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Five Notes on the Text of The Spanish Tragedy

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September, 2016
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A New Solution to Exeter Book Riddle 4

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John Florio’s A World of Words (1598) as Link between Plot and Subplot in Twelfth Night

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September 2016



Tyllney, Topographical Descriptions, 62, 65.
Never Too Late, sig. C4v.
John Leland, The Itinerary, ed. Lucy Toulmin Smith
(London, 1907), I, 55.
Robert Greene, Francescos Fortunes (London, 1590),
sig. F1v.
W. T. Jackman, The Development of Transportation in
Modern England (Cambridge, 1916), I, 89–90; Charles G.
Harper, Stage-coach and Mail in Days of Yore (London,
1903), I, 75.

We can be certain of a few things at this
point. First, when Greene wrote about ‘the
Citie of Caerbranck’ in Never Too Late and
Francescos Fortunes he indubitably had York
in mind, and future editions of the texts
should be glossed accordingly. Secondly, editors
of texts like the Flores Historiarum and historians of York ought to take seriously the variant
spelling of the city’s ancient name, given that it
found its way not only into key sixteenth-century chronicles but also into literary works like
Greene’s. Lastly, assuming that autobiographical elements are truly embedded in works like
Never Too Late and Francescos Fortunes,
Greene’s biographers have been led astray by
the misidentification of Caerbranck and may
very well have failed to locate the exact place
of his marriage.16 Indeed, if they have looked in
any place other than Yorkshire, then they have
been looking for love in all the wrong parishes.
Dover, TN
ß The Author (2016). Published by Oxford University Press.
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See Richardson,
Connexions’, 173; Charles W. Crupi, Robert Greene
(Boston, 1986), 10.

1. III.iv.29–37
Lor. Hath Pedringano murdered Serberine?
My lord, let me entreat you to take the
To exasperate and hasten his reuenge
With your complaintes vnto my
L<ord> the King.
This their dissention breeds a greater
Bal. Assure thee, Don Lorenzo, he shall dye,
Or;  els his Highnes hardly shall deny.
Meane while ile haste the Marshall
For die he shall for this his damned
I use Boas’s text of the play in my discussion. See
Frederick S. Boas (ed.), ‘The Spanish Tragedy’, in The

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just two cities for the region’s three counties
(Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire):
Norwich and Ely.11 Greene, like Tyllney, probably had a clear sense as to what constituted a
city and what constituted a borough, town, or
village. Corby? Brancaster? The word city was
hardly appropriate for either of these places.
Another clue to Caerbranck’s identification
is its proximity to an unnamed abbey. We
recall that the house of Isabel’s father,
Fregoso, is located in an abbey ‘not far from
Caerbranck’.12 If, as seems evident, Greene had
York in mind in constructing Francesco’s narrative, then he might also have been thinking
of that city’s famed St Mary’s Abbey ‘without
Boudom gate’, as the antiquary John Leland
put it.13 When the abbey was despoiled under
Henry VIII, the abbot’s house (Fregoso’s
house?) became repurposed as the King’s
Manor, and it served as the meeting place for
the Council of the North well into the seventeenth century.
Finally, the distance separating Caerbranck
from Troynovant is a suggestively subtle clue.
Having resolved at last to return to Isabel,
Francesco ‘put spurres to his horse’, arriving
in Caerbranck ‘within fiue daies’.14 Riding between Leeds and London in the latter half of the
seventeenth century, Ralph Thoresby made his
journey in as few as four days, whenever the
weather was favourable, and in as many as
eight when it was not. Similarly, according to
some of the earliest extant records, stage coaches advertised the ability to make the trek from
London to York in four days, ‘if God permits’.15
Albeit far from Dick Turpin’s pace, Francesco’s
represents a respectable amount of time to make
the journey, and this detail in Greene’s fiction is
tinged with verisimilitude for readers who know
that Troynovant and Caerbranck are London
and York, respectively.




Lor. Hath Pedringano murdered Serberine?
My Lord, let me entreat you to take the paines,
To exasperate and hasten his reuenge.
With your complaints vnto my L. the King.
This their dissention breeds a greater doubt.
Bal. Assure thee Don Lorenzo he shall dye,
Or els his Highnes hardly shall deny.
Meane while, ile haste the Marshall Sessions,
For die he shall for this his damned deed.

