of discord and is incited by the same forces of calumny, error, and violence. Spenser and Kyd interweave the revenge motifs into the plot, characters, themes, and language in the same manner as they do with the Empedoclean elements.

  34. In Book 2, Spenser presents the most developed treatment of this scheme in The Faerie Queene, and he does so within a dramatic context. In "Spenser and the Troubled Theaters," Dolven has demonstrated the extent to which Book 2 contains dramatic language and spectatorial scenes which depict the complex relationship between plays and their audiences and involve themes connected with the anti-theatrical controversy. Dolven argues that Spenser demonstrates his awareness of the issues raised in the attacks on the public theatre by presenting in the "pageant" (2.1.33) of Book 2 spectacles which involve the different levels of audience perspective on the dramatic action witnessed. This theme reaches its culmination in Guyon's reaction to the Bower of Blisse, "the place where we can see with greatest clarity how the original problem of viewing and involvement is being transformed" (187).

  35. Similarly, in The Spanish Tragedy, Kyd has created a series of plays-within-the-play and framed dramatic scenes to depict the nature of the relationship between audiences and plays. Like The Faerie Queene, The Spanish Tragedy contains a key bower scene in which different audience perspectives on the action are presented. Bel-imperia and Horatio's loveplay is witnessed by the hidden murderers, who are in turn watched by the otherworldly audience of Andrea and Revenge, while the theatre audience watches all of the action from a detached perspective. What I am arguing is that Kyd and Spenser share a fundamental sense of the complexity of the act of attending a play, and they depict this awareness in parallel ways in their respective genres.

  36. In this book, Spenser raises the same question that has dominated criticism of The Spanish Tragedy for the past fifty years--whether the hero's revenge is divinely sanctioned or sinful. This theme is related to the question of whether the universe as depicted in Book 2 results from sheer randomness or from a providential order. MacLachlan has argued that Book 2 shares similar themes and motifs with Elizabethan revenge tragedies. He explains that Guyon begins by believing in a world dominated by Fortune but learns "in the last five cantos there is . . . behind this force a system of divine concern" (140). However, MacLachlan concludes that Guyon acts as a private revenger not in concert with divine providence. But I will argue that, like Hieronimo, Guyon becomes an instrument of divine justice in his destruction of Acrasia and her bower.

  37. After Guyon narrowly avoids a vengeful encounter with Redcrosse, he comes across a dying woman begging the heavens to grant "[t]he doome of just revenge" (2.1.36) for her husband's death. After she dies, their baby Ruddymane plays in their blood, and Guyon vows to avenge their deaths:

    "Such and such evil God on Guyon reare,
    And worse and worse, young orphane, be thy payne,
    If I or thou dew vengeance do forbeare,
    Till guiltie blood her guerdon doe obtayne." (2.1.61)

    The child's bloody hands can not be cleansed, and the palmer declares that they should remain bloody "as a sacred symbol . . . to mind revengement" (2.2.10). Thus, the necessity to revenge Amavia and Mordant's unjust deaths against Acrasia, their poisoner, is established at the outset. This is the destiny toward which Guyon moves: "Ne ever shall I rest . . . ,/ Till I that false Acrasia have wonne" (2.2.44).

  38. Following Guyon's decision to have Medina raise Ruddymane, Spenser presents a series of negative examples of destructive vendettas carried out by Furor, Attin, and Pyrocles which are meant to contrast with the sanctioning of Guyon's providential revenge against Acrasia. These warriors represent revengers who are dominated by their rage which leads them into endless strife. Adhering to the palmer's advice, Guyon refrains from becoming involved in their strife.

