The revenge tragedy, a distinct species of the tragedy of blood, may be defined as a tragedy whose leading motive is revenge and whose main action deals with the progress of this revenge, leading to the death of the murderers and often the death of the avenger himself.
This type, as thus defined, probably first appeared on the Elizabethan stage in the Spanish Tragedy and the original Hamlet.2 Of these two plays the old Hamlet is not extant and can only be reconstructed conjecturally; the Spanish Tragedy represents, therefore, the origin of the type. Just what the ultimate sources of the type may have been, is not a question which enters our discussion. In the Spanish Tragedy the influence of Seneca is marked as in much early English tragedy,1 and there may be some indebtedness to contemporary French and Italian drama of the Senecan sort.2 We are not, however, to examine the Spanish Tragedy in connection with the influence of Seneca but in connection with a long succession of Elizabethan revenge plays; and for such an investigation it serves well enough as a starting point. Thomas Kyd was the author of this play and probably, as Dr. Sarrazin 3 has shown, of the old Hamlet. He may safely be taken as the introducer of the revenge tragedy upon the English stage, and his work may be considered one of the many dramatic innovations of the Elizabethan period.