Radio Silence: explained…and a slight (temporary) shift

As you might have noticed, my blog has been seriously neglected lately. Why? Well, in addition to my day job, I started a professional certificate in editing at the University of Chicago–so my available time has taken a hit. I’m not able to give plays like The Changeling the attention they deserve and post an analysis in a decent space of time.

I want to keep my blog up and running, though, so I’ve hit on an idea. The second half of my MA thesis was good as far as content, but I never felt it matched the first half stylistically. What I propose to do is break the second half into sections and edit them to my liking, then post them here. With any luck you’ll find them as entertaining and informative about early modern drama as my earlier posts.

The title of my thesis was The Sea in Early Modern Drama: Existential Affect, Imperative Choice, and Embodiment of Transformation. The project was more of a compendium of examples and how they were used than a defense of a stated argument. The first half (in my opinion, the better stylistically) addresses language used by early modern dramatists to portray situations of intense emotion or imperative choice, such as Brutus’s line “there is a tide in the affairs of men” (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar 4.3.215 [Arden Complete Works]). The second half, the one I propose to post in sections here, looks at language suggesting the embodiment of transformation: think Ariel’s song in The Tempest or Clarence’s dream in Richard III. If you’re here for the non-Shakespearean content, no worries! Works by Will’s contemporaries are also part of the discussion–you might even learn about a play you didn’t know existed.

Thanks for being patient while I revise what I think is an interesting exploration of dramatic language and usage. When I can, I’ll get back to my close reading of non-Shakespearean drama.

Happy reading!

The Spanish Tragedy – Act Three, Scenes 13-15: “Thou art the lively image of my grief”

Scene Thirteen: Hieronimo, distracted and grief-stricken, is approached by petitioners requesting he plead their cases to the king. The group includes Balzuto, who seeks justice for his own murdered son.

Hieronimo enters carrying a book and exclaims, “Vindicta mihi!” (1), Latin for “vengeance is mine” (Neill 79, n1). He then begins a soliloquy in which he works through the idea of revenge. Throughout, he uses Latin quotes; these are from the Roman philosopher Seneca, which is also a hint as to the book he carries (possibly Seneca’s Octavia [Neill 79, n1]). Seneca was in vogue at the time ST was written, and his influence can be seen in many plays of the period.

As in previous scenes, the Latin quotes give an epic feel to Hieronimo’s lines. He muses on active revenge as opposed to delay and patient waiting and recognizes that “heaven will be revenged of every ill, / Nor will they suffer murder unrepaid” (2-3). He also observes that those who do harm can be answered in kind, and that death is the worst that can happen. He then declares, “…I will revenge his death” (20) and concocts a plan. His first step is fooling those in the Spanish court: 

…therefore, will I rest me in unrest,
Dissembling quiet in unquietness,
Not seeming that I know their villainies,
That my simplicity may make them think,
That ignorantly I will let all slip–
For ignorance I [know] , and well they know,
Remedium malorum iners est. (29-35)

The Norton translates this last line as “is an ineffective remedy for evils” (Neill 80, n35). While waiting for an opportune moment to act, Hieronimo has decided to feign no knowledge of who murdered his son. His “simplicity” and “quiet in unquietness” will mask his plotting and give the guilty false security. This may also trick them into thinking the murder is indeed “a nine days’ wonder” (3.10.11), and believe they are in the clear. Hieronimo’s calm and courteous demeanor will allow him to wait for the best time to exact revenge.

If this all sounds familiar, it should. In the years after ST, Shakespeare also wrote a play in which the main character is prompted to avenge a murder but takes the better part of the action to muse on what it means to commit such an act. Feigning madness while working through the situation is also in the plot, as is questioning if life is worth the suffering (“To be, or not to be…”). The play is, of course, Hamlet.      

Three citizens arrive with legal suits they want Hieronimo to argue on their behalf.* They have no way of knowing that the man they are appealing to for aid is also in pursuit of justice. One petitioner claims a debt, another contests an eviction, but the third, Bazulto, stands apart “With mournful eyes and hands to heaven upreared” (3.13.68). When asked about his suit, Balzuto explains he cannot put his woes into words, but will instead “With ink bewray what blood began in me” (77). This reference to blood is fraught with meaning: passion/anger, the lineage of his family, his son’s blood spilled. It also recalls the letter penned in blood by Bel-Imperia, dropped from her tower prison and similarly meant for Hieronimo’s eyes (3.2). Once more, a letter or document plays a role in advancing the plot.

Hieronimo reads Bazulto’s suit, which begins “…‘The humble supplication / Of Don Bazulto for his murdered son’” (3.13.78-79). Hieronimo is caught off guard and responds,
 
No sir, it was my murdered son…
Here, take my handkercher and wipe thine eyes,
Whiles wretched I in thy mishaps may see
The lively portrait of my dying self…  (80, 83-85).

In Bazulto, he sees himself: a man whose life is sapped by grief, hastening to the grave. The cloth Hieronimo offers is stained with blood and he explains it was taken from the body of Horatio. Is this the scarf given to Andrea by Bel-Imperia, then worn by Horatio in remembrance of his friend? Hieronimo calls it “a token ‘twixt [Horatio’s] soul and me” (88), a promise he will avenge his son’s death. If it is Bel-Imperia’s scarf, it is a tie that unbeknownst to Hieronimo, binds him to the lovers and their own sense of anger and grief.

Hieronimo has lost all composure, and “draws out more objects” (90sd) that he hands to Bazulto, saying “take this, and this—what my purse?– / Ay, this, and that, and all of them are thine, / For all as one are our extremities” (90-92). If Bazulto is the personification of grief, Hieronimo’s actions are that of a man giving grief his all. He begins a long lament decrying his delay in avenging Horatio. If Bazulto, a poor citizen, can actively seek justice for his own lost son, Hieronimo feels he should do as much – if not more:

See, see, O see thy shame, Hieronimo:
See here a loving father to his son;…
If love’s effects so strives in lesser things,
If love enforce such moods in meaner wits,
If love express such power in poor estates–
…Then shamest thou not, Hieronimo, to neglect
The sweet revenge of thy Horatio?   (95-96, 99-101, 106-107; italics mine)

The anaphora, or repetition of “if love” at the beginning of the lines, drives home Hieronimo’s feelings of guilt and shame. Bazulto does not have the position or wealth of Hieronimo, but love for his son presses him on. Hieronimo’s actions from five lines earlier do imply, however, that he is now prepared to give everything to his cause.  His speech continues with a vow: “I’ll down to hell, and in this passion / Knock at the dismal gates of Pluto’s court, / …Till we do gain that Proserpine may grant / Revenge on them that murderèd my son” (109-110, 120-121). These references connect him with Andrea, who in 1.2 recounted his own journey to the Underworld and experience before Pluto and Prosperpine. Remember, too, that Andrea was placed in the company of Revenge by Proserpine, and the pair sits watching this unfold.

In a fit of passion, Hieronimo tears the petitioners’ requests with his teeth. The petitioners exit the stage in dismay, leaving Hieronimo alone with Balzuto. He now appears to see the image of Horatio in the old man and says to him,

And art thou come, Horatio, from the depth
To ask for justice in this upper earth?
To tell they father thou art unrevenged…
Go back, my son, complain to Aeacus,
For here’s no justice; gentle boy be gone,
For justice is exilèd from the earth:  (132-134, 137-139)

If the director chose to have Horatio join Revenge and Andrea, this becomes yet another metatheatrical moment. Balzuto, quietly wondering at his words, asks Hieronimo, “Alas, my lord, whence springs this troubled speech?” (143), but instead of answering, Hieronimo again cries out to his son. Is he truly conflating Bazulto and Horatio? He says to the old man, “But let me look on my Horatio: / Sweet boy, how art thou changed in death’s black shade? …Horatio, thou art older than thy father” (144-145, 149). Bazulto gently tries to tell him he is not his son, but this only enrages Hieronimo: “What, not my son? thou then a Fury art, / …To plague Hieronimo, that is remiss / And seeks not vengeance for Horatio’s death” (152-53, 156-157). The audience or reader must decide if this response is dissembling or actual madness brought on by guilt at not acting more swiftly in his revenge. This, of course, is another similarity to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which the lead character also recognizes and blames himself for being dilatory in seeking revenge.

Bazulto answers, “I am a grievèd man and not a ghost” (158), leading Hieronimo to observe, “Thou art the lively image of my grief; / Within thy face my sorrows I may see” (161-162). In the features of the old man, Hieronimo sees his inner turmoil. To him, Bazulto is the embodiment of grief, his physicality an expression of sorrow and loss. Revenge may watch from afar, but grief walks among the living. 

*

Scene Fourteen: The Viceroy arrives to make good on the points agreed upon in Portugal’s treaty with Spain — including the marriage of Baltazar and Bel-Imperia. The Duke of Castile confronts Lorenzo with the rumor that Lorenzo is attempting to undermine Hieronimo in the eyes of the King. He insists Lorenzo and Hieronimo be on good terms once more.

The Viceroy and King confirm Bel-Imperia’s betrothal to Balthazar and that the couple will be married the following day. Like many women over the course of history, Bel-Imperia is a bargaining chip. Instead of being seen as an individual with her own mind and desires, she is a token of favor to cement the newly contracted peace and bring prestige to her family. The Viceroy vows that after the nuptials, he will give Balthazar his crown and spend the remainder of his days in prayer – something that both impresses and pleases the King.

The Duke of Castile and Lorenzo remain after the King and Viceroy exit. They discuss the impending marriage, something Lorenzo has “…longed so happily to see” (48). If he speaks truthfully, rather than simply being politic, it may confirm the theory that he hopes to wield influence on the malleable Balthazar and become a shadow figure of power in the Portuguese court. The Duke then confronts his son with a rumor he has heard:

It is suspected – and reported too —
That thou, Lorenzo, wrong’st Hieronimo,
And in his suits towards his majesty
Still keep’st him back, and seeks to cross his suit. (53-56)

As expected, Lorenzo plays dumb and claims to not understand who would say such a thing. His father makes clear that if true, this is not acceptable, saying, “Lorenzo, know’st thou not the common love / And kindness that Hieronimo hath won / By his deserts within the court of Spain?” (61-63). He tells Lorenzo it would be “a scandal…among the kings” should “Hieronimo exclaim on thee” (69, 67), and insists he answer truthfully regarding the rumors. Lorenzo replies that he cannot control gossip, and Hieronimo’s age and grief are the reason he believes this idle talk. He agrees to be reconciled with Hieronimo, and his father calls for the Knight Marshal to be brought to them.

