List Of Contents | Contents of The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster
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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,<77> 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 lenitive<78> 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.

     Scene II<79>


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,]<80>
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,<81> 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.

     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.

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