The Spanish Tragedy | Study Guide

Thomas Kyd

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The Spanish Tragedy | Act 3, Scene 11 | Summary



Addition 3 pretty much makes up the entire scene, in which two Portuguese gentlemen enter to meet Hieronimo in his home and attempt to give him Horatio's slippers. In a detailed speech, Hieronimo wonders why a child—especially a son—should move a father to such extremes of emotion. Yet again, Horatio laments that Horatio was so honorable that he spared Balthazar's life on the field of battle at a moment when he could have legitimately killed him, only to allow the proud prince to reward the favor by illegitimately murdering him. Even so, Hieronimo considers that heaven, Nemesis, and the Furies do sometimes catch up with murderers; given enough time, their vengeance builds to an overpowering violence. Possibly a little confused by Hieronimo's speech, the two Portuguese gentlemen ask him how to get to the Duke of Castile's house, and whether or not Lorenzo is there. For some unexplained reason, Hieronimo goes in at one door and comes out at another before answering them. He says the "way to Lorenzo" is along a left-hand path downhill from a guilty conscience into a dark forest of distrust and fear and ending in the torments of hell. This confuses the two Portuguese gentlemen even more, and laughing with Hieronimo as if he'd made a great joke, they leave amid comments the old man isn't right in the head.


Although he has not traveled to the underworld, Hieronimo seems pretty sure which path leads to damnation, describing the path to find Lorenzo as the same left-hand and downward-sloping path which the Ghost of Andrea passed on his way to Pluto and Persephone in the first scene of the play. The left hand was considered to be negative, evil, or unlucky, a notion that survives in the English word sinister, from the Latin word for left.

However, his directions only serve to further confuse the two Portuguese gentlemen, and give them the impression that Hieronimo is insane. Reversing "normal" behavior defines madness in The Spanish Tragedy: Hieronimo gives the Portuguese gentlemen "psychological" instead of physical directions to find Lorenzo, the morbidity of which prompts them to laugh. The episode suggests that perhaps madness is a point of view. Petty people assumed to be sane by society laugh at profound issues such as death, and take with utmost seriousness such superficial things as slippers (their meaningless duties in service). However, a madman turns this order upside down, making everyone around him uncomfortable.

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