Justice and Revenge in The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd

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Justice and Revenge in The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd

Throughout 'The Spanish Tragedy', by Thomas Kyd, there is a constant theme of justice and revenge. Justice is the supreme law of the land; without justice, a country would fall into disrepute and those who are readily concerned with the status of society would have no grounds to stand upon. Therefore, those in power venerate justice. Revenge, however, upsets the delicate balance that holds Spanish society together. Hieronimo does his best to maintain a civil attitude towards incrimination and justice, but his plans for revenge lay waste to the very law he professes to adore. A series of carefully plotted steps, coupled with thoughts of revenge, reveals the descent of Hieronimo into madness and thereby fueling his rejection of justice.

As Hieronimo contemplates his actions, he begins arguing with himself and the gods over the death of his son. He brings his case before the heavens questioning the effective nature of justice. This is the first instance where Hieronimo is doubtful of justice. Hieronimo states:

If this inhuman and barbarous attempt,

If this incomparable murder thus

Of mine, but now no more my son,

Shall unrevealed and unrevenged pass,

How should we term your dealings to be just,

If you unjustly deal with those that in your justice trust?


These lines provide the foundation for Hieronimo to seek out revenge instead of allowing the courts to decide the fates of the murderers of his son. Hieronimo is clearly angry and infuriated that the murderers have yet to be discovered. This is the moment ...

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...l a facility of Hieronimo, he would have realized that killing others does not achieve a resolution, but propagates even further confusion and chaos.

Revenge is a maliciously deviant instrument that seeks to redefine an imbalanced society, but ultimately fails due to its irrational nature. Hieronimo was unable to achieve justice for his son, Horatio, so he turned to the grim specter of revenge. Without justice, the Spanish society was unable to sustain itself and Hieronimo only further exacerbated this tension. In the end, Hieronimo was a victim of the very crime he pursued to bring to justice throughout the play: murder. By retracing the steps of Hieronimo, one can see that revenge eventually swallowed Hieronimo whole leaving him bereft of any moral fiber.


Kyd, Thomas. The Spanish Tragedy. Ed. Philip Edwards.

London: Methuen, 1959.
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