The Duchess of Malfi
by John Webster
1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

This etext was prepared by Gary R. Young.

The Duchess of Malfi

by John Webster

Introductory Note

Of John Webster's life almost nothing is known. The dates 1580-1625 given for his birth and death are conjectural inferences, about which the best that can be said is that no known facts contradict them.

The first notice of Webster so far discovered shows that he was collaborating in the production of plays for the theatrical manager, Henslowe, in 1602, and of such collaboration he seems to have done a considerable amount. Four plays exist which he wrote alone, "The White Devil," "The Duchess of Malfi," "The Devil's Law-Case," and "Appius and Virginia."

"The Duchess of Malfi" was published in 1623, but the date of writing may have been as early as 1611. It is based on a story in Painter's "Palace of Pleasure," translated from the Italian novelist, Bandello; and it is entirely possible that it has a foundation in fact. In any case, it portrays with a terrible vividness one side of the court life of the Italian Renaissance; and its picture of the fierce quest of pleasure, the recklessness of crime, and the worldliness of the great princes of the Church finds only too ready corroboration in the annals of the time.

Webster's tragedies come toward the close of the great series of tragedies of blood and revenge, in which "The Spanish Tragedy" and "Hamlet" are landmarks, but before decadence can fairly be said to have set in. He, indeed, loads his scene with horrors almost past the point which modern taste can bear; but the intensity of his dramatic situations, and his superb power of flashing in a single line a light into the recesses of the human heart at the crises of supreme emotion, redeems him from mere sensationalism, and places his best things in the first rank of dramatic writing.

The Duchess of Malfi

Dramatis Personae FERDINAND [Duke of Calabria]. CARDINAL [his brother]. ANTONIO [BOLOGNA, Steward of the Household to the Duchess]. DELIO [his friend]. DANIEL DE BOSOLA [Gentleman of the Horse to the Duchess]. [CASTRUCCIO, an old Lord]. MARQUIS OF PESCARA. [COUNT] MALATESTI. RODERIGO, > SILVIO, > [Lords]. GRISOLAN, > DOCTOR. The Several Madmen.

DUCHESS [OF MALFI]. CARIOLA [her woman]. [JULIA, Castruccio's wife, and] the Cardinal's mistress. [Old Lady].

Ladies, Three Young Children, Two Pilgrims, Executioners, Court Officers, and Attendants.

Act I

Scene I


DELIO. You are welcome to your country, dear Antonio; You have been long in France, and you return A very formal Frenchman in your habit: How do you like the French court?

ANTONIO. I admire it: In seeking to reduce both state and people To a fix'd order, their judicious king Begins at home; quits first his royal palace Of flattering sycophants, of dissolute And infamous persons,—which he sweetly terms His master's master-piece, the work of heaven; Considering duly that a prince's court Is like a common fountain, whence should flow Pure silver drops in general, but if 't chance Some curs'd example poison 't near the head, Death and diseases through the whole land spread. And what is 't makes this blessed government But a most provident council, who dare freely Inform him the corruption of the times? Though some o' the court hold it presumption To instruct princes what they ought to do, It is a noble duty to inform them What they ought to foresee.—Here comes Bosola, The only court-gall; yet I observe his railing Is not for simple love of piety: Indeed, he rails at those things which he wants; Would be as lecherous, covetous, or proud, Bloody, or envious, as any man, If he had means to be so.—Here's the cardinal.


BOSOLA. I do haunt you still.


BOSOLA. I have done you better service than to be slighted thus. Miserable age, where only the reward of doing well is the doing of it!

CARDINAL. You enforce your merit too much.

BOSOLA. I fell into the galleys in your service: where, for two years together, I wore two towels instead of a shirt, with a knot on the shoulder, after the fashion of a Roman mantle. Slighted thus! I will thrive some way. Black-birds fatten best in hard weather; why not I in these dog-days?

CARDINAL. Would you could become honest!

BOSOLA. With all your divinity do but direct me the way to it. I have known many travel far for it, and yet return as arrant knaves as they went forth, because they carried themselves always along with them. [Exit CARDINAL.] Are you gone? Some fellows, they say, are possessed with the devil, but this great fellow were able to possess the greatest devil, and make him worse.

ANTONIO. He hath denied thee some suit?

BOSOLA. He and his brother are like plum-trees that grow crooked over standing-pools; they are rich and o'erladen with fruit, but none but crows, pies, and caterpillars feed on them. Could I be one of their flattering panders, I would hang on their ears like a horseleech, till I were full, and then drop off. I pray, leave me. Who would rely upon these miserable dependencies, in expectation to be advanc'd to-morrow? What creature ever fed worse than hoping Tantalus? Nor ever died any man more fearfully than he that hoped for a pardon. There are rewards for hawks and dogs when they have done us service; but for a soldier that hazards his limbs in a battle, nothing but a kind of geometry is his last supportation.

DELIO. Geometry?

BOSOLA. Ay, to hang in a fair pair of slings, take his latter swing in the world upon an honourable pair of crutches, from hospital to hospital. Fare ye well, sir: and yet do not you scorn us; for places in the court are but like beds in the hospital, where this man's head lies at that man's foot, and so lower and lower. [Exit.]

DELIO. I knew this fellow seven years in the galleys For a notorious murder; and 'twas thought The cardinal suborn'd it: he was releas'd By the French general, Gaston de Foix, When he recover'd Naples.

ANTONIO. 'Tis great pity He should be thus neglected: I have heard He 's very valiant. This foul melancholy Will poison all his goodness; for, I 'll tell you, If too immoderate sleep be truly said To be an inward rust unto the soul, If then doth follow want of action Breeds all black malcontents; and their close rearing, Like moths in cloth, do hurt for want of wearing.

Scene II


DELIO. The presence 'gins to fill: you promis'd me To make me the partaker of the natures Of some of your great courtiers.

ANTONIO. The lord cardinal's And other strangers' that are now in court? I shall.—Here comes the great Calabrian duke.

[Enter FERDINAND and Attendants]

FERDINAND. Who took the ring oftenest?

SILVIO. Antonio Bologna, my lord.

FERDINAND. Our sister duchess' great-master of her household? Give him the jewel.—When shall we leave this sportive action, and fall to action indeed?

CASTRUCCIO. Methinks, my lord, you should not desire to go to war in person.

FERDINAND. Now for some gravity.—Why, my lord?

CASTRUCCIO. It is fitting a soldier arise to be a prince, but not necessary a prince descend to be a captain.


CASTRUCCIO. No, my lord; he were far better do it by a deputy.

FERDINAND. Why should he not as well sleep or eat by a deputy? This might take idle, offensive, and base office from him, whereas the other deprives him of honour.

CASTRUCCIO. Believe my experience, that realm is never long in quiet where the ruler is a soldier.

FERDINAND. Thou toldest me thy wife could not endure fighting.

CASTRUCCIO. True, my lord.

FERDINAND. And of a jest she broke of a captain she met full of wounds: I have forgot it.

CASTRUCCIO. She told him, my lord, he was a pitiful fellow, to lie, like the children of Ismael, all in tents.

FERDINAND. Why, there's a wit were able to undo all the chirurgeons o' the city; for although gallants should quarrel, and had drawn their weapons, and were ready to go to it, yet her persuasions would make them put up.

CASTRUCCIO. That she would, my lord.—How do you like my Spanish gennet?

RODERIGO. He is all fire.

FERDINAND. I am of Pliny's opinion, I think he was begot by the wind; he runs as if he were ballass'd with quicksilver.

SILVIO. True, my lord, he reels from the tilt often.


FERDINAND. Why do you laugh? Methinks you that are courtiers should be my touch-wood, take fire when I give fire; that is, laugh when I laugh, were the subject never so witty.

CASTRUCCIO. True, my lord: I myself have heard a very good jest, and have scorn'd to seem to have so silly a wit as to understand it.

FERDINAND. But I can laugh at your fool, my lord.

CASTRUCCIO. He cannot speak, you know, but he makes faces; my lady cannot abide him.


CASTRUCCIO. Nor endure to be in merry company; for she says too much laughing, and too much company, fills her too full of the wrinkle.

FERDINAND. I would, then, have a mathematical instrument made for her face, that she might not laugh out of compass.—I shall shortly visit you at Milan, Lord Silvio.

SILVIO. Your grace shall arrive most welcome.

FERDINAND. You are a good horseman, Antonio; you have excellent riders in France: what do you think of good horsemanship?

ANTONIO. Nobly, my lord: as out of the Grecian horse issued many famous princes, so out of brave horsemanship arise the first sparks of growing resolution, that raise the mind to noble action.

FERDINAND. You have bespoke it worthily.

SILVIO. Your brother, the lord cardinal, and sister duchess.


CARDINAL. Are the galleys come about?

GRISOLAN. They are, my lord.

FERDINAND. Here 's the Lord Silvio is come to take his leave.

DELIO. Now, sir, your promise: what 's that cardinal? I mean his temper? They say he 's a brave fellow, Will play his five thousand crowns at tennis, dance, Court ladies, and one that hath fought single combats.

ANTONIO. Some such flashes superficially hang on him for form; but observe his inward character: he is a melancholy churchman. The spring in his face is nothing but the engend'ring of toads; where he is jealous of any man, he lays worse plots for them than ever was impos'd on Hercules, for he strews in his way flatterers, panders, intelligencers, atheists, and a thousand such political monsters. He should have been Pope; but instead of coming to it by the primitive decency of the church, he did bestow bribes so largely and so impudently as if he would have carried it away without heaven's knowledge. Some good he hath done——

DELIO. You have given too much of him. What 's his brother?

ANTONIO. The duke there? A most perverse and turbulent nature. What appears in him mirth is merely outside; If he laught heartily, it is to laugh All honesty out of fashion.

DELIO. Twins?

ANTONIO. In quality. He speaks with others' tongues, and hears men's suits With others' ears; will seem to sleep o' the bench Only to entrap offenders in their answers; Dooms men to death by information; Rewards by hearsay.

DELIO. Then the law to him Is like a foul, black cobweb to a spider,— He makes it his dwelling and a prison To entangle those shall feed him.

ANTONIO. Most true: He never pays debts unless they be shrewd turns, And those he will confess that he doth owe. Last, for this brother there, the cardinal, They that do flatter him most say oracles Hang at his lips; and verily I believe them, For the devil speaks in them. But for their sister, the right noble duchess, You never fix'd your eye on three fair medals Cast in one figure, of so different temper. For her discourse, it is so full of rapture, You only will begin then to be sorry When she doth end her speech, and wish, in wonder, She held it less vain-glory to talk much, Than your penance to hear her. Whilst she speaks, She throws upon a man so sweet a look That it were able to raise one to a galliard. That lay in a dead palsy, and to dote On that sweet countenance; but in that look There speaketh so divine a continence As cuts off all lascivious and vain hope. Her days are practis'd in such noble virtue, That sure her nights, nay, more, her very sleeps, Are more in heaven than other ladies' shrifts. Let all sweet ladies break their flatt'ring glasses, And dress themselves in her.

