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The Duchess of Malfi

The Duchess of Malfi

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Edited by Frank KermodeAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Frank Kermode

  • Format: Trade Paperback, 688 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library
  • On Sale: May 10, 2005
  • Price: $17.95
  • ISBN: 978-0-679-64243-5 (0-679-64243-9)
Also available as an eBook.
EXCERPT

A Woman Killed

with Kindness

Thomas Heywood



DRAMATIS PERSONAE

MASTER FRANKFORD

MISTRESS ANNE FRANKFORD, his wife

SIR FRANCIS ACTON, her brother

SIR CHARLES MOUNTFORD

MASTER MALBY

MASTER WENDOLL, befriended by Frankford

MASTER CRANWELL, an old gentleman

NICHOLAS

JENKIN

SPIGOT, Butler

CICELY MILKPAIL

Other serving-men and women

JACK SLIME

ROGER BRICKBAT

JOAN MINIVER

JANE TRUBKIN

ISBELL MOTLEY

Musicians

FALCONER and Huntsmen

SUSAN, sister to Sir Charles Mountford

SHERIFF, Officers, KEEPER, SHAFTON

OLD MOUNTFORD, uncle

SANDY, former friend

RODER, former tenant

TIDY, cousin

Serving-woman and ANNE's two little children

Carters, Coachman



PROLOGUE

I come but like a harbinger,1 being sent

To tell you what these preparations mean.

Look for no glorious state; our Muse is bent

Upon a barren subject, a bare scene.

We could afford this twig a timber-tree,

Whose strength might boldly on your favors build;

Our russet, tissue; drone, a honey-bee;

Our barren plot, a large and spacious field;

Our coarse fare, banquets; our thin water, wine;

Our brook, a sea; our bat's eyes, eagle's sight;

Our poet's dull and earthly Muse, divine;

Our ravens, doves; our crow's black feathers, white.

But gentle thoughts, when they may give the foil,

Save them that yield, and spare where they may spoil

1. The officer who goes ahead of the court to arrange for its entertainment.



A WOMAN KILLED

WITH KINDNESS

ACT I, SCENE I

Enter Master John Frankford, Mistress Anne [Frankford,]

Sir Francis Acton, Sir Charles Mountford, Master Malby,

Master Wendoll, and Master Cranwell

SIR F. Some music, there! None lead the bride a dance?

SIR C. Yes, would she dance The Shaking of the Sheets;

But that's the dance her husband means to lead her.

WEN. That's not the dance that every man must dance,

According to the ballad.

SIR F. Music, ho!

By your leave, sister,-by your husband's leave,

I should have said,-the hand that but this day

Was given you in the church I'll borrow.-Sound!

This marriage music hoists me from the ground.

FRANK. Ay, you may caper; you are light and free!

Marriage hath yoked my heels; pray, then, pardon me.

SIR F. I'll have you dance too, brother!

SIR C. Master Frankford

Y'are a happy man, sir, and much joy

Succeed your marriage mirth: you have a wife

So qualified, and with such ornaments

Both of the mind and body. First, her birth

Is noble, and her education such

As might become the daughter of a prince;

Her own tongue speaks all tongues, and her own hand

Can teach all strings to speak in their best grace,

From the shrill'st treble to the hoarsest bass.

To end her many praises in one word,

She's Beauty and Perfection's eldest daughter,

Only found by yours, though many a heart hath sought her.

FRANK. But that I know your virtues and chaste thoughts,

I should be jealous of your praise, Sir Charles.

CRAN. He speaks no more than you approve.

MAL. Nor flatters he that gives to her her due.

ANNE. I would your praise could find a fitter theme

Than my imperfect beauties to speak on!

Such as they be, if they my husband please

They suffice me now I am married.

This sweet content is like a flattering glass,

To make my face seem fairer to mine eye;

But the least wrinkle from his stormy brow

Will blast the roses in my cheeks that grow.

SIR F. A perfect wife already, meek and patient!