  39. MacLachlan has concluded that Guyon does not act as a providential revenger in his attack on Acrasia; rather he destroys in her the private vice he perceives in himself (156). But Guyon is a knight errant in the service of Gloriana; he serves as an instrument of her justice, and thus is motivated by public responsibility. Moreover, he has taken a sacred oath to revenge Ruddymane and his unjustly killed parents. He has might and right on his side unlike the series of insane revengers depicted throughout Book 2. Acrasia is a principle of vice who infects the world and like the dragon in Book 1 and the assorted monsters of Book 5, she must be destroyed. Her bower is a false pleasure garden with Babylonian overtones like Hieronimo's bower which Isabella destroys as a prelude to his destruction of Babylon in the revenge playlet (Graziani 269;Johnson 26-27).

  40. Book 5 presents a more direct connection between merciless revenge and justice in the union of Artegall and Talus. Artegall is described as the instrument of justice, while the iron man Talus, who was left on earth by the departing Astraea, uses his relentless flail to "thresh . . . out falshood, and . . . truth unfould" (5.1.12). Together Artegall and Talus represent, as Aptekar has put it, "the righteous wrath and just vengeance of God" (26).

  41. Spenser creates an interweaving series of revenge plots which again involve an increasing number of characters in destructive vendettas. Artegall and Talus encounter the Amazonian Radigund, who is determined to "revenge that blot which on her lay" (5.4.47) when she was affronted by Artegall. She defeats and imprisons him. Britomart hears from the palmer that he has been captured, but she believes that Artegall is romantically involved with Radigund and wants to exact revenge against him. When Dolon's two vengeful sons attack her, she easily defeats them and then overcomes the boasting Radigund, vengefully chopping off her head. Talus aids her by slaughtering Radigund's supporters with a ruthlessness that Britomart has to curtail, unless he would have killed them all.

  42. Artegall decides to rescue Queen Mercilla, who is oppressed by the unscrupulous Souldan and his evil wife Adicia. Their battle turns when Arthur unveils his shield and its blinding light panics the Souldan's horses and causes him to be torn in pieces. His defeat reveals the working out of divine justice:

    How worthily, by Heavens high decree,
    Justice that day of wrong her selfe had wroken,
    That all men which that spectacle did see,
    By like ensample mote for ever warned bee. (5.8.44)

  43. This is the perspective which distinguishes the representatives of the Faerie Queene from the insane revengers and the apocalyptic monsters who oppose them. Artegall and Talus represent an apocalyptic justice which uses divinely sanctioned revenge to defeat various avatars of Philip II. [3] Their harsh code is represented in the dream which Britomart has in Isis Church during which she becomes like Isis and is impregnated by the crocodile which sleeps under Isis' feet. The crocodile is Artegall, and their offspring represents the triumph of English power as does the lion which accompanies Queen Mercilla. [4]

  44. The Spanish Tragedy is built on a similar code of harsh justice embodied by the underworld figure of Revenge. In The Spanish Tragedy, Kyd combines the concerns of Books 2 and 5 of The Faerie Queene to create a revenge tragedy which through a series of interlocking revenge plots leads ultimately to the triumph of English power. The major difference between the two works is that Revenge, unlike Talus, does not effect justice himself, but rather he predicts the doom toward which the play inevitably unfolds. He and Andrea sit on the stage as the representatives of this otherworldly doom/justice, and we watch the earthly play as a manifestation of that destiny working itself out.

  45. Like Spenser in The Faerie Queene, Kyd creates its interlocking revenge plots which lead inevitably to the accomplishment of the Talus-like justice effected by Hieronimo in his revenge playlet. Philip Edwards has explained that there are four connected revenge schemes--Andrea's, Bel-imperia's, Lorenzo and Balthazar's, and Hieronimo's--which are set "layer within layer, wheels within wheels, revenge within revenge"(lv). Andrea, slain in war, returns from Hades to watch the mystery play and to learn how it is related to his suspended underworld judgment. Andrea's death--along with Horatio's--becomes, like those of Ruddymane's parents, a reason for just revenge against the representatives of Babylon. Amavia and Mordant's unjust deaths are the justification for Guyon's vengeance against Acrasia. Ruddymane's bloody hands, which can not be cleansed, are the graphic sign of the need for vengeance. Moreover, Guyon and the palmer solemnize their "sacred vow" of just revenge by performing a burial ceremony for the dead couple (2.1.60).

