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The induction of Sly: the influence of The Spanish Tragedy on the two Shrews.

THOMAS KYD'S THE SPANISH TRAGEDY (c. 1587-91) was, as Boas (lxviii-ciii), Freeman (131-37), and Dudrap (607-31) have demonstrated, the most cited, imitated, and parodied play in the Jacobean and Caroline periods. Knapp has stated that The Spanish Tragedy exerted "a compulsive force ... which ran to ... innumerable partial imitations ... while simultaneously inspiring scorn and parody" (147). (1) On the one hand, Kyd's play was perceived as a monument of rhetorical and sentimental excesses. Its highly ornate language was parodied by Jonson, Dekker, and Greene, among others, and Hieronimo became a favorite character whose impassioned speeches and excessive violence were both celebrated and ridiculed. The Spanish Tragedy was also famous for its combination of supernatural and Senecan elements, primarily the depiction of the ghost of Andrea and Hieronimo's bloody revenge playlet followed by his biting out his tongue rather than revealing "The thing which I have vow'd inviolate" (4.4.188). As Brown (38-41) and Ewbank (410) have explained, Hieronimo's revenge play-within-the play provided other dramatists with a method for their depictions of the climactic accomplishment of revenge.

But, on the other hand, The Spanish Tragedy also served for Kyd's contemporaries and successors as an effective model of metadramatic complexity and sophistication. Kyd opened the play with an induction scene that allowed Andrea and Revenge to serve as an onstage audience commenting on the action taking place before them. Further, Hieronimo's revenge playlet was used not only to resolve the plot but also to provide important parallels with the framing play by creating images of onstage audiences with different levels of awareness. In sum, Kyd provided his contemporaries with a formative and inclusive theatrical experience, deftly combining Senecan action and ornate rhetoric, symbolic staging, patterned language, and themes of revenge/justice and art/reality to create what McAlindon has called "the most important ... play in the history of English drama" (55).

Critics have concentrated on tracing Kyd's role in the development of revenge tragedy, citing, among others, Woodstock (c. 1591-94), Marston's Antonio's Revenge (1599) and The Malcontent (1604), The Revenger's Tragedy (1607), Robert Tailors The Hog hath lost his pearl (1613), Middletons Women Beware Women (c. 1625), and Massinger's The Roman Actor (1626). (2) Shakespeare's borrowings from Kyd are also well-documented. Hamlet is indebted to The Spanish Tragedy for its revenge themes and presence of the ghost. Kyd's influence is also evident in the themes and revenge motifs of Titus Andronicus, which Bate has analyzed as Shakespeare's attempt to prove he could "match, even outdo, the most successful play of the age" (268). Another debt to Kyd is found in 3 Henry VI 1.4.79-83, 157-59, where Queen Margaret offers the Duke of York the napkin stained with his son Rutland's blood, which parallels Hieronimo's dipping Horatio's "bloody handkerchief" into his murdered son's blood in 2.5 (Boas lxxxii). In addition, Sofer maintains that Hieronimo's bloody handkerchief "anticipates Desdemona's exotic handkerchief" (144). Finally, Thompson has listed some of the stylistic and verbal parallels between The Shrew and The Spanish Tragedy, but she did not develop the comparison. I would like to expand Kyd's influence to include the anonymous The Taming of a Shrew and Shakespeare's related play The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare and the author of A Shrew did not imitate The Spanish Tragedy in order to impart a darker hue to their comedies or to capitalize on its Senecan qualities; rather they drew upon Kyd's less sensational methods to create comic adaptations in the context of their shrew and Supposes plot materials.

The critical history of the two Shrews can be summarized in three alternatives: 1. A Shrew is the source of The Shrew or vice versa; 2. A Shrew is a "bad quarto," either a memorial reconstruction or a defective imitation, of The Shrew, 3. both plays are derived from a lost play, which may have been written by Shakespeare, and represent different versions or aspects of that original source (Aspinall 7). These theories have produced intricate arguments and refinements primarily concerning the nature of memorial reconstruction. Most critics believe A Shrew is too inferior a play to be anything but a pale adaptation of The Shrew, yet at the same time some critics believe that A Shrew is too much different from Shakespeare's play to be a reported or a pirated version. Overall, the current scholarly consensus is that the anonymous play succeeded Shakespeare's play and is inferior to it. (3)

However, these arguments have produced a scholarly cul-de-sac in which the order of composition and the respective merits of both versions are endlessly debated. Rather, it is better to combine the assessments of Marcus and Dessen to arrive at an effective paradigm for more productive analyses. Instead of evaluating Shakespeare's play as prior and superior, Marcus reminds us that during the sixteenth century the two plays were not distinguished from each other, and therefore it is better to treat them "intertextually--as a cluster or network of related texts that fruitfully can be read together and against each other" as alternate viable versions of the shrew and Supposes material (124). Similarly, Dessen argues that the question of priority can never be resolved without further bibliographic evidence because in certain instances one play seems to be prior to the other but at other times it's vice versa. He recommends analyzing them as "different trajectories or strategies" to gain interpretive insights into the choices the respective authors make in dealing with similar material rather than concentrating on who borrowed what from whom (41).

My method will be to show how the two Shrews are influenced by The Spanish Tragedy, which, in a sense, becomes the equivalent of the lost play that some critics have conjectured as their source. Shakespeare and the anonymous author react to The Spanish Tragedy in similar and different ways. Kyd's play is the source of certain verbal patterns and, more importantly, of their use of induction scenes that create onstage audiences commenting on the play proper and the concomitant dramatic delineation of the complex relationship between art and reality through plays-within-the-plays. When we compare how the two plays are fundamentally influenced by Kyd's revenge tragedy, it will be possible to understand them as separate but related adaptations of The Spanish Tragedy. I intend to demonstrate that in the future it will be necessary to include The Spanish Tragedy as an essential part of the intertextual relationships of the two Shrews. Both plays are informed by the revenge tragedy whose presence is palpable in the stylistic and metadramatic choices the authors make for their comic translations of its structural, verbal, and thematic aspects.


