John Marston

The Second Part of

circa 1599–1600

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Alberto is a gentleman of the Venetian court. He first appears on stage with Antonio and a group of gentlemen. He teases Matzagente for having a red face. Antonio rebukes Alberto for trying to calm the young man after hearing his father had died and his fiancée was an accused adulteress. Alberto is further surprised when Pandulfo stoically laughs at the site of his dead son. Alberto and Lucio are brushed off by Antonio when they try to console the young gentleman over the death of his father and the alleged infidelity of Mellida. Alberto appears later trying to convince Antonio to abandon his insanity act. He is again rebuked. Antonio turns to Alberto to spread the rumor that he has died. Alberto warns Piero that the scourging Nemesis is coming to torment the Duke for his crimes. He plots with Antonio and Pandulpho to kill Piero. In a dumb show, Alberto and Maria pull knives on Piero while Galeatzo informs senators of Piero's crimes. He dresses in the costume of a masque to gain access to a drunken Piero and kill him.


Andrugio, Antonio's father and Maria's husband, was fatally poisoned by Piero and Strotzo before the beginning of the play. It is reported to the public that Andrugio died of overexertion in celebration of Antonio's then immanent wedding to Mellida. Andrugio is a very active ghost; he appears on stage quite often. The audience first hears of Andrugio's spirited visitations from Antonio, who reports that his father visited him in a dream. While Antonio prays at the foot of Andrugio's hearse, the father's ghost appears to inform Antonio that Mellida is innocent of infidelity, Piero is guilty of Andrugio's murder and Maria is set to marry Piero. The ghost also tells Antonio that he is in danger from Piero. The ghost demands vengeance against Piero. The ghost appears again after Antonio threatens Maria. The ghost appears to Maria and chastises her for her engagement to Piero. The ghost instructs Maria to help Antonio plan Piero's downfall. When Antonio arrives to kill Maria, the ghost tells Antonio to forgive her and concentrate instead on eliminating Piero. The ghost watches with approval during a dumb show where Maria and Alberto hold Piero at bay with knives while Galeatzo informs a number of senators of Piero's many crimes. The ghost then introduces the final act by reporting that the Venetian court has condemned Piero. The ghost attends the final masque in order to see Piero killed. He leaves the stage once Piero is dead. Antonio pledges to lead a virgin life in honor of Mellida.


Antonio is son to Maria and the late Andrugio. He is betrothed to Mellida. At the beginning of the play, Antonio tells a group of his friends about a bad dream he has recently endured. He dreamt that two ghosts, one being the spirit of his father, came to him and called for revenge. This dream alarms Antonio, since he does not know yet of his father's passing. Antonio tells the gentleman that when he rose from the bed he saw the sky set on fire and a comet stream across his field of vision. Antonio reports that he sunk to his knees and suffered a nosebleed. Antonio's wedding day gets off to a bad start when the young man finds Pandulpho's dead son hanging from Mellida's bedchamber window. Piero soon after informs Antonio that his intended bride is an indicted whore. Antonio does not believe the charge against his beloved. To his credit, unlike in the majority of Renaissance plays, Antonio never wavers in his belief of Mellida's innocence. Just to make a bad matter worse, Antonio hears soon after from Strotzo that Antonio's father has died of overexertion. In a fury, Antonio rebukes Alberto for trying to comfort him. Unlike Pandulpho, Antonio takes no stock in Seneca's stoicism. While reading the Roman philosopher, Antonio shouts back at the book that the author never felt Antonio's pain. Antonio speaks briefly with Mellida the day before her trial. She assures him that she will die. He kisses her hand and they part. Soon after Antonio is angered to a murderous pitch upon detecting that Maria might grant Perio's suit for marriage, Antonio feigns madness to secure him enough time to plot his next move. Antonio goes to pray at his father's hearse and apologizes for being a weak son. The ghost of his father interrupts the prayer and assures Antonio, who really didn't need reassurance, that Mellida is innocent. The ghost also tells Antonio that he, Andrugio, was poisoned by Piero. He further reveals that Maria has agreed to marry Piero and Piero has decided to kill Antonio. Antonio is instructed by the ghost to seek vengeance upon Perio's head. Feigning madness again, Antonio informs Maria that he is going to seek vengeance for his father. He also suggests that he plans to kill her, Piero, Julio and Strotzo. The ghost then visits Antonio again, accompanied by the ghost of young Feliche, to goad Antonio to revenge. Antonio agrees and promises to "suck red vengeance out of Piero's wounds." He spots Piero and young Julio in a church at night, but decides to wait before he kills Piero in order to maximize his agony. When he is left alone with the boy, Antonio stabs Julio, explaining that he loves the boy but hates the boy's father. After he kills the boy, Antonio sprinkles Julio's blood over Andrugio's hearse as a sacrifice. Antonio goes to kill Maria, but is stopped by the ghost of his father. The ghost tells Antonio to forgive ignorance. Antonio feigns madness again and waits for the chance to kill Piero. His method of acting mad is to play with a walnut shell while making soap bubbles and wearing a funny cap. Just before Mellida's trial, Antonio spreads the rumor that he has drowned. He dresses in the costume of a fool and goes to the trial. While waiting for Mellida to appear, Antonio taunts Balurdo with bubbles. When Mellida falls fatally ill upon the news that he is dead, Antonio goes to her bedside as she passes peacefully away. Soon after, he plots with Pandulpho and Alberto to kill Piero. He dresses in the costume of a masque to gain access to a drunken Piero and kill him. To add torment to injury, Antonio presents a dying Piero with the cooked corpse of his son Julio.


