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The Spanish Tragedy

The Spanish Tragedy had been performed, published and reprinted as an anonymous play for almost two centuries before Thomas Kyd was identified as its author. The play was 'not attributed to him until 1773, when Thomas Hawkins, the editor of a three-volume play-collection, The Origin of the English Drama, cited a passing reference in Thomas Heywood's Apology for Actors (1612) to ‘M. Kid, in the Spanish Tragedy’. J. R. Mulryne, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

If the authorship of the play has been resolved after 1773, dating the play still remains a much debated issue. According to Mulryne, 'it must have been written before 23 February 1592, for on that date it was performed at the Rose Theatre by Lord Strange's Men for Philip Henslowe. This is unlikely to have been the play's first performance, since Henslowe did not mark it as ‘ne’ (new).' He continues: 'a balance of evidence suggests a date of composition before 1588, given the absence—in a play about Spain—of any reference to the Armada, and given plausible allusions in Nashe's ‘Preface’ to Menaphon (1589) and in his Anatomie of Absurdities (1588–9).' J. R. Mulryne, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

In 1597, the Admiral's Men revived the play 'possibly in revised form, for a run of thirteen performances.' (Lukas Erne, Beyond 'The Spanish Tragedy':XVI) The play was printed in 1592, reprinted in 1594 and 1599. In his Diary, Henslowe recorded in 1601/2 a payment to Ben Jonson for additions to the play. In 1602 the play is printed with additions for the first time - 'probably not those by Jonson' concludes Lukas Erne in his Preface to Beyond 'The Spanish Tragedy':XVI. The play appeared in further editions in 1603, 1610, 1615, 1618, 1623, and 1633 - and probably continued to be performed. Last news on the early stage life of the play is that it was 'performed at the Nursery Theatre in Hatton (reported by Pepys)' in 1688. (Lukas Erne, Beyond 'The Spanish Tragedy':XVI)