  46. Similarly, Horatio performs the proper obsequies (1.1.26) for Andrea, which enable him to pass into the underworld and set the inevitable course of revenge/justice in motion. Like Ruddymane's bloody hands, Andrea's blood-stained scarf, given to him by Bel-imperia and recovered from his corpse by Horatio, becomes the sign of the ongoing schemes of revenge and the necessity for harsh justice. [5] Bel-imperia gives it to her second love Horatio; Hieronimo takes the bloodstained "handkerchef" (2.5.50) from Horatio's corpse, and, finally, he shows it to the distraught fathers who demand an explanation for the deaths of their sons:

    And here behold this bloody handkercher,
    Which at Horatio's death I weeping dipp'd
    Within the river of his bleeding wounds:
    It as propitious, see, I have reserv'd, . . .
    Soliciting remembrance of my vow
    With these, O these accursed murderers,
    Which now perform'd, my heart is satisfied. (4.4.122-29)

    In The Faerie Queene, the initial reason for Guyon's revenge against Acrasia disappears in a literal sense with the departure of Ruddymane, but in the play Kyd embodies the harsh code in the presence of the otherworldly figure of Revenge and in the blood-soaked handkerchief which passes from person to person.

  47. The conspirators Lorenzo and Balthazar vow revenge against Horatio for his impeding of their dynastic plans. They kill him, recapitulating the death of Andrea, and Bel-imperia vows revenge, but is helpless in her imprisonment. When Hieronimo discovers his son's body, he begins a journey toward vengeance during which he, like Guyon, examines the various forces which can be said to rule the universe. At first, Hieronimo is divided between heaven and hell in his attempts to gain supernatural aid. He calls upon the heavens to revenge his son's murder or else "How should we term your dealings to be just,/ If you unjustly deal with those that in your justice trust?" (3.2.10-11). Immediately after he questions the heavens, he depicts his psychological turmoil in terms of hellish fiends instilling "fierce inflamed thoughts" in his soul. His torment increases with his inability to solve the crime, and he fears that his pleas to heaven are not being heard (3.7.10-18).

  48. However, after the discovery of Pedringano's posthumous letter, Hieronimo repeats his conviction that heaven is bringing the truth to light: "They [Bel-imperia's and Pedringano's letters] did what heav'n unpunished would not leave" (3.7.56). But when he meets with indifference from the court and his faith in Christian justice wanes, he places more allegiance in hell as a place of judgment, punishment and vengeance (109-13). Yet, as he and Bel-imperia plan the revenge playlet, he once again renews his allegiance in heaven's championing his cause:

    Why then, I see that heaven applies our drift,
    And all the saints do sit soliciting
    For vengeance on those cursed murderers. (4.1.32-34)

  49. Like his confusion between heaven and hell, Hieronimo also is divided between his desire for justice and vengeance. Earlier scholars like Bowers maintained that Hieronimo's primary motivation is revenge, but succeeding critics like Laird, Levin, Jensen, Hunter, and others have maintained that Hieronimo first seeks justice and it is only after his quest for legal retribution is thwarted that he moves to private vengeance. [6] However, the situation is not as neat as either critical approach would have it, for from the outset Hieronimo seeks both justice and revenge. His quest for justice begins in his "O eyes, no eyes" soliloquy where he begs heaven to revenge his son's death. But when he discovers Bel-imperia's revelatory letter, he declares that he will "revenge Horatio's death" (3.2.30).

