For contrast see the beginning of “Hamlet”
from “A Spanish Tragedy”
Act I, Scene i
Enter the GHOST of Andrea, and with him REVENGE,
GHOST. When this eternal substance of my soul
Did live imprison'd in my wanton flesh:
Each in their function serving other's need,
I was a courtier in the Spanish Court.
My name was Don Andrea, my descent
Though not ignoble, yet inferior far
To gracious fortunes of my tender youth:
For there in prime and pride of all my years,
By duteous service and deserving love,
In secret I possess'd a worthy dame,
Which hight sweet Bel-imperia by name.
But in the harvest of my summer joys,
Death's winter nipp'd the blossoms of my bliss,
Forcing divorce betwixt my love and me.
For in the late conflict with Portingale,
My valour drew me into danger's mouth,
Till life to death made passage through my wound.'!.
When I was slain, my soul descended straight,
To pass the flowing stream of Acheron:
But churlish Charon, only boatman there,
Said that my rites of burial not perform'd,
I might not sit amongst his passengers.
Ere Sol had slept three nights in Thetis' lap
And slak'd his smoking chariot in her flood:
By Don Horatio our Knight Marshal's son,
My funerals and Obsequies were done.
Then was the ferryman of hell content
To pass me over to the slimy strond,
That leads to fell Avernus' ugly waves:
There pleasing Cerberus with honey'd speech,
I pass'd the perils of the foremost porch.
Not far from hence amidst ten thousand souls,
Sat Minos, Aeacus, and Rhadamanth,
To whom no sooner 'gan I make approach,
To crave a passport for my wand'ring ghost:
But Minos in graven leaves of lottery,
Drew forth the manner of my life and death.
'This knight' (quoth he) 'both liv'd and died in love
And for his love tried fortune of the wars,
And by war's fortune lost both love and life.
'Why then,' said Aeacus, 'convey him hence,
"To walk with lovers in our fields of love:
And spend the course of everlasting time,
Under green myrtle trees and cypress shades.
'No, no,' said Rhadamanth, 'It were not well,
With loving souls to place a martialist:
He died in war, and must to martial fields:
Where wounded Hector lives in lasting pain,
And Achilles' myrmidons do scour the plain.'
Then Minos mildest censor of the three,
Made this device to end the difference.
'Send him' (quoth he) 'to our infernal King:
To doom him as best seems his majesty.'
To this effect my passport straight was drawn.
In keeping on my way to Pluto's court,
Through dreadful shades of ever-glooming night,
I saw more sights than thousand tongues can tell,
Or pens can write, or mortal hearts can think.
Three ways there were, that on the right hand side
Was ready way unto the foresaid fields,
Where lovers live, and bloody martialists,
But either sort contain'd within his bounds.
The left hand path declining fearfully,
Was ready downfall to the deepest hell,
Where bloody furies shakes their whips of steel,
And poor Ixion turns an endless wheel.
Where usurers are chok'd with melting gold,
And wantons are embrac'd with ugly snakes:
And murderers groan with never killing wounds,
And perjur'd wights scalded in boiling lead,
And all foul sins with torments overwhelm'd.
'Twixt these two ways, I trod the middle path,
Which brought me to the fair Elysian green.
In midst whereof there stands a stately tower,
The walls of brass, the gates of adamant.
Here finding Pluto with his Proserpine,
I show'd my passport humbled on my knee.
Whereat fair Proserpine began to smile,
And begg'd that only she might give my doom.
Pluto was pleas'd, and seal'd it with a kiss.
Forthwith (Revenge) she rounded thee in th' ear,
And bad thee lead me through the Gates of Horn,
Where dreams have passage in the silent night.
No sooner had she spoke but we were here,
I wot not how, in twinkling of an eye.
REVENGE. Then know Andrea that thou art arriv'd
Where thou shalt see the author of thy death,
Don Balthazar the Prince of Portingale,
Depriv'd of life by Bel-imperia:
Here sit we down to see the mystery,
And serve for Chorus in this tragedy.
Nevertheless, it does contain some matters of interest in the reversion to a Greco-Roman vision of judgment and Hell. To what purpose, it is hard to say as the play take place firmly in the present (of that time) and in no way remarks upon historical happenings. Nevertheless it is so. And Kyd, being a contemporary of Shakespeare is a sterling example of why Shakespeare is so highly regarded. And yet had there been no Shakespeare, then Kyd and his ilk—Beaumont and Fletcher, and others might hold some pride of place in the pantheon of playwrights. Yet another reason to thank God for Shakespeare. (Though if you give this play, or “The White Devil” or “The Jew of Malta” or some other similar plays a try, you’ll find that they are not without their own charms.)
Or, if you feel so impelled (as I sometimes do) you might take up the unmodernized version and see what Shakespeare did with the same materials.