The punctuation is puzzling. The three full
stops at the end of ll. 31, 32 and 33 render
the text ambiguous. Two diametrically different senses can be derived depending on
whether l. 32 (‘With your complaints vnto my
L. the King’) is taken as a modifier of ‘exasperate and hasten’ (l. 31) or as a part belonging to
the sentence below in l. 33 (‘This their dissention breeds a greater doubt’). According to the
former, Lorenzo urges Balthazar to go and
plead with the king (let’s call it Reading A
for the sake of convenience); but the latter
Works of Thomas Kyd (Oxford, 1901). Apart from the earliest quartos of 1592, 1599, 1602 and the four editions of
Robert Dodsley’s Select Collection of Old Plays, modern
editions of the play that are involved in this article are
Philip Edwards (ed.), The Spanish Tragedy (London,
1959); J. R. Mulryne (ed.), The Spanish Tragedy (London,
1970); William Tydeman (ed.), ‘The Spanish Tragedy’, in
Two Tudor Tragedies (London, 1992); David Bevington
(ed.), The Spanish Tragedy (Manchester, 1996); Colin
Gibson (ed.), ‘The Spanish Tragedy’, in Six Renaissance
Tragedies (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1997).

would have a completely different purport—
Lorenzo warns Balthazar not to address his
complaints to the king (let’s call it Reading B).
The 1599 edition repeats the punctuation
here. The 1602 quarto changes the full stop
at the end of l. 31 to a comma and thus
guides the text to Reading A, which has
almost unanimously been followed by later
editors. Robert Dodsley holds an invaluably
different view in his treatment of the play in
his Select Collection of Old Plays. He was cautious in his treatment of the text, staying largely in keeping with the reading as we see in
the 1592 and 1599 quartos, except for the
emendation of the full stops at the end of l.
31 and l. 32 to commas, thus leaving the text
open to the two interpretations we have discussed above. But the second edition of the
book, which, generally believed to be prepared
by Isaac Reed and incorporating the findings
of Octavius Gilchrist, came out 16 years after
Dodsley’s in 1780, and decided in favour of
Reading B, with ll. 30–33 as follows:
My lord, let me intreat you to take the pains
To exasperate and hasten his revenge;
With your complaints unto my lord the king,
This their dissention breeds a greater doubt.

In 1825 J. P. Collier turned out a ‘new edition’
of Dodsley’s Collection and kept the above
reading.2 Walter Scott followed the reading in
his Ancient British Drama, an undertaking professed to be completed on the basis of Dodsley’s
work.3 But a turning point came with William
Carew Hazlitt’s fourth edition of Dodsley’s
book (1874–1876). Hazlitt deviated from his
predecessors and adopted the reading of the
1602 quarto, or Reading A, which has generally
Robert Dodsley published A Select Collection of Old
Plays in 12 vols. in London in 1744. The second edition,
revised by Isaac Reed, was printed in London 16 years
after Dodsley’s death in 1780. John Payne Collier prepared
‘A New Edition’ of the book, which was published in
London in 1825. There is, however, another version of the
history of the book. According to Collier, Reed was not the
formally contracted editor of the 1780 edition. His notes
were appended in manuscript ‘to a copy of the Old Plays
of 1780’, which somehow passed into the hand of Octavius
Gilchrist, an amateur scholar. It was Collier himself that
incorporated the notes of Reed’s and Gilchrist’s, together
with the findings of some others, into Dodsley’s original
work. See Collier’s ‘Advertisement to the Present Edition’,
I, i–ii.
See ‘The Spanish Tragedy’, in The Ancient British
Drama (3 vols), ed. Walter Scott (London, 1810), I.

