The Spanish Tragedy – Act Three, Scenes 9-12: “What madding fury did possess thy wits?”

Scene Nine: Bel-Imperia, imprisoned in a tower, bemoans her captivity and the loss of Horatio.

Scene 8 closed with Isabella running lunatic, desperate to know who murdered her son. Scene 9 opens with Bel-Imperia at the window of the tower where she is locked away, in part for her knowledge of Horatio’s killers. She is angry, and rails against her imprisonment and “sequest[ration] from the court” (2). Crying out in frustration, she laments, “Hieronimo, why writ I of thy wrongs? / Or why art thou so slack in thy revenge?” (7-8). Her complaint brings to mind Shakespeare’s later play Hamlet and the title character’s delay in avenging his father’s murder.

This scene also includes one of the play’s many metatheatrical moments. From the tower, Bel-Imperia calls out, “Andrea, O Andrea, that thou sawest / Me for thy friend Horatio handled thus” (9-10). As discussed previously, the play’s stage directions seem to call for Andrea and Revenge to be present throughout, so Andrea is indeed a witness to Bel-Imperia’s treatment. Both he and Revenge have seen all: Bel-Imperia’s assignation with Horatio, Horatio’s murder, and Bel-Imperia’s abduction and imprisonment. Their observing the action is one of the many frames structuring the play; these frames allow a nesting of sorts, each one neatly supporting the others.

*

Scene Ten: Lorenzo releases Bel-Imperia from her captivity. She confronts both him and Balthazar, who once more pleads his love.

Lorenzo sends his page to free Bel-Imperia. He explains to Balthazar that her imprisonment was “…for a policy / To smooth and keep the murder secret” (9-10) and that any interest in Horatio’s death will blow over, likening it to a “nine-days’ wonder” (11) — something that is discussed for a short time and then forgotten. Lorenzo instructs Balthazar to “deal cunningly” (18) with Bel-Imperia and “Salve all suspicions, only soothe me up” (19). In other words, Balthazar should be sly and crafty with Bel-Imperia, gloss over any suspicions she may have, and above all, have Lorenzo’s back. Lorenzo goes on to suggest that if Bel-Imperia is angered by the recent events, “Jest with her gently: under feignèd jest / Are things concealed that else would breed unrest” (22-23). It says much about Lorenzo that he believes gentle humor would lead anyone to forget witnessing a murder and being carried off to a tower.

Bel-Imperia enters, understandably angry and insisting to know why she was subjected to such treatment. “What madding fury did possess thy wits?” (33) she demands of Lorenzo. He attempts to convince her that he “…sought to save [her] honor and [his] own” (38). Their father and the King were expected to call on Hieronimo when she and Horatio were found in the arbor, he explains, and then remarks:

Why then, remembering that old disgrace,
Which you for Don Andrea had endured,
And now were likely longer to sustain
By being found so meanly accompanied,
Thought rather–for I knew no readier mean—
To thrust Horatio [out of] my father’s way. (54-59)

Lorenzo’s blunt statement, grounded in class and status, is a swipe at Bel-Imperia and both of her lovers. In his eyes, she brought disgrace on herself through her previous relationship with Andrea, and he sees her keeping company with Horatio as casting a similar pall. Bel-Imperia will have none of it. She replies, “You, gentle brother, forged this for my sake, / And you my lord, were made his instrument–” (64-65). She knows Lorenzo crafted this tale as a coverup and tells Balthazar to his face that he is being used. Lorenzo, however, continues his spin, protesting that she was imprisoned because her melancholy over Andrea’s death angered their father. Once more, Bel-Imperia is having none of it. “But why had I no notice of his ire?” (73) she asks. Lorenzo’s feeble answer is that telling her would only have increased her woe.

