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scheme of my work. I think, however, that I am justified by their exceptional importance. Works of finer fibre and more imaginative quality illustrate in a less striking degree the command of dramatic effect which marked our theatre in its earliest as in its latest development.
1. The Tough Fibres of a London Audience--Craving for Strong Sensa
tion-Specific Note of English Melodrama-Its Lyrical and Pathetic
N.B. All the Tragedies discussed in this chapter will be found in Hazlitt's Dodsley.
The sympathies of the London audience on which our playwrights worked might be compared to the chords of a warrior's harp, strung with twisted iron and bulls' sinews, vibrating mightily, but needing a stout stroke to make them thrill. This serves to explain that conception of Tragedy which no poet of the epoch expressed more passionately than Marston in his prologue to · Antonio's Revenge, and which early took possession of the stage. The reserve of the Greek Drama, the postponement of physical to spiritual anguish, the tuning of moral discord to dignified and solemn moods of sustained suffering, was unknown in England. Playwrights used every conceivable means to stir the passion and excite the feeling of their audience. They glutted them with horrors ; cudgelled their horny fibres into sensitiveness. Hence arose a special kind of play, which may be styled the Tragedy of Blood, existing, as it seems to do, solely in and for bloodshed. The action of these tragedies was a prolonged tempest. Blows fell like hailstones ; swords flashed like lightning ; threats roared like thunder; poison was poured out like rain. As a relief to such crude elements of terror, the poet strove to play on finer sympathies by means of pathetic interludes and lyrical interbreathings'—by the exhibition of a mother's agony or a child's trust in his murderer, by dialogues in which friend pleads with friend for priority in death or danger, by images leading the mind away from actual horrors to ideal sources of despair, by the soliloquies of a crazed spirit, by dirges and songs of old, unhappy, far-off things,' by crescendos of accumulated passion, by the solemn beauty of religious resignation. This variety of effect characterises the Tragedies of Blood. These lyrical and imaginative elements idealise their sanguinary melodrama.
Thomas Kyd--if. Hieronymo' and · The Spanish Tragedy' are correctly ascribed to him-may be called the founder of this species. About his life we know absolutely nothing, although it may be plausibly con
1 I have adhered throughout to the spelling Hieronymo, though the first part of the play in the 4to of 1605 is called leronimo.
jectured that he received a fair academical education. He makes free use of classical mythology in the style of Greene, and interrupts his English declamation with Latin verses. For many years Kyd occupied a prominent place among the London dramatists. His two epoch-making plays were ridiculed by Shakspere and Jonson, proving their popularity with the common folk long after the date (earlier than 1588) of their original production. Jonson in his lines on Shakspere gave to Kyd the epithet of sporting,
' apparently with the view of scoring a bad pun, rather than with any reference to the playwright's specific style.
' Hieronymo' and “The Spanish Tragedy' are practically speaking one play in two parts. Andrea, a nobleman of Spain, is sent to claim tribute from the King of Portugal. During this embassy a Portuguese, Balthazar, defies him to single combat. When the duel takes place, Andrea falls ; but he is avenged by his friend Horatio, son of Jeronymo, Marshal of Spain. During life Andrea had enjoyed the love of a lady, Bellimperia, whose brother, Lorenzo, is a Court villain of the darkest dye. After Andrea's death, Horatio makes Balthazar his captive, and brings him back to Spain, where he, Horatio, pledges his troth to Bellimperia, and is beloved by her instead of the slain Andrea. Lorenzo, however, chooses that she shall be married to Balthazar. He therefore murders Horatio, and hangs him to a tree in his father's garden. Old Hieronymo discovers the corpse, is half crazed by grief, and devotes the rest of his life to vengeance on the assassins. With this object in view, he presents a play at Court, in which he and Bellimperia, Lorenzo and Balthazar, act several parts. The kings of Spain and Portugal
assist at the performance. At the close of the tragic piece, Hieronymo and Bellimperia stab the two traitors in good earnest, and afterwards put an end to their own lives
the stage. This outline of The Spanish Tragedy' will give a fair notion of the stock ingredients of a Tragedy of Blood. There is a ghost in it—the ghost of Andreacrying out, « Revenge! Vindicta !' as it stalks about the stage. There is a noble and courageous lover, young Horatio, traitorously murdered. There is a generous open-hearted gentleman, old Hieronymo, forced to work out his plot of vengeance by craft, and crazy with intolerable wrongs. There is a consummate villain, Lorenzo, who uses paid assassins, broken courtiers, needy men-at-arms, as instruments in schemes of secret malice. There is a beautiful and injured lady, Bellimperia, whose part is one romantic tissue of love, passion, pathos, and unmerited suffering. There is a play within the play, used to facilitate the bloody climax. There are scenes of extravagant insanity, relieved by scenes of euphuistic love-making in sequestered gardens; scenes of martial conflict, followed by pompous shows at Court; kings, generals, clowns, cutthroats, chamberlains, jostling together in a masquerade medley, a carnival of swiftly moving puppets. There are, at least, five murders, two suicides, two judicial executions, and one death in duel. The principal personage, Hieronymo, bites out his tongue and Alings it on the stage; stabs his enemy with a stiletto, and pierces his own heart. Few of the characters survive to bury the dead, and these few are of secondary importance in the action.