The most significant parallel between both Shrews and The Spanish Tragedy is provided by an induction scene in which characters serve as onstage audiences sitting above to see the unfolding play proper as a play-within-the-play. Dawson and Yachnin have declared that Shakespeare's use of the induction scene to frame and make ironic "a traditional story of wife-taming marks an aesthetic revolution in western drama" (59). But Shakespeare and the anonymous author modeled their Sly frames on Kyd's induction scene, which has three related purposes, whose influence on the Shrews will form the heart of this article. First, as Garber has remarked, the resulting frame establishes a reality-playworld dichotomy and the metatheatrical perspective that informs the plays (5, 10). This dichotomy sets up the use of subsequent inset plays-within-the-plays or frames within frames, which increase the sense of dramatic complexity and confusion. Finally, the reactions of the onstage audiences to the various plays-within-the-plays provide the theater audience examples of itself as interpreters of dramatic action. In sum, through his use of the induction scene and plays-within-the-play Kyd has taught the authors of the Shrews how to establish and manipulate audience involvement and to invest their plays with a fundamental sense of dramatic vitality created by shifting perspectives on the action and multiple interpretations.

Appropriately, the three plays contain a scene concerning the choice of the performance of a play-within-the-play. Hieronimo is asked to put on a "show" (4.1.62) to celebrate the wedding of Bel-imperia and Balthazar. When he announces that it will be a tragedy, Balthazar objects, "What, would you have us play a tragedy?" (86), and later he is more emphatic in his objection: "Hieronimo, methinks a comedy were better" (155). However, Hieronimo expostulates: "Fie, comedies are fit for common wits.... / Give me a stately-written tragedy ..." (157,159). Hieronimo's choice of a tragedy parallels Revenges--and Kyd's--announcement at the outset that the play he, Andrea, and we are about to see is a "tragedy" (1.1.91).

Similarly, a choice between the performance of a comedy or a tragedy is presented at the outset of A Shrew. The Lord inquires about the actors' repertory, and Sander replies, "[Y]ou may have a 'tragical' or a 'commodity' or what you will" (1.58). Tom, Sander's fellow actor, corrects his mispronunciation: "A comedy, thou shouldst say!" (59). When Sander says that its title is The Taming of a Shrew, the Lord approves it as an excellent choice (63). By contrast, in The Shrew Shakespeare does not have a character choose to have a comedy played. The traveling actors arrive by chance, and their play is not named, although it is called "a comedy" as well as "a kind of history" (Ind. 2. 130, 141). (4)

In the three plays the performance of the comedy/tragedy involves the concomitant dichotomy between reality and drama and consequent discrepancies in awareness. Hieronimo intends to use the Soliman and Perseda playlet to effect his vengeance by assigning roles to the characters that fit their behavior in the "real" world. However, they are unaware that they are marked for death. At the conclusion of the playlet, Hieronimo tells the confused onstage Iberian audience:
   Haply you think ...
   That this is fabulously counterfeit,
   And that we do as all tragedians do:
   To die today ...
   And in a minute starting up again,
   Revive to please tomorrow's audience. (4.4.76-82)

He declares that Balthazar and Lorenzo have actually been killed, but, of course, the dead "actors/characters" will rise at the end of the play to receive applause for their performances.

This dichotomy is paralleled, much less ominously, in A Shrew when Sly tries to prevent the deceivers from being sent to prison. He reacts to the play as if it were real and wants to intervene, but he is told by the Lord that "this is but the play, they're but in jest" (13.46). (5) Sly's reaction as a deluded audience is the opposite of the Iberian audience in The Spanish Tragedy, he thinks the action is real but learns that it is merely a play, while the fathers think they are watching a drama but discover that their sons have in fact been killed.

By contrast, in The Shrew there is no one scene that epitomizes the reality-art dichotomy. Shakespeare presents a more complex and layered delineation of the metatheatrical aspects than A Shrew through the inclusion of extensive details of the stage managing of the Sly plot and multiple plays-within-the-play. The Lord is more active than his counterpart in A Shrew in creating the deceiving plot and directing the various actors in their performances. In this respect, he is closer to Hieronimo, who is directly involved with dramatic production and performance. To celebrate his marriage to Bel-imperia, Balthazar requests that Hieronimo match his earlier masque with another "show / ... for the passing of the first night's sport" (4.1.62,64). Hieronimo responds that he can adapt an old tragedy from his student days in Toledo if they "grace me with ... acting it / ... [And] each one ... play a part" (82-83). When Balthazar asks "which of us is to perform that part [the murderer]?" (131), Hieronimo promises, "I'll play the murderer ... / For I already have conceited that" (133-34). Then he assigns the roles to the actors, gives them their scripts, tells them what costumes and accessories they must wear, and, finally, announces that the playlet will be performed in sundry languages. On the day of the performance, he continues to control every aspect of the production. He gives the copy of the play to the King and directs Balthazar to bring in a cushioned chair for the King, hang up the title, and put on his beard. Finally, at the end of the deadly playlet, he concludes in a metadramatic fashion:
   Author and actor in this tragedy, ...
   And will as resolute conclude his part
   As any of the actors gone before. (4. 4. 147-50)

