The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster

Act III

Scene I. Malfi. An apartment in the palace of the Duchess.

[Enter Antonio and Delio]

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,64
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,65 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.66
Enter Bosola
Now, Bosola,
How thrives our intelligence?67

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,68 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 lenitive69 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?

Bosola. No.

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. The bed-chamber of the Duchess in the same.

[Enter Duchess, Antonio, and Cariola]

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,]70
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,71 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?

Duchess. Sir ——

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.

Ferdinand. So!

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.

Enter Bosola

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:72 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;73 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.74

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;75 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 sort76 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,77 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.78
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 want79 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.

Bosola. So.

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 rests80 but I reveal
All to my lord? O, this base quality81
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. An apartment in the Cardinal’s palace at Rome.

[Enter Cardinal, Ferdinand, Malatesti, Pescara, Delio, and Silvio]

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,82
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!83

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. Near Loretto.

[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,84
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?

Duchess. Yes.

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 face85 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.

64 Wealth.

65 Lampoons.

66 Plowshares.

67 Spying.

68 Deceptions.

69 Soothing.

70 Qq. read SLIGHT.

71 Powder of orris-root.

72 Wheels of craft.

73 Certificate that the books were found correct.

74 The badge of a steward.

75 Spies.

76 Lot.

77 For Plutus.

78 Quick steps.

79 Miss.

80 Remains.

81 Profession.

82 A decorated horse-cloth, used only when the court is traveling.

83 The first quarto has in the margin: “The Author disclaims this Ditty to be his.”

84 Small birds.

85 His vizard.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/webster/john/malfi/act3.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:30