Fiction > Harvard Classics > John Webster > The Duchess of Malfi
John Webster (1580?–1634).  The Duchess of Malfi.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Scene II

  DUCH.  Bring me the casket hither, and the glass.—
You get no lodging here to-night, my lord.
  ANT.  Indeed, I must persuade one.
  DUCH.        Very good:        4
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.
  ANT.  I must lie here.        8
  DUCH.        Must! You are a lord of mis-rule.
  ANT.  Indeed, my rule is only in the night.
  DUCH.  To what use will you put me?
  ANT.        We ’ll sleep together.        12
  DUCH.  Alas, what pleasure can two lovers find in sleep?
  CARI.  My lord, I lie with her often, and I know
She ’ll much disquiet you.
  ANT.        See, you are complain’d of.        16
  CARI.  For she ’s the sprawling’st bedfellow.
  ANT.  I shall like her the better for that.
  CARI.  Sir, shall I ask you a question?
  ANT.  I pray thee, Cariola.        20
  CARI.  Wherefore still when you lie with my lady
Do you rise so early?
  ANT.        Labouring men
Count the clock oft’nest, Cariola,        24
Are glad when their task ’s ended.
  DUCH.  I ’ll stop your mouth.  [Kisses him.]
  ANT.  Nay, that ’s but one; Venus had two soft doves
To draw her chariot; I must have another.—  [She kisses him again.]        28
When wilt thou marry, Cariola?
  CARI.        Never, my lord.
  ANT.  O, fie upon this single life! forgo it.
We read how Daphne, for her peevish [flight,] 2        32
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,        36
Were by a gracious influence transhap’d
Into the olive, pomegranate, mulberry,
Became flowers, precious stones, or eminent stars.
  CARI.  This is a vain poetry: but I pray you, tell me,        40
If there were propos’d me, wisdom, riches, and beauty,
In three several young men, which should I choose?
  ANT.  ’Tis a hard question. This was Paris’ case,
And he was blind in ’t, and there was a great cause;        44
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        48
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.
  CARI.  What is ’t?        52
  ANT.        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.
  DUCH.  O, that ’s soon answer’d.        56
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,        60
When were we so merry?—My hair tangles.
  ANT.  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.        64
I love to see her angry. Softly, Cariola.  Exeunt [ANTONIO and CARIOLA.]
  DUCH.  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, 3 to be like me.        68
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,        72
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?        76
’Tis welcome:
For know, whether I am doom’d to live or die,
I can do both like a prince.
  FERD.        Die, then, quickly! Giving her a poniard.        80
Virtue, where art thou hid? What hideous thing
Is it that doth eclipse thee?
  DUCH.        Pray, sir, hear me.
  FERD.  Or is it true thou art but a bare name,        84
And no essential thing?
  DUCH.        Sir——
  FERD.        Do not speak.
  DUCH.  No, sir:        88
I will plant my soul in mine ears, to hear you.
  FERD.  O most imperfect light of human reason,
That mak’st [us] so unhappy to foresee
What we can least prevent! Pursue thy wishes,        92
And glory in them: there ’s in shame no comfort
But to be past all bounds and sense of shame.
  DUCH.  I pray, sir, hear me: I am married.
  FERD.        So!        96
  DUCH.  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?        100
  FERD.        Yes, if I could change
Eyes with a basilisk.
  DUCH.        Sure, you came hither
By his confederacy.        104
  FERD.        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        108
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        112
I had beheld thee: therefore use all mean
I never may have knowledge of thy name;
Enjoy thy lust still, and a wretched life,
On that condition.—And for thee, vile woman,        116
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        120
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;        124
If thou do love him, cut out thine own tongue,
Lest it bewray him.
  DUCH.        Why might not I marry?
I have not gone about in this to create        128
Any new world or custom.
  FERD.        Thou art undone;
And thou hast ta’en that massy sheet of lead
That hid thy husband’s bones, and folded it        132
About my heart.
  DUCH.        Mine bleeds for ’t.
  FERD.        Thine! thy heart!
What should I name ’t unless a hollow bullet        136
Fill’d with unquenchable wild-fire?
  DUCH.        You are in this
Too strict; and were you not my princely brother,
I would say, too wilful: my reputation        140
Is safe.
  FERD.  Dost thou know what reputation is?
I ’ll tell thee,—to small purpose, since the instruction
Comes now too late.        144
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,        148
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        152
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:        156
You have shook hands with Reputation,
And made him invisible. So, fare you well:
I will never see you more.
  DUCH.        Why should only I,        160
Of all the other princes of the world,
Be cas’d up, like a holy relic? I have youth
And a little beauty.
  FERD.        So you have some virgins        164
That are witches. I will never see thee more.  Exit.
Re-enter ANTONIO with a pistol, [and CARIOLA]

  DUCH.  You saw this apparition?
  ANT.        Yes: we are
Betray’d. How came he hither? I should turn        168
This to thee, for that.
  CARI.        Pray, sir, do; and when
That you have cleft my heart, you shall read there
Mine innocence.        172
  DUCH.        That gallery gave him entrance.
  ANT.  I would this terrible thing would come again,
That, standing on my guard, I might relate
My warrantable love.—  She shows the poniard.        176
        Ha! what means this?
  DUCH.  He left this with me.
  ANT.        And it seems did wish
You would use it on yourself.        180
  DUCH.        His action seem’d
To intend so much.
  ANT.        This hath a handle to ’t,
As well as a point: turn it towards him, and        184
So fasten the keen edge in his rank gall.  [Knocking within.]
How now! who knocks? More earthquakes?
  DUCH.        I stand
As if a mine beneath my feet were ready        188
To be blown up.
  CARI.        ’Tis Bosola.
  DUCH.        Away!
O misery! methinks unjust actions        192
Should wear these masks and curtains, and not we.
You must instantly part hence: I have fashion’d it already.  Exit ANTONIO.