The Lord's stage managing of Sly's deception parallels Hieronimo's authorial control. When he describes the elaborate details of the hoax--including the rich setting, the dulcet sounds, the behavior, speech, and dress of Sly's attendants--he adjures them to "manage well the jest" which will provide them "some sport in hand" (Ind. 1.45,91). The first hunter promises that his men "will play our part" (69). When the actors arrive, the Lord reminisces about one of them previously having played a gentlewoman: "[T]hat part / Was aptly fitted and naturally perform'd" (86-87). (6) After the Lord describes how Bartholomew should play the role of Sly's bogus wife, he envisions the laughter that his acting will evoke from the audience:
   I know the boy will well usurp the grace, (7)
   Voice, gait, and action of a gentlewoman.
   I long to hear him call the drunkard husband,
   And how men will stay themselves from laughter
   When they do homage to this simple peasant, (lines 131-35)

A similar sense of anticipated pleasure in creating and witnessing a plot in which a character is duped occurs in The Spanish Tragedy when Lorenzo tells his page to attend Pedringano's execution displaying a black box that ostensibly contains his pardon: "Show him this box, tell him his pardon's in't" (3.4.72). The page discovers that the box is empty and imagines how arrogantly Pedringano will behave, thinking that his pardon has been provided: "I cannot choose but smile to think how the villain will flout the gallows, scorn the audience, and descant on the hangman, and all presuming of his pardon from hence" (3.5.10-17). (8) The page acts as Lorenzo's surrogate in the anticipation and witnessing of the "gallows humor," while in The Shrew the Lord creates and participates, along with his page, in a more benign deception. These scenes are essentially plays-within-the-play based on discrepant awareness, with an author-figure creating the plot, describing its performance, and then attending or having a surrogate attend its enactment, which we see unfold according to plan. (9)

Shakespeare employs the motif of plays-within-the-play to a greater extent than the author of A Shrew. The major interior play-within-theplay in A Shrew occurs in scene 3. Ferando places Polidor, Aurelius, and Sander as an unseen audience to his conversation with Kate and tells Alfonso when to reenter, what to say when he does, and when to call his daughter forth (lines 125-27). Alfonso promises, as if an actor, "[W]hat I did promise you / I'll perform, if you get my daughters love" (lines 133-34). After the inset scene ends, Sander evaluates Ferando's behavior, like a member of an audience criticizing a performance he has just witnessed.

Like A Shrew and The Spanish Tragedy, the induction of The Shrew sets up the rest of the play as a play-within-the-play, with Sly and the Lord sitting above the stage, which is made evident by Shakespeare's stage direction (at 1.1.248): "The Presenters above speaks." (10) The first interior play-within-the-play occurs when Lucentio and Tranio, who have just arrived in Padua, stand aside to watch the "show"" and "pastime" (1.1.47,68)--echoing the Lord's "It will be pastime passing excellent" in the induction (1.67)--created by Baptista, Katherine, Bianca, Gremio, and Flortensio. The onlookers comment on the behavior of the sisters during and after the scene, as if evaluating the performance of actors.

As Thompson has noted, two other scenes contain plays-within-the-play whose structure and motif of interlaced dialogue are indebted to The Spanish Tragedy (183). In 2.2, Horatio and Bel-imperia meet to plan their rendezvous, but Pedringano places Lorenzo and Balthazar above to spy on them. The unseen intruders complete the lovers' plaints with ominous plans of their own, and together they create an interlaced dialogue of love and death. Similarly, in 1.2, Grumio, Petruchio, and Hortensio spy on Gremio and Lucentio (disguised as Cambio). Acting as a mocking chorus, Grumio mimics Gremio's exclamation "O this learning, what a thing it is!" with "O this woodcock, what an ass it is!" (159-60).

In 4.2 Tranio/Lucentio and Hortensio/Litio position themselves to see if Bianca prefers Lucentio/Cambio to them. When they "[s]ee how the lovers kiss and court!" (27), Hortensio exits, vowing to court his widow instead of Bianca. This scene is parallel to 2.4 in The Spanish Tragedy when the lovers are spied upon by Lorenzo and Balthazar, Bel-imperia's jealous suitor, who, instead of accepting what they see, rush in and kill Horatio. Tranio's statement that "I have ta'en you napping ... I And have forsworn you with Hortensio" (lines 46-47) is a comic echo of the bower scene in which the lovers are almost literally caught napping.


The induction scenes in A Shrew and The Spanish Tragedy set up parallel onstage audience responses to the plays-within-the-plays. The ghost of Andrea returns to earth from the underworld to witness a play-within-the-play, which will show him his slayer Balthazar killed. Andrea has been allowed to return with Revenge as his guide, and they have passed through the "gates of horn" (1.1.82) or true dreams to serve as an onstage audience sitting above and at times commenting on the "mystery" (90) unfolding before them. At the conclusion of the earthly play, Andrea receives the right to pass judgment on the characters in the afterworld.

Sly's role as a befuddled drunk becomes by means of the subsequent plays-within-the-play his fundamental reality, which, ironically, he is convinced was actually a dream. Like The Spanish Tragedy, which consists of an induction followed by four plays-within-the play or boxes within boxes and concludes with an epilogue, A Shrew moves from an induction to the enactment of a hoax followed by a framed playworld, all of which are described as dreams, and then back to "reality" again. After attending the play, Sly returns to his earlier status and characterizes the play he has seen as a dream, which he nevertheless believes will enable him to deal with his real wife.

Christopher Sly's initial condition is that of a drunken character in a play, who is kicked out of an inn and falls asleep outside. A nobleman decides to create another role for him by pretending that Sly is actually a lord who has been deranged for fifteen years and has just returned to his senses in time to witness a play enacted by his players entitled The Taming of a Shrew. The Lord and his men know the nature of the ruse they are playing on Sly, but the newly made lord is completely deceived. The Lord adopts the role of an actor named Simon, who serves as Sly's guide and, like Andrea's companion Revenge, sits with him during the play. He also appoints his page to serve as Sly's bogus wife, who pretends to be eager to welcome him back to conjugal bliss. Like Hieronimo, who is "[a]uthor and actor" of the tragic playlet (4.4.147), the Lord serves as author, stage manager, and actor in the plot to convince Sly of his new identity, but, unlike Hieronimo, he does not create the subsequent play-within-the-play. Instead, he chooses to have the actors play their repertory comedy, The Taming of a Shrew.

