Doubling in Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy

Doubling in Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy

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Doubling in Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy

     The World's Classics version of Kyd's the Spanish Tragedy has more than fifty-three roles*. This number can go much higher depending on the exact number of plural parts the director decided to allot. In other words, the script may read simply "nobles," or "attendants" and the reader can not be completely sure of the number of people referred to. If the performing company was limited in players, there may be only two "knights" but if the director had a large cast he may send in six. This means, after working on the doubling possibilities for three weeks, I can not be one hundred percent sure of which characters were played by whom because I do not know exactly how many parts I am trying to fill. Add that to the fact that there are some parts which only show up once in the whole play and share the stage with only one person. These particular roles can be played by almost anyone in the cast. Therefore, I paired up as many roles as I thought were necessary and left the rest to find an available player to take them.


In order to pair up some of the parts, the minimum number of players needed to be known. This will determine how many cast members had to be available not just for doubling but for staging the scene with the most roles at one time. This would be scene four in Act one. There is a minimum of twenty-two roles that need to be filled. Minimum because there are three plural roles: Spanish nobles, Trumpeters, and Attendants (Kyd, 2), which means at least two of each, and sixteen roles with individual titles. Thirty-one roles were then left to be divided amongst the cast as double parts and, in some cases, triple parts.


These remaining roles can not just be handed out randomly though. There are two basic guidelines used to determine who gets what parts: (1) An actor must play the same role throughout the entirety of the play and, (2) Two characters meeting in a scene can not be played by the same actor since it is impossible for one player to be in two different places at the same time. ( The attached chart shows all the meetings of characters in The Spanish Tragedy.

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Using this chart, some parts could then be ruled out as doubled by the same actor. This still left a lot of parts which were available to almost everyone so part similarities and time on stage had to be taken into account.


If there are two parts open for an actor who plays the villain almost exclusively, it would make more sense to give both to him instead of one to him and one to a young actor who mainly plays the part of a woman. The actor more experienced in the particular type of role would have an easier part playing it and keeping true to the role. The other factor is timing. It would be a terrible rush for an actor to leave stage at line fifty-five of one scene, change costume and be back on stage in order to recite line fifty-eight as a new character. For this reason, close proximity of lines had to rule out certain parts as doubled by the same player. Along with this aspect goes the actual time a player is on-stage. More experienced actors may be given more stage time. ( Therefore, comparing the number of lines of actors can not be a reliable means of distributing parts. Just because Actor A has ninety-three lines does not mean Actors B and C must be allotted the same amount of time.


By using these general guidelines, I have come up with the twenty-two minimum player's doubling parts. Most of the remaining parts are open to just about anyone but the one's that can not be paired together I will make a note of. First, the minimum of twenty-two parts as determined by I, 4 are: The ghost of Andrea, Revenge, King of Spain, Don Cyprian, Lorenzo, Hieronimo, Horatio, Balthazar, Portuguese ambassador, Three kings, Three knights, Drummer, Spanish nobles (2), Trumpeters (2), and Attendants (2). All of these characters were on stage at the same time in this scene but the kings, knights and drummer never reappeared.


The first observation was that Andrea's ghost and Revenge enter in I, 1 and do not get an "exeunt" stage direction until after the last line of the play in IV, 5. This means that there are at least two actors in the play who are only allotted one role each. Then, there are the parts of Hieronimo and Lorenzo that appear more than any other parts. These actors would have more lines to memorize and directions to take than any other singe roles. For this reason I gave them zero major doubled parts. This means I would not rule out their playing a tiny role like part of a "train" (stage direction IV, 4) if it means all they have to do is stand in the background of the stage to make a room look well attended. It just means they do not need to be given another speaking role. They can be mutes.


Then, there is the death of Horatio whom, while he was alive, had quite a few lines. A more experienced player may play him so at his death, another part could be taken up. Most of the large parts are unavailable to him though because he was in I, 4 with the rest of the cast of large parts. For this reason, I gave him the doubled part of Lorenzo's Page. The page is mentioned throughout the remainder of the play and even without a lot of lines and absolutely no long speeches, the part is sizable and does not appear until III, 2; just two scenes after the death of Horatio. Another easy double was Bel-imperia. She appears in the beginning of I, 1 but exits the stage fourteen lines before a rush of new characters come on. Seventeen parts, at least, start right after her departure so, with the exception of The ghost, Revenge, King, Don Cyprian, Lorenzo, Hieronimo, Horatio and Balthazar (whom she meets during the play) and the Portuguese ambassador (with a large role already) the actor can assume any of the new roles.


The fourth decision I made was that the trumpeters in I, 4 are played but the same actors who play the trumpets in the background during the final scene. As the King of Spain and Viceroy of Portugal carry off their loved ones, trumpets are heard and although the players are not seen according to the stage directions and can be different people, I think it is more likely that they are the same musicians. Why have four or more trumpeters when you only need two? This goes with the idea of grouping roles by type.


Then, in III, 6 there is a stage direction calling for an unknown number of officers. Because the Spanish General is not mentioned, I figure he can be one of the men called on stage. The actor would already be in the appropriate attire so he would not have to change and it would also save another actor the trouble of changing into a new costume unnecessarily. In the further allotment of parts though, I needed to make sure the actor who got the part of General did not get Hangman too because both would meet with the officers in this scene.


Another part that could not be doubled with Bel-imperia is that of Isabella. Though it would be convenient for a young actor to be placed in both roles as learning experiences and maybe even because of the similar voices, he would not be experienced enough to make the costume change and follow the stage direction without a major delay in action. Stage entrances are usually thought to be on the main or lower stage areas as default. However, in some scenes (like the window scene III, 9) the actors needed to utilize a higher or "upper" stage. As Bel-imperia is making her exit out of III, 8, Isabella is making an entrance onto this upper stage with her maid. Even with a few seconds in between these actions, it would be very difficult for the same actor to play both these parts. I ruled this combination out too.


One doubling assignment I made involved two actors at the same time. The characters of Alexandro and Villuppo always popped up in the same scenes so I decided to keep their doubling together too. This may just be out of laziness but the other parts I gave them were the two Portingales who met up with Hieronimo in III, 11. The two were laughing and carrying on like they were old friends and did not seem to recognize him as the Marshall of Spain. This could be because they were just visiting along with the rest of the Portigales concerned with the well being of the captured Prince. These parts could have been intended toward these two actors because they were actually the same parts but without the author writing it expressly.


The same goes for the part of Lorenzo's page. Only one page was mentioned in the Dramatis Personae of The Spanish Tragedy but that does not mean that some of the "servants" couldn't have been meant for this part as well. Therefore, I will take credit for the assignment of Lorenzo's page (the dead Horatio) to the part of page in III, 2 where Lorenzo calls for a page, III, 4 when a page enters and III, 14 (lines 94 and 115) when Castile says, "Go one of you and call Hieronimo." This last example may not have Lorenzo's page as the servant who leaves on the errand but since Castile says "one of you," there must be more than one subservient in attendance and since Lorenzo is there, why not have his page as one of the attendants?


A twenty-third actor could possibly play the remainder of the parts too. There is no definite answer although with the way I have set up the play, the remaining parts are all so small that each of the main character parts could be doubled with one or more of them. Using just those few rules I mentioned earlier, I have been able to see how complicated assigning rules in a large play could be. The more roles the play has, the more actors a director needs or doubling can get really confusing. This has been quite a fun exercise though. I am glad I did it.


* There are a few more parts mentioned in the Dramatis Personae but since they deal with the later additions I left them out.


Works Cited.

Kyd, Thomas. The Spanish Tragedy. World's Classics. Oxford's University Press, 1587.

Kahan, Jeffery. "Reassessing the Use of Doubling in Marston's Antonio and Mellid."

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