The Spanish Tragedy | Study Guide

Thomas Kyd

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The Spanish Tragedy | Act 3, Scene 6 | Summary



At the site of Pedringano's execution, Hieronimo, in his peacetime role of adjudicator, enters with his deputy. Hieronimo laments to his deputy that they are there to carry out justice for others, while there is no agency to see to his own injustices. The deputy reminds Hieronimo of his current duty to be performed. The hangman, officers, and Pedringano enter with the page, who carries the box and stands to one side. Pedringano manages to tell the page how relieved he is to see him with the box containing his pardon.

The proceedings begin with Hieronimo requiring the prisoner to stand forward, which Pedringano does with swagger, unrepentantly stating that he did murder Serberine. Pedringano acts as if the whole spectacle was a joke on everyone present except himself. In the banter that follows between Pedringano, Hieronimo, and the hangman, Pedringano often looks toward the page for reassurance, whereupon the page silently points to the unopened box. Finally, Pedringano teases the hangman with what he supposes the page has in the box, and then plays around with asking to pray—declaring that he doesn't need prayer, adding blasphemy to his saucy insults. Hieronimo marvels that Pedringano is so flippant over his own imminent death and his very casual attitude about the painful consequences of murder, bringing to mind the murder of Horatio. When the page fails to reveal the pardon—because his box is empty—the hangman executes Pedringano.


While the stage directions do not indicate it, it is probable that the page opens the empty box as soon as the hangman's noose is around Pedringano's neck and he stands upon the stool. The hangman would then kick the stool out from under Pedringano's feet so that his neck snaps and he dies.

The scene is an example of dramatic irony, in which the audience is aware of something the characters do not know. Pedringano's flippant attitude, which so troubles Hieronimo, proceeds from his belief that Lorenzo would provide him with a letter of pardon. In fact, Pedringano is too engaged in his wordplay to reveal Lorenzo's role in the murder of Serberine. Only Hieronimo, who is grieving for his murdered son, seems to grasp the gravity of the situation.

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