In The Spanish Tragedy, Andrea and the theater audience know from the outset why he has been raised from the underworld, but they do not know how or when destiny as outlined and represented by Revenge will be accomplished. They learn the relevance of the play to his past life by attending the play-within-the-play, which, as Adams has pointed out, contains images of onstage audiences reacting to and interpreting plays-within-the-plays (225-30). However, in A Shrew, the onstage and theater audiences do not know how the play-within-the-play is related to the induction, but, like Andrea and Revenge, they enjoy a superior position outside the onstage action. Moreover, just as Andrea at intervals serves as chorus to the play taking place before him, so too does Sly sit above the action and become an onstage audience who periodically comments--albeit impatiently, somnolently, and ignorandy--on the play.

Andrea's relationship to the mystery play that he returns from Hades to see is different from Sly's role as an audience, because during his lifetime he was directly involved with the characters who participate in the dramatic action (Garber 5). Thus his choric reactions are more emotional and informed. At the end of act 1, he exhibits impatience at seeing "Nothing but league, and love, and banqueting!" (1.5.4). He, like Sly but for different reasons, wants the play to end quickly: Sly is eager to resume his conjugal relations with his "wife," while Andrea is impatient to see vengeance effected. Following the murder of Horatio, he becomes frustrated with the slowness of revenge, and, finally, he calls the sleeping Revenge into action because "Hieronimo with Lorenzo is join'd in league" (3.15.15). This reaction shows that he does not understand the tragic inevitability of what he witnesses. But, after Revenge shows him a symbolic dumb show--the Hymen masque--and explains its mystery, Andrea then understands the destined nature of the revenge to be exacted upon Balthazar and Lorenzo.

Sly's initial reaction to the play is to "flout the players out of their coats" (2.53-54). He interrupts to inquire when the fool will reappear; he eats and drinks and ends with a humorous and perhaps drunken sally about Valeria and Kate as "two fine gentlewomen" (3.316). His next comment occurs at the end of scene 11 when, after witnessing the departure of Polidor and Emilia for the church, he asks "must they be married now?" (78). He then exclaims that the "fool [Sander] is come again now!" (12.1). His final comment, as we have discussed, is made in scene 13.45 when he literally interrupts the action to demand that Phylotus and Valeria not be imprisoned. After the Lord points out that they have already escaped, Sly is satisfied; he calls for the play to continue and resumes his drinking until he falls asleep again. Sly's mistaken attempt to keep the deceivers out of prison parallels Andrea's misperception about the apparent union between Hieronimo and his enemies. Both of them do not understand the import of the stage action. Also, Andrea's invocation of the sleeping Revenge to awake--"Awake, Revenge" (3.15.29), which is repeated throughout this scene at lines 8, 9, 10, 13, 17--is parodied by Sly's nodding off repeatedly during the play and the tapster's adjuration to him to "Awake for shame" (15.7). Sly next appears, still asleep, at the end of scene 13 when the Lord directs his men to restore him to his original garb and place. In a scene parallel to the induction, the tapster discovers Sly, who promises that if his wife berates him for staying out all night, he "know[s] now how to tame a shrew ... / [because] I dreamt upon it all this night till now" (lines 16-17). He has learned the relationship between the dream play and his own reality, just as Andrea learned what happened to him by seeing a dramatic dream version of his life repeated onstage (Coursen 771-72).

After Hieronimo's accomplishment of revenge in his playlet, Andrea asks Revenge for permission to administer the rewards to his friends and the punishments to his enemies, whose "endless tragedy" Revenge promises to begin (4.5.47). This parallels Sly's declaration that, as a result of having his dramatic dream, "I'll / ... tame her [his wife] too ... if she anger me" (15.20-21). Both endings point to the continuation of the implications of the play after it has ended. In sum, the differences between Andreas and Sly's reactions as onstage audiences result from the respective genres. Andrea exhibits the characteristics appropriate to a revenant in a revenge tragedy, while Sly, despite his elevation to noble status, remains the befuddled bovine appropriate for a rambunctious comedy.

The most significant difference between The Taming of the Shrew and the other two plays is the disappearance of the onstage audience after the play-within-the-play begins. The absence of an epilogue in which Sly is restored to his original status has occasioned a wealth of critical commentary. This conundrum will be explored as the means of demonstrating the influence of the ending of The Spanish Tragedy on Shakespeare's decision to conclude The Shrew in a way that the author of v4 Shrew does not.

Sly's disappearance from the play after his impatient comment on the play-within-the-play (1.1.253) has led to five explanations: 1. Shakespeare actually wrote an ending, but it was lost, and therefore the text as we have it is defective; 2. Shakespeare intended the ending to be played extempore and hence did not write it out; 3. Shakespeare dropped Sly because to return to him would have been anticlimactic after the Kate-Petruchio ending; 4. Shakespeare did not return to Sly because it was conventional to have an induction without an epilogue; 5. (the most popular critical hypothesis) the play-within-the-play is actually Sly's dream in which Petruchio serves as his surrogate. (12) Sly disappears as the onstage audience but reappears as Petruchio. The lesson that Sly drew from watching A Shrew is contained implicitly in Petruchio's taming of the shrew. In other words, in Shakespeare's version of the shrew material, it is understood that Sly would make the analogy without having him say it out loud; moreover, the theater audience would be expected to reach a similar conclusion, especially in conjunction with the explicit ending of A Shrew. Again, Dessen makes the key point: it is best to consider the endings of the Shrews as alternate versions of their material, with the anonymous play providing an explicit closure and Shakespeare furnishing an open-ended one to be completed by the viewing and reading audiences (48).