Lorenzo then attempts to direct Bel-Imperia’s attention to Balthazar, “the gentle prince” (78) who feels such passion for her. She remains suspicious, however:

Brother you are become an orator–
I know not I, by what experience–
Too politic for me, past all compare,
Since last I saw you…” (83-86)  

Lorenzo is being glib, and she does not trust him; he’s not usually this smooth. Based on lines 54-59, it seems Balthazar’s royal status is the answer to Lorenzo’s taking such an interest in his sister’s love life. He has found he can easily manipulate Balthazar; it is also clear he thinks he can control, or at least gaslight, Bel-Imperia. As a near relation, Lorenzo would have close access to the couple and could conceivably wield influence and gain power.  

Balthazar, who has been dipping into the dialogue every so often, protests that he is besotted with Bel-Imperia’s beauty but despondent that his affection is not reciprocated. What follows is a telling exchange between the three characters. The snap of the stichomythia, or short back-and-forth sparring dialogue, creates a sense of unguarded truthfulness that contrasts with Lorenzo’s fictions:

BALTHAZAR: ‘Tis that I love.
BEL-IMPERIA:                     Whom?
BALTHAZAR:                                       Bel-Imperia.
BEL-IMPERIA: But that I fear.
BALTHAZAR:                       Whom?
BEL-IMPERIA:                                     Bel-Imperia.
LORENZO: Fear your self?
BEL-IMPERIA:                     Ay, brother.
LORENZO:                                            How?
BEL-IMPERIA:                                                     As those
                That what they love are loath and fear to lose. (96-99)

The implication is that Bel-Imperia fears losing herself in a loveless relationship. She rejects Balthazar’s proffered love because in her mind it mirrors her earlier imprisonment: as his wife, any agency she may possess would be taken away.   

Balthazar’s response shows he does not grasp her deeper message: “Then, fair, let Baltazar your keeper be” (100). Her response, “No, Balthazar doth fear as well as we” (101) is followed by two lines of Latin glossed as “They yoked tremulous dread to quaking dread, a futile act of stupid betrayal” (Neill 67, n.102-103). Although Bel-Imperia has deep concerns (“tremulous dread”), Balthazar has shown himself to be filled with cowardice of varying stripes (“quaking dread”). Their union would be pointless, as it would deny her the strong partner she needs to still her own fears and create an effective relationship.     

Is Balthazar unable to understand this or does he simply enjoy playing the Petrarchan lover, imagining himself the victim of a cruel, indifferent lady? As the scene closes he continues his lament, likening his lovelorn state to someone lost in a strange land:

Led by the lodestar of her heavenly looks,
Wends poor oppressèd Balthazar,
As o’er the mountains walks the wanderer,
Incertain to effect his pilgrimage.  (106-109)

*

Scene Eleven: Two travelers meet Hieronimo — who they come to believe is insane.

Reflecting the uncertain pilgrim described in Balthazar’s lament, 3.11 opens with two Portingale travelers asking Hieronimo the way to the duke’s residence. Hieronimo’s replies are riddling and nonsensical, along the lines of Hamlet’s responses to Polonius in 2.2 of Shakespeare’s later play. The lengthy directions Hieronimo provides begin with “…a path upon [their] left-hand side, / That leadth from a guilty conscience / Unto a forest of distrust and fear–” (3.11.13-15). (The left side was traditionally associated with evil, so his implication would have been evident.) This path will lead the travelers through darkness and peril, but eventually,

There in a brazen cauldron fixed by Jove
In this fell wrath upon a sulfur flame,
Yourselves shall find Lorenzo bathing [himself]
In boiling lead and blood of innocents. (26-29)

The travelers are unsettled and unsure as how to take this. They chuckle as Hieronimo leaves and observe, “Doubtless this man is passing lunatic, / Or imperfection of his age doth make him dote” (32-33). They leave to seek the duke’s palace on their own.  

*

Scene Twelve: Hieronimo encounters the King, who is accompanied by the Ambassador of Portugal, the Duke of Castile, and Lorenzo. Hieronimo demands justice for Horatio, but due to his actions is again thought insane.