Bel-Imperia enters with Balthazar, looking downcast. When urged by Balthazar to look more cheerful, she tells him, “My looks, my lord, are fitting for my love, / Which, new begun, can show no brighter yet” (101-102). This excellent reply is both truth and a fitting response; she does not love Balthazar, so looking less than happy is appropriate; at the same time, it was thought fitting for a newly contracted bride to be reticent and modest in her affections. Her father then greets her with lines that cannot be welcome: “Content thyself, for I am satisfied: / It is not now as when Andrea lived, / We have forgotten and forgiven that” (110-112).

Bel-Imperia is silent for the rest of the scene. She makes no response to her father’s slight, and no attempt to defend Andrea or their love. Since Andrea is watching the exchange, a director might have him offer angry gestures, sit sulkily, or take it in impassively (3.15 gives a clue as to what Kyd may have envisioned). Similarly, Bel-Imperia’s wordless response is left to the director’s imagination and reading of the scene.

Hieronimo arrives and the Duke greets him kindly. He tells Hieronimo, who continues to feign madness, that contrary to the rumors Lorenzo is not blocking his suit. If he were, the Duke continues, Hieronimo is held in such high esteem that he himself would be offended. Hieronimo responds by drawing his sword and offering to fight anyone repeating this chatter. Lorenzo loved Horatio, he declares, so the gossip that he is blocking justice for Horatio’s death is shameful.

Balthazar’s response to the reconciliation is either naïve or crafty: “Why this is friendly done, Hieronimo” (162). Does he believe Hieronimo is truly forgiving, or is he perpetuating the ruse? Again, in performance, this depends on the director’s vision. Lorenzo, dissembling as before, says “And thus I hope old grudges are forgot” (163), to which Hieronimo replies, “What else? it were a shame it should not be so” (164). Hieronimo is playing the long game, working to outmaneuver the two men. After they exit, an obviously lucid Hieronimo says in Italian, “someone who shows me more affection than usual has either betrayed me, or wishes to betray me” (Neill 91, n168-169). Hieronimo knows what’s going on, and his use of Italian highlights his disgust at the two men who murdered his son. They are untrustworthy and he knows they are actively working against him. They are undeserving of the more honorable language of Latin, the tongue of epic grief and revenge.

*

Scene Fifteen: Andrea is angry that Revenge appears to be sleeping through the unfolding events.

Andrea calls out for Erictho and Cerberus to wake and implore Pluto and Proserpine’s aid against Acheron and Erebus, who signify chaos and despair. Erictho and Cerberus are powerful inhabitants of the Underworld, and of course, Pluto and Proserpine placed Andrea with Revenge at the end of 1.1. In a fit of anger and passion, Andrea declares that none have seen “Such fearful sights as poor Andrea sees! / Revenge, awake!” (3.15.5-6). He then scolds his companion, saying, “Awake, Revenge! for thou art ill-advised / To sleep away what thou art warned to watch” (8-9). Revenge may actually have dosed off or Andrea may deem it sleeping since things appear to be veering from his desired outcome. In a misread of the previous scene, he tells Revenge that Lorenzo and Hieronimo are now in league, halting his chance for revenge.

Revenge responds that Andrea’s fears are not grounded. Revenge has its own time and method; it cannot be forced and can only happen at its own pace. Andrea is then given a foretaste of coming events via a dumbshow, which Revenge explains cryptically. The dumbshow suggests the impending marriage will be closely followed by death, implying that Hymen, the god of marriage, is displeased. This contents Andrea, who promises to settle back and allow things to work as ordained. Revenge answers, “Then argue not, for thou hast thy request” (38). Andrea’s death, as well as Horatio’s, will be answered.

*

*I have to mention a happy accident appearing in the Norton. In 3.13, Hieronimo’s servant announces the arrival of the three petitioners; the original text may have identified the servant’s lines with only an “S.” or perhaps “Ser.” Consequently, the Norton misidentifies the speaker as “Serberine.” Serberine, of course, was involved in Horatio’s murder and subsequently killed by Pedringano at Lorenzo’s behest (3.3). Actors often play more than one part in a production, a process called doubling, and the thought that the actor who plays  Serberine might double the part of Hieronimo’s servant is too perfect. The actor playing Serberine, a character involved in Horatio’s murder and killed to ensure his silence, returns to play a servant to Horatio’s father. Shades of remorse, guilt, and punishment in the servant’s role would be unavoidable. Brilliant!

The Spanish Tragedy – Act Three, Scenes 4-8: “You know, my lord, I slew him for your sake”

(Cassidy Cash, host of That Shakespeare Life, recently posted a podcast on Thomas Kyd and his relationship to Shakespeare. If you’re interested in learning more about the man who wrote The Spanish Tragedy, here’s a link. Cassidy’s podcasts are always chock full of good information, so browse her archive, too. Enjoy!)

*************

Scene Four: Prince Baltazar learns that his man Serberine has been killed by Pedringano; Lorenzo assures the Prince that Pedringano will die for the offense. Lorenzo sends word to Pedringano that he will be pardoned, but this is a ruse to ensure his silence.

Pedringano’s angry defiance closes 3.3. In contrast, 3.4 opens with Baltazar greeting Lorenzo in a casual, conversational way — as if nothing is amiss:
BALTAZAR: How now, my lord, what makes you rise so soon?
LORENZO: Fear of preventing our mishaps too late.
BALTAZAR: What mischief is it that we not mistrust?
LORENZO: Our greatest ills we least mistrust, my lord,
And inexpected harms do hurt us most. (1-5, italics mine)

Assonance and repetition link not only the verses but also those speaking: two men bound by their shared guilt in the murder of Horatio. Their easy banter and the sing-song consonance of “mischief”/ “mistrust,” and “harms do hurt” efface the situation, Lorenzo’s paranoia, and his plot to eradicate both Pedringano and Serberine. The undercurrent of strain is apparent, but not yet the focus.

This convivial atmosphere changes quickly. Lorenzo tells Baltazar he suspects Hieronimo knows the circumstances of Horatio’s death, but Baltazar brushes it off with “Betrayed, Lorenzo? tush, it cannot be!” (13). Six lines later a Page enters announcing that Serberine is dead at the hands of Pedringano, and Baltazar’s tone changes to the incredulous: “Is Serberine slain that loved his lord so well? / Injurious villain, murderer of his friend!” (24-25). The irony is, of course, that “Injurious villain, murderer of his friend,” fittingly describes anyone who takes the life of an associate — Baltazar and Lorenzo included.

Lorenzo feigns surprised at the news. “Hath Pedringano murdered Serberine? / My lord, let me entreat you to take the pains / To exasperate and hasten his revenge” (26-28). In other words, Lorenzo, sought by Hieronimo (albeit unwittingly) as he calls for revenge on those involved with Horatio’s death, now urges his accomplice in that same offense to avenge a related murder. These few lines are a complex blend of murderers seeking revenge against other murderers and conspirators seeking justice against other conspirators. The conflation continues as Baltazar vows to “haste the marshal-sessions” (33). The “marshal-sessions” are the trial of Pedrigano, over which Hieronimo will preside as Knight Marshal: the very man Lorenzo now fears suspects them in the murder of Horatio. Revenge and justice seem to lose their meaning when they are also sought by those guilty of the very crimes in question.

Baltazar exits, leaving Lorenzo to muse at how well his plan is coming together (“Why so, this fits our former policy” [35]). He is pleased to find Baltazar as gullible as Pedringano and gloats, using words applicable to either Baltazar or Pedringano:
I lay the plot, he prosecutes the point;
I set the trap, he breaks the worthless twigs,
And sees not that wherewith the bird was limed….
He runs to kill whom I have holp to catch,
And no man knows it was my reaching fatch. (37-39, 42-43)
The Norton text glosses “fatch” as an obsolete form of “fetch” referring to stratagem or device (Neill 53). Lorenzo is convinced the plan he devised is foolproof and is confident it is working.

The Messenger arrives, delivering a letter to Lorenzo from the imprisoned Pedringano. Lorenzo skims the letter, which asks him to “help [Pedringano] in his distress” (51). He waves the request aside and sends the Messenger back to Pedringano with the reply, “Tell him I have his letters, know his mind, / And what we may, let him assure him of” (52-53). Lorenzo, of course, has no intention of helping Pedringano. “This works like wax” (55) he gloats, implying he can mold Pedringano and his circumstances to best effect. He prepares to send the Page to Pedringano, instructing him to “Bid [Pedringano] to be merry still, but secret; / …Bid him not doubt of his delivery. / Tell him his pardon is already signed, /…Show him this box, tell him his pardon’s in’t” (59, 61-62, 67). After admonishing the Page to not open the box on pain of his life, Lorenzo dispatches him with the words, “[Pedringano] shall not want while Don Lorenzo lives” (70). While at first blush this appears to promise Lorenzo’s protection and care of Pedringano, one must remember that 1) dead men want for nothing, and 2) Lorenzo plans to “live” (escape punishment) by permanently silencing Pedringano. After the Page leaves, Lorenzo reveals a level of paranoia worthy of Shakespeare’s Macbeth or Richard III: “Now stands our fortune on a tickle point, / And now or never ends Lorenzo’s doubts” (73-73).

At the close of the scene, Lorenzo lapses into Italian (82-83). Kyd may have made this choice to confirm Lorenzo’s Machivellian persona and underscore that he is not a noble or epic character. “Machivellian” comes from the name of Niccolo Machiavelli, an Italian diplomat and author of The Prince (1513), a book describing how a ruler might retain control during times of turmoil. One of the most well-known and enduring quotes from the book is “it is much safer to be feared than loved” (Chapter XVII “Of Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better to Be Loved or Feared”). There is no way to know if Kyd read The Prince, but it is likely he knew of the book and its argument. Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Kyd and Shakespeare, has a character named “Machevil” speak the Prologue in his The Jew of Malta (c.1590), and Shakespeare may have had The Prince in mind when writing Richard III (c.1593). Either way, as a gesture to Machiavelli or not, Lorenzo’s Italian is in stark contrast to the Latin other characters speak in times of duress or passion, and signals he is of a different mindset and nature.     

*

Scene Five: The Page learns that there is no letter of pardon in the box Lorenzo entrusted to him.

The Page enters, carrying the box he was told contains Pedringano’s letter of pardon. Although the Page was warned not to look inside, curiosity gets the better of him and he peeks in. Unsurprisingly, the box is empty. The Page, however, feels no remorse in being part of Lorenzo’s ruse, and chuckles at “how the villain will flout the gallows, scorn the audience, and descant on the hangman” (10-12). The Page even plans to goad Pedringano on, “pointing my fingers at this box” so he will “Mock on” (14, 15). The jest is so appealing to the Page he considers it worth the risk — even if he goes to the gallows, too.

