List Of Contents | Contents of The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster
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  The screech-owl and the whistler shrill
  Call upon our dame aloud,
  And bid her quickly don her shroud!
  Much you had of land and rent;
  Your length in clay 's now competent:
  A long war disturb'd your mind;
  Here your perfect peace is sign'd.
  Of what is 't fools make such vain keeping?
  Sin their conception, their birth weeping,
  Their life a general mist of error,
  Their death a hideous storm of terror.
  Strew your hair with powders sweet,
  Don clean linen, bathe your feet,
  And (the foul fiend more to check)
  A crucifix let bless your neck.
  'Tis now full tide 'tween night and day;
  End your groan, and come away.

CARIOLA.  Hence, villains, tyrants, murderers! Alas!
What will you do with my lady?--Call for help!

DUCHESS.  To whom?  To our next neighbours?  They are mad-folks.

BOSOLA.  Remove that noise.

DUCHESS.                     Farewell, Cariola.
In my last will I have not much to give:
A many hungry guests have fed upon me;
Thine will be a poor reversion.

CARIOLA.                         I will die with her.

DUCHESS.  I pray thee, look thou giv'st my little boy
Some syrup for his cold, and let the girl
Say her prayers ere she sleep.
     [Cariola is forced out by the Executioners.]
Now what you please:
What death?

BOSOLA.       Strangling; here are your executioners.

DUCHESS.  I forgive them:
The apoplexy, catarrh, or cough o' th' lungs,
Would do as much as they do.

BOSOLA.  Doth not death fright you?

DUCHESS.                             Who would be afraid on 't,
Knowing to meet such excellent company
In th' other world?

BOSOLA.  Yet, methinks,
The manner of your death should much afflict you:
This cord should terrify you.

DUCHESS.                       Not a whit:
What would it pleasure me to have my throat cut
With diamonds? or to be smothered
With cassia? or to be shot to death with pearls?
I know death hath ten thousand several doors
For men to take their exits; and 'tis found
They go on such strange geometrical hinges,
You may open them both ways:  any way, for heaven-sake,
So I were out of your whispering.  Tell my brothers
That I perceive death, now I am well awake,
Best gift is they can give or I can take.
I would fain put off my last woman's-fault,
I 'd not be tedious to you.

FIRST EXECUTIONER.           We are ready.

DUCHESS.  Dispose my breath how please you; but my body
Bestow upon my women, will you?

FIRST EXECUTIONER.               Yes.

DUCHESS.  Pull, and pull strongly, for your able strength
Must pull down heaven upon me:--
Yet stay; heaven-gates are not so highly arch'd
As princes' palaces; they that enter there
Must go upon their knees [Kneels].--Come, violent death,
Serve for mandragora to make me sleep!--
Go tell my brothers, when I am laid out,
They then may feed in quiet.
     They strangle her.

BOSOLA.  Where 's the waiting-woman??
Fetch her:  some other strangle the children.
     [Enter CARIOLA]
Look you, there sleeps your mistress.

CARIOLA.                               O, you are damn'd
Perpetually for this!  My turn is next;
Is 't not so ordered?

BOSOLA.                Yes, and I am glad
You are so well prepar'd for 't.

CARIOLA.                          You are deceiv'd, sir,
I am not prepar'd for 't, I will not die;
I will first come to my answer,<118> and know
How I have offended.

BOSOLA.               Come, despatch her.--
You kept her counsel; now you shall keep ours.

CARIOLA.  I will not die, I must not; I am contracted
To a young gentleman.

FIRST EXECUTIONER.     Here 's your wedding-ring.

CARIOLA.  Let me but speak with the duke.  I 'll discover
Treason to his person.

BOSOLA.                 Delays:--throttle her.

FIRST EXECUTIONER.  She bites and scratches.

CARIOLA.                                      If you kill me now,
I am damn'd; I have not been at confession
This two years.

BOSOLA.  [To Executioners.] When?<119>

CARIOLA.                           I am quick with child.

BOSOLA.                                                    Why, then,
Your credit 's saved.
     [Executioners strangle Cariola.]
                       Bear her into the next room;
Let these lie still.
     [Exeunt the Executioners with the body of CARIOLA.]

     [Enter FERDINAND]

FERDINAND.            Is she dead?

BOSOLA.                             She is what
You 'd have her.  But here begin your pity:
     Shows the Children strangled.
Alas, how have these offended?

FERDINAND.                      The death
Of young wolves is never to be pitied.

BOSOLA.  Fix your eye here.

FERDINAND.                   Constantly.

BOSOLA.                                   Do you not weep?
Other sins only speak; murder shrieks out.
The element of water moistens the earth,
But blood flies upwards and bedews the heavens.

FERDINAND.  Cover her face; mine eyes dazzle:  she died young.

BOSOLA.  I think not so; her infelicity
Seem'd to have years too many.

FERDINAND.  She and I were twins;
And should I die this instant, I had liv'd
Her time to a minute.

