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 III
 
 
[Enter BOSOLA, with a dark lantern] 1

  BOS.  Sure I did hear a woman shriek: list, ha!
And the sound came, if I receiv’d to right,
From the duchess’ lodgings. There ’s some stratagem
In the confining all our courtiers        4
To their several wards: I must have part of it;
My intelligence will freeze else. List, again!
It may be ’twas the melancholy bird,
Best friend of silence and of solitariness,        8
The owl, that screamed so.—Ha! Antonio!
 
[Enter ANTONIO with a candle, his sword drawn]

  ANT.  I heard some noise.—Who ’s there? What art thou? Speak.
  BOS.  Antonio, put not your face nor body
To such a forc’d expression of fear;        12
I am Bosola, your friend.
  ANT.        Bosola!—
  [Aside.]  This mole does undermine me.—Heard you not
A noise even now?        16
  BOS.        From whence?
  ANT.        From the duchess’ lodging.
  BOS.  Not I: did you?
  ANT.        I did, or else I dream’d.        20
  BOS.  Let ’s walk towards it.
  ANT.        No: it may be ’twas
But the rising of the wind.
  BOS.        Very likely.        24
Methinks ’tis very cold, and yet you sweat:
You look wildly.
  ANT.        I have been setting a figure 2
For the duchess’ jewels.        28
  BOS.        Ah, and how falls your question?
Do you find it radical? 3
  ANT.        What ’s that to you?
’Tis rather to be question’d what design,        32
When all men were commanded to their lodgings,
Makes you a night-walker.
  BOS.        In sooth, I ’ll tell you:
Now all the court ’s asleep, I thought the devil        36
Had least to do here; I came to say my prayers;
And if it do offend you I do so,
You are a fine courtier.
  ANT.        [Aside.]  This fellow will undo me.—        40
You gave the duchess apricocks to-day:
Pray heaven they were not poison’d!
  BOS.  Poison’d! a Spanish fig
For the imputation!        44
  ANT.        Traitors are ever confident
Till they are discover’d. There were jewels stol’n too:
In my conceit, more are to be suspected
More than yourself.        48
  BOS.        You are a false steward.
  ANT.  Saucy slave, I ’ll pull thee up by the roots.
  BOS.  May be the ruin will crush you to pieces.
  ANT.  You are an impudent snake indeed, sir:        52
Are you scarce warm, and do you show your sting?
You libel 4 well, sir?
  BOS.        No, sir: copy it out,
And I will set my hand to ’t.        56
  ANT.        [Aside.]  My nose bleeds.
One that were superstitious would count
This ominous, when it merely comes by chance.
Two letters, that are wrought here for my name, 5        60
Are drown’d in blood!
Mere accident.—For you, sir, I ’ll take order
I’ the morn you shall be safe.—[Aside.]  ’Tis that must colour
Her lying-in.—Sir, this door you pass not:        64
I do not hold it fit that you come near
The duchess’ lodgings, till you have quit yourself.—
[Aside.]  The great are like the base, nay, they are the same,
When they seek shameful ways to avoid shame.  Exit.        68
  BOS.  Antonio hereabout did drop a paper:—
Some of your help, false friend. 6—O, here it is.
What ’s here? a child’s nativity calculated!  [Reads.]
‘The duchess was deliver’d of a son, ’tween the hours twelve and one in the night, Anno Dom. 1504,’—that ’s this year—‘decimo nono Decembris,’—that ’s this night—‘taken according to the meridian of Malfi,’—that ’s our duchess: happy discovery!—‘The lord of the first house being combust in the ascendant, signifies short life; and Mars being in a human sign, joined to the tail of the Dragon, in the eighth house, doth threaten a violent death. Cætera non scrutantur.’ 7        72
Why, now ’tis most apparent; this precise fellow
Is the duchess’ bawd:—I have it to my wish!
This is a parcel of intelligency 8
Our courtiers were cas’d up for: it needs must follow        76
That I must be committed on pretence
Of poisoning her; which I ’ll endure, and laugh at.
If one could find the father now! but that
Time will discover. Old Castruccio        80
I’ th’ morning posts to Rome: by him I ’ll send
A letter that shall make her brothers’ galls
O’erflow their livers. This was a thrifty 9 way!
Though lust do mask in ne’er so strange disguise,        84
She ’s oft found witty, but is never wise.  [Exit.]
 
Note 1. The court of the same palace. [back]
Note 2. Making an astrological calculation. [back]
Note 3. Going to the root of the matter. [back]
Note 4. Write. [back]
Note 5. I. e., on his handkerchief. [back]
Note 6. Addressing the lantern. [back]
Note 7. “The rest not considered.” [back]
Note 8. A piece of news. [back]
Note 9. Cleverly contrived. [back]
 

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