Act 2 Scene 5
Enter CARDINAL and FERDINAND with a letter
FERDINAND: I have this night digg’d up a mandrake.
CARDINAL: Say you?
FERDINAND: And I am grown mad with’t.
CARDINAL: What’s the prodigy?
FERDINAND: Read there, a sister damn’d; she’s loose i’th’ hilts,
Grown a notorious strumpet.
CARDINAL: Speak lower.
Rogues do not whisper’t now, but seek to publish’t,
As servants do the bounty of their lords,
Aloud; and with a covetous searching eye,
To mark who note them. O, confusion seize her!
She hath had most cunning bawds to serve her turn,
And more secure conveyances for lust,
Than towns of garrison for service.
CARDINAL: Is’t possible?
Can this be certain?
FERDINAND: Rhubarb, O for rhubarb
To purge this choler! here’s the cursed day
To prompt my memory, and here’t shall stick
Till of her bleeding heart I make a sponge
To wipe it out.
CARDINAL: Why do you make yourself
So wild a tempest?
FERDINAND: Would I could be one,
That I might toss her palace ’bout her ears,
Root up her goodly forests, blast her meads,
And lay her general territory as waste
As she hath done her honor’s.
CARDINAL: Shall our blood,
The royal blood of Arragon and Castile,
Be thus attainted?
FERDINAND: Apply desperate physic:
We must not now use balsamum, but fire,
The smarting cupping-glass, for that’s the mean
To purge infected blood, such blood as hers.
There is a kind of pity in mine eye,
I’ll give it to my handkerchief; and now ’tis here
I’ll bequeath this to her bastard.
CARDINAL: What to do?
FERDINAND: Why, to make soft lint for his mother’s wounds,
When I have hewed her to pieces!
CARDINAL: Curs’d creature!
Unequal nature, to place women’s hearts
So far upon the left side.
FERDINAND: Foolish men,
That e’er will trust their honor in a bark
Made of so slight weak bulrush as is woman,
Apt every minute to sink it!
CARDINAL: Thus ignorance, when it hath purchas’d honor,
It cannot wield it.
FERDINAND: Methinks I see her laughing–
Excellent hyena! Talk to me somewhat, quickly,
Or my imagination will carry me
To see her in the shameful act of sin.
CARDINAL: With whom?
FERDINAND: Happily with some strong-thigh’d bargeman,
Or one o’th’ wood-yard that can quoit the sledge,
Or toss the bar, or else some lovely squire
That carries coals up to her privy lodgings.
CARDINAL: You fly beyond your reason.
FERDINAND: Go to, mistress!
‘Tis not your whore’s milk that shall quench my wild-fire
But your whore’s blood.
CARDINAL: How idly shows this rage, which carries you,
As men convey’d by witches through the air,
On violent whirlwinds. This intemperate noise
Fitly resembles deaf men’s shrill discourse
Who talk aloud, thinking all other men
To have their imperfection.
FERDINAND: Have not you
CARDINAL: Yes; I can be angry
Without this rupture. There is not in nature
A thing that makes man so deform’d, so beastly,
As doth intemperate anger. Chide yourself.
You have divers men, who never yet express’d
Their strong desire of rest but by unrest,
By vexing of themselves. Come, put yourself
FERDINAND: So: I will only study to seem
The thing I am not. I could kill her now,
In you, or in myself; for I do think
It is some sin in us, heaven doth revenge
CARDINAL: Are you stark mad?
FERDINAND: I would have their bodies
Burnt in a coal-pit with the ventage stopp’d,
That their curs’d smoke might not ascend to heaven;
Or dip the sheets they lie in in pitch or sulphur,
Wrap them in’t, and then light them like a match;
Or else to boil their bastard to a cullis
And give’t his lecherous father, to renew
The sin of his back.
CARDINAL: I’ll leave you.
FERDINAND: Nay, I have done.
I am confident, had I been damn’d in hell,
And should have heard of this, it would have put me
Into a cold sweat. In, in, I’ll go sleep.
Till I know who leaps my sister, I’ll not stir.
That known, I’ll find scorpions to string my whips,
And fix her in a general eclipse.
mandrake: poisonous plant which according to superstition was thought to feed on blood and shriek when plucked, driving the person mad
prodigy: an unnatural or ominous event from which omens are drawn
loose i’th’ hilts: promiscuous
publish’t: make it known publicly
bawds: those who arrange lovers for her
secure conveyances: secret arrangements; she has more means to convey lovers into her bed than towns have to receive supplies
rhubarb: medicine thought to cure excessive choler. Choler (yellow bile) was one of the four humours thought to affect personality; the choleric person was angry and irritable. (see commentary on this scene)
cursed day: referring to the child’s horoscope that Bosola has sent.
cupping-glass: small glasses were heated and applied to the skin, supposedly to draw out diseased blood by vacuum, a painful process
bequeath: leave as inheritance
bastard: just like Bosola, Ferdinand assumes that she is unmarried
left: left-handed people were thought to be deceitful; the Latin word for left is “sinister”
hyena: besides known for laughing, hyenas were thought to be lecherous
somewhat: about something, distract me
quoit the sledge: use the sledgehammer
mistress: Ferdinand speaks of his sister as if she were a mistress who left him for another.
study: I will make an effort to appear calm, even though I am not
in you or in myself: I could kill you or myself, thus killing the blood bond that we share with our sister
sin of his back: to pay him back for his lechery
scorpions: possible allusion to the Bible, 1 Kings 12:11, “My father scourged you with whips, I will scourge you with scorpions.”