Character Analysis In The Spanish Tragedy

“The Spanish Tragedy” is an influential play penned by Thomas Kyd during the late 16th century. It stands as a significant work of Elizabethan drama, delving into the themes of revenge, madness, and the corrupting influence of power. Let us now delve into an analysis of some key characters in “The Spanish Tragedy”:


Throughout the play, Hieronimo undergoes a profound transformation from a loyal and respected courtier in the service of the King of Spain to a murderer. His descent into madness stems not only from the murder of his beloved son and his fruitless pursuit of justice but also from the erosion of civil law and the indifference displayed by the Duke of Castile.

As a trusted dispenser of justice, it falls upon Hieronimo to ensure that justice is served to others, even when denied to himself. The devastating loss of his son and the subsequent suicide of his wife, Isabella, push him further down a spiral of despair, leading him to believe that only through “wild justice” and direct revenge can he find solace. The ineffectiveness of civil redress becomes apparent as the murderers of his son, Horatio, hold higher ranks and remain immune to punishment. Consumed by an unwavering desire for vengeance, Hieronimo initially feigns madness to mislead his enemies, allowing them to believe their ambitions will be fulfilled, only to orchestrate their eventual demise. Failing to express his anguish and frustration through words and images, he resorts to the guise of a play to enact his revenge in reality.

Ghost of Andrea:

The Ghost of Andrea poses the central question in the play, “How will my death be avenged?” Accompanied by Revenge, his assigned guide and companion, the Ghost of Andrea serves as the Chorus, maintaining a constant presence throughout the play. Andrea, a noble and devoted knight, adeptly fulfills his roles as a valiant warrior and a loving companion to a lady of higher rank.

However, the conflicting nature of his roles makes it challenging for the judges of the Underworld to determine which afterlife reward suits him best: the realm of fallen warriors or the abode of lovers. His presence and commentary set the tone of opposition that drives the unfolding of events, leading to the eventual revenge for his death on the battlefield. Nevertheless, the Ghost of Andrea exhibits impatience, berating Revenge for the perceived delay in accomplishing the task.


Representing an entity from the underworld, Revenge serves as the answer to the Ghost of Andrea’s question and assumes the role of the Chorus alongside him. As the embodiment of a complex quality, Revenge’s ultimate purpose initially remains ambiguous and puzzling, as there seems to be no constraint on the time frame within which Revenge takes action; sooner or later, it matters not. This characteristic frustrates the Ghost of Andrea, who seeks swift and forceful retribution. However, as an immortal force, Revenge acts according to its own timeline, methodically working through Hieronimo’s layers of manipulation, even as Andrea’s murderer, Balthazar, draws perilously close to obtaining Bel-Imperia, his desired love interest. In this manner, Revenge restrains the Ghost of Andrea until a thorough and devastating resolution to the injustice can be achieved.


Horatio, a young man barely 19 years of age, exemplifies honesty, bravery, and chivalry both on the battlefield and in matters of the heart. As a devoted and obedient son and a loyal knight of Spain, Horatio’s valor during battle captures the admiration of Balthazar, who would have preferred to be entrusted to his care instead of Lorenzo. Horatio’s respectful handling of his fallen comrade’s remains on the battlefield engenders Bel-Imperia’s esteem, and their relationship progresses from warm friendship to passionate love. Possessing no guile or deception, Horatio becomes an unwitting victim of a plot to end his life. His genuine nature confounds both Balthazar and Lorenzo, who perceive him as weak and easily manipulated. Simultaneously, his gentle self-assurance represents a quality that both intimidates and eludes them.

Also Read : 



Bel-Imperia, a woman of high birth, striking beauty, and commanding presence, is accustomed to having her desires fulfilled. She indulges in relationships with lovers of lower rank and refuses to tolerate any obstacles in her pursuit of passion. She holds a pivotal role in the play, as her allure is the reason her initial lover, Andrea, engages in war to win honor in her eyes. After Balthazar kills Andrea, Bel-Imperia effortlessly transfers her affections to Horatio, his closest friend. She craves love and romance, but her social status demands that she be married off to the highest bidder, which includes Balthazar, whom she abhors. Within the constraints of her time, Bel-Imperia navigates a game governed by powerful men, skillfully feigning submission to her father’s wishes and manipulating her murderous brother to incite Hieronimo’s pursuit of revenge for Horatio’s death. By the play’s conclusion, Bel-Imperia sheds all pretenses of civil behavior. She avenges the deaths of Andrea and Horatio by killing Balthazar and taking her own life.


Balthazar, weak and vain, possesses a skill for eloquent speech and appears to relish the role of the spurned lover. He falls easily under the influence of his newfound friend, Lorenzo, and the two conspire to murder Horatio. Although of Portuguese royal lineage, Balthazar single-mindedly pursues Bel-Imperia’s love. The more she rejects him, the more ardently he pursues her. Balthazar assumes the privileges of his rank as entitlements and fails to comprehend that genuine love cannot be won through promises of wealth, position, or power. Ultimately, his concern for Bel-Imperia’s sentiments becomes inconsequential, as long as he can possess her as his wife. Implicitly, if Bel-Imperia had not taken his life and her own, Balthazar would have exacted a heavy price for her love for another.


Outwardly boastful and cruel, Lorenzo deceives all those around him with plausible lies and manipulates Balthazar’s infatuation with Bel-Imperia. Ambitious and eager to elevate himself above others on the battlefield, Lorenzo utilizes the facade to create an impression of possessing the very qualities he lacks: honor and courage. Plagued by constant self-doubt and a relentless desire to acquire what he suspects he lacks, Lorenzo believes he possesses the cleverness required to control Balthazar once his marriage to Lorenzo’s sister is realized, granting him the crown. This position proves more favorable to Lorenzo than being in line for the crown himself, as it offers greater safety while wielding power. Regarding love, Lorenzo remains oblivious to the depth of Bel-Imperia’s devotion to her ideal of romance and the lengths to which she will go when denied her desires. Indulged and spoiled, Lorenzo considers no qualms about using subordinates and discarding them to distance himself from scandal and disgrace.

In “The Spanish Tragedy,” these characters, along with others, collectively exemplify the themes of revenge, manipulation, and moral decay. The play explores the repercussions of these themes through the tribulations and destinies of its characters, effectively illustrating the destructive consequences of unbridled ambition and the toll it exacts on individuals.



Leave a Comment