Act II, scene I

Lorenzo and Balthazar enter, discussing Balthazar's affection for Bel-Imperia. Lorenzo consoles his friend, telling him that in time, he will succeed in winning Bel-Imperia's hand; Balthazar, however, professes that his case is hopeless. Lorenzo then informs him that he has begun investigating whether Bel-Imperia is in love with another knight and has summoned Pedringano, one of Bel-Imperia's close confidantes, to gather information on Bel-Imperia's thoughts and affections. Pedringano arrives, and Lorenzo begins questioning him. At first, Pedringano seems reluctant to tell Lorenzo about his sister's affections. At first he offers affection and reward (presumably in the form of money or advancement) for Pedringano's help; when Pedringano refuses, Lorenzo turns to threats of violence and death. These prove effective, and Pedringano reveals that his lady loves Horatio. Lorenzo then tells Pedringano to let him know the next time the two lovers meet and then sends him back to Bel- Imperia. When he is gone, Balthazar affirms that he will seek revenge against Horatio for "stealing" Bel-Imperia's love from him; Lorenzo then spurs him on.

Act II, scene ii

Horatio and Bel-Imperia now enter the scene, presumably somewhere else on the King's estate. As Pedringano, Lorenzo, and Balthazar watch on, Horatio asks why Bel-Imperia seems reticent, now that their love affair has started to become serious. She replies that she is simply lovesick for him, to the great disgust of Balthazar. The two lovers then begin to discuss the dangerous course of their secret affair (for, like Andrea's love for Bel-Imperia, it is still secret), and they exchange vows of love, to the increasing disgust of Balthazar. Bel-Imperia then suggests that they meet later, at sunset, in Horatio's father's garden. As they leave, Lorenzo vows that Horatio will be sent into "eternal night."

Act II, scene iii

The scene switches now to a meeting of the King of Spain, the Portuguese Ambassador, Don Cyprian (the Duke of Castile), and others. They discuss Balthazar's love for Bel-Imperia; the King asks Castile of Bel-Imperia's opinion of Balthazar. Castile replies that however she may act now, she will eventually love Balthazar, for he has threatened to revoke his own love for her if she does not. The King then tells the Ambassador that the diplomatic marriage has been decided and that all that rests now is to gain the Viceroy of Portugal's consent. To sweeten the deal, the king offers to release the Viceroy from his tribute if he agrees and stipulates that Balthazar and Bel-Imperia's children will be the heirs to the Spanish throne. The King reminds the ambassador that his offer does not, of course, include the ransom to be paid for Balthazar, which is a private matter to be dealt with between the ambassador and Horatio, the prince's captor. The ambassador replies that everything on that score has been arranged.

After the ambassador leaves, the King has a little talk with his brother the Duke, reminding him, in essence, that there will be trouble if Bel-Imperia does not consent to marry Balthazar, and, therefore, the Duke should make the utmost effort to ensure that she does.


We now enter the rising action that precedes the play's first crisis. Lorenzo and Balthazar's discovery of Bel-Imperia's love for Horatio has exactly the wounding effect on Balthazar that she hopes it will. But it ironically also creates the desire in him, thanks to the prodding of Lorenzo, for counter- revenge and thus threatens the life of the man she has come to love quite independently of any vengeful considerations. This irony thus sets up the tension that the rising action—the development of the love affair between Horatio and Bel-Imperia and the plots of the Lorenzo and Balthazar—serves to increase.

The rising action is marked by the emergence of Lorenzo as a truly Machiavellian villain. Niccolo Machiavelli was a sixteenth-century Italian political philosopher, whose name in Elizabethan England was synonymous with evil; many saw his philosophy as blasphemous, since it suggested that affairs of state were not subject to conventional morality—one should try to be both loved and feared, but feared if one could not be both. The Elizabethan Machiavellian villain applied this philosophy to a private sphere, as evidenced by Lorenzo's verbal and physical manipulation of Pedringano and Balthazar.