List Of Contents | Contents of The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster
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And go no farther in your cruelty:
Send her a penitential garment to put on
Next to her delicate skin, and furnish her
With beads and prayer-books.

FERDINAND.                    Damn her! that body of hers.
While that my blood run pure in 't, was more worth
Than that which thou wouldst comfort, call'd a soul.
I will send her masques of common courtezans,
Have her meat serv'd up by bawds and ruffians,
And, 'cause she 'll needs be mad, I am resolv'd
To move forth the common hospital
All the mad-folk, and place them near her lodging;
There let them practise together, sing and dance,
And act their gambols to the full o' th' moon:
If she can sleep the better for it, let her.
Your work is almost ended.

BOSOLA.                     Must I see her again?


BOSOLA.           Never.

FERDINAND.                You must.

BOSOLA.                              Never in mine own shape;
That 's forfeited by my intelligence<103>
And this last cruel lie:  when you send me next,
The business shall be comfort.

FERDINAND.                      Very likely;
Thy pity is nothing of kin to thee, Antonio
Lurks about Milan:  thou shalt shortly thither,
To feed a fire as great as my revenge,
Which nev'r will slack till it hath spent his fuel:
Intemperate agues make physicians cruel.

     Scene II<104>

     [Enter] DUCHESS and CARIOLA

DUCHESS.  What hideous noise was that?

CARIOLA.                                'Tis the wild consort<105>
Of madmen, lady, which your tyrant brother
Hath plac'd about your lodging.  This tyranny,
I think, was never practis'd till this hour.

DUCHESS.  Indeed, I thank him.  Nothing but noise and folly
Can keep me in my right wits; whereas reason
And silence make me stark mad.  Sit down;
Discourse to me some dismal tragedy.

CARIOLA.  O, 'twill increase your melancholy!

DUCHESS.                                       Thou art deceiv'd:
To hear of greater grief would lessen mine.
This is a prison?

CARIOLA.           Yes, but you shall live
To shake this durance off.

DUCHESS.                    Thou art a fool:
The robin-red-breast and the nightingale
Never live long in cages.

CARIOLA.                   Pray, dry your eyes.
What think you of, madam?

DUCHESS.                   Of nothing;
When I muse thus, I sleep.

CARIOLA.  Like a madman, with your eyes open?

DUCHESS.  Dost thou think we shall know one another
In th' other world?

CARIOLA.             Yes, out of question.

DUCHESS.  O, that it were possible we might
But hold some two days' conference with the dead!
>From them I should learn somewhat, I am sure,
I never shall know here.  I 'll tell thee a miracle:
I am not mad yet, to my cause of sorrow:
Th' heaven o'er my head seems made of molten brass,
The earth of flaming sulphur, yet I am not mad.
I am acquainted with sad misery
As the tann'd galley-slave is with his oar;
Necessity makes me suffer constantly,
And custom makes it easy.  Who do I look like now?

CARIOLA.  Like to your picture in the gallery,
A deal of life in show, but none in practice;
Or rather like some reverend monument
Whose ruins are even pitied.

DUCHESS.                      Very proper;
And Fortune seems only to have her eye-sight
To behold my tragedy.--How now!
What noise is that?

     [Enter Servant]

SERVANT.             I am come to tell you
Your brother hath intended you some sport.
A great physician, when the Pope was sick
Of a deep melancholy, presented him
With several sorts<106> of madmen, which wild object
Being full of change and sport, forc'd him to laugh,
And so the imposthume<107> broke:  the self-same cure
The duke intends on you.

DUCHESS.                  Let them come in.

SERVANT.  There 's a mad lawyer; and a secular priest;
A doctor that hath forfeited his wits
By jealousy; an astrologian
That in his works said such a day o' the month
Should be the day of doom, and, failing of 't,
Ran mad; an English tailor craz'd i' the brain
With the study of new fashions; a gentleman-usher
Quite beside himself with care to keep in mind
The number of his lady's salutations
Or 'How do you,' she employ'd him in each morning;
A farmer, too, an excellent knave in grain,<108>
Mad 'cause he was hind'red transportation:<109>
And let one broker that 's mad loose to these,
You'd think the devil were among them.

DUCHESS.  Sit, Cariola.--Let them loose when you please,
For I am chain'd to endure all your tyranny.

     [Enter Madman]

     Here by a Madman this song is sung to a dismal kind of music

O, let us howl some heavy note,
  Some deadly dogged howl,
Sounding as from the threatening throat
  Of beasts and fatal fowl!
As ravens, screech-owls, bulls, and bears,
  We 'll bell, and bawl our parts,
Till irksome noise have cloy'd your ears
  And corrosiv'd your hearts.
At last, whenas our choir wants breath,
  Our bodies being blest,
We 'll sing, like swans, to welcome death,
  And die in love and rest.

FIRST MADMAN.  Doom's-day not come yet!  I 'll draw it nearer by
a perspective,<110> or make a glass that shall set all the world
on fire upon an instant.  I cannot sleep; my pillow is stuffed
with a litter of porcupines.

SECOND MADMAN.  Hell is a mere glass-house, where the devils
are continually blowing up women's souls on hollow irons,
and the fire never goes out.

FIRST MADMAN.  I have skill in heraldry.


FIRST MADMAN.  You do give for your crest a woodcock's head
with the brains picked out on 't; you are a very ancient gentleman.

THIRD MADMAN.  Greek is turned Turk:  we are only to be saved by
the Helvetian translation.<111>

FIRST MADMAN.  Come on, sir, I will lay the law to you.

SECOND MADMAN.  O, rather lay a corrosive:  the law will eat
to the bone.

THIRD MADMAN.  He that drinks but to satisfy nature is damn'd.

FOURTH MADMAN.  If I had my glass here, I would show a sight should
make all the women here call me mad doctor.

FIRST MADMAN.  What 's he? a rope-maker?

SECOND MADMAN.  No, no, no, a snuffling knave that, while he shows
the tombs, will have his hand in a wench's placket.<112>

THIRD MADMAN.  Woe to the caroche<113> that brought home my wife
from the masque at three o'clock in the morning!  It had a large
feather-bed in it.

FOURTH MADMAN.  I have pared the devil's nails forty times, roasted
them in raven's eggs, and cured agues with them.

THIRD MADMAN.  Get me three hundred milch-bats, to make possets<114>
to procure sleep.

FOURTH MADMAN.  All the college may throw their caps at me:
I have made a soap-boiler costive; it was my masterpiece.

     Here the dance, consisting of Eight Madmen, with music
     answerable thereunto; after which, BOSOLA, like an old man,

DUCHESS.  Is he mad too?

SERVANT.                  Pray, question him.  I 'll leave you.
     [Exeunt Servant and Madmen.]

BOSOLA.  I am come to make thy tomb.

DUCHESS.                              Ha! my tomb!
Thou speak'st as if I lay upon my death-bed,
Gasping for breath.  Dost thou perceive me sick?

Yes, and the more dangerously, since thy sickness is insensible.

DUCHESS.  Thou art not mad, sure:  dost know me?

BOSOLA.                                           Yes.

DUCHESS.                                                Who am I?

BOSOLA.  Thou art a box of worm-seed, at best but a salvatory<115>
of green mummy.<116> What 's this flesh? a little crudded<117> milk,
fantastical puff-paste.  Our bodies are weaker than those paper-
prisons boys use to keep flies in; more contemptible, since ours
is to preserve earth-worms.  Didst thou ever see a lark in a cage?
Such is the soul in the body:  this world is like her little turf
of grass, and the heaven o'er our heads like her looking-glass, only
gives us a miserable knowledge of the small compass of our prison.

DUCHESS.  Am not I thy duchess?

BOSOLA.  Thou art some great woman, sure, for riot begins to sit
on thy forehead (clad in gray hairs) twenty years sooner than on
a merry milk-maid's.  Thou sleepest worse than if a mouse should be
forced to take up her lodging in a cat's ear:  a little infant that
breeds its teeth, should it lie with thee, would cry out, as if thou
wert the more unquiet bedfellow.

DUCHESS.  I am Duchess of Malfi still.

BOSOLA.  That makes thy sleep so broken:
Glories, like glow-worms, afar off shine bright,
But, look'd to near, have neither heat nor light.

DUCHESS.  Thou art very plain.

BOSOLA.  My trade is to flatter the dead, not the living;
I am a tomb-maker.

DUCHESS.  And thou comest to make my tomb?


DUCHESS.  Let me be a little merry:--of what stuff wilt thou make it?

BOSOLA.  Nay, resolve me first, of what fashion?

DUCHESS.  Why, do we grow fantastical on our deathbed?
Do we affect fashion in the grave?

BOSOLA.  Most ambitiously.  Princes' images on their tombs do not
lie, as they were wont, seeming to pray up to heaven; but with their
hands under their cheeks, as if they died of the tooth-ache.  They
are not carved with their eyes fix'd upon the stars, but as their
minds were wholly bent upon the world, the selfsame way they seem
to turn their faces.

DUCHESS.  Let me know fully therefore the effect
Of this thy dismal preparation,
This talk fit for a charnel.

BOSOLA.                       Now I shall:--
     [Enter Executioners, with] a coffin, cords, and a bell
Here is a present from your princely brothers;
And may it arrive welcome, for it brings
Last benefit, last sorrow.

DUCHESS.                    Let me see it:
I have so much obedience in my blood,
I wish it in their veins to do them good.

BOSOLA.  This is your last presence-chamber.

CARIOLA.  O my sweet lady!

DUCHESS.                    Peace; it affrights not me.

BOSOLA.  I am the common bellman
That usually is sent to condemn'd persons
The night before they suffer.

DUCHESS.                       Even now thou said'st
Thou wast a tomb-maker.

BOSOLA.                  'Twas to bring you
By degrees to mortification.  Listen.

  Hark, now everything is still,

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