This week's foray into the works of Christopher Marlowe has taught us an important lesson: We can better understand the genius of Shakespeare when we understand his contemporaries and his influences. So, before we read Hamlet (next week, I promise), let's read Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy. Written between 1582 and 1592, this play was wildly popular in its time, and it established a new category of drama, the revenge tragedy -- of which Hamlet is perhaps the ultimate incarnation. The play also contains elements that Shakespeare refines in his own play, such as the vengeful ghost and the play-within-a-play strategy to expose someone's guilt.
Don't have a copy of The Spanish Tragedy on your bookshelf? It's available online here.