  50. As the play progresses, Hieronimo vacillates in his demands for justice or revenge. At the trial of Pedringano, he vows that he will serve strict legal justice as Lord Marshal of Spain, but he laments the absence of justice for his son's death. When he attempts to gain an audience with the king to reveal Lorenzo's vilainy, he is primarily concerned with obtaining justice. But after he fails to do so, he decides to seek revenge. It is at this point when he abjures legal justice that he articulates the notion of a just revenge. Speaking to Bazulto, whom he imagines to be Horatio, Hieronimo says, in an echo of Amavia's lament at 2.1.36:

    And art thou come, Horatio, from the depth,
    To ask for justice in this upper earth? . . .
    Go back my son, . . .
    For justice is exiled from the earth: . . .
    Hieronimo . . . cries on righteous Rhadamanth
    For just revenge against the murderers. (3.13.133-45)

  51. Throughout The Spanish Tragedy, a number of different concepts of justice and revenge are presented. As Wood points out, they include: 1. retribution ostensibly caused by the capricious turns of the wheel of fortune; 2. Christian retribution against those who violate God's laws in the form of legal redress; 3. vendetta and personal revenge which are part of the notion of "mighty vengeance" or "wild justice"; 4. a harsh code of apocalyptic retribution which unites justice and revenge in a scheme of universal destiny inexorably working itself out (98). It is this last concept which rules the ethos of the playworld and The Faerie Queene. When Hieronimo joins with Bel-imperia, Queen Elizabeth's analogue, to defeat the forces of Babylon in the revenge playlet, he is like the heroes in Books 2 and 5 of The Faerie Queene who, as representatives of Gloriana, overcome their apocalyptic foes.


  52. The third structural principle is the topos of "Truth, the daughter of Time." This topos presents an optimistic ethos by asserting that truth will emerge in the course of time, despite the opposition of slander and deception. Broadly speaking, the emblem shows how Innocence, which has been discredited and subsequently imprisoned by a host of allegorical vices, including Calumny and Suspicion, is finally restored by the last-minute appearance of Truth and Justice.

  53. The classical source of the emblem is found in Lucian's description of the origin and nature of Apelles' lost painting "Calumny." In his dialogue Slander, Lucian tells how Apelles' own encounter with the power of calumny prompted his depiction of innocence endangered by false accusation. Apelles was wrongly accused by the envious Antiphilus of participating with Theodotas in a conspiracy against Ptolemy, the king of Egypt.

  54. Serving as judge, Ptolemy foolishly overlooked some key improbabilities in the testimony against Apelles, and also refused to let him testify in his own behalf. However, one of the conspirators, at the last moment, told the truth, and, as a result, Ptolemy rewarded Apelles with one hundred talents and the use of Antiphilus as a slave.

  55. Sixteenth-century representations of the emblem emphasize the destined triumph of truth and justice. Because of its moral and optimistic themes, the commonplace was used in a political context by both Catholics and Protestants alike. As Soji Iwasaki points out, at her coronation in 1553, Mary Tudor "was seen as Truth rescued by Time after a period of Catholic sufferings" (251). Similarly, in the "merry interlude" Respublica Mary appears in the unfolding of time as Nemesis, who condemns the vices which have afflicted the state and installs Misercordia, Veritas, Justice, and Pax as its protectors.

  56. The Protestants employed the emblem to express their belief in Queen Elizabeth as the daughter of Time who replaced Catholic perfidy with the truth of the new religion. In Elizabeth's Passage From Tower to Westminister a day before her Coronation, Richard Mulcaster, Spenser and Kyd's headmaster at the Merchant Taylors' School, described "the Citie of London . . . [as] a stage wherein was shewed the wonderful spectacle" of the pageant of "Truth, the daughter of Time" (Nichols 1:39). There was a place representing a cave from which Father Time emerged leading a woman in white silk called the daughter of Time. This emblematic pageant celebrated the betterment of the commonwealth brought about by Time through his daughter Truth, i.e., Elizabeth, who "therefore cannot but be mercifull and careful for the good government thereof" (51-52).

