The Duchess of Malfi


Scene 1

The court at Malfi, several years later


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: These 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 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.


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 Malateste.

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 honor.

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 honor.

FERDINAND: Let me be ever deaf to't: One of Pasquil's paper-bullets, 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: O bless'd comfort! This deadly air is purg'd.

Exit all but Ferdinand and Bosola

FERDINAND: Her guilt treads on Hot burning cultures. Now, Bosola, How thrives our intelligence?

BOSOLA: Sir, uncertainly: 'Tis rumour'd she hath had three bastards, but By whom, we may go read i'th' 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, 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 lenative poisons, such as are of force To make the patient mad; and straight the witch Swears by equivocation they are in love. The witchcraft 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?


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 quicksands.

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.

They exit

Scene 2

The Duchess' chambers, later that night


DUCHESS: Bring me the casket hither, and the glass. You get no lodging here tonight, 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 misrule.

ANTONIO: Indeed, my rule is only in the night.

DUCHESS: To what use will you put me?

ANTONIO: We'll sleep together.

DUCHESS: Alas, what pleasure can two lovers find in sleep?

CARIOLA: My lord, I lie with her often; and I know She'll much disquiet you.

ANTONIO: See, you are complain'd of.

CARIOLA: For she's the sprawlingest bedfellow.

ANTONIO: I shall like her the better for that.

CARIOLA: Sir, shall I ask you a question?

ANTONIO: Ay, pray thee, Cariola.

CARIOLA: Wherefore still, when you lie with my lady, Do you rise so early?

ANTONIO: Laboring men Count the clock oftenest, Cariola, Are glad when their task's ended.

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. [kisses her] When wilt thou marry, Cariola?

CARIOLA: Never, my lord.

ANTONIO: O, fie upon this single life; forego it. We read how Daphne, for her peevish flight, 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 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 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 counselor 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: [aside to Cariola] 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.

They exit

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, to be like me. You have cause to love me; I enter'd you into my heart Before you would vouchsafe to call for the keys.

Enter FERDINAND unseen

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?

She sees FERDINAND holding a dagger

'Tis welcome: For know, whether I am doom'd to live or die, I can do both like a prince.

FERDINAND: Die then quickly. 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?


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--


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 willful. My reputation Is safe.

FERDINAND: Dost thou know what reputation is? I'll tell thee, to small purpose, since th' 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 enquire 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.

He exits

Enter CARIOLA and ANTONIO with a pistol

DUCHESS: You saw this apparition?

ANTONIO: Yes: we are Betray'd. How came he hither? I should turn This to thee, for that. [turns pistol on Cariola]

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. Ha! what means this? [seeing the dagger]

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. 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. You must instantly part hence: I have fashion'd it already.


BOSOLA: The duke your brother is ta'en up in a whirlwind; Hath took horse, and's rid post to Rome.

DUCHESS: So late?

BOSOLA: He told me, as he mounted into th' saddle, You were undone.

DUCHESS: Indeed, I am very near it.

BOSOLA: What's the matter?

DUCHESS: Antonio, the master of our household, Hath dealt so falsely with me in's accounts: My brother stood engag'd with me for money Ta'en up of certain Neapolitan Jews, And Antonio lets the bonds be forfeit.

BOSOLA: Strange: [aside] this is cunning.

DUCHESS: And hereupon My brother's bills at Naples are protested Against. Call up our officers.

BOSOLA: I shall.


DUCHESS: The place that you must fly to is Ancona: Hire a house there; I'll send after you My treasure, and my jewels. Our weak safety Runs upon enginous wheels: short syllables Must stand for periods. I must now accuse you Of such a feigned crime, as Tasso calls Magnanima mensogna, a noble lie, 'Cause it must shield our honors: hark, they are coming.

Enter BOSOLA and Gentlemen

ANTONIO: Will your grace hear me?

DUCHESS: I have got well by you; you have yielded me A million of loss: I am like to inherit The people's curses for your stewardship. You had the trick in audit-time to be sick, Till I had sign'd your Quietus; and that cur'd you Without help of a doctor. Gentlemen, I would have this man be an example to you all, So shall you hold my favour; I pray, let him; For h'as done that, alas! you would not think of, And, because I intend to be rid of him, I mean not to publish. Use your fortune elsewhere.

ANTONIO: I am strongly arm'd to brook my overthrow, As commonly men bear with a hard year; I will not blame the cause on't, but do think The necessity of my malevolent star Procures this, not her humour. O, the inconstant And rotten ground of service, you may see; 'Tis even like him, that in a winter night, Takes a long slumber o'er a dying fire, As loath to part from't; yet parts thence as cold, As when he first sat down.