DELIO. Fie, Antonio, You play the wire-drawer with her commendations.

ANTONIO. I 'll case the picture up: only thus much; All her particular worth grows to this sum,— She stains the time past, lights the time to come.

CARIOLA. You must attend my lady in the gallery, Some half and hour hence.

ANTONIO. I shall. [Exeunt ANTONIO and DELIO.]

FERDINAND. Sister, I have a suit to you.

DUCHESS. To me, sir?

FERDINAND. A gentleman here, Daniel de Bosola, One that was in the galleys——

DUCHESS. Yes, I know him.

FERDINAND. A worthy fellow he is: pray, let me entreat for The provisorship of your horse.

DUCHESS. Your knowledge of him Commends him and prefers him.

FERDINAND. Call him hither. [Exit Attendant.] We [are] now upon parting. Good Lord Silvio, Do us commend to all our noble friends At the leaguer.

SILVIO. Sir, I shall.

[DUCHESS.] You are for Milan?


DUCHESS. Bring the caroches.—We 'll bring you down To the haven. [Exeunt DUCHESS, SILVIO, CASTRUCCIO, RODERIGO, GRISOLAN, CARIOLA, JULIA, and Attendants.]

CARDINAL. Be sure you entertain that Bosola For your intelligence. I would not be seen in 't; And therefore many times I have slighted him When he did court our furtherance, as this morning.

FERDINAND. Antonio, the great-master of her household, Had been far fitter.

CARDINAL. You are deceiv'd in him. His nature is too honest for such business.— He comes: I 'll leave you. [Exit.]

[Re-enter BOSOLA]

BOSOLA. I was lur'd to you.

FERDINAND. My brother, here, the cardinal, could never Abide you.

BOSOLA. Never since he was in my debt.

FERDINAND. May be some oblique character in your face Made him suspect you.

BOSOLA. Doth he study physiognomy? There 's no more credit to be given to the face Than to a sick man's urine, which some call The physician's whore, because she cozens him. He did suspect me wrongfully.

FERDINAND. For that You must give great men leave to take their times. Distrust doth cause us seldom be deceiv'd. You see the oft shaking of the cedar-tree Fastens it more at root.

BOSOLA. Yet take heed; For to suspect a friend unworthily Instructs him the next way to suspect you, And prompts him to deceive you.

FERDINAND. There 's gold.

BOSOLA. So: What follows? [Aside.] Never rain'd such showers as these Without thunderbolts i' the tail of them.—Whose throat must I cut?

FERDINAND. Your inclination to shed blood rides post Before my occasion to use you. I give you that To live i' the court here, and observe the duchess; To note all the particulars of her haviour, What suitors do solicit her for marriage, And whom she best affects. She 's a young widow: I would not have her marry again.

BOSOLA. No, sir?

FERDINAND. Do not you ask the reason; but be satisfied. I say I would not.

BOSOLA. It seems you would create me One of your familiars.

FERDINAND. Familiar! What 's that?

BOSOLA. Why, a very quaint invisible devil in flesh,— An intelligencer.

FERDINAND. Such a kind of thriving thing I would wish thee; and ere long thou mayst arrive At a higher place by 't.

BOSOLA. Take your devils, Which hell calls angels! These curs'd gifts would make You a corrupter, me an impudent traitor; And should I take these, they'd take me [to] hell.

FERDINAND. Sir, I 'll take nothing from you that I have given. There is a place that I procur'd for you This morning, the provisorship o' the horse; Have you heard on 't?


FERDINAND. 'Tis yours: is 't not worth thanks?

BOSOLA. I would have you curse yourself now, that your bounty (Which makes men truly noble) e'er should make me A villain. O, that to avoid ingratitude For the good deed you have done me, I must do All the ill man can invent! Thus the devil Candies all sins o'er; and what heaven terms vile, That names he complimental.

FERDINAND. Be yourself; Keep your old garb of melancholy; 'twill express You envy those that stand above your reach, Yet strive not to come near 'em. This will gain Access to private lodgings, where yourself May, like a politic dormouse——

BOSOLA. As I have seen some Feed in a lord's dish, half asleep, not seeming To listen to any talk; and yet these rogues Have cut his throat in a dream. What 's my place? The provisorship o' the horse? Say, then, my corruption Grew out of horse-dung: I am your creature.

FERDINAND. Away! [Exit.]

BOSOLA. Let good men, for good deeds, covet good fame, Since place and riches oft are bribes of shame. Sometimes the devil doth preach. [Exit.]

[Scene III]


CARDINAL. We are to part from you; and your own discretion Must now be your director.

FERDINAND. You are a widow: You know already what man is; and therefore Let not youth, high promotion, eloquence——

CARDINAL. No, Nor anything without the addition, honour, Sway your high blood.

FERDINAND. Marry! they are most luxurious Will wed twice.


FERDINAND. Their livers are more spotted Than Laban's sheep.

DUCHESS. Diamonds are of most value, They say, that have pass'd through most jewellers' hands.

FERDINAND. Whores by that rule are precious.

DUCHESS. Will you hear me? I 'll never marry.

CARDINAL. So most widows say; But commonly that motion lasts no longer Than the turning of an hour-glass: the funeral sermon And it end both together.

FERDINAND. Now hear me: You live in a rank pasture, here, i' the court; There is a kind of honey-dew that 's deadly; 'T will poison your fame; look to 't. Be not cunning; For they whose faces do belie their hearts Are witches ere they arrive at twenty years, Ay, and give the devil suck.

DUCHESS. This is terrible good counsel.

FERDINAND. Hypocrisy is woven of a fine small thread, Subtler than Vulcan's engine: yet, believe 't, Your darkest actions, nay, your privat'st thoughts, Will come to light.

CARDINAL. You may flatter yourself, And take your own choice; privately be married Under the eaves of night——

FERDINAND. Think 't the best voyage That e'er you made; like the irregular crab, Which, though 't goes backward, thinks that it goes right Because it goes its own way: but observe, Such weddings may more properly be said To be executed than celebrated.

CARDINAL. The marriage night Is the entrance into some prison.

FERDINAND. And those joys, Those lustful pleasures, are like heavy sleeps Which do fore-run man's mischief.

CARDINAL. Fare you well. Wisdom begins at the end: remember it. [Exit.]

DUCHESS. I think this speech between you both was studied, It came so roundly off.

FERDINAND. You are my sister; This was my father's poniard, do you see? I 'd be loth to see 't look rusty, 'cause 'twas his. I would have you give o'er these chargeable revels: A visor and a mask are whispering-rooms That were never built for goodness,—fare ye well— And women like variety of courtship. What cannot a neat knave with a smooth tale Make a woman believe? Farewell, lusty widow. [Exit.]

DUCHESS. Shall this move me? If all my royal kindred Lay in my way unto this marriage, I 'd make them my low footsteps. And even now, Even in this hate, as men in some great battles, By apprehending danger, have achiev'd Almost impossible actions (I have heard soldiers say so), So I through frights and threatenings will assay This dangerous venture. Let old wives report I wink'd and chose a husband.—Cariola, To thy known secrecy I have given up More than my life,—my fame.

CARIOLA. Both shall be safe; For I 'll conceal this secret from the world As warily as those that trade in poison Keep poison from their children.

DUCHESS. Thy protestation Is ingenious and hearty; I believe it. Is Antonio come?

CARIOLA. He attends you.

DUCHESS. Good dear soul, Leave me; but place thyself behind the arras, Where thou mayst overhear us. Wish me good speed; For I am going into a wilderness, Where I shall find nor path nor friendly clue To be my guide. [Cariola goes behind the arras.] [Enter ANTONIO] I sent for you: sit down; Take pen and ink, and write: are you ready?


DUCHESS. What did I say?

ANTONIO. That I should write somewhat.

DUCHESS. O, I remember. After these triumphs and this large expense It 's fit, like thrifty husbands, we inquire What 's laid up for to-morrow.

ANTONIO. So please your beauteous excellence.

DUCHESS. Beauteous! Indeed, I thank you. I look young for your sake; You have ta'en my cares upon you.

ANTONIO. I 'll fetch your grace The particulars of your revenue and expense.

DUCHESS. O, you are An upright treasurer: but you mistook; For when I said I meant to make inquiry What 's laid up for to-morrow, I did mean What 's laid up yonder for me.


DUCHESS. In heaven. I am making my will (as 'tis fit princes should, In perfect memory), and, I pray, sir, tell me, Were not one better make it smiling, thus, Than in deep groans and terrible ghastly looks, As if the gifts we parted with procur'd That violent distraction?

ANTONIO. O, much better.

DUCHESS. If I had a husband now, this care were quit: But I intend to make you overseer. What good deed shall we first remember? Say.

ANTONIO. Begin with that first good deed began i' the world After man's creation, the sacrament of marriage; I 'd have you first provide for a good husband; Give him all.


ANTONIO. Yes, your excellent self.

DUCHESS. In a winding-sheet?

ANTONIO. In a couple.

DUCHESS. Saint Winifred, that were a strange will!

ANTONIO. 'Twere stranger if there were no will in you To marry again.

DUCHESS. What do you think of marriage?

ANTONIO. I take 't, as those that deny purgatory, It locally contains or heaven or hell; There 's no third place in 't.

DUCHESS. How do you affect it?

ANTONIO. My banishment, feeding my melancholy, Would often reason thus.

DUCHESS. Pray, let 's hear it.

ANTONIO. Say a man never marry, nor have children, What takes that from him? Only the bare name Of being a father, or the weak delight To see the little wanton ride a-cock-horse Upon a painted stick, or hear him chatter Like a taught starling.

DUCHESS. Fie, fie, what 's all this? One of your eyes is blood-shot; use my ring to 't. They say 'tis very sovereign. 'Twas my wedding-ring, And I did vow never to part with it But to my second husband.

ANTONIO. You have parted with it now.

DUCHESS. Yes, to help your eye-sight.

ANTONIO. You have made me stark blind.


ANTONIO. There is a saucy and ambitious devil Is dancing in this circle.

DUCHESS. Remove him.


DUCHESS. There needs small conjuration, when your finger May do it: thus. Is it fit? [She puts the ring upon his finger]: he kneels.

ANTONIO. What said you?

DUCHESS. Sir, This goodly roof of yours is too low built; I cannot stand upright in 't nor discourse, Without I raise it higher. Raise yourself; Or, if you please, my hand to help you: so. [Raises him.]

ANTONIO. Ambition, madam, is a great man's madness, That is not kept in chains and close-pent rooms, But in fair lightsome lodgings, and is girt With the wild noise of prattling visitants, Which makes it lunatic beyond all cure. Conceive not I am so stupid but I aim Whereto your favours tend: but he 's a fool That, being a-cold, would thrust his hands i' the fire To warm them.