Critics have also argued that the absence of closure in The Shrew expands the number of characters whose reality is being affected. They emphasize that the play combines reality and artifice in an open-ended way that suggests the protean and inexhaustible allusiveness of theatrical representation. (13) This theme is at the heart of The Spanish Tragedy, which intertwines reality and drama in an indeterminate way. Because Andrea stands outside the action onstage, he becomes real compared to the drama he witnesses. At the same time, however, the stage characters are real like him insofar as he knew them when he was alive. Thus, for Andrea, The Spanish Tragedy is a true dream, both play and reality. (14) The same pattern is established by Hieronimo's revenge playlet. The characters play roles in the Soliman and Perseda playlet that are related to their roles in the larger play, and when they are "killed" in the playlet, the union of dream and reality is emphasized. In the epilogue, Andrea gets to pass judgment on the play characters and Revenge promises to begin their "endless tragedy," which in a sense constitutes the play's missing fifth act that will take place in the world beyond the stage. (15)

However, the ending of The Spanish Tragedy has also been considered unresolved because Andrea becomes the judge and not the judged. At the beginning of the play, he described his descent into Hades where the three infernal judges deferred their decision concerning his final destination--whether to dwell with the lovers or the martialists. But in the epilogue no mention is made of Andrea's final judgment. Instead he is given the right to determine the rewards and punishments of the characters. Coupled with this anomaly is the question of Hieronimo's vow of silence, which he invokes immediately before biting out his tongue. His silence has been seen as paradoxical because he has told his captors everything already. Some critics have argued that it represents the nihilism of his violent revenge and suicide. (16) But I have argued that Hieronimo's silence and Andrea's judgment are inducements to the viewing and reading audiences to go beyond the silence and disjunction and to achieve the final application of the play to their reality--the Anglo-Iberian conflict in the latter decade of the sixteenth century (Apocalypse and Armada 23-25). In leaving The Shrew open-ended, Shakespeare participates in Kyd's indeterminate sense of an ending not as a mystery to be connected by elite audiences with the contemporary political context but as an experience that reveals the unending reciprocity of drama and life.


Shakespeare alludes to the verbal similarities between the two Shrews and The Spanish Tragedy through the use of conflationary techniques in the induction. The drunken tinker reveals his garbled recall of some of Hieronimo's expressions that became stock phrases in later Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. In reply to the alehouse hostess's threat of the stocks if he does not pay his bar bill, Sly attempts to gain a measure of respect by claiming that his forebears came to England with "Richard Conqueror" (1.4-5). He means, of course, William the Conqueror but conflates this worthy with Richard the Lion-Hearted. One comic confusion leads to another as he mumbles drunkenly, "Therefore paucas pallahris let the world slide. Sessa!" (5-6). As editors have noted, this line contains a corruption of the Spanish expression pocas pallabris, which Hieronimo uses as he is about to meet his antagonists Balthazar and Lorenzo: "Pocaspalabras, mild as the lamb, / 1st I will be reveng'd? no, I am not the man" (3.14.117-18). (17) Hieronimo plans to hide his vengeful intentions by speaking few words and appearing as mild as a lamb. Sly uses the phrase to dismiss the hostess and the world at large, but he errs by substituting the accusative plural of the Latin pauca (few) for pocas and by turning palabras into a non-existing Latin ablative plural pallabris. The confusion between Latin and Spanish is paralleled by the last word sessa, which has been variously glossed as Spanish cessa, Lrench cessez (i.e., be quiet), German sa sa (a term of applause or encouragement), and finally as an exhortation to swift running (Craig 157 n 6).

The series of conflations culminates in Sly's allusive response to the hostess's continuing demands for payment: "No, not a denier. Go by, St. Jeronimy! go to thy cold bed, and warm thee" (9-10). The first part of Sly's confused citation--"Go by, St. Jeronimy!"--is adapted from 3.12.31 of The Spanish Tragedy when Hieronimo, blocked by Lorenzo from petitioning the King for justice, issues this injunction to himself: "Hieronimo, beware: go by, go by." As Boas has noted, "Perhaps no single passage in Elizabethan drama became so notorious as this. It is quoted over and over again as the stock phrase to imply impatience of anything disagreeable, inconvenient, or old-fashioned" (406 n 31).

The second part of Sly's citation comes from the scene in which Hieronimo hears the cries from the bower as Horatio is murdered: "What outcries pluck me from my naked bed, / And chill my throbbing heart with trembling fear" (2.5.1-2). The "naked bed" and the chilling fear are echoed in The Shrew, when the second huntsman, seeing him lying on the cold ground, says: "Were he not warm'd with ale, / This were a bed but cold to sleep so soundly" (Ind. 1.32-33). (18) Further, there is an emphasis on taking up the drunken Sly that parallels the carrying of Horatio by his parents in the bower. The Lord says, "Then take him up" (45), repeats the order at line 72, "Take him up gently and to bed with him," and the stage direction orders, Some bear out Sly (Ind. 1.73).