  57. The emblem was also used after the defeat of the Armada in 1588 to represent England's destined victory over Spain. In Peter Pett's Spenserian poem Time's Journey to seeke his Daughter Truth (1599), the notorious Whore of Babylon (Spain) with Rome's blessing attacks England but is defeated by Elizabeth, who represents Truth, Justice, and Chastity (Iwasaki 251-55). Similarly, in Thomas Dekker's Spenserian Armada play, The Whore of Babylon (1607), Queen Titania (Elizabeth) is associated with Truth as the daughter of Time. The play begins with a dumb show which reenacts Elizabeth's pre-coronation pageant. Time and Truth present the English Bible to her, which she kisses and vows to defend. When the Armada sails toward England, Time participates in the mobilization of the defence and promises to attack the Babylonians:

    Time shal shoote vengeance through his bow of steele,
    Wedge-like to split their Nauie to the keele.
    Ile cut their Princes downe as blades of grasse, . . . (5.5.58-60)

    The play ends with Titania thanking Time, which has brought about her victory over Babylonian evil.

  58. In The Faerie Queene, Spenser uses the "Veritas filia temporis" emblem as an optimistic ethos demonstrating England's destined triumphs over her enemies. Like Lucian, Spenser presents Truth as opposed by Envy, Slander, Ate, and the Blatant Beast, figures which instigate discord and revenge through their lies. As Bond has pointed out, Spenser also associates these "babblers" with the Babel/Babylon conflation, which identifies them as promoters of confusion and as monsters similar to the composite beasts of the Book of Daniel and Revelation (97). [7]

  59. Spenser's use of the topos "Truth, the daughter of Time" in The Faerie Queene parallels the dynamics of Kyd's use of it in The Spanish Tragedy. In Book 1, the arch-deceiver Archimago lies about seeing the death of the Redcrosse Knight to Una, who faints at the news. This lie moves Satyrane to engage Sansjoy, the presumed assassin, in fierce battle. Una escapes, while Archimago looks on, gloating over his handiwork. This episode is similar to the Portuguese subplot in The Spanish Tragedy. Villuppo or "confusion" lies about having seen Alexandro kill Balthazar in battle, and the Viceroy believes the lie and almost swoons in grief. Antonio is condemned, while Villuppo is to be rewarded, but we know that he is lying and are relieved when the truth arrives at the last moment. In the Archimago episode, although Una and Satyrane believe his lie, we know that Redcrosse is still alive as she will learn too when the truth emerges.

  60. Similarly, at the end of Book 1 when Redcrosse's victory over the dragon is being celebrated, Archimago arrives with bogus letters asserting that the knight is already married to the daughter of the Emperor of the West. Archimago accuses Redcrosse of lying, the very offence the false letter is perpetrating in the guise of promoting "Truth, the daughter of Time": "For Truth is strong, her rightfull cause to plead,/ And shall finde friends, if need requireth so" (1.12.28). But Redcrosse and Una reveal the truth, and the messenger is unfrocked and imprisoned in a dark dungeon.

  61. The scene parallels The Spanish Tragedy in the depiction of the Truth coming to light through letters. In The Faerie Queene, Archimago's letters, which purport to show the mendacity of Redcrosse, are revealed to be false. In The Spanish Tragedy, the Spanish ambassador's and Balthazar's letters save the unjustly accused Alexandro and reveal Villuppo to be a liar. Unlike Una's father who reserved judgment until he heard the testimony of the knight and Una, the Portuguese Viceroy impulsively believed Villuppo's calumny and was quick to condemn Alexandro. But in both instances, Truth emerges and Calumny is punished.

