The Spanish Tragedy | Study Guide

Thomas Kyd

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The Spanish Tragedy | Act 2, Scene 2 | Summary



At the Duke of Castile's home, Horatio and Bel-Imperia meet to exchange words of love. Pedringano points the scene out to Lorenzo and Balthazar, and all three hide. Bel-Imperia takes the initiative—her true knight Horatio must play the part of the humble lover whose only desire is to serve her every need and pleasure at her command. She begins by comparing herself to a storm-tossed ship, assuring Horatio that possession of his love is her only port of safety. With equal wit of statement by Bel-Imperia and response by Horatio, the formal exchange between them turns to terms of war (Mars) and love (Venus) as if the wooing were a battle, with kisses and sweet words as their "weapons."

When Horatio asks Bel-Imperia where the battle between them should commence, she suggests the privacy of Hieronimo's garden at the time of evening Vespers until the nightingale sings, and adds that every hour passing until their tryst will seem a year to her. Interjected between this loving banter, the audience hears both Lorenzo and Balthazar swear death and destruction. Overhearing the entire loving exchange, Balthazar can barely contain his fury, while Lorenzo's response is increased hatred added to his initial envy of Horatio. The two of them can barely keep quiet enough to avoid being detected.


Vesper prayers were signaled in both Anglican and Catholic service by the ringing of bells at sunset, at which time laborers offered prayers before leaving the fields at night. Bel-Imperia evidently intends to stay there pretty much all night with him. She mentions the nightingale, a bird reputed to sing sweetly before the sun comes up, "shall carol us asleep." Bel-Imperia's comparison of herself to a ship seeking safe harbor is echoed at the end of the play, when the viceroy begs to be tied with the corpse of his dead son to the mast of a ship and set adrift; such a terrible fate would, to him, be more endurable than living without his son. The close connection between the battles of love and war will continue between the lovers and indirectly reference the geography of the underworld as described by the Ghost of Andrea, in which the realms of warriors and lovers are proximate but entirely separate.

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