Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Sara Munson Deats, PhD.

Committee Member

Sheila Diecidue, PhD.

Committee Member

Lagretta Lenker, PhD.


arranged marriage, companionate marriage, rape, revenge tragedy, feminism


At the heart of Thomas Kyd's revenge tragedy The Spanish Tragedy lies an arranged marriage around which all of the other action revolves. Bel-Imperia of Spain has been betrothed against her will to Prince Balthazar of Portugal, but she is no ordinary woman, and she has plans of her own. Bel-Imperia's unwillingness to participate in the arranged marriage is indicative of the rise of the companionate marriage; it represents a rejection of the arranged marriage that dominated upper class society in earlier years.

This study seeks to throw light upon early modern attitudes towards marriage, focusing particularly on the arranged marriage, the companionate marriage, and the state marriage. Additionally, it examines the role of woman as peace-weaver, a practice that dates back as far as the Beowulf manuscript. Using historical as well as literary sources to delineate these forms, I apply this information to a study of the play itself, with an emphasis on its performative value. Since the proposed marriage dictates all of the action of the play, an analysis of the bartered bride, Bel-Imperia, is of particular importance. This essay examines her character in depth as well as her relationships with Andrea and Horatio, who love her; with Lorenzo, the King, and her father, who seek to exploit her; and with Hieronimo, who becomes her partner in revenge. Additionally, I contrast her with Isabella, one of only two other female characters in the play and conclude by delineating how my analysis would affect a performance of the play and by "directing" a hypothetical interpretation of The Spanish Tragedy.