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Journeymen in MurderThe Assassin in English Renaissance Drama$
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Martin Wiggins

Print publication date: 1991

Print ISBN-13: 9780198112280

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198112280.001.0001

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The First Hired Assassins

The First Hired Assassins

Chapter:
(p.103) 6 The First Hired Assassins
Source:
Journeymen in Murder
Author(s):

Martin Wiggins

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198112280.003.0007

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

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