Sly's garbled language in the induction to The Shrew establishes a pattern of conflation: Richard is conflated with William; the lines from different parts of The Spanish Tragedy and from A Shrew are joined together in a mosaic, and, finally, Sly conflates Hieronimo and St. Jerome in "St. Jeronimy." In this way, Shakespeare parallels Kyd's conflationary method in The Spanish Tragedy. (19) As S. E Johnson has argued, Kyd joins the biblical significance of Babylon and Babel to achieve a dual meaning: the revenge masque devised by Hieronimo is couched in the sundry tongues emblematic of the confusion of Babel--which was taken to mean "confusion" (Gen. 11.9)--and is at the same time the occasion of the apocalyptic "fall of Babylon," the Antichrist, Rome, and the Catholic Whore of Babylon (24-25). As an analogue to St. Jerome, Hieronimo translates the foreign tongues of the revenge playlet into the vernacular, English, "for the easier understanding to every public reader" (stage direction 4.4.10) (Ardolino, "St. Jerome" 435-37). Through the drunken confusion of Sly, "in vino veritas," Shakespeare goes beyond the merely proverbial to hint at Kyd's and his own ability--as well as the author of A Shrew--to create levels of meaning through the conflation of characters and allusions and to indicate that he is doing a comic take on this motif. (20)

As Miller has pointed out, the author of A Shrew conflates lines from Marlowe's plays and The Shrew "as though fragments of a cracked, stained-glass window had been reset with additional glass into a vaguely similar pattern" (27). But he also includes lines from Horatio's invitation to Bel-imperia and the bower discovery scene. The conflationary patterns begin in the Induction when the Lord, upon discovering Sly, recites Dr. Faustus's initial demonic conjuration (1.3.1-5):
   Now that the gloomy shadow of the night,
   Longing to view Orion's drizzling looks,
   Leaps from th' antartic world unto the sky,
      And dims the welkin with her pitchy breath. (1.8-11) (21)

Parallel to this speech is Horatio's invitation to Bel-imperia to come to the bower where they will consummate their love under the protection of nights darkness:
   Now that the night begins with sable wings
   To overcloud the brightness of the sun,
   And that in darkness pleasures may be done,
   Come Bel-imperia, let us to the bower,
   And there in safety pass a pleasant hour. (2.4.1-5)

Versions of this speech, primarily in the form of invitations in romantic and marital contexts, are repeated like a refrain throughout A Shrew. Polidor invites his friend to "Come sweet Aurelius, my faithful friend. / Now will we go to see those lovely dames" (3.241). At 3.277-78, Polidor says to Aurelius, "But come, let's go unto Alfonso's house / And see how Valeria and Kate agrees." Ferando, even though basely attired, insists on celebrating the marriage, as he says twice: "And therefore come, let us to the church presently" (4.124); "Then come sweet love, and let us to the church" (4.161). Similarly, Polidor says to his beloved,
   Come fair Emilia, the priest is gone,
   And at the church your father and the rest
   Do stay to see our marriage rites performed....
   Then come fair love, and gratulate with me
   This day's content and sweet solemnity. (11.71-77)

In The Spanish Tragedy, Horatio's invitation to Bel-imperia to enjoy their love in the safety of the bower is changed into an invitation to death and imprisonment. But in A Shrew, the invitations result in fruitful, if circuitous, unions.

A Shrew also contains similar language to the bower scene when Hieronimo discovers the body of his dead son. Hieronimo is awakened--"'twas no dream" (2.5.5)--by the cries of Bel-imperia. When he sees the hanged man, he cries out, "But stay, what murd'rous spectacle is this?" (9). Then, he instructs his wife to "Come Isabel, now let us take him up, / And bear him in from out this cursed place" (lines 64-65). Similarly, the Lord says, "But soft, what sleepy fellow is this lies here? / Or is he dead?" (1.17-18). He instructs his men to "Go take him up and bear him to my house--/ And bear him easily for fear he wake" (23-24) and continues with "Go two of you away and bear him hence" (32).

In two parallel scenes at the end of the play, similar language is used. At the conclusion of scene 13, Sly is fast asleep, and the Lord directs his men to "Go take him easily up" (129). The boy adds, "Come, help to beare him hence" (135). In the final scene when the tapster discovers the sleeping Sly, he combines a version of Horatio's invitation to Belimperia and Hieronimo's discovery of Horatio's body:
   Now that the darksome night is overpast,
   And dawning day appears in crystal sky,
   Now must I haste abroad. But soft, who's this? (15.1-2)

But in A Shrew, instead of darkness approaching, the night is over and there is the discovery not of a corpse but of a restored tinker ready to go home and apply what he has learned from being the nobleman. In the induction scene, Sly was dead drunk but was raised to a new status as a lord and an onstage audience. At the end, he is roused from his sleep and restored to his own life. In this way, the author of A Shrew is establishing the theme of resurrection and transformation, which is also central to The Spanish Tragedy. Andrea is raised from the dead in the induction scene to serve as an onstage audience. Also, Horatio, after being taken down from the tree by his father, is resurrected and displayed as the reason for his murder of Balthazar and Lorenzo. (22)

This article has attempted to demonstrate that The Spanish Tragedy exerted a formative influence on the structure, themes, and language of the two Shrews. Kyd showed Shakespeare and the anonymous author of A Shrew how to establish metatheatrical complexity by showing an onstage audience that watches and comments on plays-within-the-play, thus creating mirror-like images of the interrelationship of dream/drama and reality. Moreover, the insistent ways in which they interweave key verbal patterns from The Spanish Tragedy in their plays further indicate the extent to which they have imbibed its less sensational aspects. A Shrew is a straightforward imitation of these aspects of Kyd's tragedy that does not call attention to its influence in the ways that Shakespeare does. With Sly's garbled imitation of phrases from The Spanish Tragedy, Shakespeare announces his more complex debt to Kyd, which results in the increased use of plays-within-the-play and discrepant awareness.

These findings are important because they examine how two playwrights wrote versions of The Spanish Tragedy in comic form, using similar material. We see here a three-part nexus that has not been recognized before: the popular revenge tragedy imitated by two comic dramatists who create an intertextual relationship. My study also adds new considerations to the relationship between the two Shrews, which now can be seen as operating in tandem to provide the alternate versions. Finally, it can help to end the speculation concerning the disappearance of Sly in The Shrew by demonstrating that, in emulation of the openendedness of The Spanish Tragedy, Shakespeare emphasizes the necessity for his audiences to complete The Shrew with a final judgment concerning its meaning and relevance to their own lives.


