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"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.