DUCHESS. So, now the ground 's broke, You may discover what a wealthy mine I make your lord of.

ANTONIO. O my unworthiness!

DUCHESS. You were ill to sell yourself: This dark'ning of your worth is not like that Which tradesmen use i' the city; their false lights Are to rid bad wares off: and I must tell you, If you will know where breathes a complete man (I speak it without flattery), turn your eyes, And progress through yourself.

ANTONIO. Were there nor heaven nor hell, I should be honest: I have long serv'd virtue, And ne'er ta'en wages of her.

DUCHESS. Now she pays it. The misery of us that are born great! We are forc'd to woo, because none dare woo us; And as a tyrant doubles with his words, And fearfully equivocates, so we Are forc'd to express our violent passions In riddles and in dreams, and leave the path Of simple virtue, which was never made To seem the thing it is not. Go, go brag You have left me heartless; mine is in your bosom: I hope 'twill multiply love there. You do tremble: Make not your heart so dead a piece of flesh, To fear more than to love me. Sir, be confident: What is 't distracts you? This is flesh and blood, sir; 'Tis not the figure cut in alabaster Kneels at my husband's tomb. Awake, awake, man! I do here put off all vain ceremony, And only do appear to you a young widow That claims you for her husband, and, like a widow, I use but half a blush in 't.

ANTONIO. Truth speak for me; I will remain the constant sanctuary Of your good name.

DUCHESS. I thank you, gentle love: And 'cause you shall not come to me in debt, Being now my steward, here upon your lips I sign your Quietus est. This you should have begg'd now. I have seen children oft eat sweetmeats thus, As fearful to devour them too soon.

ANTONIO. But for your brothers?

DUCHESS. Do not think of them: All discord without this circumference Is only to be pitied, and not fear'd: Yet, should they know it, time will easily Scatter the tempest.

ANTONIO. These words should be mine, And all the parts you have spoke, if some part of it Would not have savour'd flattery.

DUCHESS. Kneel. [Cariola comes from behind the arras.]


DUCHESS. Be not amaz'd; this woman 's of my counsel: I have heard lawyers say, a contract in a chamber Per verba [de] presenti is absolute marriage. [She and ANTONIO kneel.] Bless, heaven, this sacred gordian which let violence Never untwine!

ANTONIO. And may our sweet affections, like the spheres, Be still in motion!

DUCHESS. Quickening, and make The like soft music!

ANTONIO. That we may imitate the loving palms, Best emblem of a peaceful marriage, That never bore fruit, divided!

DUCHESS. What can the church force more?

ANTONIO. That fortune may not know an accident, Either of joy or sorrow, to divide Our fixed wishes!

DUCHESS. How can the church build faster? We now are man and wife, and 'tis the church That must but echo this.—Maid, stand apart: I now am blind.

ANTONIO. What 's your conceit in this?

DUCHESS. I would have you lead your fortune by the hand Unto your marriage-bed: (You speak in me this, for we now are one:) We 'll only lie and talk together, and plot To appease my humorous kindred; and if you please, Like the old tale in ALEXANDER AND LODOWICK, Lay a naked sword between us, keep us chaste. O, let me shrowd my blushes in your bosom, Since 'tis the treasury of all my secrets! [Exeunt DUCHESS and ANTONIO.]

CARIOLA. Whether the spirit of greatness or of woman Reign most in her, I know not; but it shows A fearful madness. I owe her much of pity. [Exit.]

Act II

Scene I


BOSOLA. You say you would fain be taken for an eminent courtier?

CASTRUCCIO. 'Tis the very main of my ambition.

BOSOLA. Let me see: you have a reasonable good face for 't already, and your night-cap expresses your ears sufficient largely. I would have you learn to twirl the strings of your band with a good grace, and in a set speech, at th' end of every sentence, to hum three or four times, or blow your nose till it smart again, to recover your memory. When you come to be a president in criminal causes, if you smile upon a prisoner, hang him; but if you frown upon him and threaten him, let him be sure to scape the gallows.

CASTRUCCIO. I would be a very merry president.

BOSOLA. Do not sup o' nights; 'twill beget you an admirable wit.

CASTRUCCIO. Rather it would make me have a good stomach to quarrel; for they say, your roaring boys eat meat seldom, and that makes them so valiant. But how shall I know whether the people take me for an eminent fellow?

BOSOLA. I will teach a trick to know it: give out you lie a-dying, and if you hear the common people curse you, be sure you are taken for one of the prime night-caps. [Enter an Old Lady] You come from painting now.

OLD LADY. From what?

BOSOLA. Why, from your scurvy face-physic. To behold thee not painted inclines somewhat near a miracle. These in thy face here were deep ruts and foul sloughs the last progress. There was a lady in France that, having had the small-pox, flayed the skin off her face to make it more level; and whereas before she looked like a nutmeg-grater, after she resembled an abortive hedge-hog.

OLD LADY. Do you call this painting?

BOSOLA. No, no, but you call [it] careening of an old morphewed lady, to make her disembogue again: there 's rough-cast phrase to your plastic.

OLD LADY. It seems you are well acquainted with my closet.

BOSOLA. One would suspect it for a shop of witchcraft, to find in it the fat of serpents, spawn of snakes, Jews' spittle, and their young children's ordure; and all these for the face. I would sooner eat a dead pigeon taken from the soles of the feet of one sick of the plague, than kiss one of you fasting. Here are two of you, whose sin of your youth is the very patrimony of the physician; makes him renew his foot-cloth with the spring, and change his high-pric'd courtezan with the fall of the leaf. I do wonder you do not loathe yourselves. Observe my meditation now. What thing is in this outward form of man To be belov'd? We account it ominous, If nature do produce a colt, or lamb, A fawn, or goat, in any limb resembling A man, and fly from 't as a prodigy: Man stands amaz'd to see his deformity In any other creature but himself. But in our own flesh though we bear diseases Which have their true names only ta'en from beasts,— As the most ulcerous wolf and swinish measle,— Though we are eaten up of lice and worms, And though continually we bear about us A rotten and dead body, we delight To hide it in rich tissue: all our fear, Nay, all our terror, is, lest our physician Should put us in the ground to be made sweet.— Your wife 's gone to Rome: you two couple, and get you to the wells at Lucca to recover your aches. I have other work on foot. [Exeunt CASTRUCCIO and Old Lady] I observe our duchess Is sick a-days, she pukes, her stomach seethes, The fins of her eye-lids look most teeming blue, She wanes i' the cheek, and waxes fat i' the flank, And, contrary to our Italian fashion, Wears a loose-bodied gown: there 's somewhat in 't. I have a trick may chance discover it, A pretty one; I have bought some apricocks, The first our spring yields.

[Enter ANTONIO and DELIO, talking together apart]

DELIO. And so long since married? You amaze me.

ANTONIO. Let me seal your lips for ever: For, did I think that anything but th' air Could carry these words from you, I should wish You had no breath at all.—Now, sir, in your contemplation? You are studying to become a great wise fellow.

BOSOLA. O, sir, the opinion of wisdom is a foul tetter that runs all over a man's body: if simplicity direct us to have no evil, it directs us to a happy being; for the subtlest folly proceeds from the subtlest wisdom: let me be simply honest.

ANTONIO. I do understand your inside.

BOSOLA. Do you so?

ANTONIO. Because you would not seem to appear to th' world Puff'd up with your preferment, you continue This out-of-fashion melancholy: leave it, leave it.

BOSOLA. Give me leave to be honest in any phrase, in any compliment whatsoever. Shall I confess myself to you? I look no higher than I can reach: they are the gods that must ride on winged horses. A lawyer's mule of a slow pace will both suit my disposition and business; for, mark me, when a man's mind rides faster than his horse can gallop, they quickly both tire.

ANTONIO. You would look up to heaven, but I think The devil, that rules i' th' air, stands in your light.

BOSOLA. O, sir, you are lord of the ascendant, chief man with the duchess: a duke was your cousin-german remov'd. Say you were lineally descended from King Pepin, or he himself, what of this? Search the heads of the greatest rivers in the world, you shall find them but bubbles of water. Some would think the souls of princes were brought forth by some more weighty cause than those of meaner persons: they are deceiv'd, there 's the same hand to them; the like passions sway them; the same reason that makes a vicar go to law for a tithe-pig, and undo his neighbours, makes them spoil a whole province, and batter down goodly cities with the cannon.

[Enter DUCHESS and Ladies]

DUCHESS. Your arm, Antonio: do I not grow fat? I am exceeding short-winded.—Bosola, I would have you, sir, provide for me a litter; Such a one as the Duchess of Florence rode in.

BOSOLA. The duchess us'd one when she was great with child.

DUCHESS. I think she did.—Come hither, mend my ruff: Here, when? thou art such a tedious lady; and Thy breath smells of lemon-pills: would thou hadst done! Shall I swoon under thy fingers? I am So troubled with the mother!

BOSOLA. [Aside.] I fear too much.

DUCHESS. I have heard you say that the French courtiers Wear their hats on 'fore that king.

ANTONIO. I have seen it.

DUCHESS. In the presence?


DUCHESS. Why should not we bring up that fashion? 'Tis ceremony more than duty that consists In the removing of a piece of felt. Be you the example to the rest o' th' court; Put on your hat first.

ANTONIO. You must pardon me: I have seen, in colder countries than in France, Nobles stand bare to th' prince; and the distinction Methought show'd reverently.

BOSOLA. I have a present for your grace.

DUCHESS. For me, sir?

BOSOLA. Apricocks, madam.

DUCHESS. O, sir, where are they? I have heard of none to-year

BOSOLA. [Aside.] Good; her colour rises.

DUCHESS. Indeed, I thank you: they are wondrous fair ones. What an unskilful fellow is our gardener! We shall have none this month.

BOSOLA. Will not your grace pare them?

DUCHESS. No: they taste of musk, methinks; indeed they do.

BOSOLA. I know not: yet I wish your grace had par'd 'em.


BOSOLA. I forgot to tell you, the knave gardener, Only to raise his profit by them the sooner, Did ripen them in horse-dung.

DUCHESS. O, you jest.— You shall judge: pray, taste one.

ANTONIO. Indeed, madam, I do not love the fruit.

DUCHESS. Sir, you are loth To rob us of our dainties. 'Tis a delicate fruit; They say they are restorative.

BOSOLA. 'Tis a pretty art, This grafting.

DUCHESS. 'Tis so; a bettering of nature.

BOSOLA. To make a pippin grow upon a crab, A damson on a black-thorn.—[Aside.] How greedily she eats them! A whirlwind strike off these bawd farthingales! For, but for that and the loose-bodied gown, I should have discover'd apparently The young springal cutting a caper in her belly.