Lorenzo’s non-existent letter of pardon contrasts with Bel-Imperia’s actual, unlooked-for letter to Hieronimo. Both letters concern the release of someone imprisoned: Bel-Imperia, locked away unjustly by her brother and Baltazar, and Pedringano, held for his murder of Seberine. Bel-Imperia’s letter, written in blood, is meant to hasten justice via revenge for Horatio’s murder. Similarly, Lorenzo’s non-existent letter is blood-soaked in both its link to two murders and its aim of ensuring Pedringano’s swift execution. Although Pedringano’s dying on the gallows is just punishment for his murder of Serberine, the man’s doom originates in the lawless killing of Horatio — as does Bel-Imperia’s imprisonment and cry for justice. Both letters are linked tangentially and in some sense writ in blood.

*

Scene Six: Pedringano is brought to the gallows but is flippant and sure of a pardon. The Page stands in the crowd, gesturing to the box that only he knows is empty. Pedringano is hanged.

Hieronimo enters with the deputy, lamenting that he is responsible for meting out justice despite being unable to win it for his son (“But shall I never live to see the day / That I may come, by justice of the heavens, / To know the cause that may my cares allay?” [5-7]). Hieronimo is unaware that the man whose execution he must now witness was a participant in Horatio’s murder and that consequently, the heavens are indeed answering his appeal.

Pedringano is escorted in by the Hangman. The Page, also in attendance, points at the box containing the non-existent pardon. In an aside, Pedringano tells him his arrival is welcome. He was afraid Lorenzo had forgotten him, he says, and in his concern had written to Lorenzo regarding “A nearer matter that concerneth him” (20). For a third time in Act Three, a letter linked with blood (in this case Pedringano’s impending execution) helps drive the plot.

In fulfilling his office as Knight Marshal, Hieronimo speaks to Pedringano the words he craves to speak to his son’s killer. Unbeknownst to him, his desire has been granted and his laments for justice heard:
Stand forth, thou monster, murderer of men,
And here for satisfaction of the world,
Confess thy folly and repent thy fault,
For there’s thy place of execution. (24-27)

Pedringano’s reply is flippant and arrogant, mocking the trial and his situation (“First I confess—nor fear I death therefore– / I am the man, ‘twas I slew Serberine” [29-30]). Hieronimo responds to this by referencing his own seeking of justice. The reader/audience can find a certain poignancy in his words, as the Knight Marshal has no way of knowing that he actually is passing judgement on one of his son’s killers:
For blood with blood shall, while I sit as judge,
Be satisfied, and the law discharged.
And though myself cannot receive the like,
Yet will I see that others have their right. (35-38)

From this point on, judge, Deputy, and condemned are linked via the sharing of words. Hieronimo’s demand that Pedringano “for satisfaction of the world” (25) confess his crime is answered with a pert “But sir, then you think this shall be the place / Where we shall satisfy you for this [crime]?” (31-32). The Deputy responds in the affirmative, but Pedringano replies, “Now I think not so” (33); this is answered by Hieronimo’s “For blood with blood shall, while I sit as judge, / Be satisfied” (35-36 – all italics mine). “Satisfied” is passed between the three men, honed into different forms, and framed by different contexts, creating a triangle of justice similar to the other triangles of association (love, war) seen throughout the play.

The sharing of words continues between Pedringano and the Hangman. Their stichomythia (quick, give-and-take dialogue), however, even more so than their wordplay, creates a kind of intimacy between the condemned man and the official who will end his life:
HANGMAN: Come, sir.
PEDRINGANO: So then, I must up?
HANGMAN: No remedy.
PEDRINGANO: Yes, but there shall be for my coming down.
HANGMAN: Indeed, here’s a remedy for that. (48-52, italics mine)

In a rapid exchange over several lines, Pedringano and the Hangman share words (“break” [58,61]; “truss” [70, 71]; “office” [80, 81]), change meanings, and craft puns. In response to his good humor, Hangman calls Pedringano “the merriest piece of man’s flesh / that e’er groaned at my office door” (79-80). Their dialogue could be played as comedy or straight, a directorial choice that would color the scene as well as Pedringano’s overall character.

Hieronimo, on the other hand, finds no humor in Pedringano’s flippant attitude and storms out, declaring:
Murder, O bloody monster—God forbid,
A fault so foul should ‘scape unpunished!
Despatch and see this execution done–
This makes me to remember thee, my son. (97-100)
His leaving means he unwittingly misses the execution of one of his son’s killers, a death by hanging that echoes Horatio’s hanging in the arbor. Justice will be served, although the man seeking it will not be in attendance.

Pedringano tries to play his hand, telling the Hangman and Deputy they should be in “no haste” (101) to execute him. To their inquiry “have you hope of life?” (102), he replies “Why, rascal, by my pardon from the king” (105). The Hangman takes this in stride and summarily executes him. It is then proclaimed by the Deputy that Pedringano’s corpse shall not receive burial rites (“Let not the earth be chokèd or infect / With that which heavens contemns and men neglect” [109-110]). No man came to Pedringano’s aid; he dies condemned and forgotten by all but those entangled in Lorenzo’s web.          

*

Scene Seven: The hangman brings Hieronimo a letter written by Pedringano confessing his role in the murder of Horatio. Hieronimo vows to go to the king and demand justice for his son.

Following the Deputy’s proclamation that Pedringano’s corpse remain unburied so as not to “chok[e] or infect” the earth (109), Hieronimo enters, distracted and full of grief. He too invokes the earth and elements, crying, “My woes…hath wearièd the earth,” “surcharged the air,” and he claims the winds and trees now participate in his pain (2, 3, 5-6). His agony has become so intense it has “broken through the brazen gates of hell” (9), a line recalling Andrea’s journey to the Underworld and presence in the tower of Hades and Proserpine (1.1.74-80). It is also a reminder that in essence, Hieronimo’s and Andrea’s calls for revenge are one: vengeance on Baltazar and Lorenzo would mean justice served for both Horatio’s and Andrea’s deaths.

Hieronimo’s emotional torment is such that his soul “[w]ith broken sighs and restless passions” (3.7.11) “beat[s] at the windows of the brightest heavens / Soliciting for justice and revenge” (13-14). This last line also alludes to the Furies, creatures in Greek mythology who sought vengeance “for crimes against the natural order.” Hieronimo’s despairing vision of his sighs and passions beating against the heavens’ “impregnable” “walls of diamond” (16, 15) is tinged with irony, however: Revenge is seated on the stage, close at hand and watching the action unfold.

As if to reinforce Revenge’s presence, the Hangman enters bearing a letter found on Pedringano’s corpse. The letter, addressed to Lorenzo, is the one described by Pedringano in an aside to the Page (3.6.19-21). It states “If [Lorenzo] neglects [Pedringano], [Pedringano’s] life is desperate, / And in [his] death [he] shall reveal the truth” (3.7.34-35). His fear of being “neglect[ed]” by Lorenzo was, of course, reified in the Deputy’s final condemnation of Pedringano as one “heavens contemns and men neglect” (3.6.110). His letter goes on to reveal
“You know, my lord, I slew him for your sake,
And was confederate with the prince and you;
Won by rewards and hopeful promises,
I holp to murder Don Horatio too” (36-39)          

Hieronimo’s tormented soul, beating on the windows of heaven, has indeed been heard. “And actors in th’accursèd tragedy / Wast thou, Lorenzo, Balthazar and thou” (40-41), he exclaims in disbelief, foreshadowing the mechanism of his revenge in Act Four. His cry also situates the role of acting alongside the play’s other structural devices: watching and framing.

What Hieronimo reads astounds him, and his language begins to rhyme as events fall into place and he turns them over in his mind, struggling to understand:
What have I heard, what have mine eyes beheld?   
O sacred heavens, may it come to pass
That such a monstrous and detested deed,
So closely smothered, and so long concealed,
Shall thus by this be vengèd or revealed?” (44-48, italics mine)

The importance of letters in The Spanish Tragedy cannot be overstated. Bel-Imperia’s, writ in blood, spoke the truth, although Hieronimo was wary of believing it at the time. The non-existent letter of pardon from Lorenzo was a lie, a deception to give Pedringano false hope, leaving him to die scoffing and joking on the gallows. Pedringano now posthumously repays Lorenzo for this neglect and “reveal[s] the truth” (35) via this letter. Comparing what he read in Bel-Imperia’s letter with what he now learns from Pedringano’s, Hieronimo realizes Bel-Imperia’s message was legitimate and that she, too, is a victim of Lorenzo’s machinations.

Hieronimo calls Lorenzo “false” (57) and Baltazar “bane to [Horatio’s] soul and me” (59). As his rage increases, he gives it free rein against the Prince:  
Woe to the cause of these constrained wars,
Woe to thy baseness and captivity,
Woe to thy birth, thy body and thy soul,
Thy cursed father, and thy conquered self!
And banned with bitter execrations be
The day and place where he did pity thee. (61-66, italics mine)

The anaphora and rhyme in the lines drive home Hieronimo’s disbelief and growing fury. He refers to Baltazar as “base,” “conquered,” and his father the Viceroy as “cursed,” presumably due to having such a son as heir. (“Woe to thy birth…Thy cursed father…conquered self” are also reflexive enough to suggest a lament for Horatio.) It is interesting that Hieronimo reserves his curses almost entirely for Baltazar; his invective against Lorenzo is limited to calling him “false” (57). This may reflect the fact that Horatio acted honorably and with chivalry to Baltazar, only to be rewarded with murder at the hands of the same man he treated with respect. As Hieronimo’s rage intensifies, the time and place Horatio showed Baltazar mercy is also rejected and cursed, “banned with bitter execrations”; it is forgotten, erased from memory due to its bitter and horrific outcome.

The scene closes with a vow from the distraught Hieronimo:
I will go plain me to my lord the king,
And cry aloud for justice through the court,
Wearing the flints with these my withered feet,
And either purchase justice by entreats,
Or tire them all with my revenging threats.” (69-73)

He will not be denied; he will be heard. He will appeal to the king, wear the stones of the court smooth as he follows the Court, and cry for revenge until they appease him – even if only to get some peace and quiet. Crying, pacing, begging to be heard, calling for revenge: these are the last resorts of a mind in duress, and reflect Hieronimo’s earlier vision of his “broken sighs and restless passions” (11) beating their wings helplessly against the diamond walls enclosing the Empyrean.  

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Scene Eight: Isabella goes insane with grief.

Hieronimo closes 3.7 with words of lament and a vow to implore relentlessly, but his plan shows direction and single-mindedness. Isabella opens 3.8 in a grief-stricken state of distraction, quizzing her maid about various herbs before “run[ing] lunatic” and calling for Horatio (SD 6). “My soul hath silver wings / That mounts me up unto the highest heavens” (15-16) Isabella tells her maid, her description mirroring that of Hieronimo’s own fluttering, desperate soul. Isabella’s actions and state of mind recall those of Ophelia in Shakespeare’s later Hamlet (1599-1601); the two women, both broken-hearted and insane with grief, release their pain by crying out to those not there and rambling on about herbs and flowers (4.5).