DUCHESS: We do confiscate, Towards the satisfying of your accounts, All that you have.

ANTONIO: I am all yours; and 'tis very fit All mine should be so.

DUCHESS: So, sir, you have your pass.

ANTONIO: You may see, gentlemen, what 'tis to serve A prince with body and soul.


BOSOLA: Here's an example for extortion: what moisture Is drawn out of the sea, when foul weather comes, Pours down, and runs into the sea again.

DUCHESS: I would know what are your opinions Of this Antonio.

2 OFFICER: He could not abide to see a pig's head gaping. I thought your grace would find him a Jew.

3 OFFICER: I would you had been his officer, for your own sake.

4 OFFICER: He stopped his ears with black wool, and to those came to him for money, said he was thick of hearing.

2 OFFICER: Some said he was an hermaphrodite, for he could not abide a woman.

4 OFFICER: How scurvy proud he would look, when the treasury was full! well, let him go.

1 OFFICER: Yes, and the chippings of the buttery fly after him, to scour his gold chain.

DUCHESS: Leave us. [they exit] What do you think of these?

BOSOLA: That these are rogues, that in's prosperity, But to have waited on his fortune, could have wish'd His dirty stirrup riveted through their noses, And follow'd after's mule, like a bear in a ring; Would have prostituted their daughters to his lust; Made their first-born intelligencers; thought none happy But such as were born under his blest planet, And wore his livery: and do these lice drop off now? Well, never look to have the like again: He hath left a sort of flattering rogues behind him; Their doom must follow. Princes pay flatterers In their own money: flatterers dissemble their vices, And they dissemble their lies; that's justice. Alas, poor gentleman!

DUCHESS: Poor! he hath amply fill'd his coffers.

BOSOLA: Sure he was too honest. Pluto, the god of riches, When he's sent by Jupiter to any man, He goes limping, to signify that wealth That comes on God's name, comes slowly; but when he's sent On the devil's errand, he rides post and comes in by scuttles. Let me show you what a most unvalued jewel You have in a wanton humour thrown away, To bless the man shall find him. He was an excellent Courtier, and most faithful; a soldier, that thought it As beastly to know his own value too little, As devilish to acknowledge it too much. Both his virtue and form deserv'd a far better fortune. His discourse rather delighted to judge itself than show itself: His breast was fill'd with all perfection, And yet it seemed a private whispering-room, It made so little noise of't.

DUCHESS: But he was basely descended.

BOSOLA: Will you make yourself a mercenary herald, Rather to examine men's pedigrees, than virtues? You shall want him: For know, an honest statesman to a prince Is like a cedar planted by a spring: The spring bathes the tree's root, the grateful tree Rewards it with his shadow: you have not done so. I would sooner swim to the Bermoothes on Two politicians' rotten bladders, tied Together with an intelligencer's heart-string, Than depend on so changeable a prince's favour. Fare thee well, Antonio, since the malice of the world Would needs down with thee, it cannot be said yet That any ill happened unto thee,

Considering thy fall was accompanied with virtue.

DUCHESS: O, you render me excellent music!

BOSOLA: Say you?

DUCHESS: This good one that you speak of, is my husband.

BOSOLA: Do I not dream? Can this ambitious age Have so much goodness in't, as to prefer A man merely for worth, without these shadows Of wealth and painted honors? possible?

DUCHESS: I have had three children by him.

BOSOLA: Fortunate lady! For you have made your private nuptial bed The humble and fair seminary of peace. No question but many an unbenefic'd scholar Shall pray for you for this deed, and rejoice That some preferment in the world can yet Arise from merit. The virgins of your land That have no dowries shall hope your example Will raise them to rich husbands. Should you want Soldiers, 'twould make the very Turks and Moors Turn Christians, and serve you for this act. Last, the neglected poets of your time, In honor of this trophy of a man, Rais'd by that curious engine, your white hand, Shall thank you in your grave for't; and make that More reverend than all the cabinets Of living princes. For Antonio, His fame shall likewise flow from many a pen, When heralds shall want coats to sell to men.

DUCHESS: As I taste comfort in this friendly speech, So would I find concealment.

BOSOLA: O, the secret of my prince, Which I will wear on th' inside of my heart.

DUCHESS: You shall take charge of all my coin and jewels, And follow him; for he retires himself To Ancona.


DUCHESS: Whither, within few days, I mean to follow thee.

BOSOLA: Let me think: I would wish your grace to feign a pilgrimage To Our Lady of Loretto, scarce seven leagues From fair Ancona; so may you depart Your country with more honor, and your flight Will seem a princely progress, retaining Your usual train about you.

