Royal courts. The play opens by alternating scenes between the court of Spain and the court of Portugal—with the only perceptible difference between the two royal courts being the individual people found at each. Typical directorial practice would be to place props on stage to indicate one or the other court. The lack of distinguishing characteristics at these two courts reflects the lack of differences between the two sides in the war that is keeping them apart. Neither Spain nor Portugal occupies a morally superior ground; however, English attitudes toward both Spain and Portugal in the 1580’s tended to be negative, as both Roman Catholic countries were at odds with England.
Hieronimo’s garden. Outdoor area at the home of the Spanish general Hieronimo. It is a refreshing area, but one warped by envy, lust, and murder. The garden is the play’s first outdoor setting, and it is there the crime of Horatio’s murder occurs. The tension here resides in differences between the human menace and what would otherwise seem a place of sweetness.
Before stabbing herself to death near the end of the play, Hieronimo’s wife, Isabella, hacks at the garden arbor with a sword, unable to bear its promise in the face of her son’s death. Hieronimo and his wife make extensive reference to the irony of the garden’s symbolization of growth and life, while it is also the place where the crime takes place. Audiences are presumably left to infer that the despoiled garden represents a post-Fall world.