As if to confirm he is either lunatic or doting, Hieronimo enters “with a poniard in one hand, and a rope in the other” (3.12 s.d.). His use of rhyme underscores his agitation and passion:

Now sir, perhaps I come and see the king,
The king sees me, and fain would hear my suit.
Why, is not this a strange and seld-seen thing
That standers-by with toys should strike me mute.  (1-4, italics mine)

Hieronimo’s use of rhyme continues for the next five lines, after which he appears to regain his composure. He realizes suicide will leave his son’s death unavenged and the murderers free: “For if I hang or kill myself, let’s know / Who will revenge Horatio’s murder then? / No, no! fie no! pardon me, I’ll none of that” (17-19). Hieronimo sees the King, Ambassador, Duke of Castile, and Lorenzo approach and decides to press his case. He cries out, “Justice, O justice to Hieronimo” (27), but is swiftly cut off by Lorenzo, who responds “Back! see’st thou not the king is busy?” (28). Hieronimo, reading the room (so to speak), backs off to let the group pass. As they do, the Ambassador tells the King of the Viceroy’s overwhelming joy at his son’s safety and treatment in Spain. To express his happiness, the Viceroy has vowed   

…in the presence of the court of Spain,
To knit a sure, inexplicable band
Of kingly love and everlasting league
Betwixt the crowns of Spain and Portingale. 
There will he give his crown to Balthazar,
And make a queen of Bel-Imperia. (45-50)

The Ambassador also reveals that the Viceroy has sent Balthazar’s ransom, which the King instructs be paid to Horatio. Does he not know of Horatio’s death? This line and those that follow suggest he does not. Hearing his son’s name, Hieronimo repeats his cries for justice. Although Lorenzo tries once more to silence him, this time he will not back down:

Away, Lorenzo, hinder me no more!
For thou hast made me bankrupt of my bliss.
Give me my son, you shall not ransom him.
Away! I’ll rip the bowels of the earth… (68-71)

At this point, the stage directions indicate Hieronimo “…diggeth with his dagger” (71 s.d.), stage business embodying not only his overwhelming frustration, but also his attempts to dig up or uncover the truth of his son’s death. He then vows to “…ferry over to th’Elysian plains, / And bring my son to show his deadly wounds” (72-73). His words and actions try to direct attention to Horatio’s murder and the fact that unlike Balthazar, he cannot be ransomed and returned to his father’s care.

The King is flummoxed; he appears to be truly ignorant of Hieronimo’s loss. He demands, “What means this outrage? / Will none of you restrain his fury?” (79-80) and after Hieronimo’s exit, asks, “What accident hath happed Hieronimo? / I have not seen him to demean him so” (83-84). Lorenzo responds that Hieronimo is overly proud of Horatio, but greedy to have the Prince’s ransom money for himself. He also suggests that since Hieronimo is “helplessly distract” (96), he should resign from his position of Knight Marshal. The King, however, expresses concern that this would “increase his melancholy” (99) and thinks it better to wait. His attention then turns to the impending marriage of Bel-Imperia and Balthazar.  

What’s in a Name? (The Spanish Tragedy edition)

I was told the first year of teaching is hell, and the past semester and a half have done nothing to prove otherwise. My blog has been pushed aside as I navigate not only my first two semesters as an adjunct instructor, but also the ins and outs of teaching during a global pandemic. I’ve learned valuable lessons, one being how to structure a syllabus that educates but doesn’t swallow my life with grading and prep. Said syllabus won’t be implemented until the coming fall, though, which leads me to this blog post. Consider this a short breath of fresh air, a way for me to do a little of what I love (researching and writing about early modern drama) as I tie up the loose ends of spring semester. While you wait for my regular posts to resume, please enjoy this interesting and tasty amuse-bouche for the mind…

*


I’ve wondered about the character names in The Spanish Tragedy from the first time I read it. Why did Kyd choose them? More to the point, who names their child Bel-Imperia? It must mean something. There must be a reason Kyd chose it. Is it even an actual name? I finally gave in and decided it was time for some light research.

