October 30, 2006

He flings away the dagger and halter

He flings away the dagger and halter’ – having dismissed the thought of killing himself, Hieronimo dismisses the two instruments.

Let's know

‘let’s know’ – invites further consideration of his choices – ‘let us stop and ponder’ (cf. Bevington, fn l.17, p. 91). It exposes the flaw in his demonstration: if he commits suicide, the murder of his son would remain unavenged; on the other hand, it marks the final shift in Hieronimo’s pursuit of justice: having found social and divine unsatisfactory/unattainable, he decides in favour of personal justice.

Soft and fair, not so

‘Soft and fair, not so!’ – the instruction ‘slow down, easy now’ (Eisaman, fn l.16, p. 343), ‘gently, wait a moment’ (Bevington, fn l.16, p. 91) pleads for reason over emotion.

This way or that way

‘This way or that way?’ – prompted by the two props he brandishes, Hieronimo voices his indecision: if he is to commit suicide, should he stab himself with the poniard or hang himself with the noose?

Turn down this path or this

‘Turn down this path or this’ – Hieronimo contrasts the two choices: to die by the poniard or by the rope.

Away, Hieronimo, to him be gone

‘Away, Hieronimo, to him be gone’ – the same prompting to action ends Hieronimo’s exploration of the second form of justice – divine justice.

Go to

‘An expression of impatience’ according to Bevington (fn l.5, p.90), this instruction marks the shift in Hieronimo’s soliloquy. Anticipating the obstacles others will put in his way, he moves from seeking social justice from the King to pleading with a higher ‘judge’ – Pluto – for divine justice.

Now sir

Now sir, – Whether Hieronimo ‘reasons distractedly with some imaginary interlocutor or with himself’ throughout the soliloquy, his ‘now, sir’ elicits the audience’s interest and demands its full attention (cf. Bevington, fn. l. 1, p.90).

Enter Hieronimo

Enter Hieronimo, with a poniard in one hand, and a rope in the other.

Hieronimo carries ‘the stock “properties” of a would-be suicide’ in Elizabethan drama (Boas, fn 1 SD, p. 405). Hieronimo’s entrance is comparable to that of the repentant usurer in Greene and Lodge’s Looking Glass for London and England, who enters ‘with a halter in one hand, a dagger in the other’ (Edwards, fn III.12.0.1, p. 78). As Boas points out, in Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (I, 9: 29), Despair offers Sir Trevisan ‘a rope’ and Sir Teruin ‘a rusty knife’ when persuading them to die, while in ‘Skelton’s Magnyfycence (l. 2312 ff.), Despair offers Magnyfycence a knife and a rope’ (Boas, fn 1, p. 405). Kyd’s stage directions also anticipate Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where the Prince talks of suffering men who might their ‘quietus make | With a bare bodkin?’ (III, 1: 75-6). Ironically they are also the two instruments that brought the death of his son, Horatio – stabbed and hanged in the garden.

The lake

Kyd probably refers to the river Acheron.

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