The Duchess of Malfi/Act III, scene i

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Act III, scene i

The court at Malfi, several years later


ANTONIO: Our noble friend, my most beloved Delio!

O, you have been a stranger long at court:

Came you along with the Lord Ferdinand?

DELIO: I did, sir: and how fares your noble duchess?

ANTONIO: Right fortunately well. She's an excellent

Feeder of pedigrees; since you last saw her,

She hath had two children more, a son and daughter.

DELIO: Methinks 'twas yesterday; let me but wink,

And not behold your face, which to mine eye

Is somewhat leaner: verily I should dream

It were within this half hour.

ANTONIO: You have not been in law, friend Delio,

Nor in prison, nor a suitor at the court,

Nor begg'd the reversion of some great man's place,

Nor troubled with an old wife, which doth make

Your time so insensibly hasten.

DELIO: Pray, sir, tell me,

Hath not this news arriv'd yet to the ear

Of the lord Cardinal?

ANTONIO: I fear it hath:

The Lord Ferdinand, that's newly come to court,

Doth bear himself right dangerously.

DELIO: Pray, why?

ANTONIO: He is so quiet, that he seems to sleep

The tempest out, as dormice do in winter:

These houses that are haunted, are most still

Till the devil be up.

DELIO: What say the common people?

ANTONIO: The common rabble do directly say

She is a strumpet.

DELIO: And your graver heads,

Which would be politic, what censure they?

ANTONIO: They do observe I grow to infinite purchase

The left-hand way, and all suppose the duchess

Would amend it, if she could. For, say they,

Great princes, though they grudge their officers

Should have such large and unconfined means

To get wealth under them, will not complain

Lest thereby they should make them odious

Unto the people; for other obligation

Of love or marriage, between her and me,

They never dream of.

DELIO: The Lord Ferdinand

Is going to bed.


FERDINAND: I'll instantly to bed,

For I am weary. I am to bespeak

A husband for you.

DUCHESS: For me, sir? Pray, who is't?

FERDINAND: The great Count Malateste.

DUCHESS: Fie upon him:

A count? He's a mere stick of sugar-candy;

You may look quite through him. When I choose

A husband, I will marry for your honor.

FERDINAND: You shall do well in't. How is't, worthy Antonio?

DUCHESS: But, sir, I am to have private conference with you

About a scandalous report is spread

Touching mine honor.

FERDINAND: Let me be ever deaf to't:

One of Pasquil's paper-bullets, court calumny,

A pestilent air, which princes' palaces

Are seldom purg'd of. Yet, say that it were true,

I pour it in your bosom, my fix'd love

Would strongly excuse, extenuate, nay deny

Faults were they apparent in you. Go, be safe

In your own innocency.

DUCHESS: O bless'd comfort!

This deadly air is purg'd.

Exit all but Ferdinand and Bosola

FERDINAND: Her guilt treads on

Hot burning cultures. Now, Bosola,

How thrives our intelligence?

BOSOLA: Sir, uncertainly:

'Tis rumour'd she hath had three bastards, but

By whom, we may go read i'th' stars.


Hold opinion, all things are written there.

BOSOLA: Yes, if we could find spectacles to read them.

I do suspect, there hath been some sorcery

Us'd on the duchess.

FERDINAND: Sorcery? To what purpose?

BOSOLA: To make her dote on some desertless fellow

She shames to acknowledge.

FERDINAND: Can your faith give way

To think there's power in potions, or in charms,

To make us love whether we will or no?

BOSOLA: Most certainly.

FERDINAND: Away, these are mere gulleries, horrid things

Invented by some cheating mountebanks,

To abuse us. Do you think that herbs, or charms,

Can force the will? Some trials have been made

In this foolish practice, but the ingredients

Were lenative poisons, such as are of force

To make the patient mad; and straight the witch

Swears by equivocation they are in love.

The witchcraft lies in her rank blood. This night

I will force confession from her. You told me

You had got, within these two days, a false key

Into her bed-chamber.

BOSOLA: I have.

FERDINAND: As I would wish.

BOSOLA: What do you intend to do?

FERDINAND: Can you guess?


FERDINAND: Do not ask then:

He that can compass me, and know my drifts,

May say he hath put a girdle 'bout the world,

And sounded all her quicksands.

BOSOLA: I do not think so.

FERDINAND: What do you think, then, pray?

BOSOLA: That you are

Your own chronicle too much, and grossly

Flatter yourself.

FERDINAND: Give me thy hand; I thank thee.

I never gave pension but to flatterers,

Till I entertained thee. Farewell.

That friend a great man's ruin strongly checks,

Who rails into his belief all his defects.

They exit