Fiction > Harvard Classics > John Webster > The Duchess of Malfi
John Webster (1580?–1634).  The Duchess of Malfi.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Scene I
[Enter] ANTONIO and DELIO 1

  ANT.  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?        4
  ANT.  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,        8
And not behold your face, which to mine eye
Is somewhat leaner, verily I should dream
It were within this half hour.
  ANT.  You have not been in law, friend Delio,        12
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.        16
  DELIO.        Pray, sir, tell me,
Hath not this news arriv’d yet to the ear
Of the lord cardinal?
  ANT.        I fear it hath:        20
The Lord Ferdinand, that ’s newly come to court,
Doth bear himself right dangerously.
  DELIO.        Pray, why?
  ANT.  He is so quiet that he seems to sleep        24
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?        28
  ANT.  The common rabble do directly say
She is a strumpet.
  DELIO.        And your graver heads
Which would be politic, what censure they?        32
  ANT.  They do observe I grow to infinite purchase, 2
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        36
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        40
Of love or marriage between her and me
They never dream of.
  DELIO.        The Lord Ferdinand
Is going to bed.        44
[Enter DUCHESS, FERDINAND, and Attendants]

  FERD.        I ’ll instantly to bed,
For I am weary.—I am to bespeak
A husband for you.
  DUCH.        For me, sir! Pray, who is ’t?        48
  FERD.  The great Count Malatesti.
  DUCH.        Fie upon him!
A count! He ’s a mere stick of sugar-candy;
You may look quite through him. When I choose        52
A husband, I will marry for your honour.
  FERD.  You shall do well in ’t.—How is ’t, worthy Antonio?
  DUCH.  But, sir I am to have private conference with you
About a scandalous report is spread        56
Touching mine honour.
  FERD.        Let me be ever deaf to ’t:
One of Pasquil’s paper-bullets, 3 court-calumny.
A pestilent air, which princes’ palaces        60
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        64
In your own innocency.
  DUCH.        [Aside.]  O bless’d comfort!
This deadly air is purg’d.  Exeunt [DUCHESS, ANTONIO, DELIO, and Attendants.]
  FERD.        Her guilt treads on        68

        Now, Bosola,
How thrives our intelligence? 4
Hot-burning coulters. 5
  BOS.        Sir, uncertainly:        72
’Tis rumour’d she hath had three bastards, but
By whom we may go read i’ the stars.
  FERD.        Why, some
Hold opinion all things are written there.        76
  BOS.  Yes, if we could find spectacles to read them.
I do suspect there hath been some sorcery
Us’d on the duchess.
  FERD.        Sorcery! to what purpose?        80
  BOS.  To make her dote on some desertless fellow
She shames to acknowledge.
  FERD.        Can your faith give way.
To think there ’s power in potions or in charms,        84
To make us love whether we will or no?
  BOS.  Most certainly.
  FERD.  Away! these are mere gulleries, 6 horrid things,
Invented by some cheating mountebanks        88
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 7 poisons, such as are of force        92
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        96
You had got, within these two days, a false key
Into her bed-chamber.
  BOS.        I have.
  FERD.        As I would wish.        100
  BOS.  What do you intend to do?
  FERD.        Can you guess?
  BOS.        No.
  FERD.  Do not ask, then:        104
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.
  BOS.        I do not        108
Think so.
  FERD.        What do you think, then, pray?
  BOS.        That you
Are your own chronicle too much, and grossly        112
Flatter yourself.
  FERD.        Give me thy hand; I thank thee:
I never gave pension but to flatterers,
Till I entertained thee. Farewell.        116
That friend a great man’s ruin strongly checks
Who rails into his belief all his defects.  Exeunt.
Note 1. Malfi. An apartment in the palace of the Duchess. [back]
Note 2. Wealth. [back]
Note 3. Lampoons. [back]
Note 4. Plowshares. [back]
Note 5. Spying. [back]
Note 6. Deceptions. [back]
Note 7. Soothing. [back]


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