DUCHESS: Sir, your direction Shall lead me by the hand.

CARIOLA: In my opinion, She were better progress to the baths at Lucca, Or go visit the Spa In Germany: for, if you will believe me, I do not like this jesting with religion, This feigned pilgrimage.

DUCHESS: Thou art a superstitious fool. Prepare us instantly for our departure. Past sorrows, let us moderately lament them, For those to come, seek wisely to prevent them.


BOSOLA: A politician is the devil's quilted anvil; He fashions all sins on him, and the blows Are never heard: he may work in a lady's chamber, As here for proof. What rests but I reveal All to my lord? O, this base quality Of intelligencer! Why, every quality i'th' world Prefers but gain or commendation. Now, for this act I am certain to be rais'd, And men that paint weeds to the life are prais'd.


Scene 3

The CARDINAL'S palace in Rome


CARDINAL: Must we turn soldier then?

MALATESTE: The emperor, Hearing your worth that way, ere you attain'd This reverend garment, joins you in commission With the right fortunate soldier, the Marquis of Pescara, And the famous Lannoy.

CARDINAL: He that had the honor Of taking the French king prisoner?

MALATESTE: The same. Here's a plot drawn for a new fortification At Naples.

The CARDINAL and MALATESTE turn aside to study the plans

FERDINAND: This great count Malateste, I perceive, Hath got employment.

DELIO: No employment, my lord; A marginal note in the muster-book, that he is A voluntary lord.

FERDINAND: He's no soldier?

DELIO: He has worn gunpowder in's hollow tooth, for the tooth-ache.

SILVIO: He comes to the leaguer with a full intent To eat fresh beef and garlic, means to stay Till the scent be gone, and straight return to court.

DELIO: He hath read all the late service, As the City Chronicle relates it, And keeps two pewterers going, only to express Battles in model.

SILVIO: Then he'll fight by the book.

DELIO: By the almanac, I think, To choose good days, and shun the critical; That's his mistress' scarf.

SILVIO: Yes, he protests He would do much for that taffata.

DELIO: I think he would run away from a battle, To save it from taking prisoner.

SILVIO: He is horribly afraid Gunpowder will spoil the perfume on't.

DELIO: I saw a Dutchman break his pate once For calling him pot-gun; he made his head Have a bore in't like a musket.

SILVIO: I would he had made a touchhole to't. He is indeed a guarded sumpter-cloth, Only for the remove of the court.


PESCARA: Bosola arriv'd? What should be the business? Some falling out amongst the cardinals. These factions amongst great men, they are like Foxes, when their heads are divided, They carry fire in their tails, and all the country About them goes to wrack for't.

SILVIO: What's that Bosola?

DELIO: I knew him in Padua--a fantastical scholar, Like such who study to know how many knots was in Hercules' club, of what colour Achilles' beard was, Or whether Hector were not troubled With the tooth-ache. He hath studied himself half blear-eyed to know The true symmetry of Caesar's nose by a shoeing-horn; and this He did to gain the name of a speculative man.

PESCARA: Mark prince Ferdinand: A very salamander lives in's eye, To mock the eager violence of fire.

SILVIO: That Cardinal hath made more bad faces with his oppression than ever Michael Angelo made good ones: he lifts up's nose, like a foul porpoise before a storm.

PESCARA: The Lord Ferdinand laughs.

DELIO: Like a deadly cannon, That lightens ere it smokes.

PESCARA: These are your true pangs of death, The pangs of life, that struggle with great statesmen.

DELIO: In such a deformed silence, witches whisper their charms.

[They turn to one side, as focus goes to the brothers and Bosola]

CARDINAL: Doth she make religion her riding hood To keep her from the sun and tempest?


That damns her. Methinks her fault and beauty, Blended together, show like leprosy, The whiter, the fouler. I make it a question Whether her beggarly brats were ever christen'd.

CARDINAL: I will instantly solicit the state of Ancona To have them banish'd.

FERDINAND: You are for Loretto? I shall not be at your ceremony; fare you well. Write to the Duke of Malfi, my young nephew She had by her first husband, and acquaint him With's mother's honesty.

BOSOLA: I will.

FERDINAND: Antonio! A slave that only smell'd of ink and counters And never in's life look'd like a gentleman, But in the audit-time. Go, go presently, Draw me out an hundred and fifty of our horse, And meet me at the fort-bridge.

They exit

Scene 4

Enter TWO PILGRIMS to the Shrine of Our Lady of Loretto

FIRST PILGRIM: I have not seen a goodlier shrine than this, Yet I have visited many.

