The Spanish Tragedy | Study Guide

Thomas Kyd

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The Spanish Tragedy | Act 2, Scene 1 | Summary



At Lorenzo's home, Lorenzo has been keeping constant company with Balthazar with the intent of keeping alive the flames of passion Balthazar feels toward Lorenzo's beautiful sister, Bel-Imperia. Presuming to know women, Lorenzo advises Balthazar that in time she will surrender, using poetic language to compare the wayward emotions of women to various forces of nature that ultimately must succumb to superior force. Balthazar thinks it over out loud, trying out different scenarios in which he could express his love in a way she might accept, only to think that each possibility must end in failure. Lorenzo is determined to find a remedy for his sister's stubbornness and considers she may perhaps have another lover—in which case, as Lorenzo reasons, all they would have to do is remove him. In order to ascertain whether or not this might be the case, Lorenzo summons Bel-Imperia's servant, Pedringano, for questioning.

Lorenzo starts out with the Machiavellian "carrot," reminding Pedringano that he has already kept the rascally servant from being punished by the Duke of Castile for having aided the tryst between Andrea and Bel-Imperia. Added to this, Lorenzo promises to ice the cake with coin and deed to lands if Pedringano will tell the truth: does Bel-Imperia have a new lover? Reluctant to betray his mistress, Pedringano demurs, whereupon Lorenzo pulls out the "stick," threatening Pedringano with his sword. Pedringano tries to wiggle out of this with carefully chosen words until Lorenzo is at the point of wanting to kill him. Finally, Pedringano admits that Bel-Imperia loves Horatio, to whom she has sent love letters via Pedringano. Lorenzo is astonished, but swears that if Pedringano is lying, he will die. Perceiving that his life depends more upon serving Lorenzo than Bel-Imperia, Pedringano swears to keep the information secret, and to let Lorenzo know the next time the two lovers meet, so he and Balthazar may see for themselves how the romance is warming up. Balthazar indulges in another round of rhetorical musing, in which he concludes he will either "lose [his] life, or win [his] love;" there is no middle ground of mediation for the lovesick fellow. Lorenzo concludes the scene by assuring Balthazar that once Horatio is removed, Balthazar will certainly win Bel-Imperia's favor.


It is evident that Balthazar has come to recognize a fellow-creature in Lorenzo, who, with flattery, entertainment, and good food, has managed to get Balthazar to forget Horatio's leniency and Lorenzo's bullying on the battlefield. Lorenzo, who doesn't know the heart of his own sister and seriously underestimates her resolve, likely figures that a lover in the flesh would certainly be worth more to her than two ghosts that can only figure in her memory. The permanent removal of Horatio would logically place his newfound "friend" and companion, Balthazar, in the favorable position of being her last and only choice for love. The Italian phrase Lorenzo uses to summon Pedringano may indicate that Lorenzo leans toward the philosophy of leadership laid down by Machiavelli, and his subsequent actions and rationalizations for using underlings to advance his own agenda echoes Machiavelli's famous "the ends justify the means." Certainly, most educated Elizabethans (including the queen, who was not only fluent in Italian, but also favored the dances and fashions of the Italians, styling herself as an "Italian Prince") were very familiar with Machiavelli's writings. And for those not so well-educated in the audiences, the physical and verbal interplay between the clever, scapegrace servant (with an Italian-sounding name, no less) and master would recall the Italian commedia dell arte antics commonly seen onstage at the time.

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