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Editors have been troubled by l. 35, because
‘hardly shall deny’, the three otherwise clear
enough words, seem not to fit into the context.
Two readings are dominant. Boas opines that
‘hardly shall deny’ means ‘shall with difficulty
resist my pleadings’. Edwards disagrees and
suggests the reading ‘shall show harshness in
denying me’. But neither Boas’s nor Edwards’s
interpretation has eased the difficulty. Perhaps
the crux of the problem lies not in the predicate
of the ‘or else’ clause, but rather in the subject:
Balthazar uses ‘his Highnes’ to refer to himself,
not to the king of Spain.
This is related to the reading of the previous
few lines, in clarification of which it is
necessary to bring into the discussion the earliest editions of the play and the work of the
eighteenth-century editors, Robert Dodsley
and his collaborators.
In the 1592 quarto, the passage under discussion reads:

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The fourth edition of Dodsley’s work, ‘now first
chronologically arranged, revised and enlarged with the
notes of all the commentators, and new notes by W.
Carew Hazlitt’ was published in London in 1874–6.

Boas’s or Edwards’s reading. In their readings,
Balthazar would cut a figure that is overconfident of imposing himself on the king, which is
obviously not in keeping with his status as a
prisoner of war.
Throughout the play, while the king of
Spain is addressed alternately as ‘his maiestie’,
‘his highnes’, ‘my Lord’, or ‘dread Lord’; both
the viceroy of Portugal and Prince Balthazar
are styled as ‘highnes’. Here Balthazar refers to
himself by ‘his highnes’ in a spirit of sarcastic
jest, assuming the persona of Pedringano—he
must die, otherwise his highness would be in
trouble. Perhaps he simply takes up the
Page’s tone when the latter answers him that
‘Your Highnes man’ Serberine was slain (l. 22).
I admit that it is not common for a prince to
address himself as highness, assuming the persona of another or not. But if we find that, of
the two readings of A and B of the present
passage, there is difficulty with Reading A
and that Reading B is more plausible, the
above provides an explanation for the latter.
2. III.v.1–6
My Maister hath forbidden me to looke in
this box; and by my troth tis likely, if he had
not warned me, I should not haue had so
much idle time: for wee mens-kinde, in our
minoritie, are like women in their vncertaintie: that, they are most forbidden, they will
soonest attempt: so I now.—By my bare
honesty, heeres nothing but the bare
emptie box . . .
As a principle in textual scholarship, editors
should not allow themselves to interfere with
the text except where there are ‘obvious’ errors
or bibliographical evidence for emendation.
But the principle is not easy to follow in practice, for there is no obvious criterion for
‘obvious’ errors. The word ‘minoritie’ in l. 3
of the above passage is a challenge to the principle. Although no editors seem to have cast
doubt on it, that the word ‘minoritie’ should
be emended to ‘curiosity’ is perhaps not too
bold a suggestion. It involves no compositorial
error and there are no different readings found
in other editions. It is just pragmatically untenable in the context. The boy’s speech is a justification of his looking into the empty box
against his master’s instruction. He explains

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been followed by later editors including Boas
and has not been questioned.4
Although Reading A has prevailed in later
editions, Dodsley’s treatment of the text is noteworthy and perhaps advantageous. Several lines
earlier, before the Page turns up to report the
news of Pedringano’s murder of Serberine,
Lorenzo almost openly discusses with
Balthazar his intention to dispose of ‘those
base confederates’ (III.iii.10, referring doubtlessly to Serberine and Pedringano), for fear
they would reveal their masters’ crime in
Horatio’s assassination. Therefore, now that
one of the two is killed, Lorenzo prompts
Balthazar to ‘hasten’ the death of the other in
the name of revenge. At the treacherous instigation, Balthazar, never so guileless as Lorenzo
thinks, pretends indignation and replies that
he will act to effect Pedringano’s quick death
by ‘hast[ing] the Marshal Sessions’. In fact, as
it turns out in the later development of the plot,
Balthazar is never to plead with the king for
Serberine’s revenge. After all, as both Lorenzo
and Balthazar must understand, it is safer for
them to have Pedringano executed in as quick
and inconspicuous a way as possible rather than
to draw attention through loud protests. So—if
we accept the reading in the second edition of
Dodsley’s Select Collection of Old Plays—
Lorenzo expresses his apprehension that the
fatal ‘dissension’ between Pedringano and
Serberine would raise ‘greater doubt’ if
Balthazar chooses to make complaints to the
king rather than take measures to quicken
Pedringano’s execution.
Now against this context, l. 35 will be easy to
understand. In reply to Lorenzo’s concern,
Balthazar assures him that he will do as
Lorenzo wishes and seek Pedringano’s quick
execution, for otherwise if Pedringano escapes
the penalty of death, all revealed, Balthazar
himself ‘shall hardly deny’ the role he played
in Horatio’s murder. With ‘Or els his Highnes
hardly shall deny’, he simply echoes Lorenzo’s
apprehension about the unfavorable situation
they would find themselves in if Pedringano
did not die. This is more plausible than either




Hier. Thus must we toyle in other mens
That know not how to remedie our
And doe them iustice, when vniustly we,
For all our wrongs can compasse no
But shall I neuer liue to see the day,
That I may come (by iustice of the
To know the cause that may my cares allay?
This toyles my body, this consumeth
That onely I to all men iust must be,
And neither Gods nor men be iust to me.
Dep. Worthy Hieronimo, your office askes
A care to punish such as doe
Hier. So ist my duety to regarde his death,
Who, when he liued, deserued my dearest blood:
But come, for that we came for: lets
For heere lyes that which bids me to be
Boas suggests that, by ‘heere’ in the last line,
‘Hieronimo probably refers to the handkerchief dipped in Horatio’s blood [cf. II.v.51] which

lies concealed near his heart.’ This has generally been followed. For instance, Edwards
glosses ‘heere’ as ‘in his heart or his head,
which he touches’. Bevington even follows up
and observes that, with the line, ‘the actor gestures, perhaps indicating the bloody handkerchief worn near his heart.’ But this seems
to overinterpret the text; the language provides
no clue to such a construction.
Actually the meaning is clear enough in light
of the immediate context. The whole of
Hieronimo’s speech in the passage consists of
two semantic parts, with the Deputy interposing,
urging Hieronimo to leave off complaining
about his own wrongs and proceed as judge to
deal with the Pedringano murder case. Before
the adversative ‘But’ (l. 15), Hieronimo dwells
on the injustice he has endured and, for that
reason, the irony in his capacity as judge to
remedy ‘other mens extreames’. After ‘But’,
upon the Deputy’s urge, Hieronimo manages
to regain himself and channel his mind to the
case at hand. The line under discussion belongs
to the second part. If we treat Kyd’s text as ‘a
cohesive and coherent piece of discourse’, to use
a linguistic term, we cannot but conclude that,
by ‘heere’, Hieronimo refers to the Pedringano
case. The syntax of the very sentence points to
the same conclusion. Within the sentence, the
clause introduced by ‘For’, which makes up l.
16, explains the reason for the action taken in
the preceding clause ‘lets begin’ (semantically, a
repetition of ‘But come, for that we came for’).
Of course, Hieronimo and the Deputy ‘came for’
the Pedringano case, the legal proceeding of
which they are to ‘begin’ with the very next line.
The phrase ‘to be gone’ also needs elaborating. On a first look, the phrase is comparable
to Jonson’s ‘Bid him be gone’ (The Alchemist,
IV.vii.) and Shakespeare’s ‘. . . when nature
calls thee to be gone’ (‘Sonnet 4’). Then the
text can only be read according to either of
the following two senses as are listed in OED:
‘to depart (promptly or finally), to take oneself
off’ or to be ‘dead; departed from life’ (‘go’,
48a, 48c). but it makes no sense for
Hieronimo to say he feels that something—be
it the bloody handkerchief as Boas and others
interpret the line or the Pedringano case as I
propose—calls him to depart or to die. Kyd’s
usage of the phrase is closer to the way it is
used in the following: ‘Lords, let us be gone /

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himself by observing that he is going to do
what all ‘mens-kinde’ will do in similar situations. He is motivated by a typical male propensity: ‘they are most forbidden, they will
soonest attempt’. Obviously, the word that
sums up the propensity is ‘curiosity’, not ‘minoritie’. In pragmatic terms, a youth who
regards himself as among the grownup ‘menskinde’—whether in fact he is still ‘in minoritie’
or not—and sophisticated enough to talk
about women’s ‘vncertaintie’ is unlikely to justify himself by accentuating his being ‘in minoritie’. Further, though the phrase ‘mens-kinde
in minoritie’ makes sense, meaning ‘men under
age’ if read in isolation from the entire sentence, it does not bear the comparison—the
comparison built between women’s ‘vncertaintie’ and a quality likewise supposedly characteristic of men. A word that most naturally
answers the comparison in the present context
seems no other than ‘curiosity’.

