SCENE III. [Malfi. Gallery in the Duchess' palace. ]_ACT I_THE DUCHESS OF MALFI_ELIZABETHAN DRAMA

SCENE III. [Malfi. Gallery in the Duchess' palace. ]


Card. We are to part from you; and your own discretion

Must now be your director.

Ferd. You are a widow:

You know already what man is; and therefore

Let not youth, high promotion, eloquence——

Card. No,

Nor anything without the addition, honour,

Sway your high blood.

Ferd. Marry! they are most luxurious〖Lustful.〗

Will wed twice.

Card. O, fie!

Ferd. Their livers are more spotted

Than Laban's sheep.〖Genesis xxxi., 31-42.〗

Duch. Diamonds are of most value,

They say, that have pass'd through most jewellers' hands.

Ferd. Whores by that rule are precious.

Duch. Will you hear me?

I'll never marry.

Card. So most widows say;

But commonly that motion lasts no longer

Than the turning of an hour-glass: the funeral sermon

And it end both together.

Ferd. Now hear me:

You live in a rank pasture, here, i' the court;

There is a kind of honey-dew that 's deadly;

'Twill poison your fame; look to 't. Be not cunning;

For they whose faces do belie their hearts

Are witches ere they arrive at twenty years,

Ay, and give the devil suck.

Duch. This is terrible good counsel.

Ferd. Hypocrisy is woven of a fine small thread,

Subtler than Vulcan's engine.〖The net in which he caught Venus and Mars.〗 yet, believe 't,

Your darkest actions, nay, your privat'st thoughts,

Will come to light.

Card. You may flatter yourself,

And take your own choice; privately be married

Under the eaves of night——

Ferd. Think 't the best voyage

That e'er you made; like the irregular crab,

Which, though 't goes backward, thinks that it goes right

Because it goes its own way: but observe,

Such weddings may more properly be said

To be executed than celebrated.

Card. The marriage night

Is the entrance into some prison.

Ferd. And those joys,

Those lustful pleasures, are like heavy sleeps

Which do fore-run man's mischief.

Card. Fare you well.

Wisdom begins at the end: remember it. [Exit.]

Duch. I think this speech between you both was studied,

It came so roundly off.

Ferd. You are my sister;

This was my father's poniard, do you see?

I'd be loth to see't look rusty, 'cause 'twas his.

I would have you give o'er these chargeable revels:

A visor and a mask are whispering-rooms

That were never built for goodness,—fare ye well—

And women like variety of courtship.

What cannot a neat knave with a smooth tale

Make a woman believe? Farewell, lusty widow. [Exit.]

Duch. Shall this move me? If all my royal kindred

Lay in my way unto this marriage,

I'd make them my low footsteps. And even now,

Even in this hate, as men in some great battles,

By apprehending danger, have achiev'd

Almost impossible actions (I have heard soldiers say so),

So I through frights and threatenings will assay

This dangerous venture. Let old wives report

I wink'd and chose a husband.—Cariola,

To thy known secrecy I have given up

More than my life,—my fame.

Cari. Both shall be safe;

For I'll conceal this secret from the world

As warily as those that trade in poison

Keep poison from their children.

Duch. Thy protestation

Is ingenious and hearty; I believe it.

Is Antonio come?

Cari. He attends you.

Duch. Good dear soul,

Leave me; but place thyself behind the arras,

Where thou mayst overhear us. Wish me good speed;

For I am going into a wilderness,

Where I shall find nor path nor friendly clue

To be my guide. [CARIOLA goes behind the arras.]


I sent for you: sit down;

Take pen and ink, and write: are you ready?

Ant. Yes.

Duch. What did I say?

Ant. That I should write somewhat.

Duch. O, I remember.

After these triumphs and this large expense

It 's fit, like thrifty husbands,〖Housekeepers.〗 we inquire

What 's laid up for to-morrow.

Ant. So please your beauteous excellence.

Duch. Beauteous!

Indeed, I thank you. I look young for your sake;

You have ta'en my cares upon you.

Ant. I'll fetch your grace

The particulars of your revenue and expense.

Duch. O, you are

An upright treasurer: but you mistook;

For when I said I meant to make inquiry

What 's laid up for to-morrow, I did mean

What 's laid up yonder for me.

Ant. Where?

Duch. In heaven.

I am making my will (as 'tis fit princes should,

In perfect memory), and, I pray, sir, tell me,

Were not one better make it smiling, thus,

Than in deep groans and terrible ghastly looks,

As if the gifts we parted with procur'd〖Produced.〗

That violent distraction?

Ant. O, much better.

Duch. If I had a husband now, this care were quit:

But I intend to make you overseer.

What good deed shall we first remember? Say.

Ant. Begin with that first good deed began i' the world

After man's creation, the sacrament of marriage;

I'd have you first provide for a good husband;

Give him all.

Duch. All!

Ant. Yes, your excellent self.

Duch. In a winding-sheet?

Ant. In a couple.

Duch. Saint Winifred, that were a strange will!

Ant. 'T were stranger〖Qq. read strange.〗 if there were no will in you

To marry again.

Duch. What do you think of marriage?

Ant. I take 't, as those that deny purgatory,

It locally contains or heaven or hell;

There 's no third place in't.