DUCHESS. I thank you, Bosola: they were right good ones, If they do not make me sick.

ANTONIO. How now, madam!

DUCHESS. This green fruit and my stomach are not friends: How they swell me!

BOSOLA. [Aside.] Nay, you are too much swell'd already.

DUCHESS. O, I am in an extreme cold sweat!

BOSOLA. I am very sorry. [Exit.]

DUCHESS. Lights to my chamber!—O good Antonio, I fear I am undone!

DELIO. Lights there, lights! Exeunt DUCHESS [and Ladies.]

ANTONIO. O my most trusty Delio, we are lost! I fear she 's fall'n in labour; and there 's left No time for her remove.

DELIO. Have you prepar'd Those ladies to attend her; and procur'd That politic safe conveyance for the midwife Your duchess plotted?

ANTONIO. I have.

DELIO. Make use, then, of this forc'd occasion. Give out that Bosola hath poison'd her With these apricocks; that will give some colour For her keeping close.

ANTONIO. Fie, fie, the physicians Will then flock to her.

DELIO. For that you may pretend She'll use some prepar'd antidote of her own, Lest the physicians should re-poison her.

ANTONIO. I am lost in amazement: I know not what to think on 't. Exeunt.

Scene II

[Enter] BOSOLA and Old Lady

BOSOLA. So, so, there 's no question but her techiness and most vulturous eating of the apricocks are apparent signs of breeding, now?

OLD LADY. I am in haste, sir.

BOSOLA. There was a young waiting-woman had a monstrous desire to see the glass-house——

OLD LADY. Nay, pray, let me go. I will hear no more of the glass-house. You are still abusing women!

BOSOLA. Who, I? No; only, by the way now and then, mention your frailties. The orange-tree bears ripe and green fruit and blossoms all together; and some of you give entertainment for pure love, but more for more precious reward. The lusty spring smells well; but drooping autumn tastes well. If we have the same golden showers that rained in the time of Jupiter the thunderer, you have the same Danaes still, to hold up their laps to receive them. Didst thou never study the mathematics?

OLD LADY. What 's that, sir?

BOSOLA. Why, to know the trick how to make a many lines meet in one centre. Go, go, give your foster-daughters good counsel: tell them, that the devil takes delight to hang at a woman's girdle, like a false rusty watch, that she cannot discern how the time passes. [Exit Old Lady.]


ANTONIO. Shut up the court-gates.

RODERIGO. Why, sir? What 's the danger?

ANTONIO. Shut up the posterns presently, and call All the officers o' th' court.

GRISOLAN. I shall instantly. [Exit.]

ANTONIO. Who keeps the key o' th' park-gate?

RODERIGO. Forobosco.

ANTONIO. Let him bring 't presently.

[Re-enter GRISOLAN with Servants]

FIRST SERVANT. O, gentleman o' th' court, the foulest treason!

BOSOLA. [Aside.] If that these apricocks should be poison'd now, Without my knowledge?

FIRST SERVANT. There was taken even now a Switzer in the duchess' bed-chamber——


FIRST SERVANT. With a pistol——

SECOND SERVANT. There was a cunning traitor!

FIRST SERVANT. And all the moulds of his buttons were leaden bullets.

SECOND SERVANT. O wicked cannibal!

FIRST SERVANT. 'Twas a French plot, upon my life.

SECOND SERVANT. To see what the devil can do!

ANTONIO. [Are] all the officers here?


ANTONIO. Gentlemen, We have lost much plate, you know; and but this evening Jewels, to the value of four thousand ducats, Are missing in the duchess' cabinet. Are the gates shut?


ANTONIO. 'Tis the duchess' pleasure Each officer be lock'd into his chamber Till the sun-rising; and to send the keys Of all their chests and of their outward doors Into her bed-chamber. She is very sick.

RODERIGO. At her pleasure.

ANTONIO. She entreats you take 't not ill: the innocent Shall be the more approv'd by it.

BOSOLA. Gentlemen o' the wood-yard, where 's your Switzer now?

FIRST SERVANT. By this hand, 'twas credibly reported by one o' the black guard. [Exeunt all except ANTONIO and DELIO.]

DELIO. How fares it with the duchess?

ANTONIO. She 's expos'd Unto the worst of torture, pain, and fear.

DELIO. Speak to her all happy comfort.

ANTONIO. How I do play the fool with mine own danger! You are this night, dear friend, to post to Rome: My life lies in your service.

DELIO. Do not doubt me.

ANTONIO. O, 'tis far from me: and yet fear presents me Somewhat that looks like danger.

DELIO. Believe it, 'Tis but the shadow of your fear, no more: How superstitiously we mind our evils! The throwing down salt, or crossing of a hare, Bleeding at nose, the stumbling of a horse, Or singing of a cricket, are of power To daunt whole man in us. Sir, fare you well: I wish you all the joys of a bless'd father; And, for my faith, lay this unto your breast,— Old friends, like old swords, still are trusted best. [Exit.]


CARIOLA. Sir, you are the happy father of a son: Your wife commends him to you.

ANTONIO. Blessed comfort!— For heaven' sake, tend her well: I 'll presently Go set a figure for 's nativity. Exeunt.

Scene III

[Enter BOSOLA, with a dark lantern]

BOSOLA. Sure I did hear a woman shriek: list, ha! And the sound came, if I receiv'd it right, >From the duchess' lodgings. There 's some stratagem In the confining all our courtiers To their several wards: I must have part of it; My intelligence will freeze else. List, again! It may be 'twas the melancholy bird, Best friend of silence and of solitariness, The owl, that screamed so.—Ha! Antonio!

[Enter ANTONIO with a candle, his sword drawn]

ANTONIO. I heard some noise.—Who 's there? What art thou? Speak.

BOSOLA. Antonio, put not your face nor body To such a forc'd expression of fear; I am Bosola, your friend.

ANTONIO. Bosola!— [Aside.] This mole does undermine me.—Heard you not A noise even now?

BOSOLA. From whence?

ANTONIO. From the duchess' lodging.

BOSOLA. Not I: did you?

ANTONIO. I did, or else I dream'd.

BOSOLA. Let 's walk towards it.

ANTONIO. No: it may be 'twas But the rising of the wind.

BOSOLA. Very likely. Methinks 'tis very cold, and yet you sweat: You look wildly.

ANTONIO. I have been setting a figure For the duchess' jewels.

BOSOLA. Ah, and how falls your question? Do you find it radical?

ANTONIO. What 's that to you? 'Tis rather to be question'd what design, When all men were commanded to their lodgings, Makes you a night-walker.

BOSOLA. In sooth, I 'll tell you: Now all the court 's asleep, I thought the devil Had least to do here; I came to say my prayers; And if it do offend you I do so, You are a fine courtier.

ANTONIO. [Aside.] This fellow will undo me.— You gave the duchess apricocks to-day: Pray heaven they were not poison'd!

BOSOLA. Poison'd! a Spanish fig For the imputation!

ANTONIO. Traitors are ever confident Till they are discover'd. There were jewels stol'n too: In my conceit, none are to be suspected More than yourself.

BOSOLA. You are a false steward.

ANTONIO. Saucy slave, I 'll pull thee up by the roots.

BOSOLA. May be the ruin will crush you to pieces.

ANTONIO. You are an impudent snake indeed, sir: Are you scarce warm, and do you show your sting? You libel well, sir?

BOSOLA. No, sir: copy it out, And I will set my hand to 't.

ANTONIO. [Aside.] My nose bleeds. One that were superstitious would count This ominous, when it merely comes by chance. Two letters, that are wrought here for my name, Are drown'd in blood! Mere accident.—For you, sir, I 'll take order I' the morn you shall be safe.—[Aside.] 'Tis that must colour Her lying-in.—Sir, this door you pass not: I do not hold it fit that you come near The duchess' lodgings, till you have quit yourself.— [Aside.] The great are like the base, nay, they are the same, When they seek shameful ways to avoid shame. Exit.

BOSOLA. Antonio hereabout did drop a paper:— Some of your help, false friend.—O, here it is. What 's here? a child's nativity calculated! [Reads.] 'The duchess was deliver'd of a son, 'tween the hours twelve and one in the night, Anno Dom. 1504,'—that 's this year—'decimo nono Decembris,'—that 's this night— 'taken according to the meridian of Malfi,'—that 's our duchess: happy discovery!—'The lord of the first house being combust in the ascendant, signifies short life; and Mars being in a human sign, joined to the tail of the Dragon, in the eighth house, doth threaten a violent death. Caetera non scrutantur.'

Why, now 'tis most apparent; this precise fellow Is the duchess' bawd:—I have it to my wish! This is a parcel of intelligency Our courtiers were cas'd up for: it needs must follow That I must be committed on pretence Of poisoning her; which I 'll endure, and laugh at. If one could find the father now! but that Time will discover. Old Castruccio I' th' morning posts to Rome: by him I 'll send A letter that shall make her brothers' galls O'erflow their livers. This was a thrifty way! Though lust do mask in ne'er so strange disguise, She 's oft found witty, but is never wise. [Exit.]

Scene IV


CARDINAL. Sit: thou art my best of wishes. Prithee, tell me What trick didst thou invent to come to Rome Without thy husband?

JULIA. Why, my lord, I told him I came to visit an old anchorite Here for devotion.

CARDINAL. Thou art a witty false one,— I mean, to him.

JULIA. You have prevail'd with me Beyond my strongest thoughts; I would not now Find you inconstant.

CARDINAL. Do not put thyself To such a voluntary torture, which proceeds Out of your own guilt.

JULIA. How, my lord!

CARDINAL. You fear My constancy, because you have approv'd Those giddy and wild turnings in yourself.

JULIA. Did you e'er find them?

CARDINAL. Sooth, generally for women, A man might strive to make glass malleable, Ere he should make them fixed.

JULIA. So, my lord.

CARDINAL. We had need go borrow that fantastic glass Invented by Galileo the Florentine To view another spacious world i' th' moon, And look to find a constant woman there.

JULIA. This is very well, my lord.

CARDINAL. Why do you weep? Are tears your justification? The self-same tears Will fall into your husband's bosom, lady, With a loud protestation that you love him Above the world. Come, I 'll love you wisely, That 's jealously; since I am very certain You cannot make me cuckold.

JULIA. I 'll go home To my husband.

CARDINAL. You may thank me, lady, I have taken you off your melancholy perch, Bore you upon my fist, and show'd you game, And let you fly at it.—I pray thee, kiss me.— When thou wast with thy husband, thou wast watch'd Like a tame elephant:—still you are to thank me:— Thou hadst only kisses from him and high feeding; But what delight was that? 'Twas just like one That hath a little fing'ring on the lute, Yet cannot tune it:—still you are to thank me.

JULIA. You told me of a piteous wound i' th' heart, And a sick liver, when you woo'd me first, And spake like one in physic.

