Джон Уэбстер. The Duchess of Malfi

Джон Уэбстер. The Duchess of Malfi


Act I, scene i

The Court at Malfi, Italy
The year: 1504

DELIO: You are welcome to your country, dear Antonio;

You have been long in France, and you return

A very formal Frenchman in your habit.

How do you like the French court?

ANTONIO: I admire it:

In seeking to reduce both state and people

To a fix'd order, their judicious king

Begins at home; quits first his royal palace

Of flattering sycophants, of dissolute

And infamous persons, which he sweetly terms

His master's masterpiece, the work of heaven;

Considering duly, that a prince's court

Is like a common fountain, whence should flow

Pure silver drops in general, but if't chance

Some curs'd example poison't near the head,

Death and diseases through the whole land spread.

And what is't makes this blessed government,

But a most provident council, who dare freely

Inform him the corruption of the times?

Though some o'th' court hold it presumption

To instruct princes what they ought to do,

It is a noble duty to inform them

What they ought to foresee. Here comes Bosola,

The only court-gall; yet I observe his railing

Is not for simple love of piety:

Indeed he rails at those things which he wants;

Would be as lecherous, covetous, or proud,

Bloody, or envious, as any man,

If he had means to be so. Here's the Cardinal.


BOSOLA: I do haunt you still.


BOSOLA: I have done you better service

Than to be slighted thus.

Miserable age, where only the reward

Of doing well, is the doing of it!

CARDINAL: You enforce your merit too much.

BOSOLA: I fell into the galleys in your service,

Where, for two years together, I wore

Two towels instead of a shirt, with a knot on the shoulder,

After the fashion of a Roman mantle.

Slighted thus? I will thrive some way:

Black-birds fatten best in hard weather;

Why not I in these dog-days?

CARDINAL: Would you could become honest.

BOSOLA: With all your divinity do but direct me

The way to it. I have known many travel far for it,

And yet return as arrant knaves as they went forth,

Because they carried themselves always along with them.


Are you gone?

Some fellows, they say, are possessed with the devil,

But this great fellow were able to possess the greatest

Devil, and make him worse.

ANTONIO: He hath denied thee some suit?

BOSOLA: He and his brother are like plum-trees that grow crooked

Over standing-pools; they are rich, and o'erladen with

Fruit, but none but crows, pies, and caterpillars feed

On them. Could I be one of their flattering panders, I

Would hang on their ears like a horseleech, till I were full, and

Then drop off. I pray leave me.

Who would rely upon these miserable dependences, in expectation to

Be advanced tomorrow? What creature ever fed worse, than hoping

Tantalus? nor ever died any man more fearfully, than he that hoped

For a pardon. There are rewards for hawks and dogs,

When they have done us service: but for a soldier that hazards his

Limbs in a battle, nothing but a kind of geometry is his last


DELIO: Geometry?

BOSOLA: Ay, to hang in a fair pair of slings, take his latter swing in the

World upon an honorable pair of crutches, from hospital

To hospital. Fare ye well, sir: and yet do not you scorn us, for

Places in the court are but like beds in the hospital, where this

Man's head lies at that man's foot, and so lower and lower.


DELIO: I knew this fellow seven years in the galleys

For a notorious murder; and 'twas thought

The Cardinal suborn'd it: he was releas'd

By the French general, Gaston de Foix,

When he recover'd Naples.

ANTONIO: 'Tis great pity,

He should be thus neglected: I have heard

He's very valiant. This foul melancholy

Will poison all his goodness; for, I'll tell you,

If too immoderate sleep be truly said

To be an inward rust unto the soul,

It then doth follow want of action

Breeds all black malcontents, and their close rearing,

Like moths in cloth, do hurt for want of wearing.

Act I, scene ii

Action continues from previous scene

DELIO: The presence 'gins to fill: you promis'd me

To make me the partaker of the natures

Of some of your great courtiers.

ANTONIO: The lord cardinal's,

And other strangers, that are now in court?

I shall: here comes the great Calabrian Duke.

FERDINAND: Who took the ring oftenest?

SILVIO: Antonio Bologna, my lord.

FERDINAND: Our sister Duchess' great master of her household:

Give him the jewel. When shall we leave this sportive action,

And fall to action indeed?

CASTRUCHIO: Methinks, my lord,

You should not desire to go to war in person.

FERDINAND: [aside] Now, for some gravity--why, my lord?