  62. In The Faerie Queene, Spenser links his usage of "Truth, the daughter of Time" with the prophetic fulfilment of English imperial destiny. For his vision of the coming to power of England under Elizabeth, Spenser is indebted to Book 6 of the Aeneid in which Aeneas descends into the underworld and receives from Anchises the prophecy of Rome's future greatness. This is an example of the "anterior future" which, as Marjorie Garber has explained, points to a future which has already occurred, thus endowing it with the power of inevitable fulfillment (306-07). Spenser employs the same type of prophecy in the visions of future English ascendancy in the Briton Chronicles in Book 2, Merlin's prophecies and Britomart's account of the founding of Troynovant in Book 3, and in Britomart's dream at Isis Church in Book 5. All of these prophecies confirm England in its epic role as God's favoured nation in the apocalyptic struggle against Babylon (Stump 102).

  63. At the heart of the prophetic process is the topos of "Truth coming to light," which is enunciated by Arthur when he describes his tutelage under Merlin who taught him that "time in her just term the truth to light should bring" (1.9.5). Elizabeth is the Truth, the destiny toward which the action is inevitably moving. Despite the labyrinthine ways of history, the impediments, dangers, and apparent randomness there is a process leading to "Elizabeth, the Imperial Protestant Virgin and her reign, the moment for which all time has been longing" (Sessions 226).

  64. Kyd uses the emblem "Veritas filia temporis" in a similar historical fashion in The Spanish Tragedy. He constructs a series of four scenes in which the dramatic action concerns the primary question of the emblem: whether Slander, Vice, and Fortune or Truth, Virtue, and Justice will triumph in the course of Time. [8] Revenge's prophecy, announced at the outset, that we "shal[l] see . . .,/ Don Balthazar . . . ,/ Depriv'd of life by Bel-imperia" (1.1.87-89) is the destiny toward which the action unfolds. However, at this initial point, we do not know how it is related to Andrea's underworld judgment or to the earthly mystery play we will see. By watching the play, we learn how to link Andrea's return, Horatio's murder, Hieronimo's revenge, and Balthazar's murder by Bel-imperia. All of these plot threads are gathered together under the emergent imperial theme, which, as Hill has explained, Kyd has taken from Virgil's Aeneid (151). Kyd uses the Virgilian notion of earthly life as a kind of underworld passage with labyrinthine turns, which are apparently controlled by Fortune but are actually being directed toward the revelation of England's destiny as the favoured nation over Spain, the Catholic Babylon.

  65. The emblematic scheme begins with the Portuguese subplot, which, because it ostensibly is set apart from the main plot, encourages us to investigate how it is related to the play. One of the primary insights created by this analysis is the strengthening of the audience's awareness of its role as interpreters of the action. We are shown an egregious example of slander which we know to be an injustice because we have already seen Balthazar alive. In other words, we are shown that we have the perspective to go beyond the limited judgments of the circumscribed stage characters to discover the truth. We know Balthazar is alive; we know Andrea and Revenge have come from Hades and sit onstage throughout the play, and we know who the murderers are before they are revealed to Hieronimo. In the process of attending the play and listening to a welter of conflicting, limited, erroneous, and mendacious testimonies we learn that we must go beyond the assertions and judgments of the stage characters to determine the truth for ourselves.

  66. The theme of "Veritas filia temporis" is explicitly mentioned when Isabella and Hieronimo discover Horatio's body in the bower. She cries out that "The heavens are just, murder cannot be hid,/ Time is the author both of truth and right" (2.5.57-58). From this point, Hieronimo becomes a detective intent on discovering clues to the identities of his son's murderers. The theme continues at 3.2.1-52, when Hieronimo utters his impassioned plea for heavenly justice to send him some means or clue. At the conclusion of his speech, a letter written by Bel-imperia in her own blood drops at his feet, providing the very clues he just begged for. The conjunction of his speech and the immediate response can be seen as acutely coincidental. However, the theatre audience has good reasons to view the scene as yet another example of truth emerging in the course of time. We have just witnessed the rescue of Alexandro (3.1.35-108) in the "nick of time," which was delineated by the iconographic framework of truth triumphing over falsehood in the unfolding of time. Moreover, the fact that in both episodes letters are instrumental in providing the ostensibly fortuitous revelation links the subplot's emblematic theme with the action in the main plot. As a result of seeing these two scenes one after the other, we can now begin to see a pattern of inevitability being created which will lead ultimately to the triumph of truth and justice.