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Ardolino, Frank. Apocalypse and Armada in Kyd's Spanish Tragedy. Kirksville, MO: Sixteenth Century Studies, 1995.

--. " Corrida of Blood: Kyd's Use of Revenge as National Destiny." MRDE (1983): 37-49.

--. "Dekker's Use of The Spanish Tragedy in Satiromastix." ELN41 (2003): 7-18.

--. "The Hangmans Noose and the Empty Box: Kyd's Use of Dramatic and Mythological Sources in The Spanish Tragedy (3.4-8)." RQ30 (1977): 334--40.

--. "The Hangman, the Villain, and the Playwright: Kyd's Ironic Use of Morality and Commedia Traditions in The Spanish Tragedy." Allegorica 13 (1992): 53-63.

--. "Hieronimo as St. Jerome in The Spanish Tragedy." Etudes Anglaises 36 (1983): 435-37.

--. "Now Shall I See the Fall of Babylon: The Spanish Tragedy as Protestant Apocalypse." Shakespeare Yearbook 1 (1990): 93-115.

--. Thomas Kyd's Mystery Play: Myth and Ritual in The Spanish Tragedy. Berne, New York: Peter Lang, 1985.

Aspinall, Dana. "The Play and the Critics." Aspinall, The Taming 3-38.

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Bate, Jonathan. "The Performance of Revenge: Titus Andronicus and The Spanish Tragedy." The Show Within: Dramatic and Other Insets in English in English Renaissance Drama (1550-1642). Ed. Francois Laroque. 2 vols. Montepelier, France: Publications de Universite Paul-Valery, 1992. 2: 267-83.

Boas, F. S. "Introduction." The Works of Thomas Kyd. F. S. Boas, ed. 1901; rpt Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954. xiii-cvii.

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Bruster, Douglas. Quoting Shakespeare: Form and Culture in Early Modern Drama. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2000.

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Dudrap, Claude. "La Tragedie Espagnole Face a la Critique Elisabethaine et Jacobeene." Dramaturgic et Societe. Ed. Jean Jacquot. Paris: Editions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1968. 2: 607-31.

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(1) As Geoffrey O'Brien has remarked, "Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy ... [is] [t]he initiating statement that ... [is] reworked, echoed, expanded, burlesqued" by his "contemporaries and successors" (20).

(2) I would also include Satiromastix in this group. See my article "Dekker's Use."

(3) For a summary of critical opinion see Morris 1-50.

(4) Jest is used nine other times in The Shrew in contexts similar to the other two plays: 1.1.226; 1.2.84; 2.1.19, 20, 22; 3.2.13; 4.5.72; 5.2.61; 5.2.91. In addition, sport, a related word, is used twice in The Shrew (Ind. 1.91; 4.3.183) and The Spanish Tragedy (1.4.109; 4.1.64) to indicate festive dramatic occasions.

(5) Miller notes that the "idea that a play might be ... reality ... [is] brilliantly exploited in Span. TragT (114 n). The use of jest in an ironic dramatic context in A Shrew parallels its usage in The Spanish Tragedy. At the end of act 1, the Spanish King says that Hieronimo will "grace our banquet with some pompous jest" (1.4.137). In this context, jest means an entertaining performance, usually in the form of a masque, pageant, or masquerade. However, this is a pointed jest by Hieronimo, who presents an historical masque that is misinterpreted by the Iberian audiences as favorable to them but instead shows English victories and foreshadows the revenge playlet in which Hieronimo accomplishes the fall of the Iberian Babylon. The second use of jest occurs in the gallows scene when Lorenzo sets up a macabre play-within-the-play by having the murderer Pedringano go to his death expecting a pardon that ostensibly is contained in a black box held by a sardonic page: "Will't not be an odd jest, for me to stand and grace every jest he makes .... 1st not a scurvy jest, that a man should jest himself to death?" (3.5.13-17). Accordingly, Pedringano foolishly jests at his imminent fate, while the page enjoys deluding him with the empty promise of the pardon. Lorenzo makes the last usage of jest when he tells Balthazar how to deal with an angry Bel-imperia, who has just been released from captivity: "Jest with her gently: under feigned jest / Are things conceal'd that else would breed unrest" (3.10.22-23). A "feigned jest" is also an appropriate description of Hieronimo's intentions, as the "pompous jest" of the first act becomes the tragic playlet of the final act. By contrast, A Shrew remains a comic jest, which, nevertheless, has convinced Sly of its reality.

(6) The Shrew also contains the line "Which once perform'd, let all the world say no" (3.2.141), which parallels Hieronimo's "And if the world like not this tragedy, / Hard is the hap of old Hieronimo" (4.1.197-98). Another parallel occurs when Hieronimo says " [A] 11 the world shall say Hieronimo / Was liberal in gracing of it so" (4.1.153-54). There is a nexus of words--perform, rites, league--in both plays that concerns the performance of rites, plots, and plays, ostensibly intended to forge lasting unions. The context of these words in The Spanish Tragedy moves from standard meanings (1.1.21; 2.3.31) to violent ones. After he kills Serberine, Pedringano says chillingly, "My promise is perform'd" (3.3.33). Hieronimo's use of the word perform'd echoes Pedringano's declaration and adds the sense of a dramatic context (4.1.131, 152, 162, 66; 4.4.3). Finally, Hieronimo triumphantly announces that the revenge playlet "now perform'd, my heart is satisfied" (4.4.129), echoing Pedringano's boast earlier. The word perform has become a synonym for murder within a dramatic context.