In her madness, Isabella exclaims, “To heaven! ay, there sits my Horatio” (17). In light of Andrea’s and Revenge’s sitting on the stage observing the action, a possible directorial choice might be to have Horatio join them, creating an even more poignant scene: the deranged mother, broken by grief, seeing a vision of her murdered son in Revenge’s company. The last words Isabella speaks in the scene are, like Horatio’s, a vow: “But say, where shall I find the men, the murderers, / That slew Horatio? whither shall I run / To find them out that murderèd my son?” (23-25). Both husband and wife are bound individually and as one by grief, their souls fluttering against their perceived lack of power to obtain justice for their murdered son.

The Spanish Tragedy – Act Three, Scenes 1-3: “This is devised to endanger thee”

Scene One: The Viceroy of Portugal learns Baltazar is not dead, but in good health at the Spanish Court. Villuppo’s device to destroy Alexandro is revealed, and Villuppo is sentenced to death. 

Act Two closes with Hieronimo’s grief-stricken vow to seek his son Horatio’s killers and avenge his murder; Act Three opens with the Viceroy of Portugal grieving the supposed death of his son, Prince Baltazar. The Viceroy’s expression of grief is in stark contrast to that of Hieronimo: only one incidental rhyme and no Latin. There is some repetition, but it lacks urgency and passion (“That would be feared, yet fear to be beloved, / Sith fear or love to kings is flattery” [10-11, italics mine]). The grief expressed by the Viceroy in an earlier scene (1.3), however, does mirror that of Hieronimo in 2.5. In 1.3, the Viceroy falls to the ground in despair (SD 9); in 2.5, Hieronimo “sets his breast unto his sword” (SD 67): actions of desperation and despair. Additionally, in both scenes the grieving men speak their pain in Latin (1.3.15-17, 2.5.67-80). The Viceroy’s belief that the nobleman Alexandro is responsible for his son’s supposed death, and his plans to exact revenge via his execution, might account for his emotional difference in the two scenes. Hieronimo, on the other hand, does not know the identity of Horatio’s murderers, so like the Viceroy in 1.3 shows a passionate, agonizing grief.

Alexandro is brought in front of the Viceroy, who orders he be bound to a stake and burnt. As he awaits execution, Alexandro vows, “My guiltless death will be avenged on thee — / On thee, Villuppo, that hath maliced thus, / Or for thy meed, hast falsely me accused” (3.1.51-53). These lines could easily have been Horatio’s, spoken in the arbor while bound and helpless before Lorenzo and Baltazar. Horatio was murdered for the prize of a Spanish noblewoman’s hand and the status accompanying it; Villuppo’s attempt to eliminate Alexandro was also prompted by a desire for advancement and gain.

Before the flames can be lit for Alexandro’s execution, the Ambassador arrives with news that Baltazar is alive and well in the Spanish Court. He brings letters that confirm this and announces a new peace accord with Spain. The Viceroy’s words to Villuppo, “Accursèd wretch to intimate these ills / Against the life and reputation / Of noble Alexandro” (75-77) are, again, also fitting for Lorenzo’s and Baltazar’s ears. Alexandro, whose fate nearly matched that of Horatio’s, is freed and given advancement. Villuppo is sentenced to death and confesses,
Rent with remembrance of so foul a deed,
My guilty soul submits me to thy doom;
For not for Alexandro’s injuries,
But for reward and hope to be preferred,
Thus have I shameless hazarded his life. (92-96)
With his accuser condemned, Alexandro receives justice as well as the promise of “public notice of [his] loyalty” (104) by the Viceroy. This short subplot shares much with that of Horatio’s death, yet differs in that Alexandro’s story is resolved in a satisfactory way: the malicious are punished, the innocent rewarded.

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Scene Two: Hieronimo finds a letter written by Bel-Imperia (who is locked away) implicating Lorenzo and Baltazar in Horatio’s murder. Lorenzo decides Serberine cannot be trusted and must be killed. He bribes Pedringano into doing the task.

Alexandro’s reprieve and the condemnation of his accuser is followed in 3.2 by the entrance of the grieving, bereft Hieronimo. His words lament a world void of justice and fairness, a place of chaos and violence, and he calls on the heavens to shed light on Horatio’s murder. If they do not, he cries, “How should we term your dealings to be just, / If you unjustly deal with those that in your justice trust?” (10-11). These words recall Isabella’s earlier statement, “Time is the author of truth and right / And time will bring this treachery to light” (2.5.58-59). Despite Hieronimo’s more circumspect and wary mindset, he still believes there is an inherent goodness in the universe that should aid him in his search. His words, following as they do the discovery of Villuppo’s machinations, infuse a sense of hope and faith into the darkness of the scene.

As Hieronimo’s distress increases, he calls on “Eyes, life, world, heavens, hell, night and day” (3.2.22) — all entities he mentions in the previous 22 lines — to “See, search, show, send, some man, some mean, that may –” (23). His plea is cut short as “A letter [in red ink] falleth” (SD 23) — as if dropped from the heavens. The letter, penned in blood by the locked-away Bel-Imperia, outlines not only her own situation but also the circumstances of Horatio’s death. She urges revenge, calling Hieronimo by name:
Revenge thy self on Baltazar and [Lorenzo],
For these were they that murdered thy son.
Hieronimo, revenge Horatio’s death,
And better fare then Bel-Imperia doth.  (28-31)
Bel-Imperia’s blood has quite literally given her a voice, and it craves revenge. There is no rhyme or anaphora and the only repetition is of the word “revenge.” Her letter is stark, simple, and direct. She commands, rather than implores, Hieronimo to act.

Hieronimo is astounded and confused by what he reads, and like his initial response to Horatio’s body hanging in his arbor, takes it as a plot laid against him by Lorenzo. He believes he has been “betrayed” (37) and the letter a way to “entrap [his] life” (38). He is wary, telling himself, “…be not credulous: / This is devisèd to endanger thee, / That thou by this Lorenzo shouldst accuse” (39-41). Like Shakespeare’s later character, Hamlet (Hamlet c.1599-1601), who distrusts what may or may not be the ghost of his father, Hieronimo resolves to be canny and careful. He “…will by circumstances try / What [he] can gather to confirm this writ” (48-49).

Pedringano is called for and Hieronimo inquires about Bel-Imperia. Pedringano claims no knowledge of her whereabouts, but Lorenzo appears soon after and claims “…The duke my father hath / Upon some disgrace a while removed her hence” (57-58). He offers to take Hieronimo’s message to her, but Hieronimo demurs, claiming “her disgrace makes me unfortunate” (63). Lorenzo urges his services, but Hieronimo replies, “O no my lord, I dare not, it must not be” (65). In this short exchange, Hieronimo and Lorenzo’s lines end in rhyme, creating an obsequiousness in Hieronimo as he works to gracefully extricate himself from Lorenzo’s presence and offer of service. Lorenzo’s “use me” is matched with Hieronimo’s “it must not be” (64, 65); similarly, Lorenzo’s “farewell” is closed with Hieronimo’s “my thoughts no tongue can tell” (67, 68). The rhymes suggest a cautiously civil Hieronimo, bowing and scraping as he attempts to exit the scene and Lorenzo’s overly officious company.

Lorenzo and Pedringano immediately suspect Hieronimo knows the circumstances of Horatio’s death. Serberine, Baltazar’s man, is named by Lorenzo, but Pedringano disagrees (“My lord, he could not…/…he hath not left my company” [72-73]). His objections are ignored by Lorenzo, who like Shakespeare’s later characters Richard IIII and Macbeth (Richard III c.1593; Macbeth c.1606), is now consumed with paranoia. “…[H]is condition’s such / As fear or flattering words may make him false” says Lorenzo about Serberine, “I know his humor, and therewith repent / That e’re I used him in this enterprise” (74-75, 76-77). He begins to flatter Pedringano, telling him “I know thee secret as my soul” (79), and offers him gold to murder Serberine in a nearby park. Pedringano readily agrees, believing Lorenzo’s assurance that “When things shall alter, as I hope they will, / Then shalt thou mount for this” (93).

Pedringano exits to do the deed. Lorenzo, though, like Shakespeare’s paranoid kings, sees everyone as a threat (“Thus must we work that will avoid distrust; / Thus must we practice to prevent mishap” [106-107]) and will use the two men against each other to keep his hands clean (“And thus one ill, another must expulse” [108]). Lorenzo’s plan is for Pedringano to kill Serberine but immediately be arrested, tried, and executed for the murder. This will protect Lorenzo through the eradication of his easily-bought accomplices:
They that for coin their souls endangered
To save my life, for coin shall venture theirs;
And better ‘tis that base companions die,
Than by their life to hazard our good haps. (114-117)
He concludes, “I’ll trust myself, myself shall be my friend” (119). He can rely on no one’s secrecy and cannot feel safe while those who know the circumstances of Horatio’s death are alive. He sees those who have done his dirty work as “base” and expendable, and their loss necessary for his personal peace and security.

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Scene Three: Pedringano kills Serberine but is immediately arrested by the watch.

Lorenzo ‘s musing on protecting his “good haps,” or good fortune, at the close of 3.2 ushers in Pedringano’s request that “Fortune! once more favor me” (3.3.2) in his plan to kill Serberine. Pedringano’s opening monologue also references “gold” (5) and “his liberal purse” (9), signaling that he has fallen for Lorenzo’s lies. He goes as far as to say,
As for the fear of apprehension,
I know, if need should be, my noble lord
Will stand between me and ensuing harms;
Besides, this place is free from all suspect: (12-15)
Pedringano has swallowed the bait. He is gullible enough to believe he will be advanced for this deed and that Lorenzo will protect him if caught.

The watch enters, wondering why they have been summoned to pay particular attention to this park. Serberine enters soon after, also confused as to why he was told to report there. “How fit a place, if one were so disposed, / Methinks this corner is to close with one” (26-27). He is canny enough to realize this is a perfect location to commit a murder if one was of the mind.

As Serberine stands wondering, Pedringano shoots him. This attracts the watch, who quickly apprehend him. The dialogue lapses into repetition, mirroring the confusion of the scene, the commands of the watch, and Pedringano’s misguided arrogance:
PEDRINGANO: Who first lays hand on me, I’ll be his priest.
3 WATCHMAN: Sirrah, confess, and therein play the priest:
Why hast thou thus unkindly killed the man?
PEDRINGANO: Why? because he walked abroad so late.
3 WATCHMAN: Come, sir, you had been better kept your bed
Than have committed this misdeed so late. (37-42, italics mine)

The watch takes Pedringano to the marshal, Hieronimo. The man who seeks justice will now mete it out, unaware that he is weighing the fate of one of the men who killed his son — one of those he has vowed to discover. (Coincidence…or were the heavens listening?)

The Spanish Tragedy – Act Two, Scenes 4-6: “This place was made for pleasure not for death”

Scene Four: Horatio and Bel-Imperia rendezvous at Hieronimo’s bower. Pedringano advises Lorenzo and Baltazar. They murder Horatio and carry off Bel-Imperia.    

