List Of Contents | Contents of The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster
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JULIA.  [Aside.] Signior Delio! 'tis one of my old suitors.

DELIO.  I was bold to come and see you.

JULIA.                                   Sir, you are welcome.

DELIO.  Do you lie here?

JULIA.                    Sure, your own experience
Will satisfy you no:  our Roman prelates
Do not keep lodging for ladies.

DELIO.                           Very well:
I have brought you no commendations from your husband,
For I know none by him.

JULIA.                   I hear he 's come to Rome.

DELIO.  I never knew man and beast, of a horse and a knight,
So weary of each other.  If he had had a good back,
He would have undertook to have borne his horse,
His breech was so pitifully sore.

JULIA.                             Your laughter
Is my pity.

DELIO.  Lady, I know not whether
You want money, but I have brought you some.

JULIA.  From my husband?

DELIO.                    No, from mine own allowance.

JULIA.  I must hear the condition, ere I be bound to take it.

DELIO.  Look on 't, 'tis gold; hath it not a fine colour?

JULIA.  I have a bird more beautiful.

DELIO.                                 Try the sound on 't.

JULIA.  A lute-string far exceeds it.
It hath no smell, like cassia or civet;
Nor is it physical,<64> though some fond doctors
Persuade us seethe 't in cullises.<65> I 'll tell you,
This is a creature bred by----

     [Re-enter Servant]

SERVANT.                         Your husband 's come,
Hath deliver'd a letter to the Duke of Calabria
That, to my thinking, hath put him out of his wits.

JULIA.  Sir, you hear:
Pray, let me know your business and your suit
As briefly as can be.

DELIO.  With good speed:  I would wish you,
At such time as you are non-resident
With your husband, my mistress.

JULIA.  Sir, I 'll go ask my husband if I shall,
And straight return your answer.

DELIO.                            Very fine!
Is this her wit, or honesty, that speaks thus?
I heard one say the duke was highly mov'd
With a letter sent from Malfi.  I do fear
Antonio is betray'd.  How fearfully
Shows his ambition now!  Unfortunate fortune!
They pass through whirl-pools, and deep woes do shun,
Who the event weigh ere the action 's done.

     Scene V<66>

     [Enter] CARDINAL and FERDINAND with a letter

FERDINAND.  I have this night digg'd up a mandrake.<67>

CARDINAL.                                            Say you?

FERDINAND.  And I am grown mad with 't.

CARDINAL.                                What 's the prodigy

Read there,--a sister damn'd:  she 's loose i' the hilts;<68>
Grown a notorious strumpet.

CARDINAL.                    Speak lower.

FERDINAND.                                 Lower!
Rogues do not whisper 't now, but seek to publish 't
(As servants do the bounty of their lords)
Aloud; and with a covetous searching eye,
To mark who note them.  O, confusion seize her!
She hath had most cunning bawds to serve her turn,
And more secure conveyances for lust
Than towns of garrison for service.

CARDINAL.                            Is 't possible?
Can this be certain?

FERDINAND.            Rhubarb, O, for rhubarb
To purge this choler!  Here 's the cursed day
To prompt my memory; and here 't shall stick
Till of her bleeding heart I make a sponge
To wipe it out.

CARDINAL.        Why do you make yourself
So wild a tempest?

FERDINAND.          Would I could be one,
That I might toss her palace 'bout her ears,
Root up her goodly forests, blast her meads,
And lay her general territory as waste
As she hath done her honours.

CARDINAL.                      Shall our blood,
The royal blood of Arragon and Castile,
Be thus attainted?

FERDINAND.          Apply desperate physic:
We must not now use balsamum, but fire,
The smarting cupping-glass, for that 's the mean
To purge infected blood, such blood as hers.
There is a kind of pity in mine eye,--
I 'll give it to my handkercher; and now 'tis here,
I 'll bequeath this to her bastard.

CARDINAL.                            What to do?

FERDINAND.  Why, to make soft lint for his mother's wounds,
When I have hew'd her to pieces.

CARDINAL.                         Curs'd creature!
Unequal nature, to place women's hearts
So far upon the left side!<69>

FERDINAND.                  Foolish men,
That e'er will trust their honour in a bark
Made of so slight weak bulrush as is woman,
Apt every minute to sink it!

CARDINAL.  Thus ignorance, when it hath purchas'd honour,
It cannot wield it.

FERDINAND.           Methinks I see her laughing,--
Excellent hyena!  Talk to me somewhat quickly,
Or my imagination will carry me
To see her in the shameful act of sin.

CARDINAL.  With whom?

FERDINAND.             Happily with some strong-thigh'd bargeman,
Or one o' th' wood-yard that can quoit the sledge<70>
Or toss the bar, or else some lovely squire
That carries coals up to her privy lodgings.

CARDINAL.  You fly beyond your reason.

FERDINAND.                              Go to, mistress!
'Tis not your whore's milk that shall quench my wild-fire,
But your whore's blood.

CARDINAL.  How idly shows this rage, which carries you,
As men convey'd by witches through the air,
On violent whirlwinds!  This intemperate noise
Fitly resembles deaf men's shrill discourse,
Who talk aloud, thinking all other men
To have their imperfection.

FERDINAND.                   Have not you
My palsy?

CARDINAL.    Yes, [but] I can be angry
Without this rupture.  There is not in nature
A thing that makes man so deform'd, so beastly,
As doth intemperate anger.  Chide yourself.
You have divers men who never yet express'd
Their strong desire of rest but by unrest,
By vexing of themselves.  Come, put yourself
In tune.

FERDINAND.  So I will only study to seem
The thing I am not.  I could kill her now,
In you, or in myself; for I do think
It is some sin in us heaven doth revenge
By her.

CARDINAL.  Are you stark mad?

FERDINAND.                     I would have their bodies
Burnt in a coal-pit with the ventage stopp'd,
That their curs'd smoke might not ascend to heaven;
Or dip the sheets they lie in in pitch or sulphur,
Wrap them in 't, and then light them like a match;
Or else to-boil<71> their bastard to a cullis,
And give 't his lecherous father to renew
The sin of his back.

CARDINAL.             I 'll leave you.

FERDINAND.                              Nay, I have done.
I am confident, had I been damn'd in hell,
And should have heard of this, it would have put me
Into a cold sweat.  In, in; I 'll go sleep.
Till I know who [loves] my sister, I 'll not stir:
That known, I 'll find scorpions to string my whips,
And fix her in a general eclipse.

     Act III

     Scene I<72>

     [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,<73>
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,<74> 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.<75>
     Enter BOSOLA
                       Now, Bosola,
How thrives our intelligence?<76>

BOSOLA.                        Sir, uncertainly:
'Tis rumour'd she hath had three bastards, but

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