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 IV
 
Scene II
 
 
[Enter] DUCHESS and CARIOLA 1

  DUCH.  What hideous noise was that?
  CARI.        ’Tis the wild consort 2
Of madmen, lady, which your tyrant brother
Hath plac’d about your lodging. This tyranny,        4
I think, was never practis’d till this hour.
  DUCH.  Indeed, I thank him. Nothing but noise and folly
Can keep me in my right wits; whereas reason
And silence make me stark mad. Sit down;        8
Discourse to me some dismal tragedy.
  CARI.  O, ’twill increase your melancholy!
  DUCH.        Thou art deceiv’d:
To hear of greater grief would lessen mine,        12
This is a prison?
  CARI.        Yes, but you shall live
To shake this durance off.
  DUCH.        Thou art a fool:        16
The robin-red-breast and the nightingale
Never live long in cages.
  CARI.        Pray, dry your eyes.
What think you of, madam?        20
  DUCH.        Of nothing;
When I muse thus, I sleep.
  CARI.  Like a madman, with your eyes open?
  DUCH.  Dost thou think we shall know one another        24
In th’ other world?
  CARI.        Yes, out of question.
  DUCH.  O, that it were possible we might
But hold some two days’ conference with the dead!        28
From them I should learn somewhat, I am sure,
I never shall know here. I ’ll tell thee a miracle:
I am not mad yet, to my cause of sorrow;
Th’ heaven o’er my head seems made of molten brass,        32
The earth of flaming sulphur, yet I am not mad.
I am acquainted with sad misery
As the tann’d galley-slave is with his oar;
Necessity makes me suffer constantly,        36
And custom makes it easy. Who do I look like now?
  CARI.  Like to your picture in the gallery,
A deal of life in show, but none in practice;
Or rather like some reverend monument        40
Whose ruins are even pitied.
  DUCH.        Very proper:
And Fortune seems only to have her eye-sight
To behold my tragedy.—How now!        44
What noise is that?
 
[Enter Servant]

  SERV.        I am come to tell you
Your brother hath intended you some sport,
A great physician, when the Pope was sick        48
Of a deep melancholy, presented him
With several sorts 3 of madmen, which wild object
Being full of change and sport, forc’d him to laugh,
And so the imposthume 4 broke: the self-same cure        52
The duke intends on you.
  DUCH.        Let them come in.
  SERV.  There ’s a mad lawyer; and a secular priest;
A doctor that hath forfeited his wits        56
By jealousy; an astrologian
That in his works said such a day o’ the month
Should be the day of doom, and, failing of ’t,
Ran mad; an English tailor craz’d i’ the brain        60
With the study of new fashions; a gentleman-usher
Quite beside himself with care to keep in mind
The number of his lady’s salutations
Or ‘How do you,’ she employ’d him in each morning;        64
A farmer, too, an excellent knave in grain, 5
Mad ’cause he was hind’red transportation: 6
And let one broker that ’s mad loose to these,
You’d think the devil were among them.        68
  DUCH.  Sit, Cariola.—Let them loose when you please,
For I am chain’d to endure all your tyranny.
 