In A Shrew, perform is used mainly in connection with the pursuit and celebration of marriage and its attendant rites, usually in contexts involving disguise and deception (2.39; 3.134, 139; 8.12; 9.50; 11.73). Finally, after the dual wedding has taken place, Alphonsus says, "your marriage rites performed, / Let's hie us home to see what cheer we have" (13.1-2). The comedy ends with a sense of the successful completion of planned rites after a series of beneficial deceptions.

(7) Grace occurs two other times in The Shrew. 1.2.131; 4.2.44. In The Spanish Tragedy, grace--as an adjective, noun, and verb--appears twelve times: 1.2.151; 1.4.103, 125, 137; 2.3.17; 3.5.14; 3.14.113; 4.1.50,62, 82, 153; 4.4.13.

(8) For a discussion of the macabre humor present in these scenes see my articles on the Pedringano episode: "The Hangman's Noose and the Empty Box" and "The Hangman, the Villain, and the Playwright."

(9) Evans has argued that The Shrew represents Shakespeare's most sophisticated use of the idea of discrepant awareness. The subplot consists of levels of character unawareness of the various disguises, plots, secrets, and revelations at play. Only the theater audience remains aware of "the true situation [and] is allowed to suffice as interpreter of the action" (28).

(10) Shakespeare's emphasis on Sly's and the Lord's watching from above may resolve the debate over whether Andrea and Revenge sit above if he bases his Induction on that of The Spanish Tragedy. For an extended discussion of the placement of Andrea and Revenge in the gallery above the stage, see my article "Corrida of Blood."

(11) Show as a noun meaning a "dramatic spectacle of some sort" occurs three times in The Spanish Tragedy. 4.1.62, 185; 4.4.89.

(12) For a discussion of these theories see Jayne 41-43; and Morris 40-46.

(13) Burns has stated that the lack of an exact ending "represents a dream come true ... for the tinker turned lord ...[,] for the married couple turned friends and for the audience" (97). Vondersmith maintains that the play's unstated epilogue consists of returning the audience to its own reality (332). Weimann describes such deferred endings as "something to be completed": "Whatever authority the script retains at the moment of its ending is used to stimulate cultural involvement in the nonfictional world at the gates of the theatre" (229, 234). Other critics emphasize that Kate and Petruchio become, in a sense, more real than their stage counterparts by moving beyond social scripting to a real personage. Daniell states that "Katherine and Petruchio are 'real people.' Their theatrical dimension allows them ... to grow to share an ability to use theatrical situations to express new and broadening perspectives in a world as unlimited as art itself" (74). Miola argues that at first Kate merely plays the role of the tamed woman to placate the overbearing Petruchio, but then she becomes it in reality (32-33).

(14) In his attempt to prove that The Shrew represents Sly's dream, Jayne admits that he could adduce no other Elizabethan play that was entirely a dream (44). However, he overlooks The Spanish Tragedy, which is a dream play in precisely the way he argues that The Shrew is.

(15) See my "Now Shall I See the Fall of Babylon," 104-05.

(16) Dillon has characterized Hieronimo's autoglossotomy as both open-ended and closed: "Hieronimo's biting out of his own tongue both maintains the insistence on physical event and underlines the refusal to interpret. In place of epiphany the play presents a space that is both full and withheld, open to be engaged with as theatre but closed to the possibility of translation into anything else" (187). Mazzio has argued that Hieronimo's act "dramatizes his sense of partiality, fragmentation, and impotence within established discursive systems. The 'rupture of part[s],' a metaphor for Hieronimo's fragmented state, also becomes a metaphor for the relation of words and things in the play as a whole" (221).

(17) Fineman has remarked on this usage: "The bad Spanish ... is a misquotation from The Spanish Tragedy, Hieronimo's famous call for silence. An Elizabethan audience would have heard Sly's paucas pallabris as the comic application of an otherwise serious cliche, i.e., as an amusing deformation of a formulaic tag ..., whose 'disfiguring' corresponds to the troping way in which Sly mistakenly recalls Hieronimo by swearing by 'Saint Jeronimy'" (101). Dawson and Yachnin maintain that through Sly's drunken misquotations, Shakespeare implies that his play is superior to the low-brow sensationalism of The Spanish Tragedy (57-58). I would argue, however, that Shakespeare is indicating, albeit comically, Kyd's sophisticated use of conflation to add levels of meaning.

(18) Cf. A Shrew when Sly imagines that "here's good warm lying" (1.7). Both Shrews in these lines are similar to mad Tom's welcoming Kent at the entrance to the hovel: "[G]o to thy bed and warm thee" (KL 3.4.48).

(19) Miller has described the conflationary methods of the author of A Shrew. "One verbal peculiarity ... is the curious mosaic pattern of many partially-parallel speeches between the two versions. The scene-by-scene comparisons for Scenes 1,2 and 3 ... contain examples of parallels in which the phrases of two or three lines from one text are found in the other text, often in an equivalent speech, rearranged and augmented or decreased in length" (27).

(20) Bruster has described Shakespeare's use of bricolage, the interweaving of fragments from other texts into his works to produce a creative conflation or heteroglossic text (22-26). Similarly, Fineman has stated that in The Shrew Shakespeare "allud[es] to previous dramatists, literary, and biblical texts, ... quotfes] and misquotfes] familiar tags and phrases, [and] ... parodically citfes] or mim[es] more serious literary modes" (96).

(21) Miller points out that Marlowe is present in A Shrew in parts of set speeches from Dr. Faustus, Edward II, and Tamburlaine, which are brought together for a hyperbolic comic effect (27).

(22) For a discussion of Christ imagery in the hanging and revenge playlet scenes, see Sofer 142-45; and chapter 6 of my Thomas Kyd's Mystery Play.
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Author:Ardolino, Frank
Publication:Explorations in Renaissance Culture
Date:Jun 22, 2014
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