  67. The next example of the theme of "Veritas filia temporis" occurs in the series of ironies surrounding Pedringano's hanging. In the scaffold scene, Kyd creates a complex of ironies whose unravelling practically confirms our growing expectations that truth will out. The condemned man, who is mocked by the page holding the empty box supposedly containing his pardon from Lorenzo, continues to believe that he will be released until the moment of his death, but he has the last laugh when the hangman discovers the implicatory letter which he gives to Hieronimo, who has attended the hanging completely unaware that at its conclusion he will receive a letter which will confirm the previous letter from Bel-imperia. We can place this new piece of evidence within a growing chain of events which seem fortuitous but are, when seen from the otherworldly perspective, part of universal destiny. Thus, this scene throws retrospective illumination on the two previous examples of "Truth, the daughter of Time," and they in conjunction with it form a progression of events which confirms our suspicions that nothing in the earthly play is coincidental but every occurrence is in tune with and leads to the accomplishment of the original destiny announced by Revenge.

  68. In contrast to the previous examples of "Truth, the daughter of Time," the final and most climactic of these scenes, the revenge playlet, breaks the pattern of last-minute surprise followed by retrospective awareness of its significance. In each of the preceding instances, we did not fully expect to happen or know what would occur until it finally took place. But when at the end of act 3, Revenge shows Andrea "[w]hat 'tis to be subject to destiny" (15.28) by symbolically pointing to the future destruction of Balthazar and Bel-imperia's impending marriage, Andrea and we anticipate with growing certainty that destiny will lead to Balthazar's death, although we do not as yet know when and how it will come about.

  69. When Hieronimo devises the marriage playlet of Soliman/ Perseda in which he promises to play the murderer, we are certain that he plans to use the courtly entertainment as the means of effecting vengeance. Unlike the earlier examples of truth and justice coming to fruition which we learned to place in this framework primarily by an act of retrospective interpretation, the revenge playlet assumes a prior inevitability because we are prepared beforehand for its destined occurrence. At the moment that Hieronimo is able to use the action of the playlet as the means for his revenge, we recognize fully how the chain of destiny has led from Revenge's doom pronouncement through the scenes exemplifying the emblem of "Truth, the daughter of Time," to the climactic fulfillment of the Soliman/Perseda playlet. Just before the enactment of the revenge playlet, Hieronimo declares "Now shall I see the fall of Babylon,/ Wrought by the heavens in this confusion" (4.2. 195-96). With the symbolic demise of Spain and Portugal in the playlet and the meting out of rewards and punishments in the final underworld scene, Kyd depicts the accomplishment of moral and political Truth and Justice against the Iberian Babylon in the course of Time by the bearer of the sacred name, the hieros nym. [9]

  70. The Empedoclean dichotomy between concord and discord, the union of revenge and justice, and the topos of "Truth, the daughter of Time" are used by Spenser and Kyd to order their poetic and dramatic worlds. Through the employment of these closely related principles, they create a dual vision of the earthly action as being both random and destined. By attending to the ways in which they develop the concept that necessity or imperial destiny is the actual controller of the action, we are initiated into the elite perspective of understanding how the world is actually designed. As Richard McCabe has said about Spenser's world view: "Seen from this perspective all cincidence is pre-ordained, all fortune beneficial, and time . . . the instrument of a providentially ordered fate" (164).


1. I have treated the various concepts of mystery in The Spanish Tragedy in my first monograph on the play, Thomas Kyd's Mystery Play: Myth and Ritual in The Spanish Tragedy (N.Y.:Peter Lang, 1985).