Geoffrey Balurdo is a gentleman of the Venetian court. He first appears on stage with Antonio and a group of gentlemen. He teases Matzagente for having a red face. Balurdo demonstrates a love for unusual words such as "wighy purt." When Antonio dreams of his dead father, Balurdo tells of his dream about a misshapen simile. Balurdo appears on stage with half a beard and tells Piero that he had tried to affix the fake whiskers to cure his bald wit. Piero instructs Balurdo to imprison Mellida. Later, Balurdo is told to serenade Maria the evening before her planned wedding to Piero. Balurdo is quickly sent away by the lady. A disguised Antonio taunts Balurdo with bubbles at Mellida's trial. Piero tires of Balurdo and orders Castillo to throw the foolish wit in prison. Balurdo risks hanging by breaking out of prison due to hunger. He leaves the stage singing. He comes upon Antonio and his men, as they are about to kill Piero and declines an invitation to join them. He instead goes off to find something to eat. Balurdo does, however, stumble back onto the stage for the masque.


Castillo is a gentleman of the Venetian court. He first appears on stage with Antonio and a group of gentlemen. Castillo sings with Galeatzo to waken Mellida on her supposed wedding day. Castillo is charged with helping a fainted Maria off stage after the duchess learns that her husband is dead. Castillo and Forobosco attend Piero's young son Julio when the boy cannot sleep. They are sent to fetch Mellida for her trial. Castillo helps Piero strangle Strotzo during the trial. He also drags Balurdo off to prison.


Young Feliche was a gentleman of the Venetian court. At the beginning of the play, he has just been murdered by Piero and Strotzo. Piero has young Feliche's body tied to Mellida's body on her supposed wedding day to Antonio. Feliche is found by Antonio's group of gentleman hanging in Mellida's chamber window. Castillo and his fellow gentleman Forobosco are instructed by Piero to guard an imprisoned Mellida. His spirit visits Antonio and demands revenge.


Forobosco is a gentleman of the Venetian court. He first appears on stage with Antonio and a group of gentlemen. When Piero initially charges his daughter Mellida with unchaste behavior, Forobosco attempts to calm the Duke. Later, Piero instructs Forobosco and Castillo to guard an imprisoned Mellida. Forobosco and Castillo attend Piero's young son Julio when the boy cannot sleep. They are sent to fetch Mellida for her trial. He is present at the masque when Piero is killed.


Galeatzo is son to the Duke of Florence. He first appears on stage with Antonio and a group of Venetian gentlemen. Galeatzo sings with Castillo to waken Mellida on her supposed wedding day. During a dumb show, Galeatzo informs a group of Venetian senators of Piero's monstrous guilt. He is present at the masque when Piero is killed.


In a dumb show, a herald brings Andugio's sword and helmet to his coffin.


Julio is Piero's young son. He is awakened by bad dreams and wanders into a church. Antonio finds the boy and stabs him to death in order to torment Piero. Antonio sprinkles Julio's blood over Andrugio's hearse as a sacrificial offering. His body is dismembered, cooked and presented to a fatally stabbed Piero at the conclusion of the play.


A group of ladies carry Mellida away after she falls into a death swoon upon the false rumor of Antonio's death. A group of ladies return to the stage at the end of the play to congratulate Antonio and his men on the killing of Piero.


