The Spanish Tragedy | Study Guide

Thomas Kyd

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The Spanish Tragedy | Act 3, Scene 2 | Summary



This scene is assumed to take place outside Lorenzo's house, probably sometime the next day, given Pedringano's comment that the murder had been "so lately done." Hieronimo is pacing back and forth, mourning his son in rhetorically poetic elegance and working himself up into a state of vengeance. He begs all agencies of any power to send him a clue on how to begin. At that very instant, a letter written in red ink drops at his feet addressed to him. Although Bel-Imperia has been locked up in her room and denied pen and ink, she manages to get some paper, prick her finger, and uses her own blood to write a note to Hieronimo, naming her brother and Balthazar as the murderers. Hieronimo reasonably questions why she would implicate her own brother. The letter raises suspicions, but does not definitively convince Hieronimo. He is going to need proof, and it could be a trap designed to dishonor him and ruin his good reputation if he should act against Lorenzo and Balthazar on the basis of false evidence.

He hopes to talk with Bel-Imperia directly, but Lorenzo enters and explains that her father has locked her up "upon some disgrace." He kindly offers to convey a message to her if Hieronimo will give it to him, but Hieronimo declines. Addition 2 is inserted after line 66, elaborating on the exchange between Hieronimo and Lorenzo in such a way that Lorenzo begins to suspect that Hieronimo knows something. When Hieronimo leaves the scene, Lorenzo calls Pedringano to ask if he sees what Lorenzo sees; a hint of suspicion. Lorenzo leaps to the thought that their coconspirator Serberine must have informed Hieronimo. Promising Pedringano more gold, Lorenzo tells the servant to meet Serberine in Saint Luigi's Park located behind the house: Lorenzo will lure Serberine there. Pedringano agrees and leaves. Lorenzo sends the message to Serberine via Jerome, a page, making sure the time of the meeting is to be eight o'clock that evening. Once Jerome has left, Lorenzo maps out a Machiavellian rationalization that the lives of underlings are entirely expendable in order to preserve his own reputation, despite his actual guilt.


Hieronimo's opening lament is a translation of lines from a love poem by Petrarch, yet again bringing close the avenger's passion to that of the lover's. The educated members in the audience would have been sufficiently familiar with the poem to appreciate how appropriate it was for the playwright to place it in Hieronimo's speech.

The mistrust Hieronimo has in the veracity of Bel-Imperia's letter refers to suspicion of women in general, and certainly of women acting onstage, an idea dating to Roman times. Since one can never believe what a woman says or how she acts, he will require verification from a man before he will believe the truth of what she has written in blood. Bel-Imperia's note to Hieronimo parallels the bloody significance of the scarf, which first has been dyed red by the blood of Andrea and now also with the blood of Horatio. In any case, it is blood rather than ink that cries out for justice through an act of bloody revenge.

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