CASTRUCHIO: It is fitting a soldier arise to be a prince, but not necessary

A prince descend to be a captain.


CASTRUCHIO: No, my lord;

He were far better do it by a deputy.

FERDINAND: Why should he not as well sleep or eat by a deputy?

This might take idle, offensive, and base office from him,

Whereas the other deprives him of honor.

CASTRUCHIO: Believe my experience: that realm is never long in quiet,

Where the ruler is a soldier.

FERDINAND: Thou toldest me

Thy wife could not endure fighting.

CASTRUCHIO: True, my lord.

FERDINAND: And of a jest she broke of a captain

she met full of wounds: I have forgot it.

CASTRUCHIO: She told him, my lord, he was a pitiful fellow, to lie

Like the children of Ismael, all in tents.

FERDINAND: Why, there's a wit were able to undo

All the chirugeons o'th' city, for although

Gallants should quarrel, and had drawn their weapons,

And were ready to go to it, yet her persuasions would

Make them put up.

CASTRUCHIO: That she would, my lord.

How do you like my Spanish jennet?

RODERIGO: He is all fire.

FERDINAND: I am of Pliny's opinion, I think he was begot by the wind;

He runs as if he were ballasted with quicksilver.

SILVIO: True, my lord, he reels from the tilt often.

RODERIGO and GRISOLAN: Ha, ha, ha!

FERDINAND: Why do you laugh? methinks you that are courtiers

Should be my touchwood, take fire when I give fire;

That is, not laugh but when I laugh, were the subject never so witty.

CASTRUCHIO: True, my lord; I myself have heard a very good jest,

And have scorned to seem to have so silly a wit, as to understand it.

FERDINAND: But I can laugh at your fool, my lord.

CASTRUCHIO: He cannot speak, you know, but he makes faces:

My lady cannot abide him.


CASTRUCHIO: Nor endure to be in merry company; for she says

Too much laughing, and too much company, fills her

Too full of the wrinkle.

FERDINAND: I would then have a mathematical instrument

Made for her face, that she might not laugh out of compass. I shall shortly

Visit you at Milan, Lord Silvio.

SILVIO: Your grace shall arrive most welcome.

FERDINAND: You are a good horseman, Antonio: you have excellent

Riders in France: what do you think of good horsemanship?

ANTONIO: Nobly, my lord: as out of the Grecian horse issued

Many famous princes, so out of brave horsemanship

Arise the first sparks of growing resolution, that raise

The mind to noble action.

FERDINAND: You have bespoke it worthily.

SILVIO: Your brother, the lord Cardinal, and sister Duchess.


CARDINAL: Are the galleys come about?

GRISOLAN: They are, my lord.

FERDINAND: Here's the Lord Silvio is come to take his leave.

DELIO: [aside to Antonio] Now, sir, your promise: what's that Cardinal?

I mean his temper? They say he's a brave fellow,

Will play his five thousand crowns at tennis, dance,

Court ladies, and one that hath fought single combats.

ANTONIO: Some such flashes superficially hang on him, for form;

But observe his inward character: he is a melancholy

Churchman; the spring in his face is nothing but the

Engendering of toads; where he is jealous of any man,

He lays worse plots for him than ever was imposed on

Hercules, for he strews in his way flatterers, panders,

Intelligencers, atheists, and a thousand such political

Monsters. He should have been Pope, but instead of

Coming to it by the primitive decency of the church,

He did bestow bribes so largely, and so impudently, as if he would

Have carried it away without heaven's knowledge.

Some good he hath done.

DELIO: You have given too much of him: what's his brother?

ANTONIO: The duke there? a most perverse and turbulent nature:

What appears in him mirth is merely outside;

If he laugh heartily, it is to laugh

All honesty out of fashion.

DELIO: Twins?

ANTONIO: In quality.

He speaks with others' tongues, and hears men's suits

With others' ears; will seem to sleep o' th' bench

Only to entrap offenders in their answers;

Dooms men to death by information,

Rewards by hearsay.

DELIO: Then the law to him

Is like a foul black cobweb to a spider,

He makes it his dwelling and a prison

To entangle those shall feed him.

ANTONIO: Most true:

He never pays debts unless they be shrewd turns,

And those he will confess that he doth owe.

Last, for his brother there, the cardinal,

They that do flatter him most say oracles

Hang at his lips; and verily I believe them,

For the devil speaks in them.