Unless otherwise noted, the name meanings/definitions below are from the Oxford Dictionary of First Names. I don’t call what follows deep and definitive, but the results are interesting and add another possible dimension to the characters’ personas. This is just me having fun learning more about names I find fascinating. Are the meanings what Kyd intended? Not likely, but I’d like to think he’d find the results intriguing, too.

  • BALTAZAR: “A variant of that of the biblical king Belshazzar… mean[ing] ‘Baal protect the king’.” In that name, Bel = ‘Baal’ + shazzar = ‘protect the king.’ Would Baltazar’s marrying Bel-Imperia be a form of protection for his father, the Viceroy of Portugal? Or — more appropriate to the meaning — the King of Spain, her uncle? After all, Spain and Portugal are at war when the play begins.
  • BAZULTO: www.houseofnames.com states the similar name “Basulto” could be derived from an “ancient Anglo-Saxon surname…from Basile, which means royal.” Through their shared grief Bazulto’s character reflects Hieronimo’s, so this possible meaning deepens the two characters’ association (see Hieronimo, below).
  • BEL-IMPERIA: Not surprisingly, this name doesn’t turn up in the Oxford or via a general web search, so I decided to parse it. The Collins English Dictionary defines “imperia” as supreme power, and the Oxford English Dictionary defines “imperium” in a similar way: “absolute or supreme power or dominion.” “Bel” could refer to beauty, as in bella or belle, but look back at the meaning of the name Baltazar. In that name, Bel refers to the god Baal. Based on these definitions, there are two possibilities for the meaning of Bel-Imperia: beautiful supreme power or Baal supreme power. Take what you will from that potential duality. 
  • GHOST OF ANDREA: The name Andrea is thought to be either “a coinage in English from the Greek vocabulary word andreia: ‘manliness, virility’” or a “form of the Greek name Andreas, a short form of any of various compound names derived from andr- ‘man, warrior.’” Andrea’s character aligns with these meanings. In life, he was a brave soldier, self-made man, and Bel-Imperia’s lover.
  • HIERONIMO, KNIGHT MARSHAL OF SPAIN: Hieronymos is from the Greek words hieros (holy) + onoma (name). This sheds additional light on the character. Is he the most noble, the most worthy, of the characters? If so, does this confer an aspect of holiness (or royalty? see Bazulto)? In the classic sense, he is arguably the most tragic. Despite this, do the gods appear to favor him over all others?  There’s a lot to unpack here, and it’s beyond the scope of this post (and my blog).      
  • HORATIO: The Oxford mentions only that this is possibly an ancient Etruscan name and notes its association with Horace, the Roman poet. A more general web search suggests meanings connected to the concept of time (“man of time” “timekeeper”). Does time stop or become suspended when he dies? For Hieronimo, Isabella,
    Bel-Imperia, and Andrea…possibly.   
  • ISABELLA: A Spanish variant of “Elizabeth” meaning “God is my oath.” In the context of the play, the meanings of the names Hieronimo and Isabella are striking; both are intertwined with the sacred. Whereas Hieronimo bears a “holy name,” Isabella’s name claims devotion to the holy. Her line “My husband’s absence makes my heart to throb” (2.5.34) suggests a deep love and need for Hieronimo.
  • LORENZO: The Oxford states this name is derived from “Lawrence,” which in turn is from the Latin Laurentius or “man from Laurentum.” It goes on to note that Laurentum may have come from the Latin laurus or “laurel.” As the laurel was a sign of victory, or given as an award, this gestures to certain things about the nature of the character. Is Lorenzo accustomed to winning? Is he focused on always being the victor, having his way, and believing he can command fate? His actions certainly bear these thoughts out.
  • PEDRINGANO: Pedrignano is a town in Italy, near Parma. Did Kyd intend this place name but spell it wrong? If so, does this situate Pedringano as an outsider and therefore unaware of the machinations of the ruling family? Is his gullibility a sign of ignorance and his brashness an attempt to fit in? These possibilities put a more sympathetic gloss on the character’s actions and demise.  
  • SERBERINE: Nothing comes up in the Oxford or via a general web search, but modern ears can’t help but hear “Serbia” in the name. The area we know as Serbia was part of the Ottoman Empire during the early modern period. Based on the possibility of Pedringano being a place name, might Serberine, too, be from another country? He is a servant to Baltazar; could he have been a prisoner of war, captured and presented to the prince?

