SCENE I. [Malfi. An apartment in the palace of the Duchess.]_ACT IV_THE DUCHESS OF MALFI_ELIZABETHAN DRAMA

SCENE I. [Malfi. An apartment in the palace of the Duchess.]


Ferd. How doth our sister duchess bear herself

In her imprisonment?

Bos. Nobly: I'll describe her.

She 's sad as one long us'd to 't, and she seems

Rather to welcome the end of misery

Than shun it; a behaviour so noble

As gives a majesty to adversity:

You may discern the shape of loveliness

More perfect in her tears than in her smiles:

She will muse for hours together; and her silence,

Methinks, expresseth more than if she spake.

Ferd. Her melancholy seems to be fortified

With a strange disdain.

Bos. 'Tis so; and this restraint,

Like English mastives that grow fierce with tying,

Makes her too passionately apprehend

Those pleasures she is kept from.

Ferd. Curse upon her!

I will no longer study in the book

Of another's heart. Inform her what I told you. Exit.

[Enter DUCHESS and Attendants]

Bos. All comfort to your grace!

Duch. I will have none.

Pray thee, why dost thou wrap thy poison'd pills

In gold and sugar?

Bos. Your elder brother, the Lord Ferdinand,

Is come to visit you, and sends you word,

'Cause once he rashly made a solemn vow

Never to see you more, he comes i' th' night;

And prays you gently neither torch nor taper

Shine in your chamber. He will kiss your hand,

And reconcile himself; but for his vow

He dares not see you.

Duch. At his pleasure.—

Take hence the lights.—He 's come.

[Exeunt Attendants with lights.]


Ferd. Where are you?

Duch. Here, sir.

Ferd. This darkness suits you well.

Duch. I would ask your pardon.

Ferd. You have it;

For I account it the honorabl'st revenge,

Where I may kill, to pardon.—Where are your cubs?

Duch. Whom?

Ferd. Call them your children;

For though our national law distinguish bastards

From true legitimate issue, compassionate nature

Makes them all equal.

Duch. Do you visit me for this?

You violate a sacrament o' th' church

Shall make you howl in hell for't.

Ferd. It had been well,

Could you have liv'd thus always; for, indeed,

You were too much i' th' light:—but no more;

I come to seal my peace with you. Here 's a hand

Gives her a dead man's hand.

To which you have vow'd much love; the ring upon 't

You gave.

Duch. I affectionately kiss it.

Ferd. Pray, do, and bury the print of it in your heart.

I will leave this ring with you for a love-token;

And the hand as sure as the ring; and do not doubt

But you shall have the heart too. When you need a friend,

Send it to him that ow'd it; you shall see

Whether he can aid you.

Duch. You are very cold:

I fear you are not well after your travel.—

Ha! lights!——O, horrible!

Ferd. Let her have lights enough. Exit.

Duch. What witchcraft doth he practise, that he hath left

A dead man's hand here?

Here is discovered, behind a traverse,〖Curtain.〗 the artificial figures of ANTONIO and his children, appearing as if they were dead.

Bos. Look you, here 's the piece from which 'twas ta'en.

He doth present you this sad spectacle,

That, now you know directly they are dead,

Hereafter you may wisely cease to grieve

For that which cannot be recovered.

Duch. There is not between heaven and earth one wish

I stay for after this. It wastes me more

Than were 't my picture, fashion'd out of wax,

Stuck with a magical needle, and then buried

In some foul dunghill; and yon 's an excellent property

For a tyrant, which I would account mercy.

Bos. What's that?

Duch. If they would bind me to that lifeless trunk,

And let me freeze to death.

Bos. Come, you must live.

Duch. That 's the greatest torture souls feel in hell,

In hell, that they must live, and cannot die.

Portia,〖The wife of Brutus, who died by swallowing fire.〗 I'll new kindle thy coals again,

And revive the rare and almost dead example

Of a loving wife.

Bos. O, fie! despair? Remember

You are a Christian.

Duch. The church enjoins fasting:

I'll starve myself to death.

Bos. Leave this vain sorrow.

Things being at the worst begin to mend: the bee

When he hath shot his sting into your hand,

May then play with your eye-lid.

Duch. Good comfortable fellow,

Persuade a wretch that 's broke upon the wheel

To have all his bones new set; entreat him live

To be executed again. Who must despatch me?

I account this world a tedious theatre,

For I do play a part in 't 'gainst my will.

Bos. Come, be of comfort; I will save your life.

Duch. Indeed, I have not leisure to tend so small a business.

Bos. Now, by my life, I pity you.

Duch. Thou art a fool, then,

To waste thy pity on a thing so wretched

As cannot pity itself. I am full of daggers.

Puff, let me blow these vipers from me.

[Enter Servant]

What are you?

Serv. One that wishes you long life.

Duch. I would thou wert hang'd for the horrible curse

Thou hast given me: I shall shortly grow one

Of the miracles of pity. I'll go pray;— [Exit Servant.]

No, I'll go curse.

Bos. O, fie!

Duch. I could curse the stars.

Bos. O, fearful!

Duch. And those three smiling seasons of the year

Into a Russian winter; nay, the world

To its first chaos.

Bos. Look you, the stars shine still.

Duch. O, but you must

Remember, my curse hath a great way to go.—

Plagues, that make lanes through largest families,

Consume them!—

Bos. Fie, lady!

Duch. Let them, like tyrants,

Never be remembered but for the ill they have done;

Let all the zealous prayers of mortified

Churchmen forget them!—

Bos. O, uncharitable!

Duch. Let heaven a little while cease crowning martyrs,

To punish them!—

Go, howl them this, and say, I long to bleed:

It is some mercy when men kill with speed. Exit.

[Re-enter FERDINAND]

Ferd. Excellent, as I would wish; she 's plagu'd in art.〖By artificial means.〗

These presentations are but fram'd in wax

By the curious master in that quality,〖Profession.〗

Vincentio Lauriola, and she takes them

For true substantial bodies.

Bos. Why do you do this?

Ferd. To bring her to despair.

Bos. Faith, end here,

And go no farther in your cruelty:

Send her a penitential garment to put on

Next to her delicate skin, and furnish her

With beads and prayer-books.

Ferd. Damn her! that body of hers.

While that my blood run pure in't, was more worth

Than that which thou wouldst comfort, call'd a soul.

I will send her masques of common courtezans,’

Have her meat serv'd up by bawds and ruffians,

And, 'cause she'll needs be mad, I am resolv'd

To move forth the common hospital

All the mad-folk, and place them near her lodging;

There let them practise together, sing and dance,

And act their gambols to the full o' th' moon:

If she can sleep the better for it, let her.

Your work is almost ended.

Bos. Must I see her again?

Ferd. Yes.

Bos. Never.

Ferd. You must.

Bos. Never in mine own shape;

That 's forfeited by my intelligence〖Spying.〗

And this last cruel lie: when you send me next,

The business shall be comfort.

Ferd. Very likely.

Thy pity is nothing of kin to thee, Antonio

Lurks about Milan: thou shalt shortly thither,

To feed a fire as great as my revenge,

Which nev'r will slack till it hath spent his fuel:

Intemperate agues make physicians cruel. Exeunt.

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