by Michael Meigs
Villainy was afoot and revenge was hot at the tidy Elizabethan-style Curtain Theatre on opening weekend, but Karen insisted that I bundle up as if I was going hiking in the winter mountains. And she was right; the temp must have sunk to around 50 F. by the time C. Robert Stevens as Hieronimo had coaxed the malefactors at the Spanish courtinto the play-within-a-play that's the climax of The Spanish Tragedie.
This costume drama by Thomas Kyd leaves almost as many dead and dying littered about the stage as Shakespeare did, between ten and twenty years later, at the conclusion of Hamlet . Kyd's work established the fashion for the revenge tragedy and endured on the Elizabethan and Jacobean stages until the Puritans shut the theatres in 1642.
|Robert Stevens (photo: The Baron's Men)|
Kyd was certainly playing to his public when he situated these elaborate deceits and plots at the Spanish court. Londoners feared and hated the Spanish, who sought to attack England with their glorious armada in 1588 (within five years, plus or minus, of the play's first staging). The playwright presents a triumphant Spanish king (Michael Saenger) who has just defeated the Portuguese, taking prisoner Crown Prince Balthazar. With Spain's dominion reasserted, the court is eager to unite the two kingdoms with an arranged marriage between the Portuguese Prince and Bel-Impera, Spain's lovely royal niece.
Read more at AustinLiveTheatre.com. . . .