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The Duchess of Malfi

Act 5 Scene 3

A church graveyard

DELIO: Yond’s the cardinal’s window. This fortification
Grew from the ruins of an ancient abbey;
And to yond’ side o’th’ river lies a wall,
Piece of a cloister, which in my opinion
Gives the best echo that you ever heard,
So hollow and so dismal, and withal
So plain in the distinction of our words,
That many have suppos’d it is a spirit
That answers.

ANTONIO: I do love these ancient ruins.
We never tread upon them, but we set
Our foot upon some reverend history;
And, questionless, here in this open court,
Which now lies naked to the injuries
Of stormy weather, some men lie interr’d
Lov’d the church so well, and gave so largely to’t,
They thought it should have canopied their bones
Till doomsday; but all things have their end:
Churches and cities, which have diseases like to men,
Must have like death that we have.

ECHO: [from the Duchess’ grave] Like death that we have.

DELIO: Now the echo hath caught you.

ANTONIO: It groan’d, methought, and gave
A very deadly accent.

ECHO: Deadly accent.

DELIO: I told you ’twas a pretty one. You may make it
A huntsman, or a falconer, a musician,
Or a thing of sorrow.

ECHO: A thing of sorrow.

ANTONIO: Ay sure, that suits it best.

ECHO: That suits it best.

ANTONIO: ‘Tis very like my wife’s voice.

ECHO: Ay, wife’s voice.

DELIO: Come, let us walk farther from’t.
I would not have you go to th’ cardinal’s tonight.
Do not.

ECHO: Do not.

DELIO: Wisdom doth not more moderate wasting sorrow,
Than time. Take time for’t; be mindful of thy safety.

ECHO: Be mindful of thy safety.

ANTONIO: Necessity compels me.
Make scrutiny throughout the passages
Of your own life, you’ll find it impossible
To fly your fate.

ECHO: O fly your fate!

DELIO: Hark! The dead stones seem to have pity on you,
And give you good counsel.

ANTONIO: Echo, I will not talk with thee,
For thou art a dead thing.

ECHO: Thou art a dead thing.

ANTONIO: My duchess is asleep now,
And her little ones, I hope sweetly. O heaven,
Shall I never see her more?

ECHO: Never see her more.

ANTONIO: I mark’d not one repetition of the echo
But that; and on the sudden, a clear light
Presented me a face folded in sorrow.

DELIO: Your fancy merely.

ANTONIO: Come, I’ll be out of this ague,
For to live thus is not indeed to live;
It is a mockery and abuse of life.
I will not henceforth save myself by halves;
Lose all, or nothing.

DELIO: Your own virtue save you.
I’ll fetch your eldest son, and second you.
It may be that the sight of his own blood
Spread in so sweet a figure, may beget
The more compassion.
However, fare you well.
Though in our miseries fortune have a part,
Yet in our noble sufferings she hath none;
Contempt of pain, that we may call our own.

They exit


Yond’s: yonder (over there) is

withal: also

interr’d: buried

like: similar

Duchess’ grave: this stage direction is in the first Quarto, indicating that the Duchess provides the voice for the echo.

moderate: lessen

make scrutiny: examine closely

asleep: he means this literally, not as a metaphor for death. If he knew of their deaths,  Antonio surely would not want to make peace with the brothers.

fancy: imagination

ague: trembling associated with a fever, but in this case because of fear

second: support you in this endeavor

blood: family, his nephew

however: however things turn out

sufferings: we can rise above the suffering that fortune sends, if we so choose, or we can merely complain about them.

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