Horatio and Bel-Imperia meet in Hieronimo’s bower, accompanied by Pedringano. They praise the night for giving them cover so “pleasures may be done” (3), and once more the bower’s perceived safety is mentioned (“…let us to the bower, / And there in safety pass a pleasant hour” (4-5). Despite this, Bel-Imperia tells Horatio “my heart foretells me some mischance” (15) and sets Pedringano as watchman.

Bel-Imperia deems Pedringano “as trusty as my second self” (9), but the servant quickly reveals in an aside that he will “deserve more gold / By fetching Don Lorenzo to this match” (12-13). He exits, unbeknownst to the couple, who are too engrossed in each other to notice and trust him to stand guard. As they become more at ease their words intertwine and are shared, suggesting growing intimacy and mouths touching mouths. At one point, Bel-Imperia repeats and reorders her own words, resulting in a rhythmic, leisurely flow showing her contentment (“And in thy love and counsel drown my fear: / I fear no more, love now is all my thoughts” [21-22, italics mine]).

“Pleasure” is mentioned repeatedly in the couple’s dialogue (all italics mine): “And that in darkness pleasures may be done, / …And there in safety pass a pleasant hour” (3, 5); “And heavens have shut up day to pleasure us” (17), “And Luna hides herself to pleasure us” (19); “…for pleasure asketh ease” (23). Use of the word situates Hieronimo’s bower as a place where Bel-Imperia and Horatio feel secluded and comfortable enough to open their hearts to each other, as well as enjoy each other physically. We hear this in their couplets, which end in easy, simple rhymes:
HORATIO: The more thou sit’st within these leafy bowers,
The more will Flora deck it with her flowers.
BEL-IMPERIA: Ay, but if Flora spy Horatio here,
Her jealous eye will think I sit too near .  (24-27)
Their dialogue is luxurious and sensual, filled with flirtation and physical attraction. The mention of Flora, goddess of flowers and spring, leads to the inclusion of Cupid, Venus, and Mars:
HORATIO: If Cupid sing, then Venus is not far:
Ay, thou art Venus or some fairer star.
BEL-IMPERIA: If I be Venus, thou must needs be Mars,
And where Mars reigneth there must needs be wars.  (32-35)
From here, the lovers’ exchange shifts to that of a metaphorical battle: “Then thus begin our wars: put forth thy hand / That it may combat with my ruder hand” (36-37). There is a similar line in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, likely written around five years after ST (“And touching hers, make blessed my rude hand” [1.5.51]).

The naming of the mythological lovers Venus, goddess of love, and Mars, god of war, reiterates the theme of love as war. Bel-Imperia and Horatio seem to role play the mythological lovers, parrying with words of battle (“But first my looks shall combat against thine” [39]; “Then ward thyself: I dart this kiss at thee” [40]; “Thus I retort the dart thou threw’st at me” [41]). Rhadamanth’s earlier refusal to mix warriors and lovers (1.1.46) hangs over the scene; this, as well as the references to Greek gods and goddesses, lends an epic feel to the lovers’ rendezvous.

As their passion increases, the couple’s words become more sensual (“My twining arms shall yoke and make thee yield” [2.4.43]), culminating in references to dying, often used in the early modern period to refer to sex or orgasm. “O stay a while, and I will die with thee: / So shalt thou yield, and yet have conquered me” (48-49), says Horatio. It is unclear if the pair is in the act of consummating their relationship. If they are, the bower can be described as representative of a portal or threshold between friendship and physical love (discussed in my earlier blog post).

Immediately following the couple’s words of surrender, Lorenzo, Baltazar, Serberine (Baltazar’s man), and a disguised Pedringano appear at the bower. Lorenzo tells Baltazar, “…away with her! Take [Bel-Imperia] aside” (51), literally giving his sister to her spurned suitor. He then sneers at Horatio, “O sir, forbear: your valor is already tried” (52). The rhyming of “aside”/ “tried” and the reference to Horatio’s valor links the two triangles in the plot: the love triangle of Baltazar, Horatio, and Bel-Imperia and the war triangle of Lorenzo, Baltazar, and Horatio. Once more, the blending of love and war drives the plot.

Lorenzo orders Pedringano and Serberine to “Quickly – dispatch, my masters!” (53). There is no rhyme or other literary device; his orders are brutal and peremptory. The stage directions state “They hang [Horatio] in the arbor” (SD 53) and “…stab him” (SD 55), the penetration of Horatio’s body mirroring the penetration of sexual intercourse implied not ten lines before. The men’s actions also make a mockery of Horatio’s earlier “The more will Flora deck it with her flowers” (25) — the place of pleasure is now decked with death. Once again, the bower represents a portal between one existential state and another.

Bel-Imperia begs for Horatio to be spared, calling on both Lorenzo and Baltazar: “O save him, brother! Save him, Baltazar! I loved Horatio, but he loved not me” (57-58). Baltazar’s reply, “But Baltazar loves Bel-Imperia” (59), is chilling in its simplicity. There is no feeling of remorse or responsibility, only entitlement to Bel-Imperia’s person. She cries for help, calling “Murder! murder! Help, Hieronimo, help!” (62). Her brother’s response as they abduct her, “Come, stop her mouth! away with her!” (63), is equally cold. “I will stop your mouth” (5.4.97) is a phrase used in Shakespeare’s later Much Ado About Nothing (1598-99) when Benedick finally kisses Beatrice. The idea of Baltazar forcibly kissing Bel-Imperia as he drags her away adds to the violence of the scene and suggests rape, as well as the rending of the bower as a place of love and pleasure.

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Scene Five: Hieronimo is awakened by Bel-Imperia’s cries. He rushes out to find Horatio dead and hanging in the bower.

Hieronimo hears cries coming from his bower and hurries out to investigate. He sees “A man hanged up and all the murderers gone, / And in my bower, to lay the guilt on me: / This place was made for pleasure not for death” (10-12). He does not immediately recognize Horatio as the victim, but then begins to keen and lament his son’s murder, crying, “O heavens, why made you night to cover sin?” (24). His cry recalls Horatio’s words to Bel-Imperia, “that in darkness pleasures may be done” (2.4.3), spoken in the last scene.

Hieronimo’s passionate grief is underscored by his use of rhyme. His pain is made clear through rhyming couplets such as “sin”/”been,” “devour”/”bower”, “misdone”/”begun,” “wert”/”desert,” and “joy”/”boy” (2.5.24-33). The rhymes are simple, creating a structure of sorts as he struggles to process the chaos surrounding him. His wife Isabella joins him in the bower and rhymes “Horatio” with “woe” when she realizes her son has been murdered: “What world of grief—my son Horatio! / O where’s the author of this endless woe?” (38-39, italics mine). The couple’s shared agony is apparent through their shared words; Hieronimo responds “To know the author were some ease of grief, / For in revenge my heart would find relief” (40-41, italics mine).

Isabella moves from disbelief to emotional anguish, crying, “O gush out tears, fountains and floods of tears, / Blow sighs and raise an everlasting storm!” (43-44). Shakespeare uses like words in King Lear (c.1608), written years after Spanish Tragedy. Lear, mad and raging at the skies, encourages the winds to mirror his passionate anger (“Blow winds and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow! / You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout / Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!” [3.2.1-3]). The use of tempests and storms as a device to express overwhelming, violent passion is found throughout early modern drama. Life is often described as a sea journey, and the weather encountered a metaphor for the good and bad times experienced along the way.

Hieronimo and Isabella morn over Horatio’s body, continuing to speak in couplets as they express their shared grief. At one point, Hieronimo extends the image of the flowering bower to his son’s corpse, saying “Sweet lovely rose, ill plucked before thy time” (46). He vows revenge, telling Isabella,
Seest thou this handkerchief besmeared with blood?
It shall not from me until I take revenge.
Seest thou those wounds that yet are bleeding fresh?
I’ll not entomb them till I have revenged…  (51-54, italics mine)
The anaphora indicates Hieronimo’s resolve. He is steadfast, and by doubling down on “seest thou” and “not…[un]till I” emphatically dedicates himself to seeking justice for his murdered son. If the handkerchief he takes from Horatio’s body is the one Horatio took from Andrea’s body (1.4.42), given to Andrea by Bel-Imperia and worn by Horatio at her behest (1.4.48), the cloth essentially binds Bel-Imperia and Hieronimo in a pact of vengeance against Andrea’s killer, Baltazar, as well as the mastermind of Horatio’s murder, Lorenzo.

Isabella declares, “The heavens are just, murder cannot be hid: / Time is the author both of truth and right, / And time will bring this treachery to light” (2.5.57-59). Her repetition and rhyme indicate a strong belief in the essential goodness of the universe, highlighting the play’s exploration of justice. In Isabella’s mind, since the heavens cannot countenance evil, all will be revealed. Hieronimo, however, is more circumspect:
Meanwhile, good Isabella, cease thy plaints,
Or at the least dissemble them a while;
So shall we sooner find the practice out,
And learn by whom all this was brought about. (60-63).
Hieronimo knows he cannot rely on the heavens to discover Horatio’s murderer. He “sets his breast unto his sword” (SD 67), and in 14 lines of Latin, vows revenge. This action with his sword, and the Latin verse, gesture again to a Greek epic as well as mark out Hieronimo as a tragic figure.

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Scene Six: Andrea complains to Revenge that what he has seen has only increased his pain.

Andrea and Revenge have been on stage throughout, watching the action. Andrea is affected by what he has seen and complains to Revenge, using repetition, rhyme and anaphora to express his frustration:
Brought’st thou me hither to increase my pain?
I looked that Baltazar should have been slain,
But ‘tis my friend Horatio that is slain;
And they abuse fair Bel-Imperia
On whom I doted more than all the world
Because she loved me more than all the world.  (1-6, italics mine)
Andrea’s expression of dissatisfaction incorporates the passionate syntax of all the characters we have seen thus far: Baltazar’s anaphora (2.1.19-28); Bel-Imperia and Horatio’s repetition and sharing of words (2.2.25-28); and Hieronimo and Isabella’s rhyming couplets (2.5.36-41). Andrea similarly channels and embodies confusion, love, and grief, unsure as to why he is privy to these events and how they advance vengeance for his death. Revenge replies with a promise that he will be satisfied, stating “Thou talk’st of harvest when the corn is green: / …The sickle comes not till the corn be ripe” (2.6.7,9). A certain type of death is implied through Revenge’s reference to the sickle, tool of both the agricultural and metaphorical reaper. The image is of a swift, sweeping motion, cutting through adversaries and clearing the way for justice and renewal.

The Spanish Tragedy – Act One, Scenes 3-5: “They reck no laws that meditate revenge”

Scene Three: In the Portuguese Court, the Viceroy of Portugal mourns his son, Prince Baltazar, who he believes was killed in battle. Villuppo, a nobleman, sees an opportunity for gain and crafts a tale to implicate Alexandro, another nobleman, in the prince’s supposed death.

