The First Hired Assassins

Martin Wiggins

in Journeymen in Murder

Published in print November 1991 | ISBN: 9780198112280
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670749 | DOI:
The First Hired Assassins

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We have already seen that the success of The Spanish Tragedy was one of the factors behind the sudden popularity of episodes involving assassins in the late 1580s and early 1590s. Earlier plays — and many later ones — dealt with the stock figure of the tyrant, so that the assassin episode focused contemporary concerns about power and morality, authority and obedience. In contrast, Thomas Kyd's villain, Lorenzo, is a private individual, and his relationship with the assassin is correspondingly different. The relevant thread of the plot traces the gradual process of corruption that leads Bel-Imperia's servant Pedringano to the gallows. Probably the next stage assassins after Pedringano appeared in plays written in the shadow of Tamburlaine (1587–1588), The Wars of Cyrus (1588), and The Wounds of Civil War. Though payment is the murderer's predominant concern, it is not of absolute importance in the context of the murder episode as a whole: rather, it is one side of a transaction. The issue is presented with most acuteness in King Leir.

Keywords: The Spanish Tragedy; assassins; plays; morality; authority; Thomas Kyd; murder; King Leir; corruption; The Wars of Cyrus

Chapter.  11652 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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