CARDINAL. Who 's that?—— [Enter Servant] Rest firm, for my affection to thee, Lightning moves slow to 't.

SERVANT. Madam, a gentleman, That 's come post from Malfi, desires to see you.

CARDINAL. Let him enter: I 'll withdraw. Exit.

SERVANT. He says Your husband, old Castruccio, is come to Rome, Most pitifully tir'd with riding post. [Exit.]

[Enter DELIO]

JULIA. [Aside.] Signior Delio! 'tis one of my old suitors.

DELIO. I was bold to come and see you.

JULIA. Sir, you are welcome.

DELIO. Do you lie here?

JULIA. Sure, your own experience Will satisfy you no: our Roman prelates Do not keep lodging for ladies.

DELIO. Very well: I have brought you no commendations from your husband, For I know none by him.

JULIA. I hear he 's come to Rome.

DELIO. I never knew man and beast, of a horse and a knight, So weary of each other. If he had had a good back, He would have undertook to have borne his horse, His breech was so pitifully sore.

JULIA. Your laughter Is my pity.

DELIO. Lady, I know not whether You want money, but I have brought you some.

JULIA. From my husband?

DELIO. No, from mine own allowance.

JULIA. I must hear the condition, ere I be bound to take it.

DELIO. Look on 't, 'tis gold; hath it not a fine colour?

JULIA. I have a bird more beautiful.

DELIO. Try the sound on 't.

JULIA. A lute-string far exceeds it. It hath no smell, like cassia or civet; Nor is it physical, though some fond doctors Persuade us seethe 't in cullises. I 'll tell you, This is a creature bred by——

[Re-enter Servant]

SERVANT. Your husband 's come, Hath deliver'd a letter to the Duke of Calabria That, to my thinking, hath put him out of his wits. [Exit.]

JULIA. Sir, you hear: Pray, let me know your business and your suit As briefly as can be.

DELIO. With good speed: I would wish you, At such time as you are non-resident With your husband, my mistress.

JULIA. Sir, I 'll go ask my husband if I shall, And straight return your answer. Exit.

DELIO. Very fine! Is this her wit, or honesty, that speaks thus? I heard one say the duke was highly mov'd With a letter sent from Malfi. I do fear Antonio is betray'd. How fearfully Shows his ambition now! Unfortunate fortune! They pass through whirl-pools, and deep woes do shun, Who the event weigh ere the action 's done. Exit.

Scene V

[Enter] CARDINAL and FERDINAND with a letter

FERDINAND. I have this night digg'd up a mandrake.

CARDINAL. Say you?

FERDINAND. And I am grown mad with 't.

CARDINAL. What 's the prodigy

FERDINAND. Read there,—a sister damn'd: she 's loose i' the hilts; Grown a notorious strumpet.

CARDINAL. Speak lower.

FERDINAND. Lower! Rogues do not whisper 't now, but seek to publish 't (As servants do the bounty of their lords) Aloud; and with a covetous searching eye, To mark who note them. O, confusion seize her! She hath had most cunning bawds to serve her turn, And more secure conveyances for lust Than towns of garrison for service.

CARDINAL. Is 't possible? Can this be certain?

FERDINAND. Rhubarb, O, for rhubarb To purge this choler! Here 's the cursed day To prompt my memory; and here 't shall stick Till of her bleeding heart I make a sponge To wipe it out.

CARDINAL. Why do you make yourself So wild a tempest?

FERDINAND. Would I could be one, That I might toss her palace 'bout her ears, Root up her goodly forests, blast her meads, And lay her general territory as waste As she hath done her honours.

CARDINAL. Shall our blood, The royal blood of Arragon and Castile, Be thus attainted?

FERDINAND. Apply desperate physic: We must not now use balsamum, but fire, The smarting cupping-glass, for that 's the mean To purge infected blood, such blood as hers. There is a kind of pity in mine eye,— I 'll give it to my handkercher; and now 'tis here, I 'll bequeath this to her bastard.

CARDINAL. What to do?

FERDINAND. Why, to make soft lint for his mother's wounds, When I have hew'd her to pieces.

CARDINAL. Curs'd creature! Unequal nature, to place women's hearts So far upon the left side!

FERDINAND. Foolish men, That e'er will trust their honour in a bark Made of so slight weak bulrush as is woman, Apt every minute to sink it!

CARDINAL. Thus ignorance, when it hath purchas'd honour, It cannot wield it.

FERDINAND. Methinks I see her laughing,— Excellent hyena! Talk to me somewhat quickly, Or my imagination will carry me To see her in the shameful act of sin.

CARDINAL. With whom?

FERDINAND. Happily with some strong-thigh'd bargeman, Or one o' th' wood-yard that can quoit the sledge Or toss the bar, or else some lovely squire That carries coals up to her privy lodgings.

CARDINAL. You fly beyond your reason.

FERDINAND. Go to, mistress! 'Tis not your whore's milk that shall quench my wild-fire, But your whore's blood.

CARDINAL. How idly shows this rage, which carries you, As men convey'd by witches through the air, On violent whirlwinds! This intemperate noise Fitly resembles deaf men's shrill discourse, Who talk aloud, thinking all other men To have their imperfection.

FERDINAND. Have not you My palsy?

CARDINAL. Yes, [but] I can be angry Without this rupture. There is not in nature A thing that makes man so deform'd, so beastly, As doth intemperate anger. Chide yourself. You have divers men who never yet express'd Their strong desire of rest but by unrest, By vexing of themselves. Come, put yourself In tune.

FERDINAND. So I will only study to seem The thing I am not. I could kill her now, In you, or in myself; for I do think It is some sin in us heaven doth revenge By her.

CARDINAL. Are you stark mad?

FERDINAND. I would have their bodies Burnt in a coal-pit with the ventage stopp'd, That their curs'd smoke might not ascend to heaven; Or dip the sheets they lie in in pitch or sulphur, Wrap them in 't, and then light them like a match; Or else to-boil their bastard to a cullis, And give 't his lecherous father to renew The sin of his back.

CARDINAL. I 'll leave you.

FERDINAND. Nay, I have done. I am confident, had I been damn'd in hell, And should have heard of this, it would have put me Into a cold sweat. In, in; I 'll go sleep. Till I know who [loves] my sister, I 'll not stir: That known, I 'll find scorpions to string my whips, And fix her in a general eclipse. Exeunt.


Scene I


ANTONIO. Our noble friend, my most beloved Delio! O, you have been a stranger long at court: Came you along with the Lord Ferdinand?

DELIO. I did, sir: and how fares your noble duchess?

ANTONIO. Right fortunately well: she 's an excellent Feeder of pedigrees; since you last saw her, She hath had two children more, a son and daughter.

DELIO. Methinks 'twas yesterday. Let me but wink, And not behold your face, which to mine eye Is somewhat leaner, verily I should dream It were within this half hour.

ANTONIO. You have not been in law, friend Delio, Nor in prison, nor a suitor at the court, Nor begg'd the reversion of some great man's place, Nor troubled with an old wife, which doth make Your time so insensibly hasten.

DELIO. Pray, sir, tell me, Hath not this news arriv'd yet to the ear Of the lord cardinal?

ANTONIO. I fear it hath: The Lord Ferdinand, that 's newly come to court, Doth bear himself right dangerously.

DELIO. Pray, why?

ANTONIO. He is so quiet that he seems to sleep The tempest out, as dormice do in winter. Those houses that are haunted are most still Till the devil be up.

DELIO. What say the common people?

ANTONIO. The common rabble do directly say She is a strumpet.

DELIO. And your graver heads Which would be politic, what censure they?

ANTONIO. They do observe I grow to infinite purchase, The left hand way; and all suppose the duchess Would amend it, if she could; for, say they, Great princes, though they grudge their officers Should have such large and unconfined means To get wealth under them, will not complain, Lest thereby they should make them odious Unto the people. For other obligation Of love or marriage between her and me They never dream of.

DELIO. The Lord Ferdinand Is going to bed.

[Enter DUCHESS, FERDINAND, and Attendants]

FERDINAND. I 'll instantly to bed, For I am weary.—I am to bespeak A husband for you.

DUCHESS. For me, sir! Pray, who is 't?

FERDINAND. The great Count Malatesti.

DUCHESS. Fie upon him! A count! He 's a mere stick of sugar-candy; You may look quite through him. When I choose A husband, I will marry for your honour.

FERDINAND. You shall do well in 't.—How is 't, worthy Antonio?

DUCHESS. But, sir, I am to have private conference with you About a scandalous report is spread Touching mine honour.

FERDINAND. Let me be ever deaf to 't: One of Pasquil's paper-bullets, court-calumny, A pestilent air, which princes' palaces Are seldom purg'd of. Yet, say that it were true, I pour it in your bosom, my fix'd love Would strongly excuse, extenuate, nay, deny Faults, were they apparent in you. Go, be safe In your own innocency.

DUCHESS. [Aside.] O bless'd comfort! This deadly air is purg'd. Exeunt [DUCHESS, ANTONIO, DELIO, and Attendants.]

FERDINAND. Her guilt treads on Hot-burning coulters. Enter BOSOLA Now, Bosola, How thrives our intelligence?

BOSOLA. Sir, uncertainly: 'Tis rumour'd she hath had three bastards, but By whom we may go read i' the stars.

FERDINAND. Why, some Hold opinion all things are written there.

BOSOLA. Yes, if we could find spectacles to read them. I do suspect there hath been some sorcery Us'd on the duchess.

FERDINAND. Sorcery! to what purpose?

BOSOLA. To make her dote on some desertless fellow She shames to acknowledge.

FERDINAND. Can your faith give way To think there 's power in potions or in charms, To make us love whether we will or no?

BOSOLA. Most certainly.

FERDINAND. Away! these are mere gulleries, horrid things, Invented by some cheating mountebanks To abuse us. Do you think that herbs or charms Can force the will? Some trials have been made In this foolish practice, but the ingredients Were lenitive poisons, such as are of force To make the patient mad; and straight the witch Swears by equivocation they are in love. The witch-craft lies in her rank blood. This night I will force confession from her. You told me You had got, within these two days, a false key Into her bed-chamber.

BOSOLA. I have.

FERDINAND. As I would wish.

BOSOLA. What do you intend to do?

FERDINAND. Can you guess?


FERDINAND. Do not ask, then: He that can compass me, and know my drifts, May say he hath put a girdle 'bout the world, And sounded all her quick-sands.

BOSOLA. I do not Think so.

FERDINAND. What do you think, then, pray?

BOSOLA. That you Are your own chronicle too much, and grossly Flatter yourself.

FERDINAND. Give me thy hand; I thank thee: I never gave pension but to flatterers, Till I entertained thee. Farewell. That friend a great man's ruin strongly checks, Who rails into his belief all his defects. Exeunt.

