Notes on Act IV, scene i

mastiffs: type of dog

study in the book: try to understand another's heart

poison'd pills: why do you speak kind words when you only mean me ill?

vow: see Act III, scene ii

bastards: Ferdinand does not consider the Duchess' marriage valid so her children would be illegitimate.

sacrament: their marriage; "what God hath joined, let no man put asunder" as Ferdinand has separated the Duchess and Antonio.

shall: which shall

i' th' light: you were seen too much in public, thus attracting the attention of lovers

ring: actually this is her ring, taken from her by the Cardinal in III.iv. Ferdinand wants her to think that this is Antonio; she doesn't realize that it's only a hand until Ferdinand moves away from her, leaving her holding the hand.

ow'd: owned it (send for Antonio, and see if he can help you)

children: this may be a mistake, as only the older son went with Antonio, the Duchess has the others with her in prison (mentioned in IV.ii)

wastes: hurts

needle: reference to black magic, piercing the likeness of someone with a needle

yond's: yonder is, there is

trunk: body of Antonio

Portia: wife of Brutus (assassin on Julius Caesar), who killed herself by swallowing hot coals.

Christian: the church forbids suicide

enjoins: encourages

bee: even a bee that hurts you can then turn playful (bad events often turn to good)

comfortable: unsuffering

wheel: the rack where a person was stretched until their bones were broken; the duchess criticizes Bosola for encouraging her to live just so her suffering can continue.

dispatch: kill

so small a business: she belittles the value of her life now

grow: become

miracles of pity: religious images for the purpose of making people feel pity on the suffering

smiling seasons: spring, summer, fall

winter: she curses the world to freeze over, even worse, to turn the world back into its original chaotic state before creation

stars shine still: Bosola means either that there remains some light (hope) in this dark world, or in contrast, that Heaven is unmoved/ unaffected by the sufferings of people below, "the insignificance of human agony before the impassive universe" (Lucas)

them: her brothers

mortified: suffering

plagu'd in art: she suffers being fooled by a trick

curious: ingenious, expert

quality: craft

body: note Ferdinand's obsession with his sister's body

my blood: referring immediately to their family's honor, but also we learn in the next scene that they were twins

masques: performances with music and dance

needs be: chooses to be

gambols: play, games

full o'th' moon: when madmen are thought to be at their worst (hence the word "lunatic")

shape: that is, without a disguise

intelligence: spying; Bosola says he is finished with cruelties

kin: pity is no relation to you; it doesn't suit you

intemperate agues: excessive fevers make physicians resort to desperate measures


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