Thomas Kyd

Kyd or Kid, Thomas, 1558–94, English dramatist, b. London. The son of a scrivener, he evidently followed his father's profession for a few years. In the 1580s he began writing plays. His literary fame rests on The Spanish Tragedy (c.1586), which initiated an important Elizabethan dramatic genre—the revenge tragedy. Popular throughout the 17th cent., The Spanish Tragedy is notable for its exciting action, splendid rhetoric, and complex delineation of character. Kyd is believed by some scholars to be the author of an earlier version of Hamlet, which Shakespeare used as the basis of his play. In 1593, Kyd was accused of holding unorthodox religious and moral views; he was arrested and subjected to torture. Although he extricated himself by implicating his friend Christopher Marlowe, his reputation was severely marred, and he died in poverty the following year.

See studies by A. Freeman (1967) and C. L. Barber (1988).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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