This was the first time for me reading The Spanish Tragedy. I guess I’ve been spoiled with Shakespeare, because I was having trouble enjoying the spectacle of this play. It didn’t touch me at an emotional level at all, save for perhaps the immediate aftermath of Horatio’s murder. Remembering the essay of Eliot read previously, I can recall where Eliot mentioned the influence of the Italians, being “Bloodthirsty in the extreme” (that was his actual verbiage). And it was very influential on early Renaissance English Drama. No doubt this is the case here. The Murder happened early, and then needed to be quickly equated, and finally ended in a finale of stabbings and suicide. This isn’t all that different from Hamlet in scopes of death. However, what I found missing was the anticipation, the weaving of plot, and the building of the characters. Perhaps Kyd was keeping Seneca’s structure too close to heart (though lacking his language), as there was little more development than the first scene where certain people announced the positions and exploits of the others. I barely noticed the relationship of Bellimperia and Horatio. The play went, more or less, straight to the killing. And it didn’t stop.
Whereas Seneca was able to revel in language, and create a powerful scene by means of colorful and powerful description despite that lack of plot, Kyd seemed to be preoccupied with the death. There were too many characters that, despite the length of the play, I couldn’t keep them all straight before they started dying. It seemed like there were Viceroys and Ambassadors everywhere. Whereas Seneca or Aeschylus would have a messenger or herald, Kyd wanted to include several types of characters and tried to develop some kind of unique substance in each of them. It would have been better to have a generic character, such as a herald, do what he needs to do and then exeunt.
Here I sound like a lousy critic. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Kyd didn’t measure up to enjoyment of Seneca, and was perhaps too fond of the Italian bloodthirst.