SECOND PILGRIM: The cardinal of Arragon Is this day to resign his cardinal's hat: His sister duchess likewise is arriv'd To pay her vow of pilgrimage. I expect A noble ceremony.

FIRST PILGRIM: No question. They come.

Here the ceremony of the Cardinal's installment, in the habit

of a soldier, performed in delivering up his cross, hat, robes,

and ring, at the shrine, and investing him with sword, helmet,

shield, and spurs: then Antonio, the Duchess, and their

children, having presented themselves at the shrine, are, by a

form of banishment in dumb-show expressed towards them by

the Cardinal and the state of Ancona, banished. During all

which ceremony, this ditty is sung to very solemn music, by

divers churchmen, and then exit:

Arms, and honors deck thy story, To thy fame's eternal glory: Adverse fortune ever fly thee; No disastrous fate come nigh thee. I alone will sing thy praises, Whom to honor virtue raises; And thy study, that divine is, Bent to martial discipline is. Lay aside all those robes lie by thee; Crown thy arts with arms, they'll beautify thee. O, worthy of worthiest name, adorn;d in this manner, Lead bravely thy forces on, under war's warlike banner! O, may'st thou prove fortunate in all martial courses! Guide thou still by skill in arts and forces: Victory attend thee nigh, whilst fame sings loud thy powers; Triumphant conquest crown thy head, and blessings pour down showers!

(The author disclaims this ditty to be his)

FIRST PILGRIM: Here's a strange turn of state. Who would have thought So great a lady would have match'd herself Unto so mean a person? Yet the cardinal Bears him much too cruel.

SECOND PILGRIM: They are banish'd.

FIRST PILGRIM: But I would ask what power hath this state Of Ancona, to determine of a free prince?

SECOND PILGRIM: They are a free state, sir, and her brother show'd How that the Pope fore-hearing of her looseness, Hath seiz'd into the protection of the church The dukedom, which she held as dowager.

FIRST PILGRIM: But by what justice?

SECOND PILGRIM: Sure I think by none, Only her brother's instigation.

FIRST PILGRIM: What was it with such violence he took Off from her finger?

SECOND PILGRIM: 'Twas her wedding ring, Which he vow'd shortly he would sacrifice To his revenge.

FIRST PILGRIM: Alas, Antonio! If that a man be thrust into a well, No matter who sets hand to't, his own weight Will bring him sooner to th' bottom. Come, let's hence. Fortune makes this conclusion general, All things do help th' unhappy man to fall.

They exit

Scene 5

On a road near Loretto


DUCHESS: Banish'd Ancona?

ANTONIO: Yes, you see what power Lightens in great men's breath.

DUCHESS: Is all our train Shrunk to this poor remainder?

ANTONIO: These poor men, Which have got little in service, vow To take your fortune: but your wiser buntings, Now they are fledg'd, are gone.

DUCHESS: They have done wisely. This puts me in mind of death: physicians thus, With their hands full of money, use to give o'er Their patients.

ANTONIO: Right the fashion of the world: From decay'd fortunes every flatterer shrinks; Men cease to build where the foundation sinks.

DUCHESS: I had a very strange dream tonight.

ANTONIO: What was't?

DUCHESS: Methought I wore my coronet of state, And on a sudden all the diamonds Were chang'd to pearls.

ANTONIO: My interpretation Is, you'll weep shortly; for to me the pearls Do signify your tears.

DUCHESS: The birds that live i'th' field On the wild benefit of nature, live Happier than we; for they may choose their mates, And carol their sweet pleasures to the spring.

Enter BOSOLA with a letter

BOSOLA: You are happily o'erta'en.

DUCHESS: From my brother?

BOSOLA: Yes, from the Lord Ferdinand, your brother, All love and safety.

DUCHESS: Thou dost blanch mischief, Would'st make it white. See, see, like to calm weather At sea before a tempest, false hearts speak fair To those they intend most mischief. [she reads the letter] 'Send Antonio to me; I want his head in a business.' A politic equivocation! He doth not want your counsel, but your head; That is, he cannot sleep till you be dead. And here's another pitfall that's strew'd o'er With roses; mark it, 'tis a cunning one; 'I stand engaged for your husband, for several debts at Naples: let not that trouble him; I had rather have his heart than his money.' And I believe so too.

BOSOLA: What do you believe?

DUCHESS: That he so much distrusts my husband's love, He will by no means believe his heart is with him, Until he see it: the devil is not cunning enough To circumvent us in riddles.

BOSOLA: Will you reject that noble and free league Of amity and love, which I present you?

DUCHESS: Their league is like that of some politic kings, Only to make themselves of strength and power To be our after-ruin: tell them so.

BOSOLA: And what from you?

