"When this eternal substance of my soul Did live imprisoned in my wanton flesh Each in their function serving other's need, I was a courtier in the Spanish court. My name was Don Andrea, my descent, Though not ignoble, yet inferior far To gracious fortunes of my tender youth: For there in prime and pride of all my years, By duteous service and deserving love, In secret I possessed a worthy dame, Which hight sweet Bel-Imperia by name. But in the harvest of my summer joys Death's winter nipped the blossoms of my bliss, Forcing divorce betwixt my love and me. For in the late conflict with Portingale My valour drew me into danger's mouth, Till life to death made passage through my wounds."
These words are spoken by Andrea, to the audience, at Act I, scene i., lines 1–17, while only he and Revenge are on-stage. These lines serve as an exposition, telling the backstory necessary to understand the play. They lead into Andrea's description of his long journey to the underworld below, and his inability to find justice there. The section thus introduces the main characters, as well as the main themes of the play-justice, revenge, and Fortune. They also show the quick movement from one opposite to another-summer to winter, youth and death-that will characterize the rest of the play. The rhetoric of these lines quickly establishes a grave, serious and ornate style, indicating the author's serious tone and his intention to deal with potentially tragic subject matter.
"Let dangers go, they war shall be with me, But such a war as breaks no bond of peace. Speak thou fair words, I'll cross them with fair words; Send thou sweet looks, I'll meet them with sweet looks; Write loving lines, I'll answer loving lines; Give me a kiss, I'll countercheck thy kiss: Be this our warring peace, or peaceful war."
The speaker is Bel-Imperia (II.ii.32–38), and she speaks to Horatio, telling him of how she intends to love him On a formal level, this passage displays Kyd's love of antithesis (the contrasting of opposing ideas), parallelism, balance, and oxymoron. An oxymoron is a paradox created by placing two words next to each other whose meanings then seems contradictory, but upon further reflection make some sort of sense. Thus "warring peace" is an oxymoron, because war and peace are usually thought of as polar opposites; but love can be thought of as uniting the two, by combining the interchange and back and forth movement and war with the bliss and harmony of peace. The speech shows a different, more sympathetic side to Bel-Imperia. Previously, she was obsessed with thoughts of revenge; but now her mind seems light, quick, and playful.
"O eyes, no eyes, but fountains fraught with tears; O life, no life, but lively form of death; O world, no world, but mass of public wrongs, Confused and filled with murder and misdeeds! O sacred heavens! if this unhallowed deed, If this inhuman and barbarous attempt, If this incomparable murder thus Of mine, but now no more my son, Shall unrevealed and unavenged pass, How should we term your dealings to be just, If you unjustly deal with those that in your justice trust?"
Hieronimo is the speaker (III.ii.1–11) and is alone on the stage. This is his first soliloquy since he discovered his dead son. In it, he poses the central question of the play: how the world be just when there is so much injustice. It is essentially the question of how bad things can happen to good people. Kyd uses a very ornate rhetorical style, using anaphora (the repetition of initial words), parallel structure, and alliteration, especially in the first five lines of the speech. The language certainly conveys a serious tone, and builds up emotional momentum as Hieronimo condemns first his eyes, then life, then the world, then the heavens themselves (and presumably God), moving from body part to deity in a crescendo of despair. But when critics attack Kyd's rhetorical style as being over-blown, this is the passage they usually cite. And when later playwrights wanted to mock Kyd's play, this is the passage they often used.
"Vindicta mihi! Ay, heaven will be revenged of every ill, Nor will they suffer murder unrepaid: Then stay, Hieronimo, attend their will, For mortal men may not appoint their time. 'Per scelus semper tutum est sceleribus iter.' Strike, and strike home, where wrong is offered thee; For evils unto ills conductors be, And death's the worst of resolution. For he that thinks with patience to contend To quiet life, his life shall easily end. Fata si miseros juvant, habes salutem; Fata si vitam negant, habes sepulchrum.' If destiny thy miseries do ease, Then hast thou health, and happy shalt thou be; If destiny deny thee life, Hieronimo, Yet shalt thou be assured of a tomb; If neither, yet let this thy comfort be, Heaven covereth him that hath no burial. And to conclude, I will revenge his death!"
Hieronimo is the speaker (III.xiii.1–20), and in this soliloquoy he decides that he will personally revenge the death of his son (the "his" referred to in line twenty). This decision comes after he has failed to draw the King's attention to his case, thanks in part to the tactics of Lorenzo. He begins his deliberation by quoting the biblical injunction against revenge: "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, sayeth the lord" (Romans.xii.19). But he rejects this religious attitude, drawing on several quotations from the Roman playwright Senenca. He holds a copy of Seneca in his hand, and reads several quotations; the first is an observation that the safest way to cover up a crime is through more crime, the second an observation that the worst that can await a bold man is death. And that with death comes Heavenly reward-if one's cause is just. These seem to be the reasons Hieronimo decides that he must revenge his son. To do this, he will pursue Machiavellian tactics reminiscent of Lorenzo. Some critics have interpreted this as Hieronimo's shift from hero to villain. But others have seen it as consistent with his quest to dispense justice, especially since his two son's murderers are both in positions of extreme power and influence in Spanish society. This makes them both impervious to other forms of justice and liable to use their power to spread further evil.
"Marry , my good lord, thus- And yet, methinks, you are too quick with us - When in Toledo there I studied, It was my chance to write a tragedy - See here my lords - He shows them a book Which long forgot, I found this other day. Now would your lordships favour me so much As but to grace me with your acting it - I mean each one of you to play a part - Assure you it will prove most passing strange And wondrous plausible to that assembly."
The speaker is Hieronimo (IV.i.75–85), and he is about to set his "plot" into motion. He is speaking to Bel-Imperia, Lorenzo and Balthazar. The play he speaks of is a tragedy (not in fact, composed at university), the tragedy of Soliman and Perseda. Its narrative in fact closely parallels the narrative of The Spanish Tragedy, and thus the events of Hieronimo's life. In fact, the murders that Hieronimo will go on to describe as being part of the Soliman's plot will actually occur on-stage, thus becoming part of the plot of the larger play and Hieronimo's life. This quote introduces the device by which Hieronimo's revenge will be done. It is part of the rising action that sets up the climax of the play. It provides a strong link between Hieronimo's creativity and his upcoming revenge. Hieronimo not only has written a play, he has also told a very plausible story to fool his "lordships" into going along with his plan. There are hints, however, of Hieronimo's intentions, that foreshadow the bloody events of Act IV scene iv. The speech is laced with dramatic and verbal irony. The "grace" that Hieronimo wants Lorenzo and Balthazar to favor him with is, unknown to them, the pleasure of their deaths. And Hieronimo is right that the performance will be both "wondrous plausible" and "passing strange" to the assembly. It will show plausible, because real, murders where not only do the characters in the play die but the actors do as well-thus very strange indeed.