Scene Two ended with plans to feast Baltazar in the Spanish Court, but the opening of 1.3 is in stark contrast, focusing instead on the Viceroy of Portugal’s grief over his son’s supposed death in battle. Early on, the Viceroy flings himself to the ground (1.3.9 SD), lamenting his perceived loss. He then bemoans the fickleness of fortune and lack of redress for his pain (“What help can be expected at her hands, / Whose foot is standing on a rolling stone… / Why wail I, then, where’s hope of no redress?” [28-29, 31]). His grief over the supposed death, along with his lament that fortune is blind to his suffering and deaf to his cries (“And could she hear, yet is she willful mad” [25]), places him as a prologue to the grief and frustration Hieronimo will show after the actual death of his son Horatio. Where the Viceroy rails against fate, however, Hieronimo’s rage will be directed against the hierarchical powers he believes interfere with justice for his son.

Words pertaining to wealth, as well as the use of Latin, continue. References to wealth from 1.2 are picked up in the first lines of 1.3 as the Viceroy asks if “tribute payment” has been sent to Spain (1.3.3). Latin quotes are part of the Viceroy’s lament (15-17), adding pathos. Spoken as he grovels on the ground, they heighten the Viceroy’s bereft state. Later in the scene, when Villuppo decides to spin his tale, the focus returns to value and wealth through words such as “ransom,” (49), “fortune” (54), “guerdon” (55), “gold” (80), and “reward” (92).

In much of 1.3, the Viceroy’s character is reminiscent of the grieving King Alonso in Shakespeare’s much later The Tempest (c.1611). King Alonso, also inconsolable over the perceived loss of his son, responds to Francisco’s “Sir, he may live” with “No, no, he’s gone” (2.1.114, 123). Similarly, in The Spanish Tragedy, Alexandro tells the Viceroy, “No doubt, my liege, but still the prince survives” (1.3.43). The Viceroy, however, is convinced otherwise: “…they have slain him for his father’s fault” (46). When Alexandro disputes this as “a breach to common law of arms” (47), the Viceroy responds, “They reck no laws that meditate revenge” (48). This line, in essence, encapsulates the entire play.

In a short subplot, the nobleman Villuppo sees in the Viceroy’s determined grief an opportunity for gain. He devises a backstory for Baltazar’s supposed death that lays the blame squarely on Alexandro. The Viceroy is eager to believe the tale, and Alexandro is taken away under custody. Alone on the stage, Villuppo gloats that he “Deceived [him], betrayed mine enemy, / And hope for guerdon of my villainy” (94-95). In the coming scenes, these lines will loom over the action, prescient and apt.

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Scene Four: Horatio tells Bel-Imperia the story of Andrea’s death; she decides Horatio will take Andrea’s place as her lover. Lorenzo arrives with Baltazar and presents him to
Bel-Imperia as a suitor, something she rejects immediately. The king puts on a celebratory feast with the Ambassador to Portugal in attendance. At the banquet, Hieronimo presents an entertainment much praised by the king.

The “envious forged tale” (1.3.93) wrought by Villuppo at the close of 1.3 is followed by one of truth and affection in the opening of 1.4. Bel-Imperia enters with Horatio and implores him to tell her the circumstances of Andrea’s death, “Who living was my garland’s sweetest flower” (1.4.4). This brings to mind a bower of blooming plants and gestures to the coming action in Hieronimo’s arbor. As before, Andrea’s story is recounted in the style of a Greek epic. Horatio states that “wrathful Nemesis, that wicked power, / Env[ied]…Andrea’s praise and worth” (16-17), suggesting that Andrea’s prowess in battle was such that even the gods were jealous and sought to end his life. Bel-Imperia learns that after Andrea was killed by Baltazar, Horatio carried his body to his tent, wept over him, and took a scarf from Andrea’s arm as a token, intending to “wear it in remembrance of [his] friend” (43). That scarf, Bel-Imperia tells Horatio, was her gift to Andrea as he left for battle and she urges Horatio “now wear thou it both for him and me” (47). They swear friendship and service to each other, and Horatio leaves Bel-Imperia to her thoughts.

Alone, Bel-Imperia muses “But how can love find harbor in my breast, / Till I revenge the death of my beloved?” (64-65). This, of course, echoes Revenge’s promise to Andrea, “…thou shalt see the author of thy death, / Don Baltazar… / Deprived of life by Bel-Imperia” (1.1.87-89). She decides that “second love shall further my revenge” (1.4.66); because Horatio was Andrea’s friend, and Baltazar Andrea’s killer, she will take Horatio as her lover. These few lines are intense and important. They reveal not only the workings of Bel-Imperia’s mind, but also show her to be a strong, intelligent, strategic woman. She feels she is the one who must avenge Andrea’s death and is ready to meet the challenge. In most early modern plays, the character taking revenge is a son or other male family member. Kyd, however, gives this role to Bel-Imperia, along with a strength and fortitude reminiscent of Greek heroines such as Dido and Electra. In this way, Bel-Imperia, like Andrea, is linked to epic poetry — albeit in a more subtle manner. Kyd also takes this opportunity to weaponize love, situating it as a tool of revenge.

Lorenzo and Baltazar approach Bel-Imperia, who greets them both with disdain. Baltazar attempts to flatter her, which falls flat and makes things worse. Notice the sharing of words between characters:

Bel Imperia: Your prison then belike is your conceit.
Balthazar: Ay, by conceit my freedom is enthralled.
Bel-Imperia: Then with conceit enlarge yourself again.
Baltazar: What if conceit have laid my heart to gage? (82-85, italics mine)

Kyd uses this device throughout the play to show connections of varying sorts (love, agreement, tension, opposition) between characters. Here, twisting the meaning of conceit (wit/desire/imagination/whim [Neill 20, nn.82-85]) reflects Bel-Imperia’s attempts to free herself from an undesirable suitor. She uses the word first; he picks up on it to protest his attachment to her; she contorts the meaning and flings it back at him; he then uses it to elicit pity. The sharing of words continues:

Bel-Imperia: A heartless man and live? A miracle!
Baltazar: Ay, lady, love can work such miracles. (88-89, italics mine)

Bel-Imperia: What boots complaint, when there’s no remedy?
Baltazar: Yes, to your gracious self must I complain,
In whose fair answer lies my remedy… (92-94, italics mine)

Each time, Baltazar seizes on a word used by Bel-Imperia (miracle, complaint, remedy), and turns it to flatter her or elicit pity.

Eventually, Bel-Imperia has had enough of the parrying and turns to leave. Seeing Horatio approaching, “she…lets fall her glove, which Horatio…takes up” (99 SD). In Baltazar’s previous exchange with Bel-Imperia, he claimed to “have laid [his] heart to gage” (85) for her love. By Bel-Imperia’s dropping a glove in front of Horatio, she throws down her own gage, challenging Horatio to be her lover and igniting the play’s love triangle (Bel-Imperia, Baltazar, and Horatio). “Throwing down your gage” or gauntlet) was a challenge to fight, usually to right a perceived insult to honor or station – in other words, to avenge a wrong. In Shakespeare’s 1597 play Richard II, Bolingbroke and Mowbray challenge each other by throwing down their gage, or glove (1.1.69, 146). Later in that same play, nearly every character on stage throws down a glove or gauntlet, creating a shortage (“Some honest Christian trust me with a gage, / That Norfolk lies” 4.1.83-84). Bel-Imperia’s action at first seems off-hand or unimportant, but it is a pivotal point in the play and a blow to both her brother and the prince. Kyd’s use of this simple gesture is masterful, suggesting Baltazar’s words are useless (“laid my heart to gage”) and contrasting Horatio as a man of action (“Signor Horatio stooped in happy time” [102]).

Lorenzo, Baltazar, and Horatio are called to a banquet that boasts a masque of sorts, or an entertainment, devised by Hieronimo. Masques were like plays but were more of a state or political event, and usually praised the king, his Court, or his reign in general. The banquet and masque in 1.4 do triple duty: display the wealth and bounty of the king and Spanish Court, demonstrate their fair treatment of their high-ranking prisoner Baltazar, and celebrate Spain’s victory over Portugal. Hieronimo’s masque is important in that it gestures to his play-within-a-play in the final scene. By showing Hieronimo in charge of presenting and narrating the banquet’s entertainment, his future offer of a self-written play as a diversion for the Court is not unexpected or out of place.

*

Scene Five: Andrea expresses impatience at the scenes of love and revelry he has seen.

This very short scene (9 lines) allows Andrea to vent his frustration. “Come we for this from depth of underground / To see… / Nothing but league, and love, and banqueting!” (1.5.1,4). Revenge calms him by promising the pleasures he has witnessed will be changed to “hate,” “despair,” and “misery” (7, 8, 9).

The scene is also a framing device. Act One began with Andrea and Revenge, and they close it. This is an example of how Kyd neatly layers the scenes and storylines of the play, nesting them like Russian dolls. As the action unfolds, these layers make what is actually a very intricate plot more accessible. Reading The Spanish Tragedy is a complement to watching it, since reading allows the chance to step back and recognize its many frames and scaffolds.

Why Live Theatre Matters (and Why I Mourn the Stratford Festival’s Season Being Postponed)

I posted this on social media yesterday, so you’ve probably seen it. If not, it’s the story of how live theatre changed my life. Please support the arts in through this terrible time. They have an importance beyond entertainment, and their value goes beyond mere ticket prices.


This is a stupidly long reaction to the Stratford Festival’s postponing their season. I had to mull over what I was feeling and why, and this is the result:

The Stratford Festival having to postpone their season broke my heart. Gutted me. Many of you probably wonder why I care so deeply for the Festival, why I’m such a champion of it over and above other venues. Well, it’s complicated, but here’s why. (Warning: this will be lengthy.)

My journey to scholar of Shakespeare/early modern drama has been convoluted. I left high school despising Shakespeare after a horrible encounter with Julius Caesar in my senior year and stayed away, certain that I would hate anything else Will had written. After a long stretch, I carefully dipped my toe into the Complete Works, more from a sense of obligation than anything else. I loved British literature and was afraid my ignorance of Shakespeare took away from my understanding of works by other British writers. I was surprised to find that I didn’t hate Shakespeare after all — in fact, I rather liked him. I enjoyed his plays as literature, but since I didn’t go to live theatre, my appreciation stopped there.

In London several years later (2008), I saw Dominic Dromgoole’s production of Lear at The Globe. My go-to description of that afternoon is “it was like scales dropped from my eyes.” Right then I understood that reading Shakespeare without seeing it is an incomplete experience. Things are going on in the plays that can’t be articulated, and if the plays aren’t seen, it’s impossible to grasp their true complexity. Unfortunately, where I live in Southwest Florida, Shakespeare on the stage is a rare commodity. I wanted to see the plays live, but it wasn’t going to happen at home.

