Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Alicante. Mediterranean port city near Valencia in eastern Spain in which the play is set. The play opens outdoors, near a church by the port, with the Valencian nobleman Alsemero delaying his departure for Malta and getting drawn into Beatrice-Joanna’s adulterous and murderous plots. The rest of the play is wholly restricted to interiors, as if to suggest women’s domestic confinement.


*Valencia. Capital city of the eastern region of Spain from which Alsemero comes. Valencia is about one hundred miles north of Alicante—a distance great enough to make Alsemero a “stranger” to Beatrice-Joanna’s father, Vermandero, who hesitates to give him a tour of his castle.

Vermandero’s castle

Vermandero’s castle. Alicante headquarters of Governor Vermandero and the setting for all the scenes in the play following its opening. The castle citadel into which Beatrice-Joanna invites her lover Alsemero represents Beatrice-Joanna herself, with the underground vault in which De Flores murders her fiancé reflecting her sinful depths.

Dr. Alibius’s house

Dr. Alibius’s house. Home of Alibius, a jealous old doctor who keeps his lovely young wife, Isabella, confined at home with his mad patients. The madness and folly observed in Alibius’s institution form a grotesque reflection of the madness and folly of the outside world. The determination of Isabella to resist “lunatic” adulterous propositions counterpoints Beatrice-Joanna’s moral defeat at the castle. The nominally Spanish madhouse actually evokes England’s Bethlehem Hospital, an asylum in Bishopsgate, London—especially in a line referring to “the chimes of Bedlam [Bethlehem].” Thus, virtue triumphs in a more English setting.


Hell. Ultimate destination to which Beatrice-Joanna and De Flores are doomed, evoked twice by reference to a country game called “barley-brake,” in which couples hold hands and are forbidden to separate, while trying to catch others who run past them as their replacements in the central space called “hell.”