Carol Chillington Rutter
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‘For what’s a play without a woman in it?’
in Doing Kyd
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The woodblock illustration below the title to the 1615 quarto of The Spanish Tragedy captures a sequence of actions that happen across two of the play's scenes but freezes them into a single nightmare image of horror. A hundred years later, however, the flower-dealing woman in white is once again the object of horror, the tropes originating with Isabella and inherited by Ophelia now reconfigured by the gothic imagination. This chapter gives her Doing Kyd's last word, an epilogue that also serves as a prologue for the continuing cultural work that Isabella, and The Spanish Tragedy, perform sometimes incognito, sometimes in her and its own right, in subsequent theatre. When he's casting Soliman and Perseda, Hieronimo asks rhetorically: 'what's a play without a woman in it?'.

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Doing Kyd

Essays on The Spanish Tragedy


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