Kyd, Thomas (DNB00)
KYD or KID, THOMAS (1557?–1595?), dramatist, appears to be identical with Thomas Kydd, the son of Francis Kydd, a London scrivener, who entered Merchant Taylors' School on 26 Oct. 1565 (Robinson, Merchant Taylors' School Reg. i. 9). John Kyd, apparently the dramatist's brother, was admitted a freeman of the Stationers' Company on 18 Feb. 1583-4 (Arber, Transcripts, ii.591). John published some pamphlets of news and popular narratives of exciting crimes, but very few of his publications are extant. He died late in 1592. Mention is made of his widow in the Stationers' Registers on 5 March 1592-3 (ib. i. 565, ii. 621).
The dramatist was well educated. He could write a rough sort of Latin verse, which he was fond of introducing into his plays, and be knew Italian and French sufficiently well to translate from both. He also gained a slight acquaintance with Spanish. He was probably brought up to his father's profession of scrivener or notary. But he soon abandoned that employment for literature, and thenceforward suffered much privation. Kyd's career doubtless suggested to Nashe (in his preface to Greene's Menaphon, 1589) his description of those who, leaving 'the trade of movement whereto they were born,' busy themselves with endeavours of art, pose as English Senecas, attempt Italian translations or twopenny pamphlets, and 'botch up a blank verse with ifs and ands' Of all these offences Kyd was guilty, although his blank-verse is undeserving of such summary condemnation, and marks an advance on earlier efforts. When Nashe proceeds to point out that Seneca's famished English followers imitate 'the Kidde in Aesop, he is apparently punning on the dramatist's name.
Kid's earliest published book was a rendering from the Italian of 'The Householders Philosophie, first written in Italian by that excellent orator and poet, Torqualo Tasso, and now translated by T. K.,' London, 1588 (An imperfect copy is in the British Museum.) It is signed at the end after Kyd's mannor, with his initials beneath a Latin pentameter, and is dedicated to 'Maister Thomas Reade.' In 1592 Kyd wrote for his brother, the publisher, a pamphlet describing a recent murder. The title ran, 'The Truethe of the most wicked and secret Murthering of John Brewen, Goldsmith, of London, committed by his owne wife.' This was licensed for the press on 22 Aug. 1592. A unique copy is at Lambeth, and it was reprinted in J. P. Collier's 'Illustrations of Early English Popular Literature' in 1S63. Murderous topics were always congenial to the dramatist, and it is quite possible that he was also the author of the 'True Reporte of the Poisoninge of Thomas Elliot, Tailor, of London,' which his brother published at the same date.
But it was as a writer of tragedies which clothed blood-curdling incident in 'the swelling bombast of bragging blank-verse' (to use Nashe's phrase) that had made his reputation. Two plays from his pen, with Hieronimo or Jeronimo, marshal of Spain, for their hero, achieved exceptional popularity. They are the best extant specimens of that 'tragedy of blood' in which Elizabethan playgoers chiefly delighted before Shakespeare revolutionised public taste. The one dealing with the earlier events in the career of Jeronimo or Hieronimo was not published till 1605, when it appeared anonymously in the only edition known with the title 'The First Part of Ieronimo. With the Warres of Portugall and the Life and Death of Don Andrea.' (London, for Thomas Pauyer). The other piece, dealing with the murder of the hero's son Horatio, and the hero's consequent madness and death, was licensed for the press to Abel Jeffes in October 1592, under the title of 'The Spanish Tragedy of one Horatio and Bellimperia' (Horatio's lady-love), but the earliest extant copy is a second and revised edition of 1594 (British Museum), which bears the title, 'The Spanish Tragedie, containing the lamentable end of Don Horatio and Belimperia, with the pitiful death of old Hieronimo. Newly corrected and amended of such grosse faults as passed in the first impression' (London by Edward Allde). A later edition, printed by William White, is dated 1599. All impressions appeared anonymously, but the authorship is established by Thomas Heywood's incidental mention of 'M. Kid' as the writer of 'The Spanish Tragedy' in his 'Apology for Actors,' 1612 (Shaksp. Soc. 45), and there is adequate internal evidence for assigning 'The First Part of Jeronymo' to the same pen.
