Revenge, Justice, and Social Order Essay

Submitted By Amanda-Comperry
Words: 2154
Pages: 9

Thomas Kyd was one of the most important figures in the development of the Elizabethan drama. He introduced many ‘firsts’ to this time period with his play The Spanish Tragedy, bring not only the first Revenge Tragedy, but also the first play-within-a-play and the first to have a character as a Machiavellian villain. As Revenge actually playing a personification of a character in The Spanish Tragedy, the comprehension of justice and revenge is clearly the central issue of the play. With revenge being the obvious theme, many critics have debated over it, but first we need to reassess each term to establish the line that is often blurred between justice and revenge.
When looking over the aspects of The Spanish Tragedy, we have to examine closely the details that help us to differentiate between justice and revenge. The characters in this play are princes, kings, and knight marshals, these people execute the law making the judicial process a complicated issue. In the play elements of just and criminal become synonyms and the invisible line that separates the two becomes intertwined. “Whenever issues of justice have preoccupied our culture, the question of revenge has always followed close behind (Simkin).” This essay will explore the attributes that gave The Spanish Tragedy its title of being the first revenge tragedy focusing on the Hieronimo’s actions dealing with law, vengeance, and equity.
What exactly is justice? By definition, it is just behavior treatment, further defined as a judge or magistrate, in particular a judge of the Supreme Court of a country or state. We look at retributive justice, one of four types of justice, because of its involvement with punishment being the best response to crime. Retributive justice provides to the people of a functioning society the motivation not to commit a crime, but all justice for wronged parties if one is to be taken place. Fair punishment made by retributive justice will serve to improve not just the criminal but society as a whole.
Retributive justice, when properly understood, serves a civilized culture in several important ways. It isolates individuals who endanger the community; it expresses social outrage at morally perverse acts… it rewards the perpetrator proportionately with consequences befitting the crime; and it rehabilitates the offender by forcing him to reflect on the grievous nature of the crime. Each of these elements is critical in preserving the social order. (Charles)
In the third act a clear example of justice appears with the resolution of the sub-plot taking place in Portugal. The Viceroy has chosen to execute Alexandro for the death of his son Balthazar, with Villuppo by the Viceroy’s side. However Alexandro, who has been falsely accused is saved at the last minute by an Ambassador with news from the Spanish court that Balthazar is still alive and that Villuppo has been cheating the Viceroy. Yet when Villuppo is condemned to the “bitterest torments” Alexandro tries to alleviate his punishment, despite Villuppo’s attempt to have him unjustly sentenced to death. [Alexandro seems to entreat.]
Vice. Entreat me not, go take the traitor hence.
( Act3, Scene 1)
The Viceroy recognizes that if he does not give Villippo a justifiable punishment, the judicial system that the public believes in will not be pleased; the King understands that “the difference between private and public spheres and to recognize that mercy does not release the public demands that justice imposes (Charles).” After realizing his mistake, the King makes amends with Alexando and the Portuguese court returns to normal thanks to justice.
Vice. And Alexandro, let us honour thee/ with public notice of thy loyalty”.
(Act3, Scene 1)
“Justice, then, like rank and honour, remains deeply problematic in The Spanish Tragedy. It insists we interrogate what constitutes justice and what must be guaranteed a citizenry if government is to function (Kinney).” When we ask ourselves,