The Spanish Tragedy | Study Guide

Thomas Kyd

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The Spanish Tragedy | Act 4, Scene 3 | Summary



At the Spanish court the next day, Castile enters to find Hieronimo busy setting the curtain for the play. Seemingly in a good humor, Hieronimo gives Castile a copy of the book of the play so the king will be able to follow the action as it unfolds, but he also asks to have it back once the king has read it so that it can be used to prompt the actors in case they forget their lines. As the director and author of the play, Hieronimo instructs Balthazar to hang up the sign that designates the scene as Rhodes and then to finish getting into his costume. Once he's left to do as he's been told, Hieronimo glances around to see that everything is in readiness and adds the death of his wife to his pile of vengeance that will very soon play out to his complete satisfaction.


It was pretty common in London playhouses of this time that the playwright was also the director and all other members of the "production team," including taking a role himself; narrating obscure points to the audience, and keeping the Key or Book of the complete play at hand in case someone forgot the lines. Hieronimo seems pretty busy making sure each factor is in perfect alignment to balance his show of illusion and reality simultaneously. Not only will Balthazar have to get it together on the detail of his beard (about which he meekly takes his orders from Hieronimo), but he'll also have to have red ribbons tucked under his vest so that when his character is "murdered" by Perseda, he, as the actor, can pull out the ribbons to make a show of "blood" to the audience. Bel-Imperia/Perseda and Lorenzo/Erasto will also need to have red ribbons tucked into their clothing so that when they "die," the audience can see the "blood."

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