The date of the production of these pieces is only ascertained from two contemptuous references made by Ben Jonson to their stubborn hold on popular favour. In 1600, in the induction to 'Cynthia's Bevels,' Jonson assigns above a dozen years to the age of 'the old Hieronimo as it was first acted;' and writing in 1814, in the induction to his 'Bartholomew Fair,' he declares that those who still commend 'Jeronymo, or Andronicus,' represent the popular opinion of 'five-and-twenty or thirty years' back. The pieces, it may therefore be stated with certainty, first saw the light between 1584 and 1589. There is nothing to show which of the two plays should claim precedence in point of time. In Henslowe's 'Diary' (p. 21), mention is first made under date 23 Feb. 1691-2 of the performance of the 'Spanes Comodye — Donne Oracoe,' doubtless an ignorant description of 'The Spanish Tragedy.' This play was far more popular than its companion, and it is quite possible that after its success was assured 'The First Part of Jeronimo' was prepared, in order to satisfy public curiosity respecting the hero's earlier life. Throughout 1592 Henslowe confusedly records performances of 'Don Oracoe,' 'The Comodey of Jeronymo,' and 'Jeronymo,' the first two titles being applied indifferently to 'The Spanish Tragedy,' and the third title to 'The First Part.' Contrary to expectation, 'The First Part' seems to have been usually played on the night succeeding that on which 'The Spanish Tragedy' was represented. Dekker, in his 'Satiromastix,' insinuated that Ben Jonson was the creator of the hero's role, but according to the list of Burbage's chief characters supplied in the 'Elegy' on his death, the part was first played by that actor, and was one of his most popular assumptions.
The title page of a new edition of 'The Spanish Tragedy' in 1602 described it as enlarged, 'with new additions of the Painter's part and others, ba it hatb of late been divers acted.' The new scenes exhibit with masterly power the development of Hieronimo's madness, and their authorship is a matter of high literary interest. Despite the abuse lavished on 'the old Hieronimo' by Ben Jonson, and despite the superior intensity of the added scenes to anything in Jonson's extant work, there is some reason for making him responsible for them. Charles Lamb, who quoted the added scenes—'the salt of the old play'—in his 'Specimens of English Dramatic Poets,' detected in them the agency of some more potent spirit than Jonson, and suggested Webster. Coleridge wrote that 'the parts pointed out in Hieronimo as Ben Jonson's bear no traces of his style, but they are very like Shakespeare's' (Table Talk, p. 191). On the other band Henslowe supplies strong external testimony in Jonson's favour. On 25 Sept. 1601 he lent Jonson 2l. 'upon his writinge of his adicions in Oeronymo, and on 24 June 1602 he advanced 10l. to the same writer 'in earneste of a boocke called Richard Crockbacke, and for new adicions for Jeronymo' (Henslowe, Diary, pp. 202, 213). Later editions of the revised play in 1610, 16ll, 1623, and 1633.
Many external proofs of the popularity of 'Jeronimo' are accessible. Between 1599 and 1638 at least seven editions appeared of a ballad founded on the play and entitled 'The Spanish Tragedy, contnining the lamentable murders of Horatio and Bellimperia: with the pitiful death of old Hieronimo. To the tune of Queen Dido. In two parts ... printed at London for H. Gosson.' A curious woodcut adorns the publication (Roxburghe Ballads, ii. 404 sq.) Before 1600 a portion of the play was adapted to the German stage by Jacob Ayrnr, in his 'Tragodia von dem Griegischen Keyser zu Constantinopel und seiner Tochter Pelimberia, mit dem gehengten Horatio' (Opus Theatricum, i. 177 ; Tieck, Altdeutsches Theater, i. 200; Cohn, Shakespeare in Germany, p. lxv). In 1608 A. van den Berghen published at Amsterdam a Dutch version, 'Don Jeronimo Maerschalck van Spanien, Treurspiel,' which was republished in 1683. At home Richard Brathwaite stated, in his 'English Gentlewoman' in 1631, that a lady 'of good rank' declined the consolations of religion on her deathbed, and died exclaiming 'Hieronimo, Hieronimo, O let me see Hieronimo acted!' Prynne, when penning his 'Histriomastix' in 1637, found in this story a convenient text for moralising. Two of Hieronimo's expressions — 'What outcry calls me from my naked bed!' his exclamation on being roused to learn the news of his son's death, and the warning which he whispers to himself when he thinks he has offended the king, 'Beware Hieronimo, go by, go by'—were long used as expletives in Elizabetban slang. Kit Sly quotes the latter in the vernacular form, 'Go by, Jeronimy,' in Shakespeare's 'Taming of the Shrew' (cf. Holliday, Shoemaker's Holiday, 1600); while as late as 1640 Thomas Rawlins, in his 'Rebellion,' introduces derisively, 'Who calls Jeronimo from his naked bed?' and many parodies of Kyd's grandiloquence. Ben Jonson was nerer weary of ridiculing both the bombastic style of Kyd's masterpiece and the vulgar taste which applauded it. In his 'Every Man in his Humour' and his 'Poetaster' a number of 'its fine speeches' are quoted with bitter sarcasm.