[Enter Madman]
Here by a Madman this song is sung to a dismal kind of music

        O, let us howl some heavy note,
  Some deadly dogged howl,
Sounding as from the threatening throat
  Of beasts and fatal fowl!
As ravens, screech-owls, bulls, and bears,
  We ’ll bell, and bawl our parts,
Till irksome noise have cloy’d your ears
  And corrosiv’d your hearts.
At last, whenas our choir wants breath,
  Our bodies being blest,
We ’ll sing, like swans, to welcome death,
  And die in love and rest.
  FIRST MADMAN.  Doom’s-day not come yet! I ’ll draw it nearer by a perspective, 7 or make a glass that shall set all the world on fire upon an instant. I cannot sleep; my pillow is stuffed with a litter of porcupines.        72
  SECOND MADMAN.  Hell is a mere glass-house, where the devils are continually blowing up women’s souls on hollow irons, and the fire never goes out.
  FIRST MADMAN.  I have skill in heraldry.
  SECOND MADMAN.  Hast?
  FIRST MADMAN.  You do give for your crest a woodcock’s head with the brains picked out on ’t; you are a very ancient gentleman.        76
  THIRD MADMAN.  Greek is turned Turk: we are only to be saved by the Helvetian translation. 8
  FIRST MADMAN.  Come on, sir, I will lay the law to you.
  SECOND MADMAN.  O, rather lay a corrosive: the law will eat to the bone.
  THIRD MADMAN.  He that drinks but to satisfy nature is damn’d.        80
  FOURTH MADMAN.  If I had my glass here, I would show a sight should make all the women here call me mad doctor.
  FIRST MADMAN.  What ’s he? a rope-maker?
  SECOND MADMAN.  No, no, no, a snuffling knave that, while he shows the tombs, will have his hand in a wench’s placket. 9
  THIRD MADMAN.  Woe to the caroche 10 that brought home my wife from the masque at three o’clock in the morning! It had a large feather-bed in it.        84
  FOURTH MADMAN.  I have pared the devil’s nails forty times, roasted them in raven’s eggs, and cured agues with them.
  THIRD MADMAN.  Get me three hundred milch-bats, to make possets 11 to procure sleep.
  FOURTH MADMAN.  All the college may throw their caps at me: I have made a soap-boiler costive; it was my masterpiece.  Here the dance, consisting of Eight Madmen, with music answerable thereunto; after which, BOSOLA, like an old man, enters.
  DUCH.  Is he mad too?        88
  SERV.        Pray, question him. I ’ll leave you.  [Exeunt Servant and Madmen.]
  BOS.  I am come to make thy tomb.
  DUCH.        Ha! my tomb!
Thou speak’st as if I lay upon my death-bed,        92
Gasping for breath. Dost thou perceive me sick?
  BOS.  Yes, and the more dangerously, since thy sickness is insensible.
  DUCH.  Thou art not mad, sure: dost know me?
  BOS.        Yes.        96
  DUCH.        Who am I?
  BOS.  Thou art a box of worm-seed, at best but a salvatory 12 of green mummy. 13 What ’s this flesh? a little crudded 14 milk, fantastical puff-paste. Our bodies are weaker than those paper-prisons boys use to keep flies in; more contemptible, since ours is to preserve earth-worms. Didst thou ever see a lark in a cage? Such is the soul in the body: this world is like her little turf of grass, and the heaven o’er our heads like her looking-glass, only gives us a miserable knowledge of the small compass of our prison.
  DUCH.  Am not I thy duchess?
  BOS.  Thou art some great woman, sure, for riot begins to sit on thy forehead (clad in gray hairs) twenty years sooner than on a merry milk-maid’s. Thou sleepest worse than if a mouse should be forced to take up her lodging in a cat’s ear: a little infant that breeds its teeth, should it lie with thee, would cry out, as if thou wert the more unquiet bedfellow.        100
  DUCH.  I am Duchess of Malfi still.
  BOS.  That makes thy sleep so broken:
Glories, like glow-worms, afar off shine bright,
But, look’d to near, have neither heat nor light.        104
  DUCH.  Thou art very plain.
  BOS.  My trade is to flatter the dead, not the living; I am a tomb-maker.
  DUCH.  And thou comest to make my tomb?
  BOS.  Yes.        108
  DUCH.  Let me be a little merry:—of what stuff wilt thou make it?
  BOS.  Nay, resolve me first, of what fashion?
  DUCH.  Why, do we grow fantastical on our deathbed? Do we affect fashion in the grave?
  BOS.  Most ambitiously. Princes’ images on their tombs do not lie, as they were wont, seeming to pray up to heaven; but with their hands under their cheeks, as if they died of the tooth-ache. They are not carved with their eyes fix’d upon the stars, but as their minds were wholly bent upon the world, the selfsame way they seem to turn their faces.        112
  DUCH.  Let me know fully therefore the effect
Of this thy dismal preparation,
This talk fit for a charnel.
  BOS.        Now I shall:—        116
 
