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The Duchess of Malfi

Act 5 Scene 1

Rome, a few months later

ANTONIO: What think you of my hope of reconcilement
To the Aragonian brethren?

DELIO: I misdoubt it,
For though they have sent letter of safe conduct
For your repair to Milan, they appear
But nets to entrap you. The Marquis of Pescara,
Under whom you hold certain land in cheat,
Much ‘gainst his noble nature hath been mov’d
To seize those lands, and some of his dependents
Are at this instant making it their suit
To be invested in your revenues.
I cannot think they mean well to your life,
That do deprive you of your means of life,
Your living.

ANTONIO: You are still an heretic
To any safety I can shape myself.

DELIO: Here comes the Marquis. I will make myself
Petitioner for some part of your land
To know whither it is flying.

ANTONIO: I pray do.


DELIO: Sir, I have a suit to you.


DELIO: An easy one:
There is the citadel of St. Bennet,
With some demesnes, of late in the possession
Of Antonio Bologna. Please you bestow them on me.

PESCARA: You are my friend, but this is such a suit
Nor fit for me to give, nor you to take.

DELIO: No, sir?

PESCARA: I will give you ample reason for’t,
Soon in private. Here’s the cardinal’s mistress.


JULIA: My lord, I am grown your poor petitioner,
And should be an ill beggar had I not
A great man’s letter here, the cardinal’s,
To court you in my favor.

PESCARA: He entreats for you
The citadel of St. Bennet that belong’d
To the banish’d Bologna.


PESCARA: I could not have thought of a friend I could rather
Pleasure with it: ’tis yours.

JULIA: Sir, I thank you;
And he shall know how doubly I am engag’d
Both in your gift, and speediness of giving,
Which makes your grant the greater.

She exits

ANTONIO: [aside] How they fortify
Themselves with my ruin!

DELIO: Sir, I am
Little bound to you.


DELIO: Because you denied this suit to me, and gave’t
To such a creature.

PESCARA: Do you know what it was?
It was Antonio’s land, not forfeited
By course of law but ravish’d from his throat
By the cardinal’s entreaty. It were not fit
I should bestow so main a piece of wrong
Upon my friend; ’tis a gratification
Only due to a strumpet, for it is injustice.
Shall I sprinkle the pure blood of innocents
To make those followers I call my friends
Look ruddier upon me? I am glad
This land, ta’en from the owner by such a wrong,
Returns again unto so foul an use,
As salary for his lust. Learn, good Delio,
To ask noble things of me, and you shall find
I’ll be a noble giver.

DELIO: You instruct me well.

ANTONIO: [aside] Why, here’s a man now would fright impudence
From sauciest beggars.

PESCARA: Prince Ferdinand’s come to Milan,
Sick, as they give out, of an apoplexy;
But some say, ’tis a frenzy. I am going
To visit him.

He exits

ANTONIO: ‘Tis a noble old fellow.

DELIO: What course do you mean to take, Antonio?

ANTONIO: This night I mean to venture all my fortune,
Which is no more than a poor lingering life,
To the cardinal’s worst of malice. I have got
Private access to his chamber, and intend
To visit him about the mid of night,
As once his brother did our noble duchess.
It may be that the sudden apprehension
Of danger, for I’ll go in mine own shape,
When he shall see it fraight with love and duty,
May draw the poison out of him, and work
A friendly reconcilement. If it fail,
Yet it shall rid me of this infamous calling;
For better fall once, than be ever falling.

DELIO: I’ll second you in all danger, and, howe’er,
My life keeps rank with yours.

ANTONIO: You are still my lov’d and best friend.

They exit


Aragonian brethren: the Duke and the Cardinal

misdoubt: have my doubts (as will most of the audience; Antonio appears very naive at this point)

repair: return

in cheat: subject to return to the lord only if the tenant dies without an heir or commits a major crime

invested in your revenues: take hold of lands that were Antonio’s

heretic: unbeliever, skeptic

whither it is flying: to find out where your land is going

demesnes: additional land

fortify: strengthen themselves at his expense

bound: in friendship, since Delio believes Pescara has mistreated him

ravish’d from his throat: torn from him as if a wolf had attacked him

ruddier: redder, more healthy

salary: payment to the Cardinal’s whore

fright impudence: Pescara’s honesty and integrity would frighten off the boldest beggars.

apoplexy: stroke

frenzy: madness

once: Antonio refers to the encounter in 3.2. He obviously does not yet know of the Duchess’ death or of their children, or he would not be in such an amiable mood.

own shape: without a disguise

fraight: abounding with

infamous calling: this life of disgrace

falling: from Montaigne, Essays 1.32

howe’er: whatever happens

keeps rank: marches alongside

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