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September 2016



‘without reflecting carefully’ are logically contrary to the effort to ‘thinke vpon a meane to
. . .’. And, if we complete their sentences, both
Bevington and Gibson portray Hieronimo as a
heartless father who has all along been striving
to find a means to ‘let [his son’s] death be
vnreveng’d’ and is now entreating Bel-imperia
not to take him otherwise. This is of course not
the case.
Read in the context of the whole of IV.i.,
here Hieronimo speaks in reply to BelImperia’s accusation that he, brazening ‘dishonour’ and ‘the hate of men’, has been
trying to find ‘excuses’ to dodge the obligation
to revenge Horatio’s murder (ll. 8–13). If we
follow OED, the meaning is clear enough.
Hieronimo makes two points in the four
lines: (1) he tries to convince Bel-Imperia that
he has good reasons to be cautious with her
letter; (2) he asks her not to conceive of him
as trying to hit upon a means to rationalize his
inaction and leave Horatio’s death unrevenged. If we follow the language closely, l.
40 can be paraphrased as ‘Please do not
think that I would, hard to understand to all,
think upon a means . . .’

4. IV.i.38–41

5. IV.iv.117–21

Pardon, O pardon, Bel-imperia,
My feare and care in not beleeuing it;
Nor thinke I thoughtles thinke vpon a
To let his death be vnreveng’d at full:
... ...
OED lists the above four lines as the first
example for the word ‘thoughtless’ under 1b,
‘without construction’. But this has generally
been ignored. It has neither been followed nor
responded to in modern editions of the play.
Of the few editors who provide annotations
here, Mulryne glosses ‘thoughtles’ as ‘unconcerned’, Tydeman explains the word as meaning ‘without reflecting carefully’, Bevington
interprets l. 40 as ‘and do not imagine me so
unconcerned as not to think upon a means’,
and Gibson provides the note that ‘thoughtless
think upon’ means ‘give no thought to’.
I would like to suggest that OED be followed here. To gloss ‘thoughtles’ as either
‘unconcerned’ or ‘without reflecting carefully’
is erroneous in that ‘unconcerned’ and

And you, my L<ord>, whose reconciled
Marcht in a net, and thought himselfe
And rated me for brainsicke lunacie,
With God amend that mad Hieronimo,
How can you brook our plaies Catastrophe?
‘Marcht in a net’ (l. 118), as Boas and other
later editors note, is a proverbial phrase denoting ‘a transparent attempt at deceit’. I would
like to suggest that the word ‘reconciled’ (l.
117) should be understood in the same vein
of sarcasm. Mulryne, Tydeman, and
Bevington all believe that, by ‘reconciled’,
Hieronimo refers to his pretended reconciliation with Lorenzo at III.xiv.130–64. This is
incorrect and also seems to miss the real
locus of the irony. Lorenzo stops Hieronimo
from pleading with the king and says
Hieronimo is ‘Distract, and in a manner lunatick’ at III.xii., earlier than the pretended reconciliation occurs. That is, he ‘Marcht . . .’,
‘thought . . .’, and ‘rated . . .’ before he can be

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To solemnize two mariages in one’ (anonymous, The Costly Whore, V.i.322–3), ‘But
now I must be gone to buy a slave’
(Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta,
II.Iii.97), and ‘sure I think she be gone a-fishing for her’ (Thomas Middleton, The Chaste
Maid in Cheapside, IV.ii.17). A subsequent
action or a purpose is suggested. That is, ‘to
be gone’, in effect, means ‘to go (to do something)’. The action for Hieronimo to go to perform is too obvious to be verbally articulated:
he feels that, ‘heare’ in the case of Pedringano’s
murder of Serberine, as in Don Basulto’s supplication for his murdered son (III.xiii), there is
something that naturally calls him—as judge
and a bereft father—to attend to.
Read in this way, the dramatic irony of the
Pedringano episode is saved. While the audience knows all the facts of his tragedy,
Hieronimo himself remains in ignorance.
Deciding that ‘heere lyes that which bids me
to be gone’, he is heading to the direction he
should go. Yet true to his role as a tragic protagonist, when he is so close to hitting upon the
secret of his son’s death, he practically veers
away, sentencing the criminal to a quick death.