Lucio is Maria's servant. He travels with her from Genoa to Venice at the beginning of the play. Lucio suggests to the duchess that she should freshen up before meeting her husband; it is a suggestion Maria declines. Antonio brushes off Lucio and Alberto when they try to console the young gentleman over the death of his father and the alleged infidelity of Mellida. During a dumb show, Lucio and Nutriche are seen accepting a payment from Piero in exchange for their help in convincing Maria to marry the Venetian Duke. It is Lucio who summons Antonio to Mellida's trial. He is present when Alberto is told to rumor Antonio dead. He is present at the masque when Piero is killed.


Maria is Duchess of Genoa, Andrugio's widow and Antonio's mother. At the beginning of the play, Maria is in route to Venice to join her husband and son for the wedding between Antonio and Mellida. She travels with her servant Lucio and her nurse Nutriche. As she moves toward Venice, Maria is unsure whether her husband and Piero have truly reconciled. She is eager to reach Andrugio and heads out to finish the last leg of the trip at five o'clock in the morning, much to her nurse Nutriche's comic chagrin. After Andrugio's funeral, Maria is persistently seduced by Piero until she finally agrees to grant his suit. A dumb show suggests that Maria's servant Lucio and nurse Nutriche were bribed to forward Piero's cause. The night before Maria is to wed Piero, she wanders around the castle with Nutriche. Balurdo arrives to play Maria some soothing music. Maria dismisses them both and laments over the death of Andrugio. Her husband's spirit then arrives to soundly scold her for even thinking of marrying Piero. The ghost instructs his wife to assist Antonio in revenging the family upon Piero; Maria obeys his request. Antonio arrives in Maria's chamber to kill her, but is stopped by the ghost. It is Maria that tells Piero of Mellida's death. In a dumb show, Maria and Alberto pull knives on Piero while Galeatzo informs senators of Piero's crimes. She is present at the masque when Piero is killed.


Matzagente is the son of the Duke of Milan. He first appears on stage with Antonio and a group of gentlemen. Alberto and Balurdo tease Matzagente's red face.


Mellida is Piero's daughter and Antonio's true love. She is falsely accused of indecent behavior with young Feliche by her father Piero. Piero plans to disrupt her impending marriage to Antonio so that he can force her to wed a Florentine lord. While imprisoned, Mellida briefly speaks to Antonio through her cell door. She tells him she will surely die the next day. Mellida never falsely confesses to the charge and she never loses the trust of Antonio. When she hears the false rumor that Antonio is dead, she falls into a fatal swoon. She dies in her chamber with Antonio by her side.


Nutriche is Maria's nurse. Maria wakes Nutriche at five o'clock in the morning to finish their trip to Venice. Nutriche is rather upset and complains that she was dreaming of going to bed with her groom on her wedding night. During a dumb show, Nutriche and Lucio are seen accepting a payment from Piero in exchange for their help in convincing Maria to marry the Venetian Duke. The night before Piero is supposed to wed Maria, Nutriche accompanies her lady in a walk and tries to convince her that the more husbands one gets, the better. She is present at the masque when Piero is killed.


Pandulpho Feliche is a gentleman of the Venetian court. He first appears on stage with Antonio and a group of gentlemen. He is a stoic by study and disposition. When Antonio tells a group of gentlemen about a bad dream, Pandulpho instructs Antonio not to express fear under any circumstances. When Pandulpho finds his dead son hanging in Mellida's window, he stoically laughs to keep himself from showing grief. Pandulpho is disappointed when Piero moves to refuse young Feliche a decent burial. Pandulpho is surprised to hear that Andrugio is dead and that Mellida is on the verge of condemnation. When Piero asks Pandulpho to help him frame Antonio for Andrugio's death, Pandulpho angrily refuses. He defies Piero's banishment of him, insinuating that he can always retain honor by committing suicide. Pandulpho thanks Antonio for seeking vengeance for young Feliche and offers to help him. Pandulpho tells Antonio that he is lucky he lost Mellida while she was still good. He tells Alberto that he is lucky he lost his friend Feliche while he was still good. Pandulpho feels lucky that his son died pure. Yet when he sees Feliche's bare breast, Pandulpho cannot any longer affect a stoic front. He feels great sorrow and vows to assist Antonio and Alberto in the slaying of Piero. He dresses in the costume of a masque to gain access to a drunken Piero and kill him.


There are a number of pages on stage throughout the play. The first page appears with Antonio and a group of gentlemen. Later, two pages direct Antonio to Andrugio's hearse. Two pages accompany Maria as she wanders about the night before her supposed wedding to Piero. A page sings to open the final masque before Piero is killed.


Piero Sforza is the Duke of Venice. He is the first character on stage following the Prologue. He orders Strotzo to tie the dead body of Feliche's son to Piero's sleeping daughter Mellida. Piero states that he has just killed his rival Andrugio. Feliche was killed to cover Piero's tracks. Piero explains that he lost Maria to Andrugio long ago and has always planned on reaping vengeance for the dishonorable defeat. Apparently, Piero allowed Andrugio's son Antonio to be betrothed to Mellida for the sole purpose of making Andrugio's fall into death more precipitous. Piero hatches a plan to woo Maria anew. He hopes to "poison the father, butcher the son and marry the mother-ha!" After Antonio discovers Feliche's corpse in Mellida's chamber window, Piero has Mellida arrested as a whore. Piero informs Pandulpho that he has killed young Feliche for deflowering Mellida. Piero then affects surprise at the news that Andrugio has died. While watching Andrugio's funeral, Piero expresses a resilient hatred for Antonio. Piero reveals to the audience in a soliloquy that he plans to kill Antonio, woo Maria and marry off Mellida to a Florentine gentleman. By doing so, Piero plans to use his control over Venice, Genoa and Florence for an attack on Rome. After recruiting Balurdo, Piero theorizes that ambitious men are most successful when they employ with loyal, stupid followers. Piero angers Pandulpho by denying young Feliche a proper burial. He cements Pandulpho's distrust when he further reveals that: 1) Andrugio is dead; 2) Mellida will be condemned; and 3) Piero wants Pandulpho to assist in the framing of Antonio. When Pandulpho refuses to help, Piero banishes him from Venice. Piero spies on Antonio's meeting with Mellida in prison so that he can laugh at the lovers' anguish. Piero then resolves anew to woo Maria. In order to save Mellida from execution, Piero convinces Strotzo to confess to falsely testifying against Antonio's bride. Strotzo is instructed to tell the court Antonio paid him to slander Mellida. In this way, Mellida will live, but Antonio will die. What Strotzo is not told is that Piero plans for Strotzo to die immediately thereafter, taking the conspiracy with him to his grave. At Mellida's trial, Piero calls for Strotzo and Antonio to appear. When Strotzo confesses to false testimony, Piero and Castillo strangle him. When Piero learns that Mellida has died in grief over the false rumor that Antonio is dead, Piero's first thought is to commence with his wedding to Maria. He expresses no real sorrow. In a dumb show, Piero is condemned as a criminal by Galeatzo before an assembly of Venetian senators. He tries to revive his spirits by getting drunk and watching a masque. Unfortunately for Piero, Antonio, Alberto and Pandulpho are three of the courtiers disguised for the masque. They yank out his tongue and then slowly stab him to death as he is tied to a chair. As he lay dying, Antonio presents Piero with a cooked dish made with Julio's corpse.


The play begins with a Prologue. The function of the speech is to shift audiences from the comedy of Antonio and Mellida to the tragedy of Antonio's Revenge. The Prologue informs the audience that the time is right for tragedy and that any audience member not up to the horrific content should leave the theatre.


In a dumb show, senators are seen hearing testimony by Galeatzo charging Piero with a number of his crimes. They mime their loathing and shake their fists at him. Two senators are present at the masque when Piero is killed.


Gaspar Strotzo is Piero's accomplice. At the beginning of the play, it is Strotzo who assists Piero in the poisoning of Andrugio and the slaying of young Feliche. In compliance with Piero's command, Strotzo ties young Feliche's corpse to a sleeping Mellida. Just as Piero indicts Mellida and young Feliche for infidelity, Strotzo bursts onto the stage to announce that Andrugio has died of overexertion. Piero later instructs Strotzo to burst into Mellida's trial and confess to false testimony against her. Strotzo is to claim that Antonio bribed him to slander Mellida. Strotzo is led to believe that Piero will then pardon him for his noble honesty. Instead, Piero eliminates the only witness to the conspiracy by strangling Strotzo in the courtroom.


I.i Piero, the duke of Venice, enters with his henchman, Strotzo. He has blood on his arms and a poniard in his hands. He brags about having poisoned his bitter enemy, Andrugio (the father of Antonio) with a goblet of wine used to drink his health. On this very night (it is two in the morning and he began his dirty work at midnight) Piero and Strotzo have murdered Feliche and hung his body at Mellida's (Piero's daughter's) casement while she slept. Piero says he has done this for secret the hatred he has harbored for Andrugio.

It seems Andrugio and Piero were once rivals for Maria's love (several decades since), and Andrugio won her. Piero is still jealous of Andrugio and hates Antonio, Andrugio's son out of Maria. This Antonio was set to marry Mellida. Piero is told that Maria is on her way even now to be reunited with her husband and son. Piero plans to kill the husband, disenfranchise the son, and marry the mother.