As I said previously, I don’t claim these meanings define the characters or even that Kyd was aware of them — let alone had them in mind while crafting his play. This is a brief exploration of the more unusual character names based on my curiosity as to their meanings. My goal in posting this little exercise is to add some wonder, and another dimension, to your enjoyment of The Spanish Tragedy. I’ll be returning to my usual blogging as soon as I’m able (ST Act 3, Scenes 9-12, I’m looking at you!).

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.  

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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 Two, Scenes 1-3: “Her favor must be won by his remove”

Scene One: Lorenzo tells Baltazar he will deal with Bel-Imperia, as he knows how to wear down her resolve. From Pedringano, one of her serving men, Lorenzo learns that Bel-Imperia loves Horatio. Lorenzo and Baltazar begin to devise a plan to remove this obstacle.

Act Two Scene One begins with Lorenzo attempting to assuage Baltazar’s hurt feelings. He tells him all steadfast creatures and solid things can eventually  be worn down (“In time the savage bull sustains the yoke,” “In time small wedges cleave the hardest oak” [3, 5]) and that Bel-Imperia is no exception. Baltazar, however, is not convinced. He protests, “No, she is wilder and more hard withal, / Then beast, or bird, or tree, or stony wall” (9-10), but then true to form changes course, saying, “It is my fault, not she that merits blame” (12). Again, Baltazar’s lack of confidence and wavering are on display. He goes on to denigrate his appearance, letter writing skills, and gifts, stating they are so lacking that Bel-Imperia is right to reject him (13-18).

During this exchange, both Baltazar and Lorenzo show their agitation and state of mind through literary devices, most notably the use of rhyme. Lorenzo has only four instances (“coy”/”joy” [1, 2], “disdain”/“pain” [7, 8], “me”/”see” [37, 38] and “about”/”out” [39, 40]), which suggests a certain calm and decisiveness. Baltazar’s word choice, however, belies an anxious frenzy. Nearly every line is a rhyming couplet, and he uses anaphora in successive alternating lines:
Yet might she love me for my valiancy–
Ay, but that’s slandered by captivity.
Yet might she love me to content her sire–
Ay, but her reason masters his desire.
Yet might she love me as her brother’s friend–
Ay, but her hopes aim at some other end.
Yet might she love me to uprear her state–
Ay, but perhaps she hopes some nobler mate.
Yet might she love me as her beauty’s thrall–
Ay, but I fear she cannot love me at all.   (19-28)
The prince’s pattern of speech reveals his unsettled mind and lack of confidence. His lines turn on each other through the anaphora that both links and drives them apart; rhyme suggests a desire for stability and closure. The contrast between Baltazar and Lorenzo (and, for that matter, Bel-Imperia) is unmistakably clear.