Duch. How do you affect it?

Ant. My banishment, feeding my melancholy,

Would often reason thus.

Duch. Pray, let 's hear it.

Ant. Say a man never marry, nor have children,

What takes that from him? Only the bare name

Of being a father, or the weak delight

To see the little wanton ride a-cock-horse

Upon a painted stick, or hear him chatter

Like a taught starling.

Duch. Fie, fie, what 's all this?

One of your eyes is blood-shot; use my ring to 't.

They say 'tis very sovereign. 'Twas my wedding-ring,

And I did vow never to part with it

But to my second husband.

Ant. You have parted with it now.

Duch. Yes, to help your eye-sight.

Ant. You have made me stark blind.

Duch. How?

Ant. There is a saucy and ambitious devil

Is dancing in this circle.

Duch. Remove him.

Ant. How?

Duch. There needs small conjuration, when your finger

May do it: thus. Is it fit?

[She puts the ring upon his finger]: he kneels.

Ant. What said you?

Duch. Sir,

This goodly roof of yours is too low built;

I cannot stand upright in 't nor discourse,

Without I raise it higher. Raise yourself;

Or, if you please, my hand to help you: so. [Raises him.]

Ant. Ambition, madam, is a great man's madness,

That is not kept in chains and close-pent rooms,

But in fair lightsome lodgings, and is girt

With the wild noise of prattling visitants,

Which makes it lunatic beyond all cure.

Conceive not I am so stupid but I aim〖Guess.〗

Whereto your favours tend: but he 's a fool

That, being a-cold, would thrust his hands i' the fire

To warm them.

Duch. So, now the ground 's broke,

You may discover what a wealthy mine

I make your lord of.

Ant. O my unworthiness!

Duch. You were ill to sell yourself:

This dark'ning of your worth is not like that

Which tradesmen use i' the city; their false lights

Are to rid bad wares off: and I must tell you,

If you will know where breathes a complete man

(I speak it without flattery), turn your eyes,

And progress through yourself.

Ant. Were there nor heaven nor hell,

I should be honest: I have long serv'd virtue,

And ne'er ta'en wages of her.

Duch. Now she pays it.

The misery of us that are born great!

We are forc'd to woo, because none dare woo us;

And as a tyrant doubles with his words,

And fearfully equivocates, so we

Are forc'd to express our violent passions

In riddles and in dreams, and leave the path

Of simple virtue, which was never made

To seem the thing it is not. Go, go brag

You have left me heartless; mine is on your bosom:

I hope 'twill multiply love there. You do tremble:

Make not your heart so dead a piece of flesh,

To fear more than to love me. Sir, be confident:

What is 't distracts you? This is flesh and blood, sir;

'Tis not the figure cut in alabaster

Kneels at my husband's tomb. Awake, awake man!

I do here put off all vain ceremony,

And only do appear to you a young widow

That claims you for her husband, and, like a widow,

I use but half blush in't.

Ant. Truth speak for me;

I will remain the constant sanctuary

Of your good name.

Duch. I thank you, gentle love:

And 'cause you shall not come to me in debt,

Being now my steward, here upon your lips

I sign your Quietus est.〖The phrase used to indicate that accounts had been examined and found correct.〗 This you should have begg'd now.

I have seen children oft eat sweetmeats thus,

As fearful to devour them too soon.

Ant. But for your brothers?

Duch. Do not think of them:

All discord without this circumference

Is only to be pitied, and not fear'd:

Yet, should they know it, time will easily

Scatter the tempest.

Ant. These words should be mine,

And all the parts you have spoken, if some part of it

Would not have savour'd flattery.

Duch. Kneel. [CARIOLA comes from behind the arras.]

Ant. Ha!

Duch. Be not amaz'd; this woman 's of my counsel:

I have heard lawyers say, a contract in a chamber

Per verba [de] presenti〖Using words of present time; i. e., “I take, not” “I will take.”〗 is absolute marriage.

[She and ANTONIO kneel.]

Bless, heaven, this sacred gordian〖Knot.〗 which let violence

Never untwine!

Ant. And may our sweet affections, like the spheres,

Be still in motion!

Duch. Quickening, and make

The like soft music!

Ant. That we may imitate the loving palms,

Best emblem of a peaceful marriage,

That never bore fruit, divided!

Duch. What can the church force more?

Ant. That fortune may not know an accident,

Either of joy or sorrow, to divide

Our fixed wishes!

Duch. How can the church build faster?〖More firmly.〗

We now are man and wife, and 'tis the church

That must but echo this.—Maid, stand apart:

I now am blind.

Ant. What 's your conceit in this?

Duch. I would have you lead your fortune by the hand

Unto your marriage-bed:

(You speak in me this, for we now are one:)

We'll only lie and talk together, and plot

To appease my humurous〖Of difficult disposition.〗 kindred; and if you please,

Like the old tale in Alexander and Lodowick,

Lay a naked sword between us, keep us chaste.

O, let me shrowd my blushes in your bosom,

Since 'tis the treasury of all my secrets!


Cari. Whether the spirit of greatness or of woman

Reign most in her, I know not; but it shows

A fearful madness. I owe her much of pity. Exit.

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