I.ii On the road, her servants cheer Maria. Her long turmoil and worry over the welfare of her husband and son is over and she will soon see them again, her servants insist. She shrugs off her long-wonted grief and begins to anticipate the reunion.

Antonio rises and, with the gentlemen of the court, goes to Mellida's window and sings an aubade. On the way he tells his companions of his disturbing dream. Two ghosts came to him-one with a gaping chest wound and one who looked like Andrugio. They cried, "revenge!" He woke, went to the window and saw a blazing comet, and then his nose began to bleed—all bad omens. The gentlemen talk him out of his melancholy, reminding him that he is soon to be a bridegroom.

At Mellida's window Antonio is reunited with his newly arrived mother, Maria. The gents sing their aubade, but Mellida does not come to her window. The curtains are drawn aside to reveal the mutilated body of Feliche hanging in Mellida's casement.

Piero, still bloody, enters and tells them that he caught Feliche in bed with Mellida ("the strumpet"), and killed him. Antonio tries to stab Piero for the insult to Mellida, but Maria stops him. A messenger enters with the news that Andrugio has died in his sleep. Piero acts surprised. Maria faints at the news and is carried off stage. Piero convinces them that he had to kill Felice, Pandulpho's son, for his own honor—Pandulpho takes the news with a stoic "Ha, ha, ha" reminiscent of Titus Andronicus.

II.i begins with a dumb show depicting the funeral of Andrugio. Piero secretly gloats at his victory over his enemy and past rival for Maria.

Balurdo, the foolish gentleman and logophile, enters trying to glue on a beard and makes comments relevant to the profession of play-acting, and in particular the children's companies. Balurdo loves to use big words—retort and obtuse, endear and intimate, pathetical and unvulgar—though he has a tendency to misuse them to unintentional comic effect.

Piero approaches Pandulpho, who believes his son guilty of lechery with Mellida, and tries to convince him to swear that he heard Antonio plotting his own father's (Andrugio's) death. The stoical Pandulpho rejects the immoral suggestion to perjure himself, flouts Piero for suggesting such a thing, and is banished by Piero from the city. The stoic exclaims that the body but not the soul may be "tripped" by temporal dukes.

II.ii Antonio is trying to find comfort by reading philosophy, in particular Seneca's De Providentia, but finds little comfort there. He speaks his undying devotion to Mellida through the grating of her prison. He tells her that he still believes in her innocence, that she is not guilty of lechery with Feliche. Mellida warns him that it is all a plot and admonishes him to escape the city. Piero finds Antonio weeping and secretly gloats. Maria enters, and Antonio upbraids her for considering marriage to Piero.

Piero plots with his henchman, Strotzo, to swear that he bore false witness against Mellida at Antonio's bidding. Piero further instructs him to swear that Antonio paid Strotzo to strangle Andrugio. Piero's plan is that Strotzo should dash in during Mellida's trial with a noose about his neck, as if he had seen the error of his way, make a full confession, and beg for immediate death. Piero says he will take up the rope as if to kill Strotzo, but at the last minute have a change of heart and release Strotzo for having the nobility to make a clean breast of it. Further, Piero tells Strotzo, he will give Strotzo a place of honor in court for being such an honest and conscientious man. Strotzo agrees to the plot.

III.i begins with a dumb show depicting Piero paying off Maria's nurse and serving man, Nutriche and Lucio, to counsel Maria to marry Piero. The scene then opens at midnight in St. Mark's church. Antonio has gone to grieve at his father's grave.

The ghost of Andrugio rises, tells Antonio of Mellida's innocence and of Piero's guilt. He orders Antonio to avenge his murder.

Maria enters as the ghost disappears. She is worried about Antonio being out so late. Antonio assures her that he will come to bed (with obvious double entendre indicating his own death), but he will come to bed only after he has seen Piero, Maria, Strotzo, and Julio (Piero's young son) to bed (again with the same double entendre ). Maria, not understanding, is satisfied with his answer. Again alone, Antonio hears the voices of Pandulpho and the ghosts of Feliche and Andrugio crying, "murder." This resolves him.

He hides as Piero enters looking for Maria. Julio, frightened by bad dreams, joins Piero. They leave—leaving Julio behind (for some reason left unknown). Antonio emerges from the dark and takes the child. He explains his love for the child but his hatred for Piero's blood—the blood that flows through Julio. He must kill Julio because of that. Julio seems to accept this explanation and allows Antonio to kill him.