ANTONIO: Thus tell him; I will not come.

BOSOLA: And what of this?

ANTONIO: My brothers have dispers'd Blood-hounds abroad; which till I hear are muzzled, No truce, though hatch'd with ne'er such politic skill, Is safe, that hangs upon our enemies' will. I'll not come at them.

BOSOLA: This proclaims your breeding: Every small thing draws a base mind to fear, As the adamant draws iron. Fare you well, sir: You shall shortly hear from 's.


DUCHESS: I suspect some ambush: Therefore by all my love I do conjure you To take your eldest son, and fly towards Milan. Let us not venture all this poor remainder In one unlucky bottom.

ANTONIO: You counsel safely. Best of my life, farewell; since we must part, Heaven hath a hand in't: but no otherwise Than as some curious artist takes in sunder A clock, or watch, when it is out of frame, To bring't in better order.

DUCHESS: I know not which is best, To see you dead, or part with you. Farewell, boy: Thou art happy, that thou hast not understanding To know thy misery; for all our wit And reading brings us to a truer sense Of sorrow. In the eternal church, sir, I do hope we shall not part thus.

ANTONIO: O, be of comfort! Make patience a noble fortitude, And think not how unkindly we are us'd: Man, like to cassia, is prov'd best, being bruis'd.

DUCHESS: Must I, like to a slave-born Russian, Account it praise to suffer tyranny? And yet, O heaven, thy heavy hand is in't! I have seen my little boy oft scourge his top, And compar'd myself to't: nought made me e'er go right But heaven's scourge-stick.

ANTONIO: Do not weep: Heaven fashion'd us out of nothing; and we strive To bring ourselves to nothing. Farewell, Cariola, And thy sweet armful. If I do never see thee more, Be a good mother to your little ones, And save them from the tiger: fare you well.

DUCHESS: Let me look upon you once more, for that speech Came from a dying father: your kiss is colder Than that I have seen an holy anchorite Give to a dead man's skull.

ANTONIO: My heart is turn'd to a heavy lump of lead, With which I sound my danger: fare you well.

Exit ANTONIO and elder son

DUCHESS: My laurel is all wither'd.

CARIOLA: Look, madam, what a troop of armed men Make toward us.

Enter BOSOLA and SOLDIERS, with vizards

DUCHESS: O, they are very welcome! When fortune's wheel is over-charg'd with princes, The weight makes it move swift: I would have my ruin Be sudden. I am your adventure, am I not?

BOSOLA: You are: you must see your husband no more.

DUCHESS: What devil art thou, that counterfeits heaven's thunder?

BOSOLA: Is that terrible? I would have you tell me whether

Is that note worse that frights the silly birds Out of the corn, or that which doth allure them To the nets? You have hearken'd to the last too much.

DUCHESS: O misery! like to a rusty o'er-charg'd cannon, Shall I ne'er fly in pieces? Come, to what prison?

BOSOLA: To none.

DUCHESS: Whither, then?

BOSOLA: To your palace.

DUCHESS: I have heard that Charon's boat serves to convey All o'er the dismal lake, but brings none back again.

BOSOLA: Your brothers mean you safety and pity.


With such a pity men preserve alive Pheasants and quails, when they are not fat enough To be eaten.

BOSOLA: These are your children?


BOSOLA: Can they prattle?

DUCHESS: No: But I intend, since they were born accurs'd, Curses shall be their first language.

BOSOLA: Fie, madam, Forget this base, low fellow.

DUCHESS: Were I a man, I'd beat that counterfeit face into thy other.

BOSOLA: One of no birth.

DUCHESS: Say that he was born mean, Man is most happy when's own actions Be arguments and examples of his virtue.

BOSOLA: A barren, beggarly virtue.

DUCHESS: I prithee who is greatest, can you tell? Sad tales befit my woe: I'll tell you one. A salmon, as she swam unto the sea, Met with a dog-fish, who encounters her With this rough language: 'Why art thou so bold To mix thyself with our high state of floods, Being no eminent courtier, but one That for the calmest, and fresh time o'th' year Dost live in shallow rivers, rank'st thyself With silly smelts and shrimps? and darest thou Pass by our dog-ship without reverence?' 'O,' quoth the salmon, 'sister, be at peace: Thank Jupiter, we both have past the net! Our value never can be truly known, Till in the fisher's basket we be shown: I' th' market then my price may be the higher, Even when I am nearest to the cook and fire.' So, to great men the moral may be stretched; Men oft are valu'd high, when th' are most wretched. But come, whither you please. I am arm'd 'gainst misery; Bent to all sways of the oppressor's will: There's no deep valley but near some great hill.

They exit