How strangely the word husband fits your mouth,

Not married three hours since! Sister, 'tis good;

You that begin betimes thus must needs prove

Pliant and duteous in your husband's love.-

Gramercies, brother! Wrought her to't already,-

"Sweet husband," and a curtsey, the first day?

Mark this, mark this, you that are bachelors,

And never took the grace of honest man;

Mark this, against1 you marry, this one phrase:

In a good time that man both wins and woos

That takes his wife down in her wedding shoes.

FRANK. Your sister takes not after you, Sir Francis:

All his wild blood your father spent on you;

He got her in his age, when he grew civil.

All his mad tricks were to his land entailed,

And you are heir to all; your sister, she

Hath to her dower her mother's modesty.

SIR C. Lord, sir, in what a happy state live you!

This morning, which to many seems a burden,

Too heavy to bear, is unto you a pleasure.

This lady is no clog, as many are;

She doth become you like a well-made suit,

In which the tailor hath used all his art;

Not like a thick coat of unseasoned frieze,1

Forced on your back in summer. She's no chain

To tie your neck, and curb ye to the yoke;

But she's a chain of gold to adorn your neck.

You both adorn each other, and your hands,

Methinks, are matches. There's equality

In this fair combination; y'are both

Scholars, both young, both being descended nobly.

There's music in this sympathy; it carries

Consort and expectation of much joy,

Which God bestow on you from this first day

Until your dissolution,-that's for aye!

SIR F. We keep you here too long, good brother Frankford.

Into the hall; away! Go cheer your guests.

What! Bride and bridegroom both withdrawn at once?

If you be missed, the guests will doubt their welcome,

And charge you with unkindness.

FRANK. To prevent it,

I'll leave you here, to see the dance within.

ANNE. And so will I.

Exeunt Frankford and Mistress Frankford

SIR F. To part you it were sin.-

Now, gallants, while the town musicians

Finger their frets2 within, and the mad lads

And country lasses, every mother's child,

With nosegays and bride-laces3 in their hats,

Dance all their country measures, rounds and jigs,

What shall we do? Hark! They're all on the hoigh;4

They toil like mill-horses, and turn as round,-

Marry, not on the toe! Ay, and they caper,

Not without cutting; you shall see, to-morrow,

The hall-floor pecked and dinted like a mill-stone,

Made with their high shoes. Though their skill be small,

Yet they tread heavy where their hobnails fall.

SIR C. Well, leave them to their sports!-Sir Francis Acton,

I'll make a match with you! Meet to-morrow

At Chevy Chase; I'll fly my hawk with yours.

SIR F. For what? for what?

SIR C. Why, for a hundred pound.

SIR F. Pawn me some gold of that!

SIR C. Here are ten angels;1

I'll make them good a hundred pound to-morrow

Upon my hawk's wing.

SIR F. 'Tis a match; 'tis done.

Another hundred pound upon your dogs;-

Dare ye, Sir Charles?

SIR C. I dare; were I sure to lose,

I durst do more than that; here's my hand.

The first course for a hundred pound!

SIR F. A match.

WEN. Ten angels on Sir Francis Acton's hawk;

As much upon his dogs!

CRAN. I am for Sir Charles Mountford: I have seen

His hawk and dog both tried. What! Clap ye hands,

Or is't no bargain?

WEN. Yes, and stake them down.

Were they five hundred, they were all my own.

SIR F. Be stirring early with the lark to-morrow;

I'll rise into my saddle ere the sun

Rise from his bed.

SIR C. If there you miss me, say

I am no gentleman! I'll hold my day.

SIR F. It holds on all sides.-Come, to-night let's dance;

Early to-morrow let's prepare to ride:

We had need be three hours up before the bride.

Exeunt

SCENE II

Enter Nick and Jenkin, Jack Slime, Roger Brickbat, [Cicely,]

with Country Wenches, and two or three Musicians

JEN. COME, NICK, TAKE YOU JOAN MINIVER, TO TRACE WITHAL, JACK SLIME, TRAVERSE YOU WITH CICELY MILKPAIL; I WILL TAKE JANE TRUBKIN, AND ROGER BRICKBAT SHALL HAVE ISBELL MOTLEY. AND NOW THAT THEY ARE BUSY IN THE PARLOR, COME, STRIKE UP; WE'LL HAVE A CRASH1 HERE IN THE YARD.