In 2012, I took my parents to see a filmed version of the Stratford Festival’s The Tempest. They’ve gone to the Shaw Festival for decades and often make day trips to Stratford, so they had seen it live — they weren’t going to be three hours from Christopher Plummer and miss him! They loved seeing the production again, but it was my mind that was blown. I kept asking “This is what you go see?” “I don’t have to go to the UK or NYC to see this kind of thing?” As a live theatre newbie, I was amazed. I booked tickets to spend a weekend with them at Niagara on the Lake later that year, and planned my own overnight trip to Stratford to see Cymbeline and Henry V.

Reader, that 24 hours in Stratford changed my life. It took what was quickly becoming a passion for Shakespeare and made it an obsession. It made me want to take my knowledge to the next level, so within weeks of coming home, I decided to get my M.A. in English (and my PhD if life would let me).

Fast forward to December 2017… I graduated magna cum laude from FGCU with my Master’s, and my love for Shakespeare now included a love for early modern drama in general. I couldn’t possibly give up studying what I loved, so since I couldn’t give up my day job (due to house, husband, etc.) I became an independent scholar. Fast forward to today…I am set to become an adjunct instructor at FGCU this fall. If you had asked me only ten years ago if I’d be presenting at conferences, going to live theatre, and getting ready to teach my first semester at a university, I would have said you were nuts. But here we are.

The point of this ramble is that none of this would have happened without Stratford. The Festival literally changed my life, and I’m eternally grateful. It sounds sappy, but it helped me find myself, what I love, and who I want to be. On top of that, I fell in love with the town of Stratford, what it stands for, and the incredible people there. I feel at home there, like myself there, and my yearly visits (since 2012!) reconnect me to my dreams and goals. I’ve also made some amazing friends through my love of the Festival, people I feel close to and care about very much.

That, in quite a bit more than a nutshell, is why I’m so enthusiastic about Stratford. Not only does the Festival have some of the finest productions I’ve seen, it has an essence of outreach and welcome that encourages and challenges you. It’s truly a special place filled with special people. Not going this year will leave a huge hole in my heart, but you can bet I’ll be there in 2021.

Galatea – Act Four: “Nothing but that you love me not”

Scene One: The Augur announces it is time for the virgin sacrifice. Melibeus and Tityrus each accuse the other of attempting to deceive Neptune to the detriment of the village.

In contrast to the end of Act Three, where the nymphs mock Cupid and call him “a little god” (3.4.109), the Augur begins Act Four by reminding the villagers of the danger of not honoring a god – namely, Neptune. For the safety of the village, tradition holds that Neptune must be placated and honored, but Melibeus and Tityrus each accuse the other of having a “fair daughter” they are concealing from the sacrifice. Melibeus claims his daughter is dead, and Tityrus claims the girl Melibeus saw him with is his wife. Tityrus declares, “Oh Melibeus, dissemble you may with men; deceive the gods you cannot” 4.1.38-39). Both claim having their daughter selected as the sacrifice would be an honor and duty, but keep up their ruse just the same.

This is a fairly short scene (67 lines), but “cunning” or “cunningly” are used three times in the space of 20 lines. Melibeus accuses Tityrus of deception by saying to him, “It is…a simple father that can use no cunning” (46-47), and then observes “he must halt cunningly that will deceive a cripple” (53). This is unsettling for the audience or reader since Tityrus is guilty as charged, but Melibeus’s hypocrisy is blatant. Two villagers listening to the pair find their lack of concern for the city disturbing, and as they exit, one comments, “We must sift out their cunning and let them shift for themselves” (66-67). Separating the valid from the false, as with Rafe, the Alchemist, and the Astronomer, is a recurring theme in the play.

*

Scene Two: As part of his punishment, Diana’s nymphs make Cupid untie love knots. He protests that what has been done cannot be undone.

The nymphs lead Cupid in as their prisoner and task him with untying love knots. As in the last scene, the dialogue deals with deception, verity, and the ability to separate the two. It also deals with the different types of love. Cupid protests, “If they be true love-knots, ‘tis unpossible to unknit them; if false, I never tied them” (4.2.23-24). Cupid identifies and explains the knots, which range from “the true love-knot of a woman’s heart, [which] therefore cannot be undone” (35-36); one that unties itself (“made of a man’s thought, which will never hang together” [38-39]); and a knot “knit by faith, and must only be unknit of death” (50-51). The “fairest and falsest” he chuckles, was knit by “a man’s tongue” (53, 57), while another is simply “a woman’s heart” (61).

His task completed, Cupid bemoans his state and muses on his mother Venus’s response to seeing him captive — whether she would rage or laugh. The nymphs tell him he must now use a needle to remove all the tales of love from Diana’s tapestries and replace them with scenes of chastity. When Cupid shrugs this off, he is told by Telusa that Diana “conquers affection” (91), to which he replies, “Diana shall yield; she cannot conquer destiny” (92). The idea of love as destiny is suggested, but remembering the preceding lines discussing the love-knots’ meanings, and the ease or difficulty of untying them, the claim gives one pause. Is only true love destiny, or are false claims of affection also fated? If true love only is destiny, is it possible without Cupid’s intercession? (There is still no indication that Cupid has had Galatea and Phillida in his sights.) Telusa accuses him of tying the knots, but Cupid does not claim ownership of any; speaking of the “true love-knots,” he merely states they are “unpossible to unknit.”

When speaking of the virgin sacrifice in 1.1, Galatea told her father “Destiny may be deferred, not prevented” (76-77). Now Cupid indicates that destiny is associated with love, something chastity cannot conquer. These statements beg the question “Is there such thing as human agency, or are attempts at control an illusion?”

*

Scene Three: Neptune warns that it is perilous to attempt to deceive him.

This short scene (9 lines) consists entirely of Neptune stating that he knows fathers are attempting to deceive him, and if they do not act honestly, he will repay them with cruelty: “…well they shall know that Neptune should have been entreated, not cozened” (4.3.8-9). Here, the theme of “cozening,” or deception, is applied to those who are undutiful to the gods. Neptune makes clear that cozenage among men may succeed (which calls to mind the Alchemist and Astronomer), but gods and goddesses will not be fooled. They will punish those who attempt to deceive them.

*

Scene Four: Galatea and Phillida discuss the coming sacrifice and acknowledge their love for each other.

Act Four Scene Four is a turning point in the relationship between Galatea and Phillida. They begin by discussing the virgin sacrifice, which quickly leads to commenting on how fair each one finds the other. Phillida tells Galatea not to love her as a brother (4.4.12-13), and Galatea responds that she will love her better than that, as she “cannot love as a brother” (14-15). Phillida’s reply, “Seeing we are both boys, and both lovers, that our affection may have some show and seem as it were love, let me call thee mistress” (16-18), again shows she is the bolder of the two. Shakespeare uses a similar destabilization of gender in his Sonnet 20: “A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted / Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion.” The sonnets are thought to have been written in the 1590s, the decade after Galatea was entered in the Stationers’ Register.

Galatea and Phillida express their concerns that the other is so fair they would be picked for the sacrifice. When Phillida asks Galatea what she fears, Galatea answers, “Nothing but that you love me not” (38) and exits. Alone on stage, Phillida states that she will love Galatea, but is afraid Galatea is also a girl whose father has disguised her. She expresses her desperation and confusion, and closes the scene declaring, “I will after him or her, and lead a melancholy life, that look for a miserable death” (46-47). Phillida knows no remedy for her situation other than being with Galatea, regardless of gender. If Galatea is a girl, there is no future for them; if a boy, he may be untrue. Either way, Phillida sees only melancholy and misery.

 

Galatea – Act Three: “You shall see Ramia hath also bitten on a love-leaf”

Scene One: Cupid has been among Diana’s nymphs, who are all now besotted with either Galatea/Tityrus or Phillida/Melibeus. The nymphs argue over their choice of the “fair boys.”

Mirroring the close of Act Two and Phillida’s bewilderment at her feelings for Galatea, Telusa opens Act Three with a soliloquy lamenting her own feelings of love. In the first lines, she rebukes herself by musing about “thy chaste thoughts turned to wanton looks, thy conquering modesty to a captive imagination” (3.1.3-4). Love, as Telusa describes it, is strong enough to overcome chastity and modesty, replacing them with confusion, unruliness, and distraction. In other words, Telusa’s experience of being in love reveals that Diana’s insistence on chastity’s triumph over love may be mistaken.

Eurota enters as Telusa muses, and the ensuing scene is very like 4.3 in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost (written 1594-95, approximately ten years after Galatea). In both plays, one character enters and laments that they are in love. When another begins to enter, the first character hides, and the second starts their own lament. A third enters, and the second also hides. When the third begins their lament, the two hidden characters come out of hiding to chide the third for being in love. The stage business and monologues advance the plot while entertaining the audience or reader.

The nymphs’ distress at being in love mirrors Phillida’s and Galatea’s own distress at being attracted to each other. Lyly makes the realization of love a state of confusion and imbalance, where control is lost and fate (or something larger than the self), takes charge of the mind and emotions. The text, however, does not indicate that Phillida and Galatea are victims of Cupid’s arrows; his plans for sport mentioned only Diana’s nymphs. The nymphs’ and the girls’ symptoms are the same, though, gesturing toward an intertwining of love, fate, agency, and fortune.

Early modern belief was that love entered through the eyes and imprinted itself on the mind, and in Telusa’s lament, she states her eyes led her to love Phillida/Melibeus. (In 2.1.46 she calls Galatea either “wanton or a fool” – was she attracted to Phillida/Melibeus prior to Cupid’s arrows?) Eurota tells Telusa that love for Galatea/Titryus took her “By the ears” (66). When Ramia enters soon after, Eurota remarks to Telusa, “You shall see Ramia hath also bitten on a love-leaf” (72-73). Sight, sound, and taste are therefore all subject to the influence of love.

*

Scene Two: Galatea and Phillida begin to subtly question each other, as each is becoming suspicious that the other is also a girl.

Galatea and Phillida are both concerned that the other might be a disguised maiden, and they begin to gently and playfully ask questions to find out if this is true. Their remarks and retorts are witty and often cryptic; in response to Phillida’s complimenting Galatea on her looks and behavior, Galatea says “There is a tree in Tylos, whose nuts have shells like fire, and being cracked, the kernel is but water” (3.2.4-5). Her response suggests that the exterior does not always define the interior, but Phillida is not amused: “What a toy is it to tell me of that tree, being nothing to the purpose?” (6-7). In 3.1, Telusa made a similar allusion, stating, “Virgins’ hearts I perceive are not unlike cotton trees, whose fruit is so hard in the bud that it soundeth like steel, and being ripe, poureth forth nothing but wool” [20-22]. Both lines make the case for not judging a book by its cover, but also suggest that even the hardest heart can be cracked to reveal the softness, or liquidity, of love.