Lorenzo counsels Baltazar to “leave these ecstasies” (29) and reassures him that any obstacles to Bel-Imperia’s love will be “be known and then removed” (32). He hints of a plan if Baltazar will be complicit (“I have already found a stratagem / …My lord, for once you shall be ruled by me: / Hinder me not whate’er you hear or see. / By force or fair means will I cast about” [35, 37-39]). In this exchange, Lorenzo employs rhyme, but it is not as easy or nicely coupled as in Baltazar’s lines 19-28. Where the prince matched the likes of “friend”/”end,” “state”/”mate,” and “thrall”/”all,” Lorenzo’s pairs are more forced: “loved”/”removed” (31, 32), “stratagem”/”theme” (35, 36), suggesting a determined, crafty mind. A shared homophone serves to indicate growing agreement:
Lorenzo: What if my sister love some other knight?
Baltazar: My summer’s day will turn to winter’s night.  (33-34, italics mine)
Even Baltazar’s implied harmony with Lorenzo depends on contrast (summer/winter), keeping the focus on his uncertainty.

Lorenzo calls for Bel-Imperia’s servant, Pedringano, and presses him for information. Lorenzo reminds Pedringano that when Andrea and Bel-Imperia’s liaison was discovered, he protected him (“…I did shield thee from my father’s wrath / For thy conveyance in Andrea’s love” [46-47]). He offers Pedrigano money and friendship for the name of Bel-Imperia’s current lover, and when the servant demurs, threatens him with death. Pedringano begs his life, so again, Lorenzo vows to “guerdon thee,” (72), “shield thee,” (73), and “conceal what’er proceeds from thee” (74). Taking Lorenzo at his word, Pedringano reveals that Horatio is Bel-Imperia’s lover. He is then dismissed with instructions to watch and advise Lorenzo of the couple’s next meeting.

Baltazar, in usual fashion, tells Lorenzo that his plan to spy on the pair is “Both well and ill: it makes me glad and sad–” (111). Rhymes and anaphora fill the following twenty or so lines as Baltazar laments learning of Bel-Imperia and Horatio’s love. He expresses happiness that he “know[s] on whom to be reveng’d” (114) but fears he will lose her if he acts. He calls Horatio his “destined plague” (118); not only did he capture Baltazar in battle, he has (in essence) captured Baltazar’s intended wife. The prince concludes Horatio has “ta’en my body by his force, / And now by sleight would captivate my soul” (130-131) and pledges that he will, therefore, “tempt the destinies, / And either lose my life, or win my love” (132-133). Lorenzo replies, “Do you but follow me and gain your love: / Her favor must be won by his remove” (135-136). In other words, Horatio must die so Baltazar can possess Bel-Imperia.

*

Scene Two: Horatio and Bel-Imperia meet. Pedringano directs Baltazar and Lorenzo to a concealed location where they can observe their rendezvous.

Horatio’s opening line (“Now madam, since by favor of your love” [2.2.1, italics mine]) pulls from Lorenzo’s 2.1 closing (“Do you but follow me and gain your love: / Her favor must be won by his remove” [135-136, italics mine]). These shared words link the machinations of Lorenzo and Baltazar to Horatio and Bel-Imperia’s newly declared affection. As couple meets and proclaims their love, Pedringano conducts Lorenzo and Baltazar to a hiding place “above” (2.2.6 SD) where they can see and hear the exchange.

Once more repetition is key, this time in contrasting Baltazar and Lorenzo’s reactions. The men use similar words, but their context is not the same:
Baltazar [above]: O sleep, mine eyes, see not my love profaned;
Be deaf my ears, hear not my discontent;
Die heart, another joys what thou deserv’st.
Lorenzo: [above] Watch still mine eyes, to see this love disjoined;
Hear still mine ears, to hear them both lament;
Live heart, to joy at fond Horatio’s fall.  (18-23)
The difference is stark. Baltazar is prepared to give up, close his eyes, and perish at the sight of Bel-Imperia with another man. Lorenzo, however, feels heightened anger and violent rage. The one instance of rhyme, “discontent” / “lament,” links the two disparate responses, serving as a reminder that the two men are in league to destroy the lovers’ happiness.

