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Biting one’s tongue: autoglossotomy and agency in The Spanish Tragedy

Skuse, A. ORCID: (2021) Biting one’s tongue: autoglossotomy and agency in The Spanish Tragedy. Renaissance Studies. ISSN 1477-4658

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/rest.12747


When the protagonist Hieronimo bites out his own tongue in Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, his actions seem to make little sense. After all, he has already explained the very plot which he claims to be keeping a secret through his self‐injury. However this article argues that Hieronimo's tongue‐biting taps into rich discourses about self‐injury, personal agency, stoicism and madness. I argue that self‐injury was related to suicide in its assertion of control over the individual body, and could therefore operate as a type of protest. Moreover, stories of tongue‐biting from classical sources functioned as stoic exemplars of resistance to political tyranny. Revisions of The Spanish Tragedy shifted the meaning of this scene by placing increasing emphasis on Hieronimo's madness and the role of the supernatural forces in determining the play's events. overall, however, I argue that Hieronimo's tongue‐biting should be read as bringing together a number of cultural scripts, which interact and overlap to produce a morally ambiguous and richly allusive scene.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:98501
Uncontrolled Keywords:Original Article, Original Articles, protest, self‐harm, the spanish tragedy


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