Thomas Kyd (1558 –1594) was an English dramatist and a central figure in the development of Elizabethan drama. He rose to prominence in the 1580s, although most of his work is lost. His most famous work is The Spanish Tragedie. The play was generally known as Hieronimo, and was extremely popular. Kyd may also have authored a play called Hamlet, pre-dating Shakespeare’s and similar in content.
From 1587 to 1593 Kyd was in the service of an unidentified noble. Possibilities include the Earl of Sussex, the Earl of Pembroke, Lord Strange, and the Earl of Oxford. Christopher Marlowe served the same noble for a time, and he and Kyd shared lodgings during this period.
On 11 May 1593 the Privy Council ordered the arrest of the authors of "divers lewd and mutinous libels" which had been posted around London. Kyd was among those arrested. His lodgings were searched and the authorities discovered a tract they described as "vile heretical conceits denying the eternal deity of Jesus Christ.”
Kyd was brutally tortured, and eventually confessed that the tract has been obtained from Marlowe. The latter was summoned by the Privy Council, but while waiting for a decision on his case was killed in suspicious circumstances. Kyd was eventually released, but his name was blackened. He died in 1594, at the age of 35.