Duchess of Malfi Quotes

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“but if’t chance some cursed example poison’t near the head, death and disease through the whole land spread.”

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“but if’t chance some cursed example poison’t near the head, death and disease through the whole land spread.”

Antonio corruption spreads

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“flattering sycophants”


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“dear Antonio”

Delio addressing Antonio

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“The only court gall […] rails at those things which he wants - would be as lecherous, covetous or proud, bloody or envious as any man if he had the means to be so.”

Bosola first description by Antonio

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“I do haunt you still”

Bosola haunting

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“I fell into the galleys in your service […] Blackbirds fatten best in hard weather- why not I, in these dog days?”

Bosola dog days

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“Some fellows, they say, are possessed with the devil, but this fellow were able to possess the greatest devil and make him worse”

Cardinal = devil

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“He and his brothers are like plum trees that grow crooked over standing pools. They are rich and o’erladen with fruit, but none but crows, pies and caterpillars feed on them. Could I be one of their flattering panders, I would hang on their ears like a horse leech till I were full, and then drop off.”

plum trees, Bosola and brothers corruption

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“this foul melancholy will poison all his goodness […] breeds all black malcontents”

Antonio on Bosola malcontent

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“I would then have a mathematical instrument made for her face, that she might not laugh out of compass”

Ferdinand mathematical instrument cruelty

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“he is a melancholy churchman. The spring in his face is nothing but the engendering of toads. […] he strews in his way flatters, panders, intelligencers, athiests and a thousand such political monsters […] he did bestow bribes so largely and so impudently as if he would have carried it away without heaven’s knowledge.”

Cardinal engendering toad, bribes

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“a most perverse and turbulent nature, what appears in him mirth is merely outside”

Ferdinand’s nature by Antonio

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“Then the law to him is like a foul black cobweb to a spider. He makes it his dwelling and a prison to entangle those shall feed him”

Delio spider Ferdinand

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“the devil speaks in them” vs “noble Duchess”

contrast Duchess and brothers

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“for her discourse, it is so full of rapture […] she throws upon a man so sweet a look that it were able to raise one to a galliard”

Antonio monologue about Duchess

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“she stains the time past, lights the time to come”

Duchess = stain/light

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“his nature is too honest for such business”

Antonio wont be good spy

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[offers money]

“Whose throat must I cut?”

Bosola instantly willing after money

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“She’s a young widow; I would not have her marry again. […] do not you ask the reason, but be satisfied. I say I would not”

Ferdinand doesn’t want Duchess to marry

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“It seems you would create me one of your familiars […] a very quaint invisible devil in flesh- an intelligencer”

“these cursed gifts would make you a corrupter, me an impudent traitor, and, should I take these, they’d take me to hell.”

Bosola recognises corruption

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“Say then my corruption grew out of horse dung- I am your creature”

Bosola horse dung

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“Let good men, for good deeds, covet good fame, since place and riches oft are bribes of shame”

frame, shame couplet

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“You know already what man is”, “farewell lusty widow”

Ferdinand implying Duchess is not chaste

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“sway your high blood”

“shall our blood- the royal blood of Aragon and Castile- be thus attained?”

Cardinal concerned about blood

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“diamonds are of most value, They say, that have past through most jewllers’ hands”

diamonds = valuable

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“I’ll never marry”

Duchess won’t marry

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“you live in a rank pasture here i’th’court”

Ferdinand court

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“the marriage night is entrance into some prison”

marriage = bad

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“I’d be loath to see’t look rusty”

Ferdinand threatens Duchess

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“and woman like that part which, like the lamphrey, hath ne’er a bone in’t”

Ferdinand makes crude comment

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“So I, through frights and threatenings, will assay this dangerous venture. Let old wives report I winked and chose a husband”

“Wish me good speed for I am going into a wilderness”

Duchess compares defying brothers to battle

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“sit down”

Duchess imperatives with Antonio

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“Beauteous? Indeed, I thank you. I look young for your sake”

Duchess flirting

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“I take’t as those who deny puragtory: It locally contains heaven or hell”

Antonio on marriage

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“I did vow never to part with it, but to my second husband”

“you have parted with it now”

“yes to help your eyesight”

“you have made me stark blind”

flirtatious ring exchange

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“there is a saucy and ambitious devil is dancing in this circle” , “ambition, madam, is a great man’s madness” , “but he’s a fool that, being a-cold, would thrust his hands i’th’fire to warm them” , “oh, my unworthiness”

Antonio against ambition

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“this goodly roof of yours is too low built […] Raise yourself or, if you please, my hand to help you so”

Duchess raises Antonio

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“the misery of us that are born great; we are forced to woo because none dare woo us”

misery of us

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“you have left me heartless: mine is in your bosom”

heart in bosom

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“this is felsh and blood, sir. ‘tis not the figure cut in alabaster kneels at my husband’s tomb. Awake, awake, man!”

