Fiction > Harvard Classics > John Webster > The Duchess of Malfi
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
CONTENTS · BOOK CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD · DRAMATIS PERSONÆ
John Webster (1580?–1634).  The Duchess of Malfi.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Act II
 
Scene I
 
 
[Enter] BOSOLA and CASTRUCCIO 1

  BOS.  You say you would fain be taken for an eminent courtier?
  CAST.  ’Tis the very main 2 of my ambition.
  BOS.  Let me see: you have a reasonable good face for ’t already, and your night-cap expresses your ears sufficient largely. I would have you learn to twirl the strings of your band with a good grace, and in a set speech, at th’ end of every sentence, to hum three or four times, or blow your nose till it smart again, to recover your memory. When you come to be a president in criminal causes, if you smile upon a prisoner, hang him; but if you frown upon him and threaten him, let him be sure to scape the gallows.
  CAST.  I would be a very merry president.        4
  BOS.  Do not sup o’ nights; ’twill beget you an admirable wit.
  CAST.  Rather it would make me have a good stomach to quarrel; for they say, your roaring boys eat meat seldom, and that makes them so valiant. But how shall I know whether the people take me for an eminent fellow?
  BOS.  I will teach a trick to know it: give out you lie a-dying, and if you hear the common people curse you, be sure you are taken for one of the prime night-caps. 3
 
[Enter an Old Lady]

You come from painting now.
        8
  OLD LADY.  From what?
  BOS.  Why, from your scurvy face-physic. To behold thee not painted inclines somewhat near a miracle. These in thy face here were deep ruts and foul sloughs the last progress. 4 There was a lady in France that, having had the small-pox, flayed the skin off her face to make it more level; and whereas before she looked like a nutmeg-grater, after she resembled an abortive hedge-hog.
  OLD LADY.  Do you call this painting?
  BOS.  No, no, but you call [it] careening 5 of an old morphewed 6 lady,        12
to make her disembogue 7 again: there ’s rough-cast phrase to your plastic. 8
  OLD LADY.  It seems you are well acquainted with my closet.
  BOS.  One would suspect it for a shop of witchcraft, to find in it the fat of serpents, spawn of snakes, Jews’ spittle, and their young children’s ordure; and all these for the face. I would sooner eat a dead pigeon taken from the soles of the feet of one sick of the plague, than kiss one of you fasting. Here are two of you, whose sin of your youth is the very patrimony of the physician; makes him renew his foot-cloth with the spring, and change his high-pric’d courtezan with the fall of the leaf. I do wonder you do not loathe yourselves. Observe my meditation now.
What thing is in this outward form of man        16
To be belov’d? We account it ominous,
If nature do produce a colt, or lamb,
A fawn, or goat, in any limb resembling
A man, and fly from ’t as a prodigy:        20
Man stands amaz’d to see his deformity
In any other creature but himself.
But in our own flesh though we bear diseases
Which have their true names only ta’en from beasts,—        24
As the most ulcerous wolf and swinish measle,—
Though we are eaten up of lice and worms,
And though continually we bear about us
A rotten and dead body, we delight        28
To hide it in rich tissue: all our fear,
Nay, all our terror, is, lest our physician
Should put us in the ground to be made sweet.—
Your wife ’s gone to Rome: you two couple, and get you to the wells at Lucca to recover your aches. I have other work on foot.  [Exeunt CASTRUCCIO and Old Lady]        32
I observe our duchess
Is sick a-days, she pukes, her stomack seethes,
The fins of her eye-lids look most teeming blue, 9
She wanes i’ the cheek, and waxes fat i’ the flank,        36
And, contrary to our Italian fashion,
Wears a loose-bodied gown: there ’s somewhat in ’t.
I have a trick may chance discover it,
A pretty one; I have bought some apricocks,        40
The first our spring yields.
 
[Enter ANTONIO and DELIO, talking together apart]

  DELIO.        And so long since married?
You amaze me.
  ANT.        Let me seal your lips for ever:        44
For, did I think that anything but th’ air
Could carry these words from you, I should wish
You had no breath at all.—Now, sir, in your contemplation?
You are studying to become a great wise fellow.        48
  BOS.  O, sir, the opinion of wisdom is a foul tetter 10 that runs all over a man’s body: if simplicity direct us to have no evil, it directs us to a happy being; for the subtlest folly proceeds from the subtlest wisdom: let me be simply honest.
  ANT.  I do understand your inside.
  BOS.        Do you so?
  ANT.  Because you would not seem to appear to th’ world        52
Puff’d up with your preferment, you continue
This out-of-fashion melancholy: leave it, leave it.
  BOS.  Give me leave to be honest in any phrase, in any compliment whatsoever. Shall I confess myself to you? I look no higher than I can reach: they are the gods that must ride on winged horses. A lawyer’s mule of a slow pace will both suit my disposition and business; for, mark me, when a man’s mind rides faster than his horse can gallop, they quickly both tire.
  ANT.  You would look up to heaven, but I think        56
The devil, that rules i’ th’ air, stands in your light.
  BOS.  O, sir, you are lord of the ascendant, 11 chief man with the duchess: a duke was your cousin-german remov’d. Say you were lineally descended from King Pepin, or he himself, what of this? Search the heads of the greatest rivers in the world, you shall find them but bubbles of water. Some would think the souls of princes were brought forth by some more weighty cause than those of meaner persons: they are deceiv’d, there ’s the same hand to them; the like passions sway them; the same reason that makes a vicar go to law for a tithe-pig, and undo his neighbours, makes them spoil a whole province, and batter down goodly cities with the cannon.
 
