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

  CARD.  You shall not watch to-night by the sick prince;
His grace is very well recover’d.
  MAL.  Good my lord, suffer us.
  CARD.        O, by no means;        4
The noise, and change of object in his eye,
Doth more distract him. I pray, all to bed;
And though you hear him in his violent fit,
Do not rise, I entreat you.        8
  PES.  So, sir; we shall not.
  CARD.        Nay, I must have you promise
Upon your honours, for I was enjoin’d to ’t
By himself; and he seem’d to urge it sensibly.        12
  PES.  Let our honours bind this trifle.
Card. Nor any of your followers.
  MAL.  Neither.
  CARD.  It may be, to make trial of your promise,        16
When he ’s asleep, myself will rise and feign
Some of his mad tricks, and cry out for help,
And feign myself in danger.
  MAL.  If your throat were cutting,        20
I ’d not come at you, now I have protested against it.
  CARD.  Why, I thank you.
  GRIS.      ’Twas a foul storm to-night.
  ROD.  The Lord Ferdinand’s chamber shook like an osier.        24
  MAL.  ’Twas nothing put pure kindness in the devil
To rock his own child.  Exeunt  [all except the CARDINAL].
  CARD.  The reason why I would not suffer these
About my brother, is, because at midnight        28
I may with better privacy convey
Julia’s body to her own lodging. O, my conscience!
I would pray now; but the devil takes away my heart
For having any confidence in prayer.        32
About this hour I appointed Bosola
To fetch the body. When he hath serv’d my turn,
He dies.  Exit.
[Enter BOSOLA]

  BOS.  Ha! ’twas the cardinal’s voice; I heard him name Bosola and my death. Listen; I hear one’s footing.

  FERD.  Strangling is a very quiet death.
  BOS.  [aside.] Nay, then, I see I must stand upon my guard.
  FERD.  What say to that? Whisper softly: do you agree to ’t? So; it must be done i’ th’ dark; the cardinal would not for a thousand pounds the doctor should see it.  Exit.
  BOS.  My death is plotted; here ’s the consequence of murder.        40
We value not desert nor Christian breath,
When we know black deeds must be cur’d with death.
[Enter ANTONIO and Servant]

  SERV.  Here stay, sir, and be confident, I pray;
I ’ll fetch you a dark lantern.  Exit.        44
  ANT.  Could I take him at his prayers,
There were hope of pardon.
  BOS.  Fall right, my sword!—  [Stabs him.]
I ’ll not give thee so much leisure as to pray.        48
  ANT.  O, I am gone! Thou hast ended a long suit
In a minute.
  BOS.        What art thou?
  ANT.        A most wretched thing,        52
That only have thy benefit in death,
To appear myself.
[Re-enter Servant with a lantern]

  SERV.  Where are you, sir?
  ANT.  Very near my home.—Bosola!        56
  SERV.  O, misfortune!
  BOS.  Smother thy pity, thou art dead else.—Antonio!
The man I would have sav’d ’bove mine own life!
We are merely the stars’ tennis-balls, struck and banded        60
Which way please them.—O good Antonio,
I ’ll whisper one thing in thy dying ear
Shall make thy heart break quickly! Thy fair duchess
And two sweet children——        64
  ANT.        Their very names
Kindle a little life in me.
  BOS.        Are murder’d.
  ANT.  Some men have wish’d to die        68
At the hearing of sad tidings; I am glad
That I shall do ’t in sadness. 2 I would not now
Wish my wounds balm’d nor heal’d, for I have no use
To put my life to. In all our quest of greatness,        72
Like wanton boys whose pastime is their care,
We follow after bubbles blown in th’ air.
Pleasure of life, what is ’t? Only the good hours
Of an ague; merely a preparative to rest,        76
To endure vexation. I do not ask
The process of my death; only commend me
To Delio.
  BOS.        Break, heart!        80
  ANT.  And let my son fly the courts to princes.  [Dies.]
  BOS.  Thou seem’st to have lov’d Antonio.
  SERV.  I brought him hither,
To have reconcil’d him to the cardinal.        84
  BOS.  I do not ask thee that.
Take him up, if thou tender thine own life,
And bear him where the lady Julia
Was wont to lodge.—O, my fate moves swift!        88
I have this cardinal in the forge already;
Now I ’ll bring him to th’ hammer. O direful misprision! 3
I will not imitate things glorious.
No more than base; I ’ll be mine own example.—        92
On, on, and look thou represent, for silence,
The thing thou bear’st. 4  Exeunt.
Note 1. Milan. An apartment in the residence of the Cardinal and Ferdinand. [back]
Note 2. Reality. [back]
Note 3. Mistake. [back]
Note 4. I. e., the dead body. [back]


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