[Enter Executioners, with] a coffin, cords, and a bell

Here is a present from your princely brothers;
And may it arrive welcome, for it brings
Last benefit, last sorrow.
  DUCH.        Let me see it:        120
I have so much obedience in my blood,
I wish it in their veins to do them good.
  BOS.  This is your last presence-chamber.
  CARI.  O my sweet lady!        124
  DUCH.        Peace; it affrights not me.
  BOS.  I am the common bellman
That usually is sent to condemn’d persons
The night before they suffer.        128
  DUCH.        Even now thou said’st
Thou wast a tomb-maker.
  BOS.        ’Twas to bring you
By degrees to mortification. Listen.
        Hark, now everything is still,
The screech-owl and the whistler shrill
Call upon our dame aloud,
And bid her quickly don her shroud!
Much you had of land and rent;
Your length in clay ’s now competent:
A long war disturb’d your mind;
Here your perfect peace is sign’d.
Of what is ’t fools make such vain keeping?
Sin their conception, their birth weeping,
Their life a general mist of error,
Their death a hideous storm of terror.
Strew your hair with powders sweet,
Don clean linen, bathe your feet,
And (the foul fiend more to check)
A crucifix let bless your neck.
’Tis now full tide ’tween night and day;
End your groan, and come away.
        132
  CARI.  Hence, villains, tyrants, murderers! Alas!
What will you do with my lady?—Call for help!
  DUCH.  To whom? To our next neighbours? They are mad-folks.
  BOS.  Remove that noise.        136
  DUCH.        Farewell, Cariola.
In my last will I have not much to give:
A many hungry guests have fed upon me;
Thine will be a poor reversion.        140
  CARI.        I will die with her.
  DUCH.  I pray thee, look thou giv’st my little boy
Some syrup for his cold, and let the girl
Say her prayers ere she sleep.  [CARIOLA is forced out by the Executioners.]        144
        Now what you please:
What death?
  BOS.        Strangling; here are your executioners.
  DUCH.  I forgive them:        148
The apoplexy, catarrh, or cough o’ th’ lungs,
Would do as much as they do.
  BOS.  Doth not death fright you?
  DUCH.        Who would be afraid on ’t,        152
Knowing to meet such excellent company
In th’ other world?
  BOS.  Yet, methinks,
The manner of your death should much afflict you:        156
This cord should terrify you.
  DUCH.        Not a whit:
What would it pleasure me to have my throat cut
With diamonds? or to be smothered        160
With cassia? or to be shot to death with pearls?
I know death hath ten thousand several doors
For men to take their exits; and ’tis found
They go on such strange geometrical hinges,        164
You may open them both ways: any way, for heaven-sake,
So I were out of your whispering. Tell my brothers
That I perceive death, now I am well awake,
Best gift is they can give or I can take.        168
I would fain put off my last woman’s-fault,
I ’d not be tedious to you.
  FIRST EXECUT.        We are ready.
  DUCH.  Dispose my breath how please you; but my body        172
Bestow upon my women, will you?
  FIRST EXECUT.        Yes.
  DUCH.  Pull, and pull strongly, for your able strength
Must pull down heaven upon me:—        176
Yet stay; heaven-gates are not so highly arch’d
As princes’ palaces; they that enter there
Must go upon their knees [Kneels].—Come, violent death,
Serve for mandragora to make me sleep!—        180
Go tell my brothers, when I am laid out,
They then may feed in quiet.  They strangle her.
  BOS.  Where ’s the waiting-woman?
Fetch her: some other strangle the children.        184
 