  BOS.  The duke your brother is ta’en up in a whirlwind;
Hath took horse, and ’s rid post to Rome.        196
  DUCH.        So late?
  BOS.  He told me, as he mounted into the saddle,
You were undone.
  DUCH.        Indeed, I am very near it.        200
  BOS.  What ’s the matter?
  DUCH.  Antonio, the master of our household,
Hath dealt so falsely with me in ’s accounts.
My brother stood engag’d with me for money        204
Ta’en up of certain Neapolitan Jews,
And Antonio lets the bonds be forfeit.
  BOS.  Strange!—[Aside.]  This is cunning.
  DUCH.        And hereupon        208
My brother’s bills at Naples are protested
Against.—Call up our officers.
  BOS.        I shall.  Exit.
[Re-enter ANTONIO]

  DUCH.  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: 4 short syllables
Must stand for periods. I must now accuse you        216
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]

  ANT.  Will your grace hear me?
  DUCH.  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,        224
Till I had sign’d your quietus; 5 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;        228
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.
  ANT.  I am strongly arm’d to brook my overthrow,        232
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        236
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        240
As when he first sat down.
  DUCH.        We do confiscate,
Towards the satisfying of your accounts,
All that you have.        244
  ANT.        I am all yours; and ’tis very fit
All mine should be so.
  DUCH.        So, sir, you have your pass.
  ANT.  You may see, gentlemen, what ’tis to serve        248
A prince with body and soul.  Exit.
  BOS.  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.
  DUCH.  I would know what are your opinions
Of this Antonio.        252
  SEC. OFF.  He could not abide to see a pig’s head gaping:
I thought your grace would find him a Jew.
  THIRD OFF.I would you had been his officer, for your own sake.
  FOURTH OFF.  You would have had more money.        256
  FIRST OFF.  He stopped his ears with black wool, and to those came to him for money said he was thick of hearing.
  SEC. OFF.  Some said he was an hermaphrodite, for he could not abide a woman.
  FOURTH OFF.  How scurvy proud he would look when the treasury was full! Well, let him go.
  FIRST OFF.  Yes, and the chippings of the buttery fly after him, to scour his gold chain. 6        260
  DUCH.  Leave us.  Exeunt [Officers.]
What do you think of these?
  BOS.  That these are rogues that in ’s prosperity,
But to have waited on his fortune, could have wish’d        264
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; 7 thought none happy        268
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 8 of flattering rogues behind him;        272
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!        276
  DUCH.  Poor! he hath amply fill’d his coffers.
  BOS.  Sure, he was too honest. Pluto, 9 the god of riches,
When he ’s sent by Jupiter to any man,
He goes limping, to signify that wealth        280
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. 10
Let me show you what a most unvalu’d jewel
You have in a wanton humour thrown away,        284
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.        288
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,        292
It made so little noise of ’t.
  DUCH.  But he was basely descended.
  BOS.  Will you make yourself a mercenary herald,
Rather to examine men’s pedigrees than virtues?        296
You shall want 11 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        300
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,        304
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        308
Was accompanied with virtue.
  DUCH.  O, you render me excellent music!
  BOS.        Say you?
  DUCH.  This good one that you speak of is my husband.        312
  BOS.  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?        316
  DUCH.  I have had three children by him.
  BOS.        Fortunate lady!
For you have made your private nuptial bed
The humble and fair seminary of peace,        320
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        324
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.        328
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        332
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.        336
  DUCH.  As I taste comfort in this friendly speech,
So would I find concealment.
  BOS.  O, the secret of my prince,
Which I will wear on th’ inside of my heart!        340
  DUCH.  You shall take charge of all my coin and jewels,
And follow him; for he retires himself
To Ancona.
  BOS.        So.        344
  DUCH.        Whither, within few days,
I mean to follow thee.
  BOS.        Let me think:
I would wish your grace to feign a pilgrimage        348
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        352
Your usual train about you.
  DUCH.        Sir, your direction
Shall lead me by the hand.
  CARI.        In my opinion,        356
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,        360
This feigned pilgrimage.
  DUCH.  Thou art a superstitious fool:
Prepare us instantly for our departure.
Past sorrows, let us moderately lament them,        364
For those to come, seek wisely to prevent them.  [Exeunt DUCHESS and CARIOLA.]
  BOS.  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,        368
As here for proof. What rests 12 but I reveal
All to my lord? O, this base quality 13
Of intelligencer! Why, every quality i’ the world
Prefers but gain or commendation:        372
Now, for this act I am certain to be rais’d,
And men that paint weeds to the life are prais’d.  [Exit.
Note 1. The bed-chamber of the Duchess in the same. [back]
Note 2. Qq. read slight. [back]
Note 3. Powder of orris-root. [back]
Note 4. Wheels of craft. [back]
Note 5. Certificate that the books were found correct. [back]
Note 6. The badge of a steward. [back]
Note 7. Spies. [back]
Note 8. Lot. [back]
Note 9. For Plutus. [back]
Note 10. Quick steps. [back]
Note 11. Miss. [back]
Note 12. Remains. [back]
Note 13. Profession. [back]


Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.