But for their sister, the right noble duchess,

You never fix'd your eye on three fair medals

Cast in one figure, of so different temper.

For her discourse, it is so full of rapture,

You only will begin then to be sorry

When she doth end her speech, and wish, in wonder,

She held it less vain-glory to talk much

Than your penance to hear her: whilst she speaks,

She throws upon a man so sweet a look,

That it were able to raise one to a galliard

That lay in a dead palsy, and to dote

On that sweet countenance; but in that look

There speaketh so divine a continence,

As cuts off all lascivious and vain hope.

Her days are practic'd in such noble virtue,

That sure her nights, nay more, her very sleeps,

Are more in heaven, than other ladies' shrifts.

Let all sweet ladies break their flattering glasses,

And dress themselves in her.

DELIO: Fie, Antonio,

You play the wire-drawer with her commendation.

ANTONIO: I'll case the picture up: only thus much,

All her particular worth, grows to this sum;

She stains the time past, lights the time to come.

CARIOLA: You must attend my lady in the gallery,

Some half an hour hence.

ANTONIO: I shall.


FERDINAND: Sister, I have a suit to you.

DUCHESS: To me, sir?

FERDINAND: A gentleman here, Daniel de Bosola,

One that was in the galleys--

DUCHESS: Yes, I know him.

FERDINAND: A worthy fellow h'is: pray let me entreat for

The provisorship of your horse.

DUCHESS: Your knowledge of him

Commends him and prefers him.

FERDINAND: Call him hither.

Exit Attendant

We are now upon parting. Good Lord Silvio,

Do us commend to all our noble friends

At the leaguer.

SILVIO: Sir, I shall.

FERDINAND: You are for Milan?


DUCHESS: Bring the caroches: we'll bring you down to the haven.

Exit all but the CARDINAL and FERDINAND

CARDINAL: Be sure you entertain that Bosola

For your intelligence: I would not be seen in't;

And therefore many times I have slighted him,

When he did court our furtherance, as this morning.

FERDINAND: Antonio, the great master of her household,

Had been far fitter.

CARDINAL: You are deceiv'd in him:

His nature is too honest for such business.

He comes: I'll leave you


BOSOLA: I was lur'd to you.

FERDINAND: My brother here, the Cardinal could never

Abide you.

BOSOLA: Never since he was in my debt.

FERDINAND: May be some oblique character in your face

Made him suspect you.

BOSOLA: Doth he study physiognomy?

There's no more credit to be given to th' face,

Than to a sick man's urine, which some call

The physician's whore, because she cozens him.

He did suspect me wrongfully.


You must give great men leave to take their times.

Distrust doth cause us seldom be deceiv'd:

You see, the oft shaking of the cedar-tree

Fastens it more at root.

BOSOLA: Yet, take heed;

For to suspect a friend unworthily,

Instructs him the next way to suspect you,

And prompts him to deceive you.

FERDINAND: There's gold.


What follows? never rain'd such showers as these

Without thunderbolts i' th' tail of them: whose throat must I cut?

FERDINAND: Your inclination to shed blood rides post

Before my occasion to use you. I give you that

To live i'th' court here, and observe the duchess;

To note all the particulars of her 'haviour,

What suitors do solicit her for marriage,

And whom she best affects. She's a young widow:

I would not have her marry again.

BOSOLA: No, sir?

FERDINAND: Do not you ask the reason; but be satisfied

I say I would not.

BOSOLA: It seems you would create me

One of your familiars.

FERDINAND: Familiar? what's that?

BOSOLA: Why, a very quaint invisible devil in flesh;

An intelligencer.

FERDINAND: Such a kind of thriving thing

I would wish thee; and ere long, thou may'st arrive

At a higher place by't.

BOSOLA: Take your devils,

Which hell calls angels: these curs'd gifts would make

You a corrupter, me an impudent traitor;

And should I take these, they'd take me to hell.

FERDINAND: Sir, I'll take nothing from you, that I have given:

There is a place that I procur'd for you

This morning, the provisorship o'th'horse;

Have you heard on't?


FERDINAND: 'Tis yours: is't not worth thanks?

BOSOLA: I would have you curse yourself now, that your bounty

(Which makes men truly noble) e'er should make

Me a villain. O, that to avoid ingratitude

For the good deed you have done me, I must do

All the ill man can invent! Thus the devil

Candies all sins o'er; and what heaven terms vile

That names he complemental.




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