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THOMAS Watson (1556?–92), who was best
known for the rhetorical experimentation and
Petrarchism in his sonnet sequence Hecatompathia (1582), was linked with Thomas Kyd
in contemporary groupings of dramatists. In
Palladis Tamia (1598), Francis Meres places
Kyd between Watson and Shakespeare in a
list of writers ‘best for Tragedie’.1 Thomas
Dekker in a Knight’s Conjuring (1607) depicts
‘Learned Watson, industrious Kyd, ingenious
Atchlow’ in the Elysian Fields and credits them
with the molding ‘out of their pennes . . . inimitable Bentley’.2 Dekker establishes that Kyd
and Watson belonged to a group that created
roles for the noted actor John Bentley.3 I
would like to substantiate Meres’s and
Dekker’s assessment of their literary relationship by tracing Watson’s influence on Kyd’s
The Spanish Tragedy.
Levin Schucking argued that The Spanish
Tragedy was the collaborative effort of Kyd
and Watson because lines from Watson’s
Hecatompathia and An Eglogue Upon the
Death of Francis Walsingham (1590) are used
in the play and also because Watson’s

Quoted in The Works of Thomas Kyd, ed. F. S. Boas
(1901; rpt. Oxford, 1955), lxxviii.
Quoted in Arthur Freeman, Thomas Kyd, Facts and
Problems (Oxford, 1969), 13.
Ibid, 13.

Petrarchan style pervades the love triangle of
Schucking dated The Spanish Tragedy 1586–
87, and, consequently, he maintained that
Kyd could not have been influenced by
Watson’s Eglogue. Rather, Watson went back
to his collaboration with Kyd to borrow the
lines (III.viii.15–22) for his poem on
Walsingham’s death.4 But Philip Edwards,
who, like me, dates The Spanish Tragedy
1590–91, concludes that the play is influenced
by Watson’s poem because of the compressed
method of adaptation that Kyd employs.5
Thus, it is not necessary to claim co-authorship
to account for Watson’s strong presence in
Kyd’s play. Rather, the influence results from
Kyd’s dramatic adaptation of Watsonian elements of Petrarchism, Protestant nationalism,
classical drama, and Empedoclean philosophy.
Watson’s major influence on Kyd occurs in
Lorenzo’s encouragement of Balthazar to continue wooing his obdurate sister: ‘In time the
savage Bull sustains the yoke, / In time all haggard hawks will stoop to lure’(II.i.1–7).6 But
Balthazar insists that ‘she is . . . more hard
withal, / Than beast, or bird, or tree, or
stony wall’ (II.i.9–10). These sentiments are
borrowed from Watson’s sonnet xlvii in the
Hecatompathia in which the lover laments
that, although
In time the Bull is brought to weare the
yoake; . . .
More fierce is my sweete love, more hard
Then Beast, or Birde, then Tree, or Stony
Kyd confers a new compactness and energy
by endowing the trope with dramatic complexity in the stichomythic exchanges between

Levin Schucking, Die Verfasserschaft der ‘Spanishen
Tragodie’ (Nordlingen, Germany, 1963), 19.
Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy, ed. Philip Edwards
(London, 1959), 144. All references to the play will be from
this edition and will be cited within the text.
Edwards (33n) also indicates the parallel between
II.i.119–29 and sonnet 41 of the Hecatompathia.
ThomasWatson, Poems, ed. Edward Arber (1870; rpt.
New York, 1966), 83. Subsequent references to Watson’s
works will be from this edition and will be cited within the
text according to page numbers.

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termed the duke’s ‘reconciled sonne’. I would
suggest that ‘reconciled’ is used in the sense ‘to
bring (a person) into a state of acquiescence
with, acceptance of, or submission to a thing,
situation, etc.’ (OED). What Hieronimo
means—and where the irony lies—is that,
now dead, your son is reconciled to the fact
that he was but marching in a net.
Shanxi University, China

September 2016