[Enter CARIOLA]

Look you, there sleeps your mistress.
  CARI.        O, you are damn’d
Perpetually for this! My turn is next;
Is ’t not so ordered?        188
  BOS.        Yes, and I am glad
You are so well prepar’d for ’t.
  CARI.        You are deceiv’d, sir,
I am not prepar’d for ’t, I will not die;        192
I will first come to my answer, 15 and know
How I have offended.
  BOS.        Come despatch her.—
You kept her counsel; now you shall keep ours.        196
  CARI.  I will not die, I must not; I am contracted
To a young gentleman.
  FIRST EXECUT.        Here ’s your wedding-ring.
  CARI.  Let me but speak with the duke. I ’ll discover        200
Treason to his person.
  BOS.        Delays:—throttle her.
  FIRST EXECUT.  She bites and scratches.
  CARI.        If you kill me now,        204
I am damn’d; I have not been at confession
This two years.
  BOS.  [To EXECUTIONERS.]  When? 16
  CARI.        I am quick with child.        208
  BOS.        Why, then,
Your credit ’s saved.  [Executioners strangle CARIOLA.]
        Bear her into the next room;
Let these lie still.  [Exeunt the Executioners with the body of CARIOLA.]        212
 
[Enter FERDINAND]

  FERD.        Is she dead?
  BOS.        She is what
You’d have her. But here begin your pity:  Shows the Children strangled.
Alas, how have these offended?        216
  FERD.        The death
Of young wolves is never to be pitied.
  BOS.  Fix your eye here.
  FERD.        Constantly.        220
  BOS.        Do you not weep?
Other sins only speak; murder shrieks out.
The element of water moistens the earth,
But blood flies upwards and bedews the heavens.        224
  FERD.  Cover her face; mine eyes dazzle: she died young.
  BOS.  I think not so; her infelicity
Seem’d to have years too many.
  FERD.  She and I were twins;        228
And should I die this instant, I had liv’d
Her time to a minute.
  BOS.        It seems she was born first:
You have bloodily approv’d the ancient truth,        232
That kindred commonly do worse agree
Than remote strangers.
  FERD.        Let me see her face
Again. Why didst thou not pity her? What        236
An excellent honest man mightst thou have been,
If thou hadst borne her to some sanctuary!
Or, bold in a good cause, oppos’d thyself,
With thy advanced sword above thy head,        240
Between her innocence and my revenge!
I bade thee, when I was distracted of my wits,
Go kill my dearest friend, and thou hast done ’t.
For let me but examine well the cause:        244
What was the meanness of her match to me?
Only I must confess I had a hope,
Had she continu’d widow, to have gain’d
An infinite mass of treasure by her death:        248
And that was the main cause,—her marriage,
That drew a stream of gall quite through my heart.
For thee, as we observe in tragedies
That a good actor many times is curs’d        252
For playing a villain’s part, I hate thee for ’t,
And, for my sake, say, thou hast done much ill well.
  BOS.  Let me quicken your memory, for I perceive
You are falling into ingratitude: I challenge        256
The reward due to my service.
  FERD.        I ’ll tell thee
What I ’ll give thee.
  BOS.        Do.        260
  FERD.        I ’ll give thee a pardon
For this murder.
  BOS.        Ha!
  FERD.        Yes, and ’tis        264
The largest bounty I can study to do thee.
By what authority didst thou execute
This bloody sentence?
  BOS.        By yours.        268
  FERD.  Mine! was I her judge?
Did any ceremonial form of law
Doom her to not-being? Did a complete jury
Deliver her conviction up i’ the court?        272
Where shalt thou find this judgment register’d,
Unless in hell? See, like a bloody fool,
Thou’st forfeited thy life, and thou shalt die for ’t.
  BOS.  The office of justice is perverted quite        276
When one thief hangs another. Who shall dare
To reveal this?
