The Prototypical Avengers in The Spanish Tragedy and Hamlet

University essay from Karlstads universitet/Institutionen för språk, litteratur och interkultur


During the height of the English Renaissance, the revenge tragedies The Spanish Tragedy and Hamlet were introduced to the English literary canon. In this essay, I will focus on the similarities that the protagonists, Hamlet and Hieronimo, share as prototypical avengers. Although Hamlet’s contribution to the genre should not be discredited, I will argue that the similar characterisation of Hieronimo in The Spanish Tragedy, portrays the same depth and entitlement to the acclaim as a prototypical avenger as Hamlet. Even though their portrayal may differ in tone, their shared commonality attributes equal complexity to both characters. I will compare and analyse the two plays in order to demonstrate that both characters should be considered prototypical avengers. The essay concludes that a reluctance to revenge and a tendency to contemplate the morality of the action is prominently shared by both prototypical avengers. Although critics generally infer Hieronimo is a less complex character in comparison with Hamlet, this essay will show how both avengers deserve equal credit. This essay illustrates this statement by juxtaposing their equal need to find justification before taking revenge, use of suicide to emphasise their moral dilemma, and comment on the tragic consequences of revenge.

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