2. In his master's thesis and two subsequent articles, which are listed in Works Cited, Bercovitch established the availability of Empedocles' philosophy in the Renaissance. Drawing upon Evelyn May Albright's article, "Spenser's Cosmic Philosophy," PMLA 44(1929): 715-60, Bercovitch traces the presence of Empedoclean references, ideas, and motifs in neoplatonic commentaries, printed Latin translations, and the works of Bruno, Sidney, Harvey, Watson, Webbe, Nashe, Raleigh, Brown, Bacon, Herbert, Herrick, and others.

3. For an analysis of Spenser's apocalyptic and Armada imagery, see Kenneth Borris, Spenser's Poetics of Prophecy in The Faerie Queene V (Victoria, BC: U of Victoria P,1991), 45-48, 71-73, 81-82; René Graziani, "Philip II's Impresa and Spenser's Souldan," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute 27 (1964), 322-24; Richard Mallette, "Book Five of The Faerie Queene: An Elizabethan Apocalypse," Spenser Studies 11(1990): 136-49; Michael West, "Spenser's Art of War: Chivalric Allegory and the Elizabethan Mock-Heroic Sensibility," Renaissance Quarterly 41(1988): 654-704, 671-73, 679.

4. S.F.Johnson (29 n.) compares the allegory of the sleeping justice figure, the crocodile, to Kyd's sleeping Revenge as Justice waiting to be aroused.

5. In a recent article, "Absorbing Interests: Kyd's Bloody Handkerchief as Palimpsest," Comparative Drama 34.2 (2000): 127-53, Andrew Sofer has argued that the use of the bloody handkerchief by Hieronimo in the final playlet travesties the Catholic Mass "not in order to foment a 'Protestant aesthetics,' but to appropriate the object's power on behalf of a newly invigorated professional theater freed from the orderly bureaucratic surveillance of a clerical hierarchy"(138). While I agree that the use of the bloody handkerchief enhances the sensational theatrical effects of The Spanish Tragedy, Sofer's dismissal of the politico-religious context established by Kyd is ill-advised. In fact, Sofer's deft analysis of the Catholic parody reinforces the Protestant nature of the play.

6. Ejner Jensen, "Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy: The Play Explains Itself," Journal of English and Germanic Philology 64 (1965): 7-16; David Laird, "Hieronimo's Dilemma," Studies in Philology 62 (1965): 137-46; Michael Levin, "Vindicta mihi!': Meaning, Morality, and Motivation in The Spanish Tragedy," Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 4 (1964): 307-24; John Ratliff, "Hieronimo Explains Himself," Studies in Philology 54 (1957): 112-18.

7. As I have argued throughout Apocalypse and Armada in The Spanish Tragedy, Kyd uses the Book of Daniel and Revelation to depict the apocalyptic nature of Hieronimo's struggle against the representatives of the Whore of Babylon. This central theme reaches its culmination in Hieronimo's revenge playlet whose sundry foreign tongues are for the benefit of the public reader translated into English. This translation represents the triumph of England over Babylon/Spain as predicted by Hieronimo. Thus, Spenser and Kyd share a major Protestant trope which they employ to impart a sense of biblical inevitability to England's triumph.

8. For more detailed analysis of Kyd's use of this motif, see: Ronald Broude, "Time, Truth, and Right in The Spanish Tragedy," Studies in Philology 68 (1971): 130-45; and my "Veritas Filia Temporis: Time Perspective, and Justice in The Spanish Tragedy," Studies in Iconography 3 (1977): 57-69.

9. For similar interpretations concerning the significance of Hieronimo's prophecy, see S.F.Johnson 23-26 and passim; and Peter Goodstein, "Hieronimo's Destruction of Babylon," English Language Notes 3 (1966): 172-73.

Works Cited

Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at L.M.Hopkins@shu.ac.uk.

© 2002-, Lisa Hopkins (Editor, EMLS).