  FERD.        O, I ’ll tell thee;
The wolf shall find her grave, and scrape it up,        280
Not to devour the corpse, but to discover
The horrid murder.
  BOS.        You, not I, shall quake for ’t.
  FERD.  Leave me.        284
  BOS.        I will first receive my pension.
  FERD.  You are a villain.
  BOS.        When your ingratitude
Is judge, I am so.        288
  FERD.        O horror,
That not the fear of him which binds the devils
Can prescribe man obedience!—
Never look upon me more.        292
  BOS.        Why, fare thee well.
Your brother and yourself are worthy men!
You have a pair of hearts are hollow graves,
Rotten, and rotting others; and your vengeance,        296
Like two chain’d-bullets, still goes arm in arm:
You may be brothers; for treason, like the plague,
Doth take much in a blood. I stand like one
That long hath ta’en a sweet and golden dream:        300
I am angry with myself, now that I wake.
  FERD.  Get thee into some unknown part o’ the world,
That I may never see thee.
  BOS.        Let me know        304
Wherefore I should be thus neglected. Sir,
I serv’d your tyranny, and rather strove
To satisfy yourself than all the world:
And though I loath’d the evil, yet I lov’d        308
You that did counsel it; and rather sought
To appear a true servant than an honest man.
  FERD.  I ’ll go hunt the badger by owl-light:
’Tis a deed of darkness.  Exit.        312
  BOS.  He ’s much distracted. Off, my painted honour!
While with vain hopes our faculties we tire,
We seem to sweat in ice and freeze in fire.
What would I do, were this to do again?        316
I would not change my peace of conscience
For all the wealth of Europe.—She stirs; here ’s life:—
Return, fair soul, from darkness, and lead mine
Out of this sensible hell:—she ’s warm, she breathes:—        320
Upon thy pale lips I will melt my heart,
To store them with fresh colour.—Who ’s there?
Some cordial drink!—Alas! I dare not call:
So pity would destroy pity.—Her eye opes,        324
And heaven in it seems to ope, that late was shut,
To take me up to mercy.
  DUCH.  Antonio!
  BOS.        Yes, madam, he is living;        328
The dead bodies you saw were but feign’d statues.
He ’s reconcil’d to your brothers; the Pope hath wrought
The atonement.
  DUCH.        Mercy!  Dies.        332
  BOS.  O, she ’s gone again! there the cords of life broke.
O sacred innocence, that sweetly sleeps
On turtles’ feathers, whilst a guilty conscience
Is a black register wherein is writ        336
All our good deeds and bad, a perspective
That shows us hell! That we cannot be suffer’d
To do good when we have a mind to it!
This is manly sorrow;        340
These tears, I am very certain, never grew
In my mother’s milk. My estate is sunk
Below the degree of fear: where were
These penitent fountains while she was living?        344
O, they were frozen up! Here is a sight
As direful to my soul as is the sword
Unto a wretch hath slain his father.
Come, I ’ll bear thee hence,        348
And execute thy last will: that ’s deliver
Thy body to the reverend dispose
Of some good women: that the cruel tyrant
Shall not deny me. Then I ’ll post to Milan,        352
Where somewhat I will speedily enact
Worth my dejection.  Exit [with the body].
 
Note 1. Another room in the lodging of the Duchess. [back]
Note 2. Band. [back]
Note 3. Bands. [back]
Note 4. Boil. [back]
Note 5. Punning on the two senses of “dye” and “corn.” [back]
Note 6. From exporting his grain. [back]
Note 7. Optical glass. [back]
Note 8. The Geneva Bible. [back]
Note 9. Petticoat. [back]
Note 10. Coach. [back]
Note 11. A warm drink containing milk, wine, etc. [back]
Note 12. Receptacle. [back]
Note 13. A drug supposed to ooze from embalmed bodies. [back]
Note 14. Curdled. [back]
Note 15. Trial. [back]
Note 16. An exclamation of impatience. [back]
 

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