Monday, October 15, 2012


The Duchess of Malfi

Excerpts from John Webster (1580-1634), The Duchess of Malfi:

Sometimes the devil doth preach.
The marriage night / Is the entrance into some prison.
Say you were lineally descended from King Pippin, or he himself, what of this? Search the heads of the greatest rivers in the world, you shall find them but bubbles of water. Some would think the souls of princes were brought forth by some more weighty cause than those of meaner persons: they are deceiv'd, there's the same hand to them; the like passions sway them; the same reason that makes a vicar go to law for a tithe-pig, and undo his neighbours, makes them spoil a whole province, and batter down goodly cities with the cannon.
It may be 'twas the melancholy bird,
Best friend of silence, and of solitariness,
The owl, that scream'd so.
Thou art happy, that thou hast not understanding
To know thy misery. For all our wit
And reading brings us to a truer sense
Of sorrow.
I know death hath ten thousand several doors
For men to take their exits: and 'tis found
They go on such strange geometrical hinges,
You may open them both ways.
Kindred commonly do worse agree
Than remote strangers.
MALATESTE: Why doth your lordship love this solitariness?
FERDINAND: Eagles commonly fly alone. They are crows,
Daws, and starlings that flock together.
And wherefore should you lay your fair marble colours
Upon your rotten purposes to me?
I do love these ancient ruins:
We never tread upon them, but we set
Our foot upon some reverend history.
For to live thus, is not indeed to live:
It is a mockery, and abuse of life.

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