Scene II


DUCHESS. Bring me the casket hither, and the glass.— You get no lodging here to-night, my lord.

ANTONIO. Indeed, I must persuade one.

DUCHESS. Very good: I hope in time 'twill grow into a custom, That noblemen shall come with cap and knee To purchase a night's lodging of their wives.

ANTONIO. I must lie here.

DUCHESS. Must! You are a lord of mis-rule.

ANTONIO. Indeed, my rule is only in the night.

DUCHESS. I 'll stop your mouth. [Kisses him.]

ANTONIO. Nay, that 's but one; Venus had two soft doves To draw her chariot; I must have another.— [She kisses him again.] When wilt thou marry, Cariola?

CARIOLA. Never, my lord.

ANTONIO. O, fie upon this single life! forgo it. We read how Daphne, for her peevish [flight,] Became a fruitless bay-tree; Syrinx turn'd To the pale empty reed; Anaxarete Was frozen into marble: whereas those Which married, or prov'd kind unto their friends, Were by a gracious influence transhap'd Into the olive, pomegranate, mulberry, Became flowers, precious stones, or eminent stars.

CARIOLA. This is a vain poetry: but I pray you, tell me, If there were propos'd me, wisdom, riches, and beauty, In three several young men, which should I choose?

ANTONIO. 'Tis a hard question. This was Paris' case, And he was blind in 't, and there was a great cause; For how was 't possible he could judge right, Having three amorous goddesses in view, And they stark naked? 'Twas a motion Were able to benight the apprehension Of the severest counsellor of Europe. Now I look on both your faces so well form'd, It puts me in mind of a question I would ask.

CARIOLA. What is 't?

ANTONIO. I do wonder why hard-favour'd ladies, For the most part, keep worse-favour'd waiting-women To attend them, and cannot endure fair ones.

DUCHESS. O, that 's soon answer'd. Did you ever in your life know an ill painter Desire to have his dwelling next door to the shop Of an excellent picture-maker? 'Twould disgrace His face-making, and undo him. I prithee, When were we so merry?—My hair tangles.

ANTONIO. Pray thee, Cariola, let 's steal forth the room, And let her talk to herself: I have divers times Serv'd her the like, when she hath chaf'd extremely. I love to see her angry. Softly, Cariola. Exeunt [ANTONIO and CARIOLA.]

DUCHESS. Doth not the colour of my hair 'gin to change? When I wax gray, I shall have all the court Powder their hair with arras, to be like me. You have cause to love me; I ent'red you into my heart [Enter FERDINAND unseen] Before you would vouchsafe to call for the keys. We shall one day have my brothers take you napping. Methinks his presence, being now in court, Should make you keep your own bed; but you 'll say Love mix'd with fear is sweetest. I 'll assure you, You shall get no more children till my brothers Consent to be your gossips. Have you lost your tongue? 'Tis welcome: For know, whether I am doom'd to live or die, I can do both like a prince.

FERDINAND. Die, then, quickly! Giving her a poniard. Virtue, where art thou hid? What hideous thing Is it that doth eclipse thee?

DUCHESS. Pray, sir, hear me.

FERDINAND. Or is it true thou art but a bare name, And no essential thing?


FERDINAND. Do not speak.

DUCHESS. No, sir: I will plant my soul in mine ears, to hear you.

FERDINAND. O most imperfect light of human reason, That mak'st [us] so unhappy to foresee What we can least prevent! Pursue thy wishes, And glory in them: there 's in shame no comfort But to be past all bounds and sense of shame.

DUCHESS. I pray, sir, hear me: I am married.


DUCHESS. Happily, not to your liking: but for that, Alas, your shears do come untimely now To clip the bird's wings that 's already flown! Will you see my husband?

FERDINAND. Yes, if I could change Eyes with a basilisk.

DUCHESS. Sure, you came hither By his confederacy.

FERDINAND. The howling of a wolf Is music to thee, screech-owl: prithee, peace.— Whate'er thou art that hast enjoy'd my sister, For I am sure thou hear'st me, for thine own sake Let me not know thee. I came hither prepar'd To work thy discovery; yet am now persuaded It would beget such violent effects As would damn us both. I would not for ten millions I had beheld thee: therefore use all means I never may have knowledge of thy name; Enjoy thy lust still, and a wretched life, On that condition.—And for thee, vile woman, If thou do wish thy lecher may grow old In thy embracements, I would have thee build Such a room for him as our anchorites To holier use inhabit. Let not the sun Shine on him till he 's dead; let dogs and monkeys Only converse with him, and such dumb things To whom nature denies use to sound his name; Do not keep a paraquito, lest she learn it; If thou do love him, cut out thine own tongue, Lest it bewray him.

DUCHESS. Why might not I marry? I have not gone about in this to create Any new world or custom.

FERDINAND. Thou art undone; And thou hast ta'en that massy sheet of lead That hid thy husband's bones, and folded it About my heart.

DUCHESS. Mine bleeds for 't.

FERDINAND. Thine! thy heart! What should I name 't unless a hollow bullet Fill'd with unquenchable wild-fire?

DUCHESS. You are in this Too strict; and were you not my princely brother, I would say, too wilful: my reputation Is safe.

FERDINAND. Dost thou know what reputation is? I 'll tell thee,—to small purpose, since the instruction Comes now too late. Upon a time Reputation, Love, and Death, Would travel o'er the world; and it was concluded That they should part, and take three several ways. Death told them, they should find him in great battles, Or cities plagu'd with plagues: Love gives them counsel To inquire for him 'mongst unambitious shepherds, Where dowries were not talk'd of, and sometimes 'Mongst quiet kindred that had nothing left By their dead parents: 'Stay,' quoth Reputation, 'Do not forsake me; for it is my nature, If once I part from any man I meet, I am never found again.' And so for you: You have shook hands with Reputation, And made him invisible. So, fare you well: I will never see you more.

DUCHESS. Why should only I, Of all the other princes of the world, Be cas'd up, like a holy relic? I have youth And a little beauty.

FERDINAND. So you have some virgins That are witches. I will never see thee more. Exit.

Re-enter ANTONIO with a pistol, [and CARIOLA]

DUCHESS. You saw this apparition?

ANTONIO. Yes: we are Betray'd. How came he hither? I should turn This to thee, for that.

CARIOLA. Pray, sir, do; and when That you have cleft my heart, you shall read there Mine innocence.

DUCHESS. That gallery gave him entrance.

ANTONIO. I would this terrible thing would come again, That, standing on my guard, I might relate My warrantable love.— (She shows the poniard.) Ha! what means this?

DUCHESS. He left this with me.

ANTONIO. And it seems did wish You would use it on yourself.

DUCHESS. His action seem'd To intend so much.

ANTONIO. This hath a handle to 't, As well as a point: turn it towards him, and So fasten the keen edge in his rank gall. [Knocking within.] How now! who knocks? More earthquakes?

DUCHESS. I stand As if a mine beneath my feet were ready To be blown up.

CARIOLA. 'Tis Bosola.

DUCHESS. Away! O misery! methinks unjust actions Should wear these masks and curtains, and not we. You must instantly part hence: I have fashion'd it already. Exit ANTONIO.


BOSOLA. The duke your brother is ta'en up in a whirlwind; Hath took horse, and 's rid post to Rome.

DUCHESS. So late?

BOSOLA. He told me, as he mounted into the saddle, You were undone.

DUCHESS. Indeed, I am very near it.

BOSOLA. What 's the matter?

DUCHESS. Antonio, the master of our household, Hath dealt so falsely with me in 's accounts. My brother stood engag'd with me for money Ta'en up of certain Neapolitan Jews, And Antonio lets the bonds be forfeit.

BOSOLA. Strange!—[Aside.] This is cunning.

DUCHESS. And hereupon My brother's bills at Naples are protested Against.—Call up our officers.

BOSOLA. I shall. Exit.

[Re-enter ANTONIO]

DUCHESS. The place that you must fly to is Ancona: Hire a house there; I 'll send after you My treasure and my jewels. Our weak safety Runs upon enginous wheels: short syllables Must stand for periods. I must now accuse you Of such a feigned crime as Tasso calls Magnanima menzogna, a noble lie, 'Cause it must shield our honours.—Hark! they are coming.

[Re-enter BOSOLA and Officers]

ANTONIO. Will your grace hear me?

DUCHESS. I have got well by you; you have yielded me A million of loss: I am like to inherit The people's curses for your stewardship. You had the trick in audit-time to be sick, Till I had sign'd your quietus; and that cur'd you Without help of a doctor.—Gentlemen, I would have this man be an example to you all; So shall you hold my favour; I pray, let him; For h'as done that, alas, you would not think of, And, because I intend to be rid of him, I mean not to publish.—Use your fortune elsewhere.

ANTONIO. I am strongly arm'd to brook my overthrow, As commonly men bear with a hard year. I will not blame the cause on 't; but do think The necessity of my malevolent star Procures this, not her humour. O, the inconstant And rotten ground of service! You may see, 'Tis even like him, that in a winter night, Takes a long slumber o'er a dying fire, A-loth to part from 't; yet parts thence as cold As when he first sat down.

DUCHESS. We do confiscate, Towards the satisfying of your accounts, All that you have.

ANTONIO. I am all yours; and 'tis very fit All mine should be so.

DUCHESS. So, sir, you have your pass.

ANTONIO. You may see, gentlemen, what 'tis to serve A prince with body and soul. Exit.

BOSOLA. Here 's an example for extortion: what moisture is drawn out of the sea, when foul weather comes, pours down, and runs into the sea again.

DUCHESS. I would know what are your opinions Of this Antonio.

SECOND OFFICER. He could not abide to see a pig's head gaping: I thought your grace would find him a Jew.

THIRD OFFICER. I would you had been his officer, for your own sake.

FOURTH OFFICER. You would have had more money.

FIRST OFFICER. He stopped his ears with black wool, and to those came to him for money said he was thick of hearing.

SECOND OFFICER. Some said he was an hermaphrodite, for he could not abide a woman.

FOURTH OFFICER. How scurvy proud he would look when the treasury was full! Well, let him go.

FIRST OFFICER. Yes, and the chippings of the buttery fly after him, to scour his gold chain.

DUCHESS. Leave us. Exeunt [Officers.] What do you think of these?

BOSOLA. That these are rogues that in 's prosperity, But to have waited on his fortune, could have wish'd His dirty stirrup riveted through their noses, And follow'd after 's mule, like a bear in a ring; Would have prostituted their daughters to his lust; Made their first-born intelligencers; thought none happy But such as were born under his blest planet, And wore his livery: and do these lice drop off now? Well, never look to have the like again: He hath left a sort of flattering rogues behind him; Their doom must follow. Princes pay flatterers In their own money: flatterers dissemble their vices, And they dissemble their lies; that 's justice. Alas, poor gentleman!