BOSOLA.                It seems she was born first:
You have bloodily approv'd the ancient truth,
That kindred commonly do worse agree
Than remote strangers.

FERDINAND.              Let me see her face
Again.  Why didst thou not pity her?  What
An excellent honest man mightst thou have been,
If thou hadst borne her to some sanctuary!
Or, bold in a good cause, oppos'd thyself,
With thy advanced sword above thy head,
Between her innocence and my revenge!
I bade thee, when I was distracted of my wits,
Go kill my dearest friend, and thou hast done 't.
For let me but examine well the cause:
What was the meanness of her match to me?
Only I must confess I had a hope,
Had she continu'd widow, to have gain'd
An infinite mass of treasure by her death:
And that was the main cause,--her marriage,
That drew a stream of gall quite through my heart.
For thee, as we observe in tragedies
That a good actor many times is curs'd
For playing a villain's part, I hate thee for 't,
And, for my sake, say, thou hast done much ill well.

BOSOLA.  Let me quicken your memory, for I perceive
You are falling into ingratitude:  I challenge
The reward due to my service.

FERDINAND.                     I 'll tell thee
What I 'll give thee.

BOSOLA.                Do.

FERDINAND.                  I 'll give thee a pardon
For this murder.

BOSOLA.           Ha!

FERDINAND.             Yes, and 'tis
The largest bounty I can study to do thee.
By what authority didst thou execute
This bloody sentence?

BOSOLA.                By yours.

FERDINAND.  Mine! was I her judge?
Did any ceremonial form of law
Doom her to not-being?  Did a complete jury
Deliver her conviction up i' the court?
Where shalt thou find this judgment register'd,
Unless in hell?  See, like a bloody fool,
Thou 'st forfeited thy life, and thou shalt die for 't.

BOSOLA.  The office of justice is perverted quite
When one thief hangs another.  Who shall dare
To reveal this?

FERDINAND.       O, I 'll tell thee;
The wolf shall find her grave, and scrape it up,
Not to devour the corpse, but to discover
The horrid murder.

BOSOLA.             You, not I, shall quake for 't.

FERDINAND.  Leave me.

BOSOLA.                I will first receive my pension.

FERDINAND.  You are a villain.

BOSOLA.                         When your ingratitude
Is judge, I am so.

FERDINAND.          O horror,
That not the fear of him which binds the devils
Can prescribe man obedience!--
Never look upon me more.

BOSOLA.                   Why, fare thee well.
Your brother and yourself are worthy men!
You have a pair of hearts are hollow graves,
Rotten, and rotting others; and your vengeance,
Like two chain'd-bullets, still goes arm in arm:
You may be brothers; for treason, like the plague,
Doth take much in a blood.  I stand like one
That long hath ta'en a sweet and golden dream:
I am angry with myself, now that I wake.

FERDINAND.  Get thee into some unknown part o' the world,
That I may never see thee.

BOSOLA.                     Let me know
Wherefore I should be thus neglected.  Sir,
I serv'd your tyranny, and rather strove
To satisfy yourself than all the world:
And though I loath'd the evil, yet I lov'd
You that did counsel it; and rather sought
To appear a true servant than an honest man.

FERDINAND.  I 'll go hunt the badger by owl-light:
'Tis a deed of darkness.

BOSOLA.  He 's much distracted.  Off, my painted honour!
While with vain hopes our faculties we tire,
We seem to sweat in ice and freeze in fire.
What would I do, were this to do again?
I would not change my peace of conscience
For all the wealth of Europe.--She stirs; here 's life:--
Return, fair soul, from darkness, and lead mine
Out of this sensible hell:--she 's warm, she breathes:--
Upon thy pale lips I will melt my heart,
To store them with fresh colour.--Who 's there?
Some cordial drink!--Alas!  I dare not call:
So pity would destroy pity.--Her eye opes,
And heaven in it seems to ope, that late was shut,
To take me up to mercy.

DUCHESS.  Antonio!

BOSOLA.             Yes, madam, he is living;
The dead bodies you saw were but feign'd statues.
He 's reconcil'd to your brothers; the Pope hath wrought
The atonement.

DUCHESS.        Mercy!

BOSOLA.  O, she 's gone again! there the cords of life broke.
O sacred innocence, that sweetly sleeps
On turtles' feathers, whilst a guilty conscience
Is a black register wherein is writ
All our good deeds and bad, a perspective
That shows us hell!  That we cannot be suffer'd
To do good when we have a mind to it!
This is manly sorrow;
These tears, I am very certain, never grew
In my mother's milk.  My estate is sunk
Below the degree of fear:  where were
These penitent fountains while she was living?
O, they were frozen up!  Here is a sight
As direful to my soul as is the sword
Unto a wretch hath slain his father.
Come, I 'll bear thee hence,
And execute thy last will; that 's deliver
Thy body to the reverend dispose

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