'Canst paint a doleful cry?': Promotion and Performance in the Spanish Tragedy Title-Page Illustration

  • Diane K. Jakacki University of Waterloo
Keywords: The Spanish Tragedy, visual rhetoric, woodcut, illustration, print,


This article examines the play-text title page illustration of The Spanish Tragedy, offering a case study demonstrating how title page imagery and its circulation can contribute to our understanding of theatre culture in early modern London. In the process it addresses questions of intention, production and distribution. Illustrated title pages such as that for The Spanish Tragedy offered a compelling distillation of the play’s action and themes that served as a powerful marketing tool. In particular, this case study applies the approaches used in visual rhetoric to expand upon what we already know about how and what these images communicate, and enlarge our understanding of them and their importance. This illustration is especially valuable as it presents an artistic interpretation of the climactic sequence in the play that would have been especially resonant for an early modern viewer, whether that viewer had seen the play on stage or read the text.