NICK. MY HUMOR IS NOT COMPENDIOUS: DANCING I POSSESS NOT, THOUGH I CAN FOOT IT; YET, SINCE I AM FALLEN INTO THE HANDS OF CICELY MILKPAIL, I CONSENT.

SLIME. TRULY, NICK, THOUGH WE WERE NEVER BROUGHT UP LIKE SERVING COURTIERS, YET WE HAVE BEEN BROUGHT UP WITH SERVING CREATURES,-AY, AND GOD'S CREATURES, TOO; FOR WE HAVE BEEN BROUGHT UP TO SERVE SHEEP, OXEN, HORSES, BOGS, AND SUCH LIKE; AND, THOUGH WE BE BUT COUNTRY FELLOWS, IT MAY BE IN THE WAY OF DANCING WE CAN DO THE HORSE-TRICK AS WELL AS THE SERVING-MEN.

BRICK. Ay, and the cross-point2 too.

JEN. O SLIME! O BRICKBAT! DO NOT YOU KNOW THAT COMPARISONS ARE ODIOUS? NOW WE ARE ODIOUS OURSELVES, TOO; THEREFORE THERE ARE NO COMPARISONS TO BE MADE BETWIXT US.

NICK. I am sudden, and not superfluous;

I am quarrelsome, and not seditious;

I am peaceable, and not contentious;

I am brief, and not compendious.

SLIME. FOOT IT QUICKLY! IF THE MUSIC OVERCOME NOT MY MELANCHOLY, I SHALL QUARREL; AND IF THEY SUDDENLY DO NOT STRIKE UP, I SHALL PRESENTLY STRIKE THEE DOWN.

JEN. NO QUARRELING, FOR GOD'S SAKE! TRULY, IF YOU DO, I SHALL SET A KNAVE BETWEEN YE.

SLIME. I COME TO DANCE, NOT TO QUARREL. COME, WHAT SHALL IT BE? ROGERO?3

JEN. Rogero? No; we will dance The Beginning of the World.

CIC. I love no dance so well as John come kiss me now.

NICK. I THAT HAVE ERE NOW DESERVED A CUSHION, CALL FOR THE CUSHION-DANCE.

BRICK. For my part, I like nothing so well as Tom Tyler.

JEN. No; we'll have The Hunting of the Fox.

SLIME. The Hay, The Hay! There's nothing like The Hay.1

NICK. I have said, do say, and will say again-

JEN. Every man agree to have it as Nick says!

ALL. Content.

NICK. It hath been, it now is, and it shall be-

CIC. What, Master Nicholas? What?

NICK. Put on your Smock a' Monday.

JEN. SO THE DANCE WILL COME CLEANLY OFF! COME, FOR GOD'S SAKE, AGREE OF SOMETHING: IF YOU LIKE NOT THAT, PUT IT TO THE MUSICIANS; OR LET ME SPEAK FOR ALL, AND WE'LL HAVE SELLENGER'S ROUND.

ALL. That, that, that!

NICK. NO, I AM RESOLVED THUS IT SHALL BE: FIRST TAKE HANDS, THEN TAKE YE TO YOUR HEELS!

JEN. Why, would you have us run away?

NICK. No; but I would have ye shake your heels.-Music, strike up!

[They dance; Nick dancing, speaks stately and scurvily,2

the rest, after the country fashion]

JEN. Hey! Lively, my lasses! Here's a turn for thee!

Exeunt

SCENE III

Wind horns. Enter Sir Charles [Mountford,] Sir Francis [Acton,] Malby, Cranwell, Wendoll, Falconer, and Huntsmen

SIR C. So; well cast off! Aloft, aloft! Well flown!

O, now she takes her at the souse,3 and strikes her

Down to th' earth, like a swift thunder-clap.

WEN. She hath struck ten angels out of my way.

SIR F. A hundred pound from me.

SIR C. What, falconer!

FALC. At hand, sir!

SIR C. Now she hath seized the fowl and 'gins to plume her,1

Rebeck2 her not; rather stand still and check her!

So, seize her gets,3 her jesses,4 and her bells! Away!

SIR F. My hawk killed, too.

SIR C. Ay, but 'twas at the querre

Not at the mount, like mine.

SIR F. Judgment, my masters!

CRAN. Yours missed her at the ferre.5

WEN. Ay, but our merlin first had plumed the fowl,

And twice renewed6 her from the river too.

Her bells, Sir Francis, had not both one weight,

Nor was one semi-tune above the other.

Methinks, these Milan bells do sound too full,

And spoil the mounting of your hawk.

SIR C. 'Tis lost.

SIR F. I grant it not. Mine likewise seized a fowl

Within her talons, and you saw her paws

Full of the feathers; both her petty singles7

And her long singles griped her more than other;

The terrials8 of her legs were stained with blood,

Not of the fowl only, she did discomfit

Some of her feathers; but she brake away.

Come, come; your hawk is but a rifler.9

SIR C. How!

SIR F. Ay, and your dogs are trindle-tails10 and curs.

SIR C. You stir my blood.

You keep not one good hound in all your kennel,

Nor one good hawk upon your perch.

SIR F. How, knight!

SIR C. So, knight. You will not swagger, sir?

SIR F. Why, say I did?

SIR C. Why, sir,

I say you would gain as much by swaggering

As you have got by wagers on your dogs.

You will come short in all things.

SIR F. Not in this!

Now I'll strike home.

[Strikes Sir Charles]

SIR C. Thou shalt to thy long home,

Or I will want my will.

SIR F. All they that love Sir Francis, follow me!

SIR C. All that affect Sir Charles, draw on my part!

CRAN. On this side heaves my hand.

WEN. Here goes my heart.

[They divide themselves. Sir Charles Mountford, Cranwell,

Falconer, and Huntsman, fight against Sir Francis Acton,

Wendoll, his Falconer and Huntsman; and Sir Charles hath the

better, and beats them away, killing both of Sir Francis's men.]

Exeunt all but Sir Charles Mountford

SIR C. My God, what have I done? What have I done?

My rage hath plunged me into a sea of blood,

In which my soul lies drowned. Poor innocents,

For whom we are to answer! Well, 'tis done,

And I remain the victor. A great conquest,

When I would give this right hand, nay, this head,

To breathe in them new life whom I have slain!-

Forgive me, God! 'Twas in the heat of blood,

And anger quite removes me from myself.

It was not I, but rage, did this vile murder;

Yet I, and not my rage, must answer it.

Sir Francis Acton, he is fled the field;

With him all those that did partake his quarrel;

And I am left alone with sorrow dumb,

And in my height of conquest overcome.

Enter Susan

SUSAN. O God! My brother wounded 'mong the dead!

Unhappy jests, that in such earnest ends!

The rumor of this fear stretched to my ears,

And I am come to know if you be wounded.

SIR C. O, sister, sister! Wounded at the heart.

SUSAN. My God forbid!

SIR C. In doing that thing which he forbad.

I am wounded, sister.

SUSAN. I hope, not at the heart.

SIR C. Yes, at the heart.

SUSAN. O God! A surgeon, there.

SIR C. Call me a surgeon, sister, for my soul!

The sin of murder, it hath pierced my heart

And made a wide wound there; but for these scratches,

They are nothing, nothing.

SUSAN. Charles, what have you done?

Sir Francis hath great friends, and will pursue you

Unto the utmost danger1 of the law.

SIR C. My conscience hath become mine enemy,

And will pursue me more than Acton can.

SUSAN. O! Fly, sweet brother!

SIR C. Shall I fly from thee?

Why, Sue, art weary of my company?

Excerpted from The Duchess of Malfi by Edited and with an Introduction by Frank Kermode Copyright © 2005 by Frank Kermode. Excerpted by permission of Modern Library, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.