Spanish Tragedy

by: Thomas Kyd

Symbols

Main ideas Symbols

The Bloody Handkerchief

The handkerchief starts off as a symbol of love and memory, becomes a symbol of the memory of a lost loved one, and then a symbol for the desire to avenge that loved one. Ironically, by the end of the play, it can be seen as a symbol of the need to erase memory through death. Before Andrea went off to war, Bel-Imperia gave him a scarf, which he wore into battle something by which to remember her. Initially a symbol of love between Andrea and Bel-Imperia, Horatio takes it off his friend's dying body as a memorial, and it then becomes a symbol of Horatio's remembrance of his friend, a symbol of love between Horatio and Bel-Imperia, and of Bel-Imperia's memory of her lost knight. Of course, Bel-Imperia's love for Horatio is itself a form of revenge against Balthazar, so the scarf begins to take on connotations of vengeance. After Horatio's death, Hieronimo presumably takes the same handkerchief. It is now a symbol of both love and vengeance, intertwined in Hieronimo's desire to avenge his beloved son. By the end of the play, it becomes a symbol of annihilation and erasure. Hieronimo holds the handkerchief up in the midst of the corpses onstage and then runs off to commit suicide, embracing death and the erasure of all memories.