The sole play to which Kyd set his name was a translation of a French tragedy by Robert Garnier. On 26 Jan. 1593–4 'a booke called Cornelia, Thomas Kydde being the author,' was licensed for publication. It appeared in 1594 anonymously, but a dedication to the Countess of Sussex is signed "T. K." and the title page of a new edition of 1595 runs: 'Pompey the Great his faire Cornelius Tragedie: effected by her father and husbandes downecast, death, and fortune . . . translated into English by Thomas Kid,' London (Nich. Ling), 1598, 4to. In his dedication the author writes that he endured 'bitter times and privy broken passions' In writing the piece, and promises to deal hereafter with Garnier's 'Portia' ('Porcie'), a promise never fulfilled.' Cornelia' follows the Senecan model, and is very tedious. The speeches in blank-verse are inordinately long, and the rhymed choruses show little poetic feeling. Unlike 'The Spanish Tragedy,' the piece seems to have met with a better reception from cultured critics than from the general public. In 1591 the author of an 'Epicedium' on Lady Helen Branch, who is doubtfully identified with Sir William Herbert, d. 1593 [q. v.], bestowed equal commendation on Shakespeare, the poet of 'Lucretia,' end on him who 'pen'd the praise of sad Cornelia," A year later "William Clerke, in his 'Polimanteia,' wrote that 'Cornelia's Tragedy, however not respected, was excellently well done.'
On strong internal evidence Kyd has been credited with two more anonymous tragedies of the 'Jeronimo' type closely resembling each other in plot. One, first printed by Edward Allde for Edward White in 1589, was entitled 'The Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune,' and may be identical with 'A History of Love and Fortune' which was acted at court before 23 Dec. 1582, Collier reprinted it for the Roxburghe Club in 1851. The other piece was 'The Tragedye of Solyman and Perseda. Wherein is laid open Loves Constancy, Fortunes Inconstancy, and Deaths Triumphs.' The play was licensed for the press by Edward White on 20 Nov. 1593, but an edition dated 1599, printed, like 'Love and Fortune,' by Allde for White, is the earliest extant, and in some copies is described as 'newly corrected and amended.' The plot is drawn from H. W.'s 'A Courtlie Controvesie of Cupids Cautels,' 1578, which Collier assigns to Wetton, and the dramatist's description of the beauty of the heroine Persida is partly borrowed from a sonnet in Watson's 'Ekatompathia,' 1582. Kyd makes the whole story the subject of the play with which Hieromino entertains the Spanish court in 'The Spanish Tragedy.' Greene refers familiarly to the leading theme, 'the betrothed faith of Erasto to his Persida,' in both his 'Mamillia,' 1583, and his 'Gwydonius,' 1587, and the tragedy was probably written in the former year. Its popularity is attested by Shakespeare's direct allusion in 'King John' (i. 1, 344) to its comic exposure of the cowardice of Basilisco, a vain-glorious knight (ed. Dodsley, v. 272).
