The Spanish Tragedy | Study Guide

Thomas Kyd

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The Spanish Tragedy | Act 3, Scene 14 | Summary



The Viceroy of Portugal and his brother Don Pedro have speedily arrived at the Spanish court. While the Duke of Castile greets his counterpart, Don Pedro, the King of Spain moves in to greet the viceroy. The king informs the viceroy that the marriage between Balthazar and Bel-Imperia is set for the next day, and (perfectly certain of the answer), asks the viceroy whether or not this is acceptable. This gives the viceroy a chance to make a gracious speech and give his crown to Balthazar, with the stated intent of retiring to a solitary life. After commenting on the viceroy's show, the king ushers everyone off, leaving the duke and Lorenzo. After first questioning Lorenzo's feelings for his sister, the duke observes it has been rumored that Lorenzo has been keeping Hieronimo from presenting a suit to the king. He asks his son if he has done anything wrong to Hieronimo that, if brought to light, might cause a scandal; after all, Hieronimo has a very good reputation at court and is in the king's good graces.

Lorenzo protests that he cannot stop rumors, but the duke counters that he has seen Lorenzo keep Hieronimo away from the king. Lorenzo protests that he is only trying to protect Hieronimo's dignity—after all the sight of one of his most trusted and loyal subjects in a state of madness would surely grieve the king. The duke sends for Hieronimo, and Balthazar and Bel-Imperia enter. Balthazar's happiness is contrasted with Bel-Imperia's sorrow. The duke supposes she still fears his anger over her fling with Andrea, and tries to reassure her that her marriage to Balthazar is the perfect cure. At this point, Hieronimo enters and the following exchange between him and the duke persuades everyone that he is indeed mad. For his part, Hieronimo protests that Lorenzo so loved Horatio that Hieronimo draws his sword, putting on a show to attack anyone who would spread such vicious rumors against Lorenzo. Convinced but a bit puzzled, the duke invites Hieronimo to use his home as his own and keeps him company. When the duke leaves, Hieronimo spits after him and angrily says in Italian, "Someone who shows me more affection than usual has either betrayed me, or wishes to betray me."


The theme of this scene is one of reality being opposite the show the characters are putting on for each other. The Viceroy of Portugal proves himself able to follow through (at least in public) on removing himself from the rim of Fortuna's wheel in making a show of giving his crown to his son. But then again, he has "hedged his bets" in that he anticipates his bloodline will continue not only to rule Portugal, but Spain as well when a son is born to Bel-Imperia and Balthazar.

The Duke of Castile is putting on a show of his own to cover his doubts about the relationship between his son and Hieronimo, and Lorenzo does his own little tap dance to counter those fears. If, at this point, Lorenzo were exposed as Horatio's murderer, this might make it impossible for his sister to be married to Balthazar, thereby ruining everyone's hopes for the future. Since it is crucial to the duke to make sure the marriage goes forward, he grills Lorenzo to make sure his son hasn't done anything to wrong Hieronimo. He may also be looking for signs Lorenzo might cause trouble not only for his sister's inheritance, but for the diversion from the line of succession to the Spanish throne her marriage will effect. After the king's brother and his father, Lorenzo would be next in line for the Spanish crown if something should happen to the childless king. However, Lorenzo seems much less concerned with the public show of power for himself than in working for his own ends behind the scenes. It is quite likely that Lorenzo intends to use both his sister and new brother-in-law like puppets; after all, only he knows that Balthazar is one of Horatio's murderers.

Direct cause is no longer available to Hieronimo. When the Duke of Castile questions him directly whether or not Lorenzo has done anything to insult him or keep him from speaking to the king, Hieronimo puts on a show drawing his sword to challenge anyone who might even suggest that Lorenzo is anything but the most noble and loyal friend Horatio ever had. He even makes a show of embracing both Lorenzo and Balthazar to please the duke. This is, of course, entirely opposite to Hieronimo's ultimate intent. It is possible that his ending words indicate he suspects that the duke may have directly or indirectly been a part of the plot to murder Horatio; if so, his action to murder the duke at the end of the play might make more sense.

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