Hamlet: Shakespeare’s Plagiarism of The Spanish Tragedy

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This essay explores the extent to which Shakespeare borrowed from Thomas Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy when writing Hamlet. Shakespeare borrowed plot elements, such as the play within a play, and the concept of the revenge tragedy from Kyd’s works. Shakespeare moved beyond the typical revenge tragedy form and created a play where the themes are complex and the psychology of the characters is deepened. Hamlet’s complex characterization is shown through his conflict between Roman values and Christian values. The play within a play is a literary organ that has been used in stories for a long time, and it is used in Hamlet to reveal Claudius’ guilt and the truthfulness of the ghost. Shakespeare’s use of borrowed elements demonstrates the power of drama to make one see the truth in one’s actions.

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Some argue that the present is grounded in the past. Like many other renowned works, Hamlet, Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, has drawn inspiration from previous masterpieces. However, how did Hamlet incorporate elements from other texts and what was its impact? Specifically, Shakespeare borrowed plot elements, the concept of a revenge tragedy, and character traits from Thomas Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy.

Firstly, this essay will discuss the plot elements that have been borrowed from Thomas Kyd’s works, particularly The Spanish Tragedy. These elements include the play within the play and the genre of the revenge play. The play within a play has a long history in storytelling, with traces found in Arabic, Persian, and Indian traditions (Bonnie Irwin, 1995). It can also be seen in Homer’s Odyssey, but Thomas Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy is likely the first instance of its use in drama. Shakespeare utilizes this literary device to ensure the success of his work and emphasize the power of drama in revealing the truth about one’s actions. In Hamlet, the play within a play assists in exposing Claudius’ guilt and validating the ghost’s honesty. Furthermore, Shakespeare incorporates the conventions and themes of a revenge tragedy, which were immensely popular during the Elizabethan and Jacobean era and prevalent in The Spanish Tragedy. However, Shakespeare goes beyond the typical revenge tragedy form in this play. Hamlet explores complex themes and delves deeper into the psychology of its characters. This is achieved through Hamlet’s intricate characterization, as he navigates between Roman ideals of lineage and bravery and Christian values of modesty.


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Hamlet: Shakespeare’s Plagiarism of The Spanish Tragedy. (2018, Feb 03). Retrieved from


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