III.ii Next morning, Maria weeps; Nutriche chastises her for crying the day before her wedding. Maria laments the death of Andrugio; Balurdo enters and sings a humorous song to cheer her, then leaves with Nutriche—leaving Maria alone.

Maria goes to her bed and draws the bed curtains aside to reveal the ghost of Andrugio. Andrugio chastises her for being disloyal to her oath of fidelity to him. He tells her of Piero's guilt in his murder and instructs her to join with Antonio in avenging the wrong. Antonio enters spattered with Julio's blood (as Piero entered at the beginning of the play spattered with Feliche's blood). Andrugio instructs him to pardon his mother's ignorance. He goes on to tell Antonio that Piero will kill him if he does not disguise himself.

IV.i Antonio has disguised himself as a fool. Both Maria and Alberto disapprove of the disguise as being below Antonio's station, but Antonio insists that the fool is the perfect disguise since it allows him to approach monarchs and speak his mind. In addition, Piero will not spend good money to have his spies watch a fool. He instructs Alberto to pass the rumor around that Antonio has died.

Piero enters with the heads of state and calls for Mellida's trial to begin. At the trial Strotzo rushes in as planned and makes his confession. Piero grabs up the noose and begins to strangle Strotzo. But, instead of changing his mind at the last minute as supposedly planned, Piero kills Strotzo.

He lets Mellida go free. He calls for Antonio to be found and brought to court to answer the accusations laid upon him by Strotzo (who, as planned, claimed to work at Antonio's behest). Alberto comes in with news that Antonio drowned himself for loss of Mellida. Mellida faints. She is carried from the room and the fool—Antonio in disguise—follows.

Piero tells Alberto to take the body of the wrongly accused Feliche to his banished father, Pandulpho. Alberto asks if Pandulpho's banishment will be rescinded and Pandulpho be allowed back into the court. Piero says no. Alberto asks if his lands will be returned. No. Will Piero allow him at least to live in the city? No again. Alberto is cast from the court for his insolence.

Piero secretly plots to marry Mellida to Galeatzo of Florence. Then, with his marriage to Maria of Genoa, he will be ruler of Venice, Florence, and Genoa. Balurdo upbraids Piero's ill treatment of Alberto and Piero sends him to the dungeon.

Maria enters to tell the court that Mellida is dead. She died in the arms of her fool. Maria's description indicates that Mellida saw through Antonio's disguise at the end and died happy in his arms.

Piero insists that he will not put off his marriage because of the death of his daughter.

IV.ii Pandulpho and Antonio join forces against Piero. Pandulpho breaks his stoical facade and weeps for Feliche. They bury Feliche on stage (in the trap?)

V.i begins with a dumb show depicting the secret plotting of Alberto, Maria, and Galeatzo who has joined them. The people turn against Piero secretly. Andrugio's ghost gloats.

The scene opens with a monologue by the ghost of Andrugio. He tells the audience that letters found in Strotzo's room have exposed Piero's crimes, though Piero is unaware of the discovery. Galeatzo and the Venetian people have turned against Piero.

V.ii Balurdo escapes from the dungeon (under the stage-crawling out at the trap door?) He swears enmity to Piero and sings. He meets Antonio and Alberto, who are in masque attire. Alberto sends the nearly starved Balurdo to his room for clean clothes and a good meal and tells him to meet them at the masque to avenge himself on Piero. Balurdo exits. Pandulpho joins Antonio and Alberto, and the three exit "twin'd together."

V.iii At the masque, Piero and Maria are preparing to celebrate their upcoming marriage, though Maria indicates in asides that she is only luring him into a trap. During the dance, Andrugio's ghost enters to watch. The masquers entreat Piero to stay and eat with them after he sends away his courtiers. Piero, suspecting nothing, agrees. The masquers (Antonio, Pandulpho, Alberto, and Balurdo, joined by Maria) unmask and tie up Piero.

They tear out his tongue. They taunt him and remind him of the wrongs he has done them. Pandulpho glories at Piero's weeping, Piero's blood not being enough to satisfy Pandulpho. They uncover a dish heaped with the mutilated remains of Julio. They make to stab Piero, but stop at the last moment in order to torture him with fear. Antonio at last stabs Piero and the rest fall on Piero with rapiers. Andrugio glories in Piero's demise.

The courtiers reenter to investigate the commotion. They find Piero dead and ask who is responsible. All the conspirators want the credit, but finally admit it was a joint effort. They are congratulated. The Senator offers to give them anything they want of Venice, but Pandulpho says they have agreed to enter some religious order and live "most content votaries."

