Act III, scene i


    The court at Malfi, several years later

    Enter ANTONIO and DELIO

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


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