DUCHESS. Poor! he hath amply fill'd his coffers.

BOSOLA. Sure, he was too honest. Pluto, the god of riches, When he 's sent by Jupiter to any man, He goes limping, to signify that wealth That comes on God's name comes slowly; but when he's sent On the devil's errand, he rides post and comes in by scuttles. Let me show you what a most unvalu'd jewel You have in a wanton humour thrown away, To bless the man shall find him. He was an excellent Courtier and most faithful; a soldier that thought it As beastly to know his own value too little As devilish to acknowledge it too much. Both his virtue and form deserv'd a far better fortune: His discourse rather delighted to judge itself than show itself: His breast was fill'd with all perfection, And yet it seemed a private whisp'ring-room, It made so little noise of 't.

DUCHESS. But he was basely descended.

BOSOLA. Will you make yourself a mercenary herald, Rather to examine men's pedigrees than virtues? You shall want him: For know an honest statesman to a prince Is like a cedar planted by a spring; The spring bathes the tree's root, the grateful tree Rewards it with his shadow: you have not done so. I would sooner swim to the Bermoothes on Two politicians' rotten bladders, tied Together with an intelligencer's heart-string, Than depend on so changeable a prince's favour. Fare thee well, Antonio! Since the malice of the world Would needs down with thee, it cannot be said yet That any ill happen'd unto thee, considering thy fall Was accompanied with virtue.

DUCHESS. O, you render me excellent music!

BOSOLA. Say you?

DUCHESS. This good one that you speak of is my husband.

BOSOLA. Do I not dream? Can this ambitious age Have so much goodness in 't as to prefer A man merely for worth, without these shadows Of wealth and painted honours? Possible?

DUCHESS. I have had three children by him.

BOSOLA. Fortunate lady! For you have made your private nuptial bed The humble and fair seminary of peace, No question but: many an unbenefic'd scholar Shall pray for you for this deed, and rejoice That some preferment in the world can yet Arise from merit. The virgins of your land That have no dowries shall hope your example Will raise them to rich husbands. Should you want Soldiers, 'twould make the very Turks and Moors Turn Christians, and serve you for this act. Last, the neglected poets of your time, In honour of this trophy of a man, Rais'd by that curious engine, your white hand, Shall thank you, in your grave, for 't; and make that More reverend than all the cabinets Of living princes. For Antonio, His fame shall likewise flow from many a pen, When heralds shall want coats to sell to men.

DUCHESS. As I taste comfort in this friendly speech, So would I find concealment.

BOSOLA. O, the secret of my prince, Which I will wear on th' inside of my heart!

DUCHESS. You shall take charge of all my coin and jewels, And follow him; for he retires himself To Ancona.


DUCHESS. Whither, within few days, I mean to follow thee.

BOSOLA. Let me think: I would wish your grace to feign a pilgrimage To our Lady of Loretto, scarce seven leagues >From fair Ancona; so may you depart Your country with more honour, and your flight Will seem a princely progress, retaining Your usual train about you.

DUCHESS. Sir, your direction Shall lead me by the hand.

CARIOLA. In my opinion, She were better progress to the baths at Lucca, Or go visit the Spa In Germany; for, if you will believe me, I do not like this jesting with religion, This feigned pilgrimage.

DUCHESS. Thou art a superstitious fool: Prepare us instantly for our departure. Past sorrows, let us moderately lament them, For those to come, seek wisely to prevent them. [Exeunt DUCHESS and CARIOLA.]

BOSOLA. A politician is the devil's quilted anvil; He fashions all sins on him, and the blows Are never heard: he may work in a lady's chamber, As here for proof. What rests but I reveal All to my lord? O, this base quality Of intelligencer! Why, every quality i' the world Prefers but gain or commendation: Now, for this act I am certain to be rais'd, And men that paint weeds to the life are prais'd. [Exit.]

Scene III


CARDINAL. Must we turn soldier, then?

MALATESTI. The emperor, Hearing your worth that way, ere you attain'd This reverend garment, joins you in commission With the right fortunate soldier the Marquis of Pescara, And the famous Lannoy.

CARDINAL. He that had the honour Of taking the French king prisoner?

MALATESTI. The same. Here 's a plot drawn for a new fortification At Naples.

FERDINAND. This great Count Malatesti, I perceive, Hath got employment?

DELIO. No employment, my lord; A marginal note in the muster-book, that he is A voluntary lord.

FERDINAND. He 's no soldier.

DELIO. He has worn gun-powder in 's hollow tooth for the tooth-ache.

SILVIO. He comes to the leaguer with a full intent To eat fresh beef and garlic, means to stay Till the scent be gone, and straight return to court.

DELIO. He hath read all the late service As the City-Chronicle relates it; And keeps two pewterers going, only to express Battles in model.

SILVIO. Then he 'll fight by the book.

DELIO. By the almanac, I think, To choose good days and shun the critical; That 's his mistress' scarf.

SILVIO. Yes, he protests He would do much for that taffeta.

DELIO. I think he would run away from a battle, To save it from taking prisoner.

SILVIO. He is horribly afraid Gun-powder will spoil the perfume on 't.

DELIO. I saw a Dutchman break his pate once For calling him pot-gun; he made his head Have a bore in 't like a musket.

SILVIO. I would he had made a touch-hole to 't. He is indeed a guarded sumpter-cloth, Only for the remove of the court.

[Enter BOSOLA]

PESCARA. Bosola arriv'd! What should be the business? Some falling-out amongst the cardinals. These factions amongst great men, they are like Foxes, when their heads are divided, They carry fire in their tails, and all the country About them goes to wrack for 't.

SILVIO. What 's that Bosola?

DELIO. I knew him in Padua,—a fantastical scholar, like such who study to know how many knots was in Hercules' club, of what colour Achilles' beard was, or whether Hector were not troubled with the tooth-ache. He hath studied himself half blear-eyed to know the true symmetry of Caesar's nose by a shoeing-horn; and this he did to gain the name of a speculative man.

PESCARA. Mark Prince Ferdinand: A very salamander lives in 's eye, To mock the eager violence of fire.

SILVIO. That cardinal hath made more bad faces with his oppression than ever Michael Angelo made good ones. He lifts up 's nose, like a foul porpoise before a storm.

PESCARA. The Lord Ferdinand laughs.

DELIO. Like a deadly cannon That lightens ere it smokes.

PESCARA. These are your true pangs of death, The pangs of life, that struggle with great statesmen.

DELIO. In such a deformed silence witches whisper their charms.

CARDINAL. Doth she make religion her riding-hood To keep her from the sun and tempest?

FERDINAND. That, that damns her. Methinks her fault and beauty, Blended together, show like leprosy, The whiter, the fouler. I make it a question Whether her beggarly brats were ever christ'ned.

CARDINAL. I will instantly solicit the state of Ancona To have them banish'd.

FERDINAND. You are for Loretto: I shall not be at your ceremony; fare you well.— Write to the Duke of Malfi, my young nephew She had by her first husband, and acquaint him With 's mother's honesty.

BOSOLA. I will.

FERDINAND. Antonio! A slave that only smell'd of ink and counters, And never in 's life look'd like a gentleman, But in the audit-time.—Go, go presently, Draw me out an hundred and fifty of our horse, And meet me at the foot-bridge. Exeunt.

Scene IV

[Enter] Two Pilgrims to the Shrine of our Lady of Loretto

FIRST PILGRIM. I have not seen a goodlier shrine than this; Yet I have visited many.

SECOND PILGRIM. The Cardinal of Arragon Is this day to resign his cardinal's hat: His sister duchess likewise is arriv'd To pay her vow of pilgrimage. I expect A noble ceremony.

FIRST PILGRIM. No question.—They come.

[Here the ceremony of the Cardinal's instalment, in the habit of a soldier, perform'd in delivering up his cross, hat, robes, and ring, at the shrine, and investing him with sword, helmet, shield, and spurs; then ANTONIO, the DUCHESS and their children, having presented themselves at the shrine, are, by a form of banishment in dumb-show expressed towards them by the CARDINAL and the state of Ancona, banished: during all which ceremony, this ditty is sung, to very solemn music, by divers churchmen: and then exeunt [all except the] Two Pilgrims.

Arms and honours deck thy story, To thy fame's eternal glory! Adverse fortune ever fly thee; No disastrous fate come nigh thee!

I alone will sing thy praises, Whom to honour virtue raises, And thy study, that divine is, Bent to martial discipline is, Lay aside all those robes lie by thee; Crown thy arts with arms, they 'll beautify thee.

O worthy of worthiest name, adorn'd in this manner, Lead bravely thy forces on under war's warlike banner! O, mayst thou prove fortunate in all martial courses! Guide thou still by skill in arts and forces! Victory attend thee nigh, whilst fame sings loud thy powers; Triumphant conquest crown thy head, and blessings pour down showers!

FIRST PILGRIM. Here 's a strange turn of state! who would have thought So great a lady would have match'd herself Unto so mean a person? Yet the cardinal Bears himself much too cruel.

SECOND PILGRIM. They are banish'd.

FIRST PILGRIM. But I would ask what power hath this state Of Ancona to determine of a free prince?

SECOND PILGRIM. They are a free state, sir, and her brother show'd How that the Pope, fore-hearing of her looseness, Hath seiz'd into th' protection of the church The dukedom which she held as dowager.

FIRST PILGRIM. But by what justice?

SECOND PILGRIM. Sure, I think by none, Only her brother's instigation.

FIRST PILGRIM. What was it with such violence he took Off from her finger?

SECOND PILGRIM. 'Twas her wedding-ring; Which he vow'd shortly he would sacrifice To his revenge.

FIRST PILGRIM. Alas, Antonio! If that a man be thrust into a well, No matter who sets hand to 't, his own weight Will bring him sooner to th' bottom. Come, let 's hence. Fortune makes this conclusion general, All things do help th' unhappy man to fall. Exeunt.

Scene V

[Enter] DUCHESS, ANTONIO, Children, CARIOLA, and Servants

DUCHESS. Banish'd Ancona!

ANTONIO. Yes, you see what power Lightens in great men's breath.

DUCHESS. Is all our train Shrunk to this poor remainder?

ANTONIO. These poor men Which have got little in your service, vow To take your fortune: but your wiser buntings, Now they are fledg'd, are gone.

DUCHESS. They have done wisely. This puts me in mind of death: physicians thus, With their hands full of money, use to give o'er Their patients.

ANTONIO. Right the fashion of the world: >From decay'd fortunes every flatterer shrinks; Men cease to build where the foundation sinks.

DUCHESS. I had a very strange dream to-night.

ANTONIO. What was 't?

DUCHESS. Methought I wore my coronet of state, And on a sudden all the diamonds Were chang'd to pearls.

ANTONIO. My interpretation Is, you 'll weep shortly; for to me the pearls Do signify your tears.