Antonio entreats them to cleanse their hands of Piero's blood and to purge their hearts of hatred so they might bury Mellida. He vows to live a chaste life, his love being killed when Mellida died. The story ends with Antonio approving the possible retelling of his story by some inspired future writer (an obvious self-aggrandizement on the part of Marston). Then a song ends the play.


Antonio is the man of common sense who allows vengeance to transform him into a blood avenger.

Pandulpho is the "senseless" stoic who allows vengeance to transform him into a passionate avenger.

Balurdo is the "senseless" fool who allows vengeance to transform him into the self-righteous avenger.

Piero Sforza, unlike his character in Antonio and Mellida (q.v.), becomes the Machiavel indeed, and the comic villain who, in I.i. requires the adulation of his henchman for the crimes he has committed.

Strotzo, the henchman, is the tool of evil. Like Pedringano in The Spanish Tragedy, he is executed when he outlasts his usefulness.

The Ghost of Andrugio is the spirit of vengeance who compels the avengers to their actions—at least in the cases of Antonio and Maria.

Maria, Antonio's mother and Andrugio's widow, is Gertrude-like before she learns the truth behind Andrugio's murder, then she, too, becomes a remorseless avenger.

Julio is the innocent, a victim killed mainly to give Piero a Thystes/Titus Andronicus-like meal in Act V.

Mellida becomes victim. She appears in only two scenes, dies offstage, and has little or nothing to do with the main theme of revenge other than to add another reason for Antonio to kill Piero.

Feliche, who was important as the malcontent in Antonio and Mellida, is murdered just before the play begins and spends most of the play hanging in full view—"stabbed thick with wounds." He is probably played by a set piece like a wax dummy.

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Notes of Interest:

Marston has a love of rhetoric, but seems to know when he has gone too far. Here as in Antonio and Mellida and The Malcontent he has characters fly into rhetorical extravagance only to be checked by another character or by himself. See especially I.ii.187 "Nay, leave hyperboles."

Another point of interest in this, as in other children's plays, is the self-conscious nature of the actor qua actor.

Pandulpho, at I.ii.312 says, "Would'st have me run raving up and down / For my son's loss? Would'st have me turn rank mad, / Or wring my face with mimic action, / Stamp, curse, weep, rage, and then my bosom strike? / Away, 'tis apish action, player-like."

By IV.ii Pandulpho, upon learning of Feliche's innocence, weeps at last. He says, "Why, all this while I ha' but play'd a part, / Like some boy that acts a tragedy, speaks burly words and raves out passion; / But when he thinks upon his infant weakness, / He droops his eye. I . . . am less than a man" (IV.ii.70-75).

Antonio, in like vein, says to Mellida, "I will not swell like a tragedian, / In forced passion of affected strains" (II.ii.105-6).

And again at II.i.33 when Balurdo says, "Many men can utter that which no man but themselves can conceive; but, I thank a good wit, I have the gift to speak that which neither any man else nor myself understands", making comment upon child actors, like the boy playing Balurdo himself, who memorize words they do not fully understand themselves.

Feliche's body is discovered hanging at I.ii.194. At II.i. 75 ("Look at those lips") the gestive language indicates that Feliche is still hanging in view of the audience. It isn't until IV.i.233 that Piero gives Alberto leave to "[g]o, take [Feliche's body] down and bear him to his father; let him be buried." This would seem to indicate that Feliche hangs in full view-presenting both a memento mori and an emblem of tragedy (like the black drapes hung onstage during an Elizabethan tragedy). The image would be striking, and a close examination of the text might reveal how the dangling corpse influences other characters and controls the metaphor of the play itself.

In a similar vein, Andrugio's coffin is brought onstage during the dumb show introducing Act II, but does not become an object of action until III.i when Antonio comes to St. Marks to do his observance to his father. Then, as Antonio is sprinkling the hearse with holy water and burning incense, Andrugio, at III.i.31 rips open his shroud and emerges from the coffin. Although, speaking practically, it is possible that the boy playing Andrugio could have been placed into the coffin during the act break between II and III to save him having to lie still throughout Act II (and to insure against his falling asleep and missing his cue as well)—he then would have to lie patiently in the coffin for the thirty-one lines leading up to his dramatic appearance—the point to be made is that the coffin, like the hanging body of Feliche, can act as a somber reminder of the play's darker side, especially when one considers the tiny dimensions of the St. Paul's stage ("Never more woe in lesser plot was found." V.iii.176—"plot", of course, standing for both "story" and "plot of ground" or "stage space.")

