Fiction > Harvard Classics > John Webster > The Duchess of Malfi
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John Webster (1580?–1634).  The Duchess of Malfi.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Act II
 
Scene II
 
 
[Enter] BOSOLA and Old Lady 1

  BOS.  So, so, there ’s no question but her techiness 2 and most vulturous eating of the apricocks are apparent signs of breeding, now?
  OLD LADY.  I am in haste, sir.
  BOS.  There was a young waiting-woman had a monstrous desire to see the glass-house——
  OLD LADY.  Nay, pray, let me go.        4
  BOS.  And it was only to know what strange instrument it was should swell up a glass to the fashion of a woman’s belly.
  OLD LADY.  I will hear no more of the glass-house. You are still 3 abusing women!
  BOS.  Who, I? No; only, by the way now and then, mention your frailties. The orange-tree bears ripe and green fruit and blossoms all together; and some of you give entertainment for pure love, but more for more precious reward. The lusty spring smells well; but drooping autumn tastes well. If we have the same golden showers that rained in the time of Jupiter the thunderer, you have the same Danäes still, to hold up their laps to receive them. Didst thou never study the mathematics?
  OLD LADY.  What ’s that, sir?        8
  BOS.  Why, to know the trick how to make a many lines meet in one centre. Go, go, give your foster-daughters good counsel: tell them, that the devil takes delight to hang at a woman’s girdle, like a false rusty watch, that she cannot discern how the time passes.  [Exit Old Lady.]
 
[Enter ANTONIO, RODERIGO, and GRISOLAN]

  ANT.  Shut up the court-gates.
  ROD.        Why sir? What ’s the danger?
  ANT.  Shut up the posterns presently, and call        12
All the officers o’ th’ court.
  GRIS.      I shall instantly.  [Exit.]
  ANT.  Who keeps the key o’ th’ park-gate?
  ROD.        Forobosco.        16
  ANT.  Let him bring ’t presently.
 
[Re-enter GRISOLAN with Servants]

  FIRST SERV.  O, gentleman o’ th’ court, the foulest treason!
  BOS.  [aside.] If that these apricocks should be poison’d now,
Without my knowledge?        20
  FIRST SERV.  There was taken even now a Switzer in the duchess’ bed-chamber——
  SECOND SERV.  A Switzer!
  FIRST SERV.  With a pistol in his great codpiece.
  BOS.  Ha, ha, ha!        24
  FIRST SERV.  The codpiece was the case for ’t.
  SECOND SERV.  There was a cunning traitor. Who would have search’d his codpiece?
  FIRST SERV.  True; if he had kept out of the ladies’ chambers. And all the moulds of his buttons were leaden bullets.
  SECOND SERV.  O wicked cannibal! A fire-lock in ’s codpiece!        28
  FIRST SERV.  ’Twas a French plot, upon my life.
  SECOND SERV.  To see what the devil can do!
  ANT.  [Are] all the officers here?
  SERVANTS.  We are.        32
  ANT.  Gentlemen,
We have lost much plate, you know; and but this evening
Jewels, to the value of four thousand ducats,
Are missing in the duchess’ cabinet.        36
Are the gates shut?
  SERV.        Yes.
  ANT.        ’Tis the duchess’ pleasure
Each officer be lock’d into his chamber        40
Till the sun-rising; and to send the keys
Of all their chests and of their outward doors
Into her bed-chamber. She is very sick.
  ROD.  At her pleasure.        44
  ANT.  She entreats you take ’t not ill: the innocent
Shall be the more approv’d by it.
  BOS.  Gentlemen o’ the wood-yard, where ’s your Switzer now?
  FIRST SERV.  By this hand, ’twas credibly reported by one o’ the black guard. 4  [Exeunt all except ANTONIO and DELIO.]        48
  DELIO.  How fares it with the duchess?
  ANT.        She ’s expos’d
Unto the worst of torture, pain, and fear.
  DELIO.  Speak to her all happy comfort.        52
  ANT.  How I do play the fool with mine own danger!
You are this night, dear friend, to post to Rome:
My life lies in your service.
  DELIO.        Do not doubt me.        56
  ANT.  O, ’tis far from me: and yet fear presents me
Somewhat that looks like danger.
  DELIO.        Believe it,
’Tis but the shadow of your fear, no more:        60
How superstitiously we mind our evils!
The throwing down salt, or crossing of a hare,
Bleeding at nose, the stumbling of a horse,
Or singing of a cricket, are of power        64
To daunt whole man in us. Sir, fare you well:
I wish you all the joys of a bless’d father;
And, for my faith, lay this unto your breast,—
Old friends, like old swords, still are trusted best.  [Exit.]        68
 
[Enter CARIOLA]

  CARI.  Sir, you are the happy father of a son:
Your wife commends him to you.
  ANT.        Blessèd comfort!—
For heaven’s sake, tend her well; I ’ll presently 5        72
Go set a figure for ’s nativity. 6  Exeunt.
 
Note 1. A hall in the same palace. [back]
Note 2. Crossness. [back]
Note 3. Always. [back]
Note 4. The meaner servants. [back]
Note 5. At once. [back]
Note 6. Cast his horoscope. [back]
 

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