The girls’ sharp wit, male attire, and the resulting confusion of gender brings to mind Rosalind from Shakespeare’s As You Like It (1599), written about fifteen years after Galatea was entered into the Stationers’ Register. Viola in Twelfth Night (1601-1602) is a similar figure. Much like Rosalind and her admirer Phoebe, Viola is clad in boy’s clothing and loved by Olivia, who thinks Viola truly is a boy. Some of Phillida’s lines in 3.2 are echoed in Viola’s words to Oliva: Phillida tells Galatea, “For I have sworn never to love a woman” (3.2.11); compare Viola’s response to Olivia, “I have one heart, one bosom and one truth, / And that no woman has nor never none / Shall mistress be of it save I alone” (Twelfth 3.1.156-158). When Galatea asks several lines later if Phillida has a sister, Phillida replies “My father had but one daughter, and therefore I could have no sister” (3.2.42-43); compare Viola’s “I am all the daughters of my father’s house” (Twelfth 2.4.120).

As Galatea and Phillida realize they may both be girls, their words and phrases become more alike. Phillida’s aside, “What doubtful speeches be these! I fear me he is as I am, a maiden” (3.2.31-21) is followed by Galatea’s aside “What dread riseth in my mind! I fear the boy to be as I am, a maiden” (33-34). Their lines mirror and interlock through word choice and rhyme as the two grow in certainty that they are both maidens:
Galatea [aside]: “Tush, it cannot be. His voice shows the contrary.”
Phillida [aside]: “Yet I do not think it, for he would then have blushed” (35-38, italics mine)
Their conversation and asides share and trade words and phrases, rhyme, and syntax. Not only does this suggest their strong attraction to each other, it shows they are growing closer. Phillida, still the bolder of the two, ends the scene with “Come, let us into the grove, and make much of one another, that cannot tell what to think of one another” (62-63).

*

Scene Three: Rafe runs away from his new master the Alchemist and takes up with the Astronomer.

Rafe has figured out that the Alchemist is not all he claims to be. Act Three Scene Three, like 2.3, is full of the process of alchemy; the convoluted, complicated language helps the Alchemist to deceive, but as far as cunning and cozenage, he might have met his match in Rafe.

After leaving the Alchemist, Rafe takes up with the Astronomer. Both the Alchemist and the Astronomer are engaged in crafts that purport to advance fortune or control fate: alchemy through gain, astronomy by prediction. Where the Alchemist can make “nothing infinite” (2.3.103), the Astronomer claims “Nothing can happen which I forsee not; nothing shall” (3.3.49-50). Like the Alchemist’s words, these have a double meaning, proclaiming the Astronomer sees all, yet “nothing” shall happen. The Astronomer, like the Alchemist, speaks in a way meant to impress and bamboozle. His words turn Rafe’s head, and he becomes the Astronomer’s apprentice.

*

Scene Four: Diana is furious that her nymphs are all in love. She discovers Cupid in their midst and vows retribution.

Diana’s anger at her besotted nymphs puts the theme of love versus chastity front and center. She tells her nymphs to seek a stranger nymph she has seen in the forest, suspecting it is Medea, Calypso, or Cupid. In a lengthy monologue, Diana rails about love, her virgins’ lack of power to overcome their feelings of love, and demands to know if they are now “Venus’ wantons” (3.4.2). Her lines are filed with references to myth and the gods, and she condemns love while exhorting the virtues of chastity. Diana’s rant also includes several mentions of birds and feathers: “Eagles cast their evil feathers in the sun” (38), “The birds ibes” (39), “doves” (48), “owls” (49), and “The eagle’s feathers consume the feathers of all others” (51). She closes with the admonition, “Foolish girls, how willing you are to follow that which you should fly” (68-69). Birds do not have a place of note anywhere else in the play, so her references to them all build to this closing remark.

When Cupid is found and brought to Diana, she harangues him for his sport in the forest. She promises to punish him: “I will break thy bow and burn thine arrows, bind thy hands, clip thy wings, and fetter thy feet” (85-86). She also tells him “Venus’s rods are made of roses, Diana’s of briars” (89-90). This is a telling comparison of love and chastity, since both roses and briars have thorns: love and chastity, then, can both cause pain. Cupid responds by telling Diana “what I have done cannot be undone, but what you mean to do shall….Cupid shall have all” (98-100). In other words, he promises love will win the day.

At the close of the scene, Eurota tells Cupid “We will plague ye for a little god” (109), echoing the words of the unnamed nymph in 1.2 (“And so farewell, little god” [32]). Was this unnamed nymph Eurota? Either way, the phrase “little god” not only mocks Cupid’s powers (especially against Diana), it also plays on his usual representation as a toddler or small boy.

Galatea – Act One: “since my father will have it so, and fortune must”

Scene One: Galatea’s father explains to her why he’s dressed her as a boy; he’s attempting to keep her from being selected as Neptune’s sacrificial virgin. He recounts to her the history of the virgin sacrifice. Galatea is uncomfortable being disguised as a boy and protests that destiny cannot be changed or avoided.  

The 1.1 plot exposition not only provides the backstory for the virgin sacrifice and consequently, why Galatea is dressed as a boy, it situates the play in its forest setting. Galatea and her father Tityrus rest and talk under the same tree where every five years a virgin is bound and left for the sea monster Agar. Galatea protests being garbed as a boy and against attempts to avoid her destiny (“Destiny may be deferred, not prevented” 1.1.76-77), but the location is just as important as her disapproval. Galatea, although protesting her disguise, possesses an agency the virgins tied to the sacrificial tree did not/will not have: she can walk away from the tree at will.  As the plot unfolds, Galatea realizes this agency and proves more philosophical, and wiser, than her father (as does Phillida). This realization gives the girls’ eventual relationship a gravitas and solidity it might not have had if they been less thoughtful or mature.

The 1.2 exposition from The Tempest, written much later in 1610-11, is similar in many respects to Lyly’s opening scene. In Shakespeare’s play, Prospero (like Tityrus) tells his tale to his daughter Miranda, who (like Galatea) listens intently and exclaims in wonder as it unfolds. Prospero and Tityrus both employ forms of deception in their attempts to direct their daughters’ destinies, and both stories involve danger from the sea (Tempest has the titular storm; Galatea has a flood legend and a sea monster).

*

Scene Two: Cupid encounters one of Diana’s nymphs in the wood. She is less than impressed by him, and by love in general, which angers him and leads him to begin his mischief.

At the end of Scene One, Tityrus and Galatea remark on the gods “hav[ing] taken shapes of beasts” (1.1.97) in their quest for love. Five lines later, Cupid makes his entrance at the start of Scene Two. He encounters one of Diana’s nymphs, who has no interest in him or love. She brushes his hints and suggestions aside and exits the stage, calling him a “little god” (1.2.32). The antagonized and offended Cupid then vows to cause trouble among the nymphs so they will know he is a “great god” (34).

With the introduction of Cupid and the nymph, Lyly introduces puns and wordplay. In the previous scene, the discussion between Galatea and Tityrus was straightforward, reflecting their simple pastoral (read: non-courtly) life. The nymph’s first lines in Scene Two launch the wordplay (“There is none of Diana’s train that any can train” [1.2.6-7]) and it picks up twenty lines later (“I will follow Diana in the chase, whose virgins are all chaste, delighting in the bow that wounds the swift hart in the forest, not fearing the bow that strikes the soft heart in the chamber” 25-28). This punning, twisting, and turning of words will be a staple of the text from this point on. Note that wordplay enters the text with Cupid, and therefore with the idea of love and physical attraction. It also implies that the appearance of a god signals a portal or threshold between the rustic and the courtly (or, the simple and the wittily deceptive).

*

Scene Three: Phillida’s father Melibeus explains to her that he’s dressed her as a boy to protect her from Neptune’s sacrifice. She, like Galatea, is not comfortable with the disguise.

The difference in the girls’ responses to their fathers’ disguising them is worthy of note. In Scene One, Galatea’s protestations were premised on her belief that destiny cannot be avoided or delayed. In Scene Three, Phillida’s argument is that it is not becoming, or virtuous, for her to wear male clothing. She argues that she “must keep company with boys and commit follies unseemly for my sex…and be thought more wanton than becometh me” (1.3.18-21). Phillida is the first character to use the word “wanton,” which as mentioned before, is used frequently throughout the play. Does this connect to the wearing of gendered clothing and its perceived effect on behavior and virtue? The recurrence of “wanton” is an interesting detail to keep in mind.

It is also helpful to consider the manner of the girls’ responses. Both are obedient to their fathers’ wishes, but it can be argued that Galatea pushes back more forcefully against her father’s directive. Her stance on destiny and virtue relies on reason, and her appeal is longer in length and more direct than that of Phillida. Phillida’s response is more submissive, her few lines of argument based on others’ perception of her honor, behavior, and appearance. Galatea’s reply to her father is three times longer than Phillida’s (fifteen lines vs five), and Scene One closes without a clear resolution to Galatea and Tityrus’s disagreement. Phillida, by contrast, states “I agree, since my father will have it so, and fortune must” (26-27), and the scene ends almost immediately. The glimpse into their personalities situates them for growth and change as the plot unfolds.

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Scene Four: Three brothers, Rafe, Robin, and Dick, are cast ashore after being shipwrecked. They begin quests to find employment or new masters.

With the entrance of Rafe, Robin, and Dick, Lyly introduces more blatant sexual innuendo and punning along with themes of cunning and cozenage. The brothers are clown figures, and revel in making saucy, sarcastic remarks. One of the recurring puns is on the word “points,” which were the “tag ends of the laces that held upper and lower garments together” (Hunter and Bevington 42, n.44-5). “For you see betwixt us three there is not two good points” (1.4.44-5); “Well, begin with your points, for I lack only points in this world” (53-54). As the scene ends, the three sing a song about shipwreck and fate that includes the verse “For being well manned / We can cry ‘Stand!’” (94-95). For the audience, these bawdy lines might gesture to Galatea and Phillida, dressed as boys but not “well-manned” in any sense of the word.

Once more, the sea is shown to be important to the action of the play. Here, rather than flooding the village, it casts the brothers and the Mariner ashore after a shipwreck. Traditionally, the sea and sea voyages were associated with fortune (the rise, fall, and ebb of tides corresponding with its fickleness) and the fact that the three brothers are shipwrecked hints that fortune is not on their side. Their first attempt at a new master is with the Mariner, but they cannot grasp the basics of navigation, so he leaves them to shift for themselves. Their inability to understand the secrets of navigating the sea also suggests their poor fortune: the Mariner has the knowledge and canniness to ply the sea (fortune), but the brothers do not. They must now scheme, cozen, and use cunning to get ahead.