DUCHESS. The birds that live i' th' field On the wild benefit of nature live Happier than we; for they may choose their mates, And carol their sweet pleasures to the spring.

[Enter BOSOLA with a letter]

BOSOLA. You are happily o'erta'en.

DUCHESS. From my brother?

BOSOLA. Yes, from the Lord Ferdinand your brother All love and safety.

DUCHESS. Thou dost blanch mischief, Would'st make it white. See, see, like to calm weather At sea before a tempest, false hearts speak fair To those they intend most mischief. [Reads.] 'Send Antonio to me; I want his head in a business.' A politic equivocation! He doth not want your counsel, but your head; That is, he cannot sleep till you be dead. And here 's another pitfall that 's strew'd o'er With roses; mark it, 'tis a cunning one: [Reads.] 'I stand engaged for your husband for several debts at Naples: let not that trouble him; I had rather have his heart than his money':— And I believe so too.

BOSOLA. What do you believe?

DUCHESS. That he so much distrusts my husband's love, He will by no means believe his heart is with him Until he see it: the devil is not cunning enough To circumvent us In riddles.

BOSOLA. Will you reject that noble and free league Of amity and love which I present you?

DUCHESS. Their league is like that of some politic kings, Only to make themselves of strength and power To be our after-ruin; tell them so.

BOSOLA. And what from you?

ANTONIO. Thus tell him; I will not come.

BOSOLA. And what of this?

ANTONIO. My brothers have dispers'd Bloodhounds abroad; which till I hear are muzzl'd, No truce, though hatch'd with ne'er such politic skill, Is safe, that hangs upon our enemies' will. I 'll not come at them.

BOSOLA. This proclaims your breeding. Every small thing draws a base mind to fear, As the adamant draws iron. Fare you well, sir; You shall shortly hear from 's. Exit.

DUCHESS. I suspect some ambush; Therefore by all my love I do conjure you To take your eldest son, and fly towards Milan. Let us not venture all this poor remainder In one unlucky bottom.

ANTONIO. You counsel safely. Best of my life, farewell. Since we must part, Heaven hath a hand in 't; but no otherwise Than as some curious artist takes in sunder A clock or watch, when it is out of frame, To bring 't in better order.

DUCHESS. I know not which is best, To see you dead, or part with you.—Farewell, boy: Thou art happy that thou hast not understanding To know thy misery; for all our wit And reading brings us to a truer sense Of sorrow.—In the eternal church, sir, I do hope we shall not part thus.

ANTONIO. O, be of comfort! Make patience a noble fortitude, And think not how unkindly we are us'd: Man, like to cassia, is prov'd best, being bruis'd.

DUCHESS. Must I, like to slave-born Russian, Account it praise to suffer tyranny? And yet, O heaven, thy heavy hand is in 't! I have seen my little boy oft scourge his top, And compar'd myself to 't: naught made me e'er Go right but heaven's scourge-stick.

ANTONIO. Do not weep: Heaven fashion'd us of nothing; and we strive To bring ourselves to nothing.—Farewell, Cariola, And thy sweet armful.—If I do never see thee more, Be a good mother to your little ones, And save them from the tiger: fare you well.

DUCHESS. Let me look upon you once more, for that speech Came from a dying father. Your kiss is colder Than that I have seen an holy anchorite Give to a dead man's skull.

ANTONIO. My heart is turn'd to a heavy lump of lead, With which I sound my danger: fare you well. Exeunt [ANTONIO and his son.]

DUCHESS. My laurel is all withered.

CARIOLA. Look, madam, what a troop of armed men Make toward us!

Re-enter BOSOLA [visarded,] with a Guard

DUCHESS. O, they are very welcome: When Fortune's wheel is over-charg'd with princes, The weight makes it move swift: I would have my ruin Be sudden.—I am your adventure, am I not?

BOSOLA. You are: you must see your husband no more.

DUCHESS. What devil art thou that counterfeit'st heaven's thunder?

BOSOLA. Is that terrible? I would have you tell me whether Is that note worse that frights the silly birds Out of the corn, or that which doth allure them To the nets? You have heark'ned to the last too much.

DUCHESS. O misery! like to a rusty o'ercharg'd cannon, Shall I never fly in pieces?—Come, to what prison?

BOSOLA. To none.

DUCHESS. Whither, then?

BOSOLA. To your palace.

DUCHESS. I have heard That Charon's boat serves to convey all o'er The dismal lake, but brings none back again.

BOSOLA. Your brothers mean you safety and pity.

DUCHESS. Pity! With such a pity men preserve alive Pheasants and quails, when they are not fat enough To be eaten.

BOSOLA. These are your children?


BOSOLA. Can they prattle?

DUCHESS. No: But I intend, since they were born accurs'd, Curses shall be their first language.

BOSOLA. Fie, madam! Forget this base, low fellow——

DUCHESS. Were I a man, I 'd beat that counterfeit face into thy other.

BOSOLA. One of no birth.

DUCHESS. Say that he was born mean, Man is most happy when 's own actions Be arguments and examples of his virtue.

BOSOLA. A barren, beggarly virtue.

DUCHESS. I prithee, who is greatest? Can you tell? Sad tales befit my woe: I 'll tell you one. A salmon, as she swam unto the sea. Met with a dog-fish, who encounters her With this rough language; 'Why art thou so bold To mix thyself with our high state of floods, Being no eminent courtier, but one That for the calmest and fresh time o' th' year Dost live in shallow rivers, rank'st thyself With silly smelts and shrimps? And darest thou Pass by our dog-ship without reverence?' 'O,' quoth the salmon, 'sister, be at peace: Thank Jupiter we both have pass'd the net! Our value never can be truly known, Till in the fisher's basket we be shown: I' th' market then my price may be the higher, Even when I am nearest to the cook and fire.' So to great men the moral may be stretched; Men oft are valu'd high, when they're most wretched.— But come, whither you please. I am arm'd 'gainst misery; Bent to all sways of the oppressor's will: There 's no deep valley but near some great hill. Exeunt.

Act IV

Scene I


FERDINAND. How doth our sister duchess bear herself In her imprisonment?

BOSOLA. Nobly: I 'll describe her. She 's sad as one long us'd to 't, and she seems Rather to welcome the end of misery Than shun it; a behaviour so noble As gives a majesty to adversity: You may discern the shape of loveliness More perfect in her tears than in her smiles: She will muse for hours together; and her silence, Methinks, expresseth more than if she spake.

FERDINAND. Her melancholy seems to be fortified With a strange disdain.

BOSOLA. 'Tis so; and this restraint, Like English mastives that grow fierce with tying, Makes her too passionately apprehend Those pleasures she is kept from.

FERDINAND. Curse upon her! I will no longer study in the book Of another's heart. Inform her what I told you. Exit.

[Enter DUCHESS and Attendants]

BOSOLA. All comfort to your grace!

DUCHESS. I will have none. Pray thee, why dost thou wrap thy poison'd pills In gold and sugar?

BOSOLA. Your elder brother, the Lord Ferdinand, Is come to visit you, and sends you word, 'Cause once he rashly made a solemn vow Never to see you more, he comes i' th' night; And prays you gently neither torch nor taper Shine in your chamber. He will kiss your hand, And reconcile himself; but for his vow He dares not see you.

DUCHESS. At his pleasure.— Take hence the lights.—He 's come. [Exeunt Attendants with lights.]


FERDINAND. Where are you?

DUCHESS. Here, sir.

FERDINAND. This darkness suits you well.

DUCHESS. I would ask you pardon.

FERDINAND. You have it; For I account it the honorabl'st revenge, Where I may kill, to pardon.—Where are your cubs?


FERDINAND. Call them your children; For though our national law distinguish bastards >From true legitimate issue, compassionate nature Makes them all equal.

DUCHESS. Do you visit me for this? You violate a sacrament o' th' church Shall make you howl in hell for 't.

FERDINAND. It had been well, Could you have liv'd thus always; for, indeed, You were too much i' th' light:—but no more; I come to seal my peace with you. Here 's a hand Gives her a dead man's hand. To which you have vow'd much love; the ring upon 't You gave.

DUCHESS. I affectionately kiss it.

FERDINAND. Pray, do, and bury the print of it in your heart. I will leave this ring with you for a love-token; And the hand as sure as the ring; and do not doubt But you shall have the heart too. When you need a friend, Send it to him that ow'd it; you shall see Whether he can aid you.

DUCHESS. You are very cold: I fear you are not well after your travel.— Ha! lights!——O, horrible!

FERDINAND. Let her have lights enough. Exit.

DUCHESS. What witchcraft doth he practise, that he hath left A dead man's hand here? [Here is discovered, behind a traverse, the artificial figures of ANTONIO and his children, appearing as if they were dead.

BOSOLA. Look you, here 's the piece from which 'twas ta'en. He doth present you this sad spectacle, That, now you know directly they are dead, Hereafter you may wisely cease to grieve For that which cannot be recovered.

DUCHESS. There is not between heaven and earth one wish I stay for after this. It wastes me more Than were 't my picture, fashion'd out of wax, Stuck with a magical needle, and then buried In some foul dunghill; and yon 's an excellent property For a tyrant, which I would account mercy.

BOSOLA. What 's that?

DUCHESS. If they would bind me to that lifeless trunk, And let me freeze to death.

BOSOLA. Come, you must live.

DUCHESS. That 's the greatest torture souls feel in hell, In hell, that they must live, and cannot die. Portia, I 'll new kindle thy coals again, And revive the rare and almost dead example Of a loving wife.

BOSOLA. O, fie! despair? Remember You are a Christian.

DUCHESS. The church enjoins fasting: I 'll starve myself to death.

BOSOLA. Leave this vain sorrow. Things being at the worst begin to mend: the bee When he hath shot his sting into your hand, May then play with your eye-lid.

DUCHESS. Good comfortable fellow, Persuade a wretch that 's broke upon the wheel To have all his bones new set; entreat him live To be executed again. Who must despatch me? I account this world a tedious theatre, For I do play a part in 't 'gainst my will.

BOSOLA. Come, be of comfort; I will save your life.

DUCHESS. Indeed, I have not leisure to tend so small a business.

BOSOLA. Now, by my life, I pity you.

DUCHESS. Thou art a fool, then, To waste thy pity on a thing so wretched As cannot pity itself. I am full of daggers. Puff, let me blow these vipers from me. [Enter Servant] What are you?

SERVANT. One that wishes you long life.

DUCHESS. I would thou wert hang'd for the horrible curse Thou hast given me: I shall shortly grow one Of the miracles of pity. I 'll go pray;— [Exit Servant.] No, I 'll go curse.

BOSOLA. O, fie!

DUCHESS. I could curse the stars.

BOSOLA. O, fearful!

DUCHESS. And those three smiling seasons of the year Into a Russian winter; nay, the world To its first chaos.

1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse