The Spanish Tragedy | Study Guide

Thomas Kyd

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The Spanish Tragedy | Act 4, Scene 5 | Summary



The Ghost of Andrea declares himself quite satisfied and sums up the succession of murders that culminate in fulfilling Revenge's promise. Now his plan is to return to the underworld to ask Persephone to allow him to decide how his friends and enemies will spend eternity. The Ghost of Andrea states that he would like to lead Horatio to the warrior's paradise on the right-hand path, while his mother Isabella should go "where pity weeps but never feeleth pain." He implies that Bel-Imperia should be sent to where Dido is, and that Hieronimo should enjoy the music as Orpheus plays his harp.

As for his enemies, the Ghost of Andrea thinks that the Duke of Castile should take the place of Tityus, whose liver is continually being eaten out by a vulture; that Lorenzo should be put on Ixion's wheel, and Balthazar hanged on the Chimera's neck. Serberine should replace Sisyphus pushing the stone uphill, and Pedringano should be dragged through the boiling cauldron of Acheron. Revenge agrees, stating that as those who are just are endlessly rewarded, so too will those who are evil find that death does not bring an end to their misery; rather, it is just the continuation of their "endless tragedy." At this the play comes to an end.


An unresolved issue is where the Ghost of Andrea will end up in the underworld: with Horatio in the warrior's paradise, or with Bel-Imperia among the lovers. The audience is left to speculate. Medieval pageant plays were still being performed in Kyd's day, and one of the most popular parts was "the Harrowing of Hell" by Christ who enters Inferno through the Mouth of Acheron to lead out righteous souls who died pagans not knowing the Savior. The iconography is that of a wide open and monstrous mouth swallowing the damned amid flames and sulfur fumes (which, in performances not only gave a spectacular stage effect, but also the stink of rotting eggs that burning sulfur produces).

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