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List Of Contents | Contents of The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster
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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.<10>
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<11> 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<12> parting.  Good Lord Silvio,
Do us commend to all our noble friends
At the leaguer.

SILVIO.          Sir, I shall.

[DUCHESS.]                      You are for Milan?

SILVIO.  I am.

DUCHESS.        Bring the caroches.<13>--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.<14>  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<15> 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.<16>

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?

BOSOLA.                No.

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]<17>

     [Enter FERDINAND, DUCHESS, CARDINAL, and CARIOLA]

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<18>
Will wed twice.

CARDINAL.        O, fie!

FERDINAND.                Their livers are more spotted
Than Laban's sheep.<19>

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:<20> 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.

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