Other plays have been attributed to Kyd on less convincing grounds. Malone believed 'that he had a hand in the 'Taming of a Shrew,' 1594, whence Shakespeare adapted his well-known comedy, and in 'Titus Andronicus,' which recalls 'The Spanish Tragedy' in some of its revolting incidents, and is alluded to by Jonson in close conjunction with 'Jeronimo.' But in neither case is the internal evidence strong enough to admit of a positive conclusion. Mr. Fleary's theory that he wrote 'Arden of Feversham' is unsatisfactory. But the argument in favour of Kyd's authorship of a pre-Shakespearean play (now lost) on the subject of Hamlet deserves' attention. Nashe in 1569, when describing the typical literary hack, who at almost every point suggests Kyd, notices that in addition to his other accomplishments 'he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say, handfuls of tragical speeches.' Other references in popular tracts and plays of like date prove that in an early tragedy concerning Hamlet there was a ghost who cried repeatedly 'Hamlet revenge!' and that this expression took rank, beside the quotations from 'Jeronimo,' in Elizabethan slang (cf. Hallwell-Phillipps, Memoranda on Hamlet, p. 7-21). The resemblance between the stories of' Hamlet 'and 'Jeronimo' suggests that the former would have supplied Kyd with a congenial plot. In 'Jeronimo' a father seeks to avenge his son's murder, in 'Hamlet' the theme is the same, with the position of father and son reversed. In 'Jeronimo' the avenger resolves to reach his end by arranging for the performance of a play with those whom he suspects of the crime, and there is good ground for crediting the lost tragedy of 'Hamlet' with a similar play-scene. Shakespeare's debt to the lost tragedy is a matter of conjecture, but the stilted speeches of the play-scene in his 'Hamlet' read like intentional parodies of Kyd's bombastic efforts in 'The Spanish Tragedy,' and it is quite possible that they were directly suggested by an almost identical episode in a lost 'Hamlet' by the same author.
Kyd's reputation as one of the best-known tragic poets of his time, and his close personal relations with the leading dramatist, Marlowe, strengthen the assumption that he was directly concerned in the composition of many popular anonymous plays. Immediately after Marlowe's death in 1593 he was charged with holding scandalous opinions regarding morality and religion. According to memoranda made from contemporary documents concerning that charge, and now preserved among Thomas Baker's manuscripts (MS. Hurl. 7042. f. 401), 'one Mr. Thomas Kydde had been accused to have consorted with and to have maintained Marlowe's opinions, who seems to have been innocent, and wrote a letter to the lord keeper Puckering to purge himself from these aspersions.' Sir Walter Raleigh was similarly involved in these proceedings, but no further clue to them seems accessible.
Kyd is said to have died in poverty in 1595. His name was remembered long afterwards. In Clerke's 'Polimanteia' (1595) he is numbered among the chief tragic poets; in Meres's 'Palladis Tamia' (1598) mention is made of him among the best writers 'for tragedy.' Ben Jonson, in his elegy on Shakespeare (1633), points out Shakespeare's superiority to 'Sporting Kyd and Marlowe's mighty line;' the punning epithet 'sporting' is derisively inappropriate. Heywood writes of 'Famous Kid' in his 'Hierarchie of Blessed Angels' (1635), and Dekker speaks of 'Industrious Kyd' in his 'Conjuring Knight.' Quotations from Kyd's works figure in Allot's 'England's Parnassus' and in Bodenham's 'Belvedere' (1600).
The four plays, 'The First Part of Jeronimo,' 'The Spanish Tragedie,' 'Cornelia,' and 'Solyman and Perseda' are reprinted in Dodaley's 'Old Plays,' ed. Hajtlitt, vols. iv. and v.
[Some useful notes on Kyd's biography, with a discussion of the authorship and date of Solyman and Perseda, appear in Englische Studien, xv. pt. ii, (by G. Sarrazin), xvi. pt. iii pp. 358 sq. (by E. Koeppel). For Kyd's relations with both the old play of Hamlet and Shakespeare's tragedy see Anglia (neue Folge, i. 117 sq. by G. Sarrazin). See also Fleay's Biographical Chronicle of the English Drama, ii. 26 sq.; Dodsley's Old Plays, ed. Hazlitt. vols.iv, v.; Nares's Glossary, ed. Halliwell; Greene's Menaphon, with Nashe's preface, ed. Grosart; Notes and Queries, iv. i. 162; Halliwell's Dict. of Plays; Collier's reprints of Kyd's tract on Brewen and of Love and Fortune (Roxb. Club), 1851; Henslowe's Diary, ed. Collier; Hunter's manuscript Chorus Vatum.]