Act I: Scene i

The ghost of Andrea says he was a Spanish nobleman who won the love of Bel-Imperia but was killed in a battle between Spain and Portugal. In the underworld, Pluto's wife sends Andrea back into the world.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act I: Scene i

Act I: Scene ii

A Spanish General reports to the King that his troops won the battle with Portugal, describes Andrea's death at the hands of Balthazar, and the capture of Balthazar by Horatio. The King asks Hieronimo to celebrate with him the success of his son's capture of Balthazar. The Army returns with Balthazar captive between Horatio and Lorenzo, who compete for the credit of capturing him.

Act I: Scene iii

Villuppo falsely tells the Portuguese Viceroy that Alexandro killed Balthazar in battle. The Viceroy sentences Alexandro to die. Villuppo confesses to the audience that he lied because Alexandro is his enemy.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act I: Scenes ii & iii

Act I: Scene iv

Horatio tells Bel-Imperia how he retrieved Andrea's corpse after Balthazar killed him. As Horatio says he took a scarf from Andrea as remembrance, Bel-Imperia reveals she gave Andrea that scarf and asks Horatio to wear it. When Horatio leaves, Bel-Imperia confesses she will avenge Andrea's death through her love for Horatio since Balthazar is now in love with her.

Act I: Scene v

The Portuguese Ambassador tells Balthazar how the Viceroy mourns his son, and Balthazar replies he has been slain by Bel-Imperia's beauty.

Act I: Scene vi

As Andrea accuses the spirit of Revenge of not fulfilling his promise of witnessing Balthazar's death, Revenge reassures him Balthazar's and Lorenzo's happiness will turn into misery by the end of the play.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act I: Scenes iv–vi

Act II: Scene i

Lorenzo reassures Balthazar that he will win Bel-Imperia's hand. He summons one of Bel-Imperia's confidantes, Pedringano, forces him to reveal she loves Horatio, and asks to be informed the next time the two lovers meet. Balthazar affirms he will seek revenge against Horatio.

Act II: Scene ii

After Pedringano, Lorenzo, and Balthazar watch Horatio and Bel-Imperia exchange vows of love and make plans to meet in his father's garden, Lorenzo vows Horatio will be killed.

Act II: Scene iii

The King offers to release the Portuguese Viceroy from his tribute if he consents to Balthazar and Bel-Imperia's marriage and their children becoming the heirs to the Spanish throne. The King reminds the Ambassador that the ransom for Balthazar, however, should still be paid to Horatio.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act II: Scenes i–iii

Act II: Scene iv

In Hieronimo's garden, Bel-Imperia and Horatio discuss their love, and Pedringano brings Lorenzo, Balthazar, and Balthazar's manservant Serberine. They hang Horatio and drag Bel-Imperia away.

Act II: Scene v

Awakened by screams, Hieronimo runs into his garden, discovers his son hanged, takes a bloodstained handkerchief from his son, vows to wear it until he avenges his son's murder, and carries away his corpse with his wife, Isabella.

Act II: Scene vi

Andrea complains to Revenge that not only has he failed to see Balthazar killed but he was also forced to witness his friend Horatio's murder. Revenge reassures him that, in due time, Balthazar will suffer.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act II: Scenes iv–vi

Act III: Scene i

The Ambassador arrives from Spain with proof that Balthazar lives. The Viceroy releases Alexandro, hears from Villuppo that he falsely accused Alexandro out of greed, and condemns Villuppo to death.

Act III: Scene ii

As Hieronimo mourns Horatio’s death, he receives a letter from Bel-Imperia saying that Lorenzo and Balthazar murdered Horatio. Lorenzo assumes Serberine has told Hieronimo about Horatio's murder, offers Pedringano gold to kill Serberine, sends a message asking Serberine to meet him and Balthazar, and reveals his plan to have the park guarded so that Pedringano is arrested and executed after killing Serberine.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act III: Scenes i & ii

Act III: Scene iii

At the park, Pedringano kills Serberine but is apprehended by watchmen, who take him to Hieronimo.

Act III: Scene iv

A page says that Serberine has been murdered by Pedringano. Lorenzo assures Balthazar he will help him get revenge against Pedringano. As Lorenzo reflects how well his plan is working, a messenger arrives with a letter from Pedringano asking for help. Lorenzo asks a page to take Pedringano a box containing his pardon.

