Notes on Act III, scene i

feeder of pedigrees: breeder of a noble family line

wink: it seems only a wink's time while I  have been away (since I last saw your face)

this half hour: Webster's self-referential joke on how rapidly the action progresses in his play, skipping years between scenes.

in law: involved in a lawsuit

reversion: inheritance

insensibly: no sense of time; if you had been involved in any of these tedious activities, the time would not have seemed so short.

news: of the children's birth

still: quiet

till the devil be up: haunted houses are quiet until the devil rouses himself (that is, Ferdinand's stillness is a dangerous sign).

strumpet: whore

graver: wiser, more serious

politic: more prudent

censure: judge, what opinion do they have

purchase: wealth

left-hand way: underhanded

amend: correct

princes: can refer to both male and female rulers

odious: unpopular

bespeak: arrange, speak in favor of. Earlier Ferdinand opposed any remarriage for the Duchess, but clearly what's most important to him is having control over his sister. On the other hand, he may be testing her, knowing that she already has a lover.

Malateste: Webster may be making an obscene pun, as his name means "bad testes."

sugar-candy: he's a man of little substance, one can almost see through him.

Pasquil's paper bullets: a statue in Rome where writers would post satirical bulletins.

calumny: slander

pestilent air: the poisonous environment of court gossip

I pour it in your bosom: I tell you confidentially

extenuate: lessen the seriousness of

cultures: blades of a plough; in Medieval times women accused of adultery had to demonstrate their innocence by walking unharmed over hot blades.

intelligence: spying

by whom: Bosola thinks that Antonio is the Duchess' go-between, arranging lovers for her; as yet he doesn't suspect that he is her husband.

may ... stars: might as well try to find out by astrology as by credible evidence.

dote: show affection for

desertless: undeserving

faith: can you really believe

gulleries: tricks for the gullible

mountebanks: con-men who sell magic potions as cure-alls

lenative: lenitive, soothing; these medicines were sweet to take, but poisonous

equivocation: an oath that could mean more than one thing, ambiguous

her rank blood:: Ferdinand believes that the duchess' lechery comes from her own nature, not sorcery

false key: duplicate key

compass: understand

drifts: plans, direction I am going

put a girdle: traveled around the world

sounded: measured the depths of (that is, if someone can figure Ferdinand out, he can accomplish anything).

chronicle: you speak too much of yourself

pension: payment

entertained: employed

that friend ... defects: someone who tells a great man the truth about himself and points out his faults helps him to avoid misfortune.


Back to Act III, scene i

Table of contents