In the next lines, the lovers themselves are linked through the sharing of a word. More intimate than a rhyme, in this case the passing of a word from one mouth to another gestures to growing connection and warmth:
Horatio: The less I speak, the more I meditate.
Bel-Imperia: But whereon dost thou chiefly meditate?  (25-26)
Hidden above, Lorenzo and Baltazar copy this act of spoken intimacy, repeating words and phrases used by the lovers — but shading them with malice:
Horatio: On dangers past, and pleasures to ensue.
Baltazar [above]: On pleasures past, and dangers to ensue.
Bel-Imperia: What dangers, and what pleasures dost thou mean?
Horatio: Dangers of war, and pleasures of our love.
Lorenzo [above]: Dangers of death, but pleasures none at all.  (27-31)
The four characters’ lines interact and mesh. The structure of the dialogue, along with the location of the men above, virtually surrounds the lovers with menace and growing danger — yet they remain unaware of the threat.

The scene also makes Bel-Imperia’s agency and strong will unmistakably clear. She speaks more than twice as often as Horatio, 32 lines to his 14, and it is she who drives the relationship. She re-introduces the idea of love as war (“Let dangers go, thy war shall be with me… / Give me a kiss, I’ll countercheck thy kiss: / Be this our warring peace, or peaceful war” [32, 37-38]), further indication of her strength and determination. The trope also brings to mind Rhadamanth’s warning, quoted by Andrea at the start of the play: “it were not well, / With loving souls to place a martialist” (1.1.45-46).

Horatio tells Bel-Imperia to “appoint the field / Where trial of this war shall first be made” (2.2.39-40), and she suggests his father Hieronimo’s bower. This is where they “first…vowed a mutual amity,” and while “the court were dangerous, that place were safe” (42-43); they acknowledge their trysts must be kept secret. The scene closes with a pair of rhyming couplets, but not from Horatio and Bel-Imperia. Horatio’s “Return we now into your father’s sight: / Dangerous suspicion waits on our delight” (54-55) matches with Lorenzo’s “Ay, danger mixed with jealious despite / Shall send thy soul into eternal night” (56-57), spoken from his place of concealment. Lorenzo’s rhyming of Horatio’s “delight” with “despite” and “sight” with “night” is an additional gesture to the lovers’ peril.

*

Scene Three: The King, the Duke, and the Ambassador to Portugal draw up the contract that will unite Bel-Imperia and Baltazar in marriage. The Ambassador prepares to return to his country to obtain the consent of the Viceroy.

Bel-Imperia and Horatio’s rendezvous is followed in this scene by the finalizing of a marriage contract between Bel-Imperia and Baltazar. The Duke of Castile (Bel-Imperia’s father) states “Although she coy it as becomes her kind… / …she will stoop in time” (3,5; italics mine). His remark echoes Lorenzo’s earlier attempt to placate Baltazar (“My lord, though Bel-Imperia seem thus coy, / …In time all haggard hawks will stoop to lure” [2.1.1, 4; italics mine]). The Duke also maintains that Bel-Imperia will love Baltazar or “forgo my love” (2.3.8), which pleases the King. Once more, value and commerce are the focus; the king’s offer of a “large and liberal” (13) dowry to sweeten the contract ushers in words such as “gift” (17), “tribute” (19), “reward” (35), “price” (37), and “estate” (46). Bel-Imperia is merely a rich token to cement a political alliance.

The marriage agreement is drawn up and ratified, but the King once more admonishes the Duke about Bel-Imperia’s strong personality (“Now, brother, you must take some little pains / To win fair Bel-Imperia from her will” [41-42]). The scene closes with the King stressing that the marriage is of the utmost importance:
“If she neglect [Baltazar] and forgo his love,
She both will wrong her own estate and ours….
Endeavour you to win your daughter’s thought–
If she give back, all this will come to naught”  (45-46, 49-50).

All in all, the men’s concern seems to be more about exerting control over a strong-willed female than about forging an alliance with a previously defeated political rival. Failing to curb her agency is not an option.