In the same scene (III.i), after the murder of Julio, Antonio changes his incense and holy water for the child of Piero's blood. First, Antonio says, "[T]hy father's blood [meaning Piero's blood which ran in the veins of Julio] / I thus make incense of, to Vengeance." And, in opposition to Hunter's note that "[Antonio] sprinkles the tomb with blood", Antonio obviously puts the blood in his censer, making an olibanum of it. Support for this argument comes from the text; Antonio invokes Andrugio, "Ghost of my poison'd sire, suck this fume" (III.ii.207 [emphasis added]), indicative of a "blood incense"—perhaps some theatre magic which allows the smoke to turn from its original white to a red (or perhaps black) hue after Julio's blood is added. Also, Antonio says to the ghost, "[P]erfume thy circling air / With smoke of blood" (III.ii.209 [emphasis added]). Only after this does Antonio say, "I sprinkle round his [Piero's via Julio] gore / And dew thy hearse with these fresh-reeking drops" (III.ii.209-10).

Another interesting piece of stage suggestion is the pit, or "hell" of St. Paul's. Though Hunter suggests that Mellida, in II.ii.73, appears at a grate in the back wall, the text clearly says she is in "the dungeon" (II.i.47). It seems odd, if Mellida were at a grate in the back wall, that Antonio would have to ask her to "reach me thy hand" (II.ii.111). Furthermore, Antonio's action after speaking to Mellida is obviously one that would leave him lying on the floor—"Behold a prostrate wretch laid on his tomb" (II.ii.132). In Antonio and Mellida he is almost constantly throwing himself on the ground in misery, but that character trait is missing in Antonio's Revenge, and, indeed, is not in keeping with the serious nature of the tragedy, as it would have been in the comedy.

Finally, when Balurdo is sent to "the dungeon" (IV.i.273), he is actually seen to escape from the dungeon by crawling out through "hell"—see s.d. "Balurdo from under stage" (V.ii.1) and his line "Ho, who's above there, ho?" (V.ii.1 [emphasis added]). During his speech, he obviously crawls onto the stage, "O now, Sir Jeffery, show thy valor: break prison" (V.ii.4). Nor can it be convincingly argued that he crawled upon the stage from one side, the stage direction at IV.ii.87 during the burial of Feliche's body ("They strike the stage with their daggers, and the grave openeth") indicates that a working "hell" was present on the St. Paul stage. If, then, there was a working "hell", and Balurdo uses that "hell" to effect his escape from "the dungeon", then it is reasonable to assume the Mellida's appearance "at a grate" must mean a grate over "hell" because she, like Balurdo, is in "the dungeon."

Plays to be compared:

Marston's Antonio and Mellida (for the same characters and "prequel" to the action. Also for line echoes, especially Antonio's Revenge I.ii.187 & AM I.i.151; AR IV.i.65 & Antonio and Mellida V (in both instances Alberto is to feign that Antonio has died); AR V.ii.10-11 & AM V.i.20-21 (same sentiment, same character); AR V.ii.68-69 & AM II.i.13-14 (same character, same sentiment).

Marston's The Malcontent (for line echoes, especially the similarity between the reported death of Pietro by drowning and the reported death of Antonio by drowning (both "suicides" feigned to fool the evil ruler).

Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy (for echoes and character borrowings: Pandulpho = Hieronimo (the stoic father who loses a son); Feliche = Horatio (the dead son hung up to be discovered by his father); Strotzo = Pedringano (the henchman who is tricked into his own execution by hanging); Mellida = Bel-imperia (the woman falsely accused and imprisoned); Andrugio = Andrea (the ghost returning to see vengeance done on his murderer, taking a spectator's role as the murder is committed).

See also The Spanish Tragedy for borrowings of action: The tongue torn/bitten out (Piero & Hieronimo); the hanged son, stabbed thick with wounds (Feliche & Horatio); the resolution of action through a masque in the last Act; the image of an actor entering with a beard half-on (Balduro II.i.20 & Balthazar IV.iii.18). Also for line echoes.)

Shakespeare's Hamlet (for the general shape of the play-the play-within-a-play motif, the ghost of a murdered father seeking revenge. While the line echoes are faint, indicating Marston had not relied upon Shakespeare's play, the general plot is so similar as to suggest that both plays were relying on a previous play, possibly the lost Ur-Hamlet (by Kyd?)).

Note also the scenes here and from both Hamlet and The Spanish Tragedy where the protagonist enters with a book (Antonio II.ii; Hieronimo III.xiii; Hamlet II.ii.167sd).

Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (for the images of tongues torn out—though aimed at different character-types; and of serving a dish prepared from the meat of murdered children).

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