[Enter DUCHESS and Ladies]

  DUCH.  Your arm, Antonio: do I not grow fat?
I am exceeding short-winded.—Bosola,        60
I would have you, sir, provide for me a litter;
Such a one as the Duchess of Florence rode in.
  BOS.  The duchess us’d one when she was great with child.
  DUCH.  I think she did.—Come hither, mend my ruff:        64
Here, when? thou art such a tedious lady; and
Thy breath smells of lemon-pills: would thou hadst done!
Shall I swoon under thy fingers? I am
So troubled with the mother! 12        68
  BOS.        [aside.]  I fear too much.
  DUCH.  I have heard you say that the French courtiers
Wear their hats on ’fore that king.
  ANT.  I have seen it.        72
  DUCH.        In the presence?
  ANT.        Yes.
  DUCH.  Why should not we bring up that fashion?
’Tis ceremony more than duty that consists        76
In the removing of a piece of felt.
Be you the example to the rest o’ th’ court;
Put on your hat first.
  ANT.        You must pardon me:        80
I have seen, in colder countries than in France,
Nobles stand bare to th’ prince; and the distinction
Methought show’d reverently.
  BOS.  I have a present for your grace.        84
  DUCH.        For me, sir?
  BOS.  Apricocks, madam.
  DUCH.        O, sir, where are they?
I have heard of none to-year 13        88
  BOS.        [aside.]  Good; her colour rises.
  DUCH.  Indeed, I thank you: they are wondrous fair ones.
What an unskilful fellow is our gardener!
We shall have none this month.        92
  BOS.  Will not your grace pare them?
  DUCH.  No: they taste of musk, methinks; indeed they do.
  BOS.  I know not: yet I wish your grace had par’d ’em.
  DUCH.  Why?        96
  BOS.        I forgot to tell you, the knave gardener,
Only to raise his profit by them the sooner,
Did ripen them in horse-dung.
  DUCH.        O, you jest.—        100
You shall judge: pray, taste one.
  ANT.        Indeed, madam,
I do not love the fruit.
  DUCH.        Sir, you are loth        104
To rob us of our dainties. ’Tis a delicate fruit;
They say they are restorative.
  BOS.        ’Tis a pretty art,
This grafting.        108
  DUCH.  ’Tis so; a bettering of nature.
  BOS.  To make a pippin grow upon a crab,
A damson on a black-thorn.—[Aside.]  How greedily she eats them!
A whirlwind strike off these bawd farthingales!        112
For, but for that and the loose-bodied gown,
I should have discover’d apparently 14
The young springal 15 cutting a caper in her belly.
  DUCH.  I thank you, Bosola: they were right good ones,        116
If they do not make me sick.
  ANT.        How now, madam!
  DUCH.  This green fruit and my stomach are not friends:
How they swell me!        120
  BOS.        [aside.]  Nay, you are too much swell’d already.
  DUCH.  O, I am in an extreme cold sweat!
  BOS.        I am very sorry.  [Exit.]
  DUCH.  Lights to my chamber!—O good Antonio,        124
I fear I am undone!
  DELIO.        Lights there, lights!  Exeunt DUCHESS [and Ladies.]
  ANT.  O my most trusty Delio, we are lost!
I fear she ’s fall’n in labour; and there ’s left        128
No time for her remove.
  DELIO.        Have you prepar’d
Those ladies to attend to her; and procur’d
That politic safe conveyance for the midwife        132
Your duchess plotted?
  ANT.        I have.
  DELIO.  Make use, then, of this forc’d occasion.
Give out that Bosola hath poison’d her        136
With these apricocks; that will give some colour
For her keeping close.
  ANT.        Fie, fie, the physicians
Will then flock to her.        140
  DELIO.  For that you may pretend
She ’ll use some prepar’d antidote of her own,
Lest the physicians should re-poison her.
  ANT.  I am lost in amazement: I know not what to think on ’t.  Exeunt.        144
 
Note 1. Malfi. An apartment in the palace of the Duchess. [back]
Note 2. Chief part. [back]
Note 3. Bullies (Hazlitt); lawyers (Vaughan). [back]
Note 4. Royal journey. [back]
Note 5. Turning a boat on its side for repairs. [back]
Note 6. Scabbed. [back]
Note 7. Empty. [back]
Note 8. Face-modeling (Sampson). “There ’s a plain statement of your practises.” [back]
Note 9. Blue like those of a woman with child. [back]
Note 10. Scurf. [back]
Note 11. Person of highest influence. [back]
Note 12. Hysteria. [back]
Note 13. This year. [back]
Note 14. Clearly. [back]
Note 15. Youngster. [back]
 

CONTENTS · BOOK CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD · DRAMATIS PERSONÆ
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
 
Loading
Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors