- Thomas Kyd
Thomas Kyd (
3 November 1558– 16 July 1594) was an English dramatist, the author of " The Spanish Tragedy", and one of the most important figures in the development of Elizabethan drama.
Although well-known in his own time, Kyd fell into obscurity until 1773 when Thomas Hawkins (an early editor of the The Spanish Tragedie) discovered that Kyd was named as its author by
Thomas Heywoodin his "Apologie for Actors" (1612). A hundred years later, scholars in Germany and England began to shed light on his life and work, including the controversial finding that he may have been the author of a "Hamlet" play pre-dating Shakespeare's.
Thomas Kyd was the son of Francis and Anna Kyd and was baptized in the church of
St Mary Woolnothin the Ward of Langborn, Lombard Street, Londonon 6 November 1558. As baptisms were carried out at that time 3 days after birth, it is assumed that Kyd's birth date was 3 November. The baptismal register at St Mary Woolnothcarries this entry: "Thomas, son of Francis Kydd, Citizen and Writer of the Courte Letter of London". Francis Kydd was a scrivener and in 1580 was warden of the Scriveners' Company.
In October 1565 the young Kyd was enrolled in the newly-founded Merchant Taylors' School, whose headmaster was
Richard Mulcaster. Fellow students included Edmund Spenserand Thomas Lodge. Here, Kyd received a well-rounded education, thanks to Mulcaster's progressive ideas. Apart from Latin and Greek, the curriculum included music, drama, physical education, and "good manners". There is no evidence that Kyd went on to either of the English universities. He may have followed for a time his father's profession; two letters written by him are extant and his handwriting suggests the training of a scrivener.
Evidence suggests that in the 1580s Kyd became an important playwright, but little is known about his activity.
Francis Meresplaced him among "our best for tragedy" and Heywood elsewhere called him "Famous Kyd". Ben Jonsonmentions him in the same breath as Christopher Marlowe(with whom, in London, Kyd at one time shared a room) and John Lylyin the ShakespeareFirst Folio.
"The Spanish Tragedie" was probably written in the mid to late 1580s. The earliest surviving edition was printed in 1592; the full title being, "The Spanish Tragedie, Containing the lamentable end of Don Horatio, and Bel-imperia: with the pittifull death of olde Hieronimo". However, the play was usually known simply as "Hieronimo", after the
protagonist. It was arguably the most popular play of the "Age of Shakespeare" and set new standards in effective plot construction and character development. In 1602 a version of the play with "additions" was published. Philip Henslowe's diary records payment to Ben Jonsonfor additions that year, but it is disputed whether the published additions reflect Jonson's work or if they were actually composed for a 1597 revival of "The Spanish Tragedy" mentioned by Henslowe.
Other works by Kyd are his translations of
Torquato Tasso's "Padre di Famiglia", published as "The Householder's Philosophy" (1588); and Robert Garnier's "Cornelia" (1594). Plays attributed in whole or in part to Kyd include "Soliman and Perseda", " King Leir" and " Arden of Feversham". A play related to "The Spanish Tragedy" called "The First Part of Hieronimo" (surviving in a quarto of 1605) may be a bad quartoor memorial reconstruction of a play by Kyd, or it may be an inferior writer's burlesque of "The Spanish Tragedy" inspired by that play's popularity. [Thomas Kyd, "The First Part of Hieronimo" and "The Spanish Tragedy", ed. Andrew S. Cairncross, Regents Renaissance Drama Series, Lincoln, Neb., 1967, p. xiv.] Kyd is more generally accepted to have been the author of a "Hamlet", the precursor of the Shakespearean play (see: Ur-Hamlet). Some poems by Kyd exist, but it seems that most of his work is lost or unidentified.
The success of Kyd's plays extended to
Europe. Versions of "The Spanish Tragedy" and his "Hamlet" were popular in Germanyand the Netherlandsfor generations. The influence of these plays on European drama was largely the reason for the interest in Kyd among German scholars in the nineteenth century.
About 1587 Kyd entered the service of a noble, possibly Ferdinando Stanley Lord Strange, who sponsored a company of
actors. He may have worked as a secretary, if he did not also write plays. Around 1591 Christopher Marlowealso joined this patron's service, and for a while Marlowe and Kyd shared lodgings, and perhaps even ideas.
11 May 1593the Privy Council ordered the arrest of the authors of "divers lewd and mutinous libels" which had been posted around London. The next day, Kyd was among those arrested; he would later believe that he had been the victim of an informer. His lodgings were searched and instead of evidence of the "libels" there was found an Arianist tract, described by an investigator as "vile heretical conceits denying the eternal deity of Jesus Christ our LORD and Saviour found amongst the papers of Thos. Kydd "(sic)", prisoner ... which he affirmeth he had from C. Marley "(sic)". It is believed that Kyd was tortured brutally to obtain this information. Marlowe was summoned by the Privy Council after the events of this, and, while waiting for a decision on his case, was killed in an incident involving known government agents.
Kyd was eventually released but was not accepted back into his lord's service. Believing he was under suspicion of atheism himself, he wrote to the
Lord Keeper, Sir John Puckering, protesting his innocence, but his efforts to clear his name were apparently fruitless. The last we hear from the playwright is the publication of "Cornelia" early in 1594. In the dedication to the Countess of Sussex he alludes to the "bitter times and privy broken passions" he had endured. Kyd died later that year, and was buried on 15 Augustin London; 30 days traditionally lapsing before burials putting his death date on 16 July. He was only 35 years of age. In December of that same year, Kyd's mother legally renounced the administration of his estate, probably because it was debt-ridden.
*Philip Edwards, "The Spanish Tragedy" Methuen, 1959, reprinted 1974 ISBN 0-416-27920-1
*Charles Nicholl, "The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe", Vintage, 2002 (revised edition) ISBN 0-09-943747-3 (especially for the circumstances surrounding Kyd's arrest)
** [http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext04/spatr10.txt The Spanish Tragedie] Full text of the play
* [http://www.elizabethanauthors.com/span1.htm The Spanish Tragedy] Full text of the play, modern spelling
* [http://www.archive.org/details/The_Spanish_Tragedy_for_a_Modern_Audience The Spanish Tragedy] Shorter version of the play for a modern audience
* [http://www2.prestel.co.uk/rey/kyd2.htm Text of Kyd's letter to Puckering]
* [http://facstaff.uwa.edu/rmu/kyd.htm Thomas Kyd and The Spanish Tragedy] (University of West Alabama)
* [http://parallel.park.uga.edu/~jnettles/kyd.html Perverse justice in Kyd's Spanish Tragedy, by John Nettles] (University of Georgia)
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.