Act III: Scene v

The page tells the audience that he has opened the box and noticed it is empty. He considers Lorenzo’s actions dishonorable but will go ahead with his orders to avoid dying.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act III: Scenes iii–v

Act III: Scene vi

Accompanied by Lorenzo's page and believing his pardon is in the box, Pedringano steps on the gallows and confesses his crime. The page does not produce the pardon and Pedringano is executed.

Act III: Scene vii

The Hangman brings Hieronimo a letter recovered from Pedringano's body indicating he operated under orders of a superior and was therefore executed unjustly.  Hieronimo reads the letter aloud, finding out that Lorenzo and Balthazar killed Horatio with their servants' help.

Act III: Scene viii

Isabella complains there is no medicine for restoring the dead to life and screams out a demand of justice against her son's murderers.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act III: Scenes vi–viii

Act III: Scene ix

Bel-Imperia wonders about her unkind treatment, Lorenzo’s evil behavior, and Hieronimo's delay in avenging his son's murderers.

Act III: Scene x

Lorenzo asks for Bel-Imperia to be brought to him and Balthazar. He explains he was acting out of concern for her, also hinting her marriage to Balthazar has been arranged. Bel-Imperia rejects Balthazar.

Act III: Scene ix

Two men run into Hieronimo and ask him for directions. When they ask if Lorenzo is at his father's house, Hieronimo tells them where they can find Horatio – in a cauldron bathing in boiling lead and blood. The men conclude Hieronimo is a lunatic.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act III: Scenes ix–xi

Act III: Scene xii

Hieronimo comes to see the King and demand justice for Horatio. The Ambassador says the Viceroy has accepted the marriage arrangement proposed by the King and that he brings the ransom for Horatio. Hieronimo begs the King for justice, but the King, unaware of Horatio's murder, demands an explanation. Hieronimo leaves infuriated, and Lorenzo says he has gone insane with excitement for the ransom.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act III: Scene xii

Act III: Scene xiii

Hieronimo plans to pretend to grieve and to be friendly toward Lorenzo and Balthazar until an opportunity for his revenge arises.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act III: Scene xiii

Act III: Scene xiv

The Duke of Castile tells Lorenzo his treatment of Hieronimo might endanger Bel-Imperia's prospects. As Balthazar and Bel-Imperia enter, the Duke tells his daughter he is no longer angry with her now that she is engaged to Balthazar and not to Andrea. Hieronimo enters, and when the Duke asks him about the rumors that he is enraged at Lorenzo, Hieronimo denies them.

Act III: Scene xv

Revenge tells Andrea that Hieronimo's lust for revenge is just slumbering.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act III: Scenes xiv & xv

Act IV: Scene i

Bel-Imperia criticizes Hieronimo for failing to avenge his son. Hieronimo instructs her to go along with his plan. Balthazar and Lorenzo ask for Hieronimo's help with entertainment for the royal wedding. Hieronimo proposes they stage a tragedy he wrote about a ruler who has a knight killed by one of his courtiers in order to marry the knight's bride – who instead of marrying the ruler, kills him and herself. Hieronimo assigns the parts but dictates each actor will improvise their lines and do so in different languages.

Act IV: Scene ii

In her garden, Isabella rails against the injustice of her son's murder, stabs herself, and dies.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act IV: Scenes i & ii

Act IV: Scene iii

As the Duke of Castile asks Hieronimo why he is building the stage for the play by himself, he replies that an author has to ensure all aspects of a performance run smoothly.

Act IV: Scene iv

Balthazar opens the play as Soliman describing his love for Perseda (Bel-Imperia). Soliman professes his affection for his friend Erasto (Lorenzo), but when he exchanges professions of love with Perseda, Soliman is dismayed. The bashaw (Hieronimo) persuades Soliman to stab Erasto. When Soliman tells Perseda she can replace the loss of Erasto with his love, she stabs him and herself. The audience is impressed by the play, but Hieronimo reveals that the murders just enacted were real and the other actors are all dead. He confesses he constructed the play as a way of revenging his son's murderers and rewrote Bel-Imperia's part so that she would not die, but she decided to take her life anyway. Hieronimo stabs the Duke and himself.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act IV: Scenes iii & iv

Act IV: Scene v

Satisfied after seeing his killer and Horatio's murderers receive violent ends, Andrea sums up the violence committed in the play, then describes the various paradises awaiting the heroes and the pits of hell awaiting the villains.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act IV: Scene v