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The Spanish Tragedy | Quotes


Here sit we down to see the mystery, And serve for Chorus in this tragedy.

Revenge, Act 1, Scene 1

These lines define the Ghost of Andrea and Revenge as observers and commentators on the progress of the play without taking part in its action. The action of a Chorus in classical tragedy was to act as intermediary between the characters and the audience. A "mystery" could also refer to plays performed on pageant wagons, which were popular in England well into the 1600s.


And, cards once dealt, it boots not ask why so.

Balthazar, Act 1, Scene 2

Balthazar is a prisoner of war, and just as his father the Viceroy of Portugal will do later in the play, he blames his defeat not upon any lack of valor or courage in battle, but upon chance, or Fate, for having been dealt a bad hand.


He hunted ... that was a lion's death, Not he that in a garment wore his skin—So hares may pull dead lions by the beard.

Hieronimo, Act 1, Scene 2

Hieronimo makes an acute observation on the difference between Horatio (who actually defeated Balthazar) and Lorenzo, who took on the trappings of capturing the Portuguese prince; even a rabbit can safely pull a lion's beard if the lion is already dead.


She envies none but pleasant things, Such is the folly of despiteful chance! Fortune is blind and sees not my deserts.

Viceroy of Portugal, Act 1, Scene 3

The Viceroy of Portugal demonstrates a truth of human nature in a modern context: when things go well, people credit themselves with the achievement, but when things go wrong, it isn't their fault, it's because Fate is jealous of their pleasures, deliberately blind to what they really deserve.


Thou know'st that I can more advance thy state/Than she, be therefore wise and fail me not.

Lorenzo, Act 2, Scene 1

Lorenzo makes it very clear to Pedringano that he cannot only do more for him than his mistress Bel-Imperia can, but he can also destroy him. Therefore, if Pedringano is smart, he will do what Lorenzo tells him to do, even if it means betraying the confidence of his mistress. This is one of several points to be made regarding gender and power, as well as the Machiavellian point of view regarding power between superior and inferior men.


Give me a kiss, I'll countercheck thy kiss: Be this our warring peace, or peaceful war.

Bel-Imperia, Act 2, Scene 2

This is a sample of the poetic rhetoric of the play, in which the opposing yet closely aligned activities of war (Mars) and love (Venus) meet in violent passion; supporting the view of the underworld in which the paradise of the lovers and the paradise of warriors is close by but strictly separated.


Endeavour you to win your daughter's thought—If she give back, all this will come to naught.

King of Spain, Act 2, Scene 3

In other words, all these powerful men are depending upon their ability to sway a "mere woman" to agree to a marriage she doesn't want. The fact that both her father and brother completely underestimate her passion is the key upon which Hieronimo is able to bring forward his revenge.


Seest thou this handkerchief besmeared with blood? It shall not from me till I take revenge.

Hieronimo, Act 2, Scene 5

This piece of cloth has been soaked in blood—first in Andrea's blood, and now Horatio's. It is the lifeblood itself that cries out for justice. It is blood spilled on the stage at the end of the play that fulfills Hieronimo's revenge and "murders" all hope of Spain and Portugal's bloodline continuity.


I'll trust myself, myself shall be my friend, For die they shall—slaves are ordained to no other end.

Lorenzo, Act 3, Scene 2

This presents Lorenzo at his Machiavellian best; the murder of Serberine will silence one who might later reveal Lorenzo's complicity in the murder of Horatio. He will express virtually the same sentiment when Pedringano is captured and hung for the murder of Serberine.


That only I to all men just must be, And neither gods nor men be just to me.

Hieronimo, Act 3, Scene 6

Hieronimo observes that it is his duty to fairly witness the execution of Pedringano on the charge of murder even though his own grievances go unanswered by both gods and men.


There in a brazen cauldron fixed by Jove ... Yourselves shall find Lorenzo bathing him In boiling lead and blood of innocents.

Hieronimo, Act 3, Scene 11

Hieronimo refers to the gaping maw of hell, which in mystery/cycle pageants spewed sulfur and flame; this is where Lorenzo should be, not where he is at present.


Bid him come in, and paint some comfort, For surely there's none lives but painted comfort.

Hieronimo, Act 3, Scene 12

The line echoes Hieronimo's misery in reality and his hope that a painted scene will show the way things ought to be; for him, a painted comfort is the only kind he can have. It also refers to the "painted" tableau of court behavior and perhaps also to the "paint" women put on their faces to make men believe they love them when they really want money/protection. Paint is also part of the scenery and makeup onstage.


Thus worldings ground, what they have dreamed, upon.

Revenge, Act 3, Scene 15

This is an indirect reference to wish fulfillment by "worldlings" (lowly audiences to a play who stand on the ground in front of a stage), providing a view of what they themselves do not have.


Why then I'll fit you, say no more.

Hieronimo, Act 4, Scene 1

The double meaning is that Hieronimo will fit Lorenzo out with what he needs to play his part in the play, but also refers to the torture of the rack, whereby the victim is "fitted" or stretched to the frame.


And, as I curse this tree from further fruit, So shall my womb be cursed for his sake.

Isabella, Act 4, Scene 2

Isabella means not only the tree she slashes since it bears the fruit of her son's death, but also her own body that bore a son only to have him murdered so young.

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