Duchess not a statue

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“these words should be mine”

Duchess has subverted stereotypes

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“we are now man and wife and ‘tis the church that must but echo this”

Duchess decided they’re married

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“lay a naked sword between us, keep us chaste”

D chastity

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“whether the spirit of greatness or of woman reign most in her, I know not, but it shows a fearful madness. I owe her much of pity”

Cariola comments on Duchess

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“your scurvy face-physic […] before she looked like a nutmeg-grater, after she resembled an abortive hedgehog”

Bosola mysogynistic

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“man stands amazed to see his deformity in any other creature but himself […] we are eaten up of lice and worms […] we delight to hide it in rich tissue”

Corruption in humans

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“and contrary to our Italian fashion, wears a loose-bodied gown […] I have a trick may chance discover it- a pretty one- I have bought some apricots”

Apricots plan

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“when a man’s mind rides faster than his horse can gallop, they quickly both tire”

Bosola warns on ambition

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“do I not grow fat?”

“my hair tangles”, “doth not the colour of my hair ‘gin to change? When I wax grey I shall have all the court powder their hair with arras to be like me”

Duchess vanity

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“the Duchess used one when she was great with child”

Bosola implies he knows Duchess is pregnant

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“I have heard you say that the French courtiers wear hats on’fore the king.”

“why should we not bring up that fashion?”

Duchess progressive ideas

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“did ripen them in horse dung”

“‘tis a pretty art, this grafting”

“‘tis so - a bettering of nature”


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“nay you are much too swelled already”

Bosola aside pregnancy joke

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“I fear I am undone”

Duchess undone

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“Oh, my most trusty Delio, we are lost” , “I am lost in amazement! I know not what to think on’t”

Antonio lost

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“How superstitiously we mind our evils! […] Bleeding at nose”

Delio superstitions

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[Enter] Bosola [with a dark lantern]

Bosola lantern

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“I am Bosola your friend”

“This mole does undermine me”

Bosola encounters Antonio

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“methinks ‘tis very cold, and yet you sweat”

Bosola implies Antonio is acting guilty

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“this fellow will undo me”

Antonio undo

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“you are a false steward”

“saucy slave! I’ll pull thee up by the roots”, “you are an impudent snake indeed sir!”

B and A yelling at each other

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“my nose bleeds! […] Two letters that are wrought here for my name are drowned in blood. Mere accident!”

bloody nose

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“the lord of the first house, being combust in the ascendant, signifies short life”

B reading horoscope

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“why now ‘tis most apparent”, “if one could find the father now”

B most apparent

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“‘though lust do mask in ne’er so strange disguise, she’s oft found witty, but is never wise’”

B witty, wise

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Cardinal echoes D

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“Why, my lord, I told him I came to visit an old anchorite here, for devotion”

Julia calls Cardinal religious - ironic

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“why do you weep? […] these self-same tears will fall into your husband’s bosom, lady.”

why do you weep

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“you may thank me lady. I have taken you off your melancholy perch" , “when thou wast with thy husband, thou wast watched like a tame elephant”

melancholy perch, elephant

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“with good speed: I would wish you- at such time as you are non-resident with your husband - my mistress”

Delio asking Julia to be mistress

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“I have this night digged up a mandrake”


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“she’s loose i’th’hilts; Grown a notorious strumpet”

“the common rabble to directly say she is a strumpet”


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“root up her goodly forests, blast her meads, and lay her general territory as waste”

F reveals cruel plans

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“why do you make yourself so wild a tempest?”

“yes, I can be angry without this rupture”

C thinks F is overreacting

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“to purge infected blood- blood such as hers”

infected blood

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“unequal nature, to place women’s hearts so far upon the left side”

women unequal nature

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“excellent hyena! talk to me somewhat - quickly, or my imagination will carry me to see her in the shameful act of sin”

F hyena

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“happily, with some strong-thighed bargeman […] or else some lovely squire that carries coal up to her privy lodgings”

F imagines D with men

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“Go to, mistress! ‘Tis not your whore’s milk that shall quench my wild-fire, but your whore’s blood”

whore’s milk/blood

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“I could kill her now in you or in myself […] It is some sin in us heaven doth revenge by her”

F kill Duchess in himself

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“I’ll find scorpions to string my whips and fix her in a general eclipse”

F will plunge D into darkness

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“she’s an excellent feeder of pedigrees”

A pedigrees

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“he is so quiet that he seems to sleep the tempest out as dormice do in winter”

F quiet dormouse

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“a scandalous report is spread touching mine honour”

D pretends its a rumour

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“my fixed love would strongly excuse, extenuate - nay, deny - faults were they apparent in you”

F lying say he will ignore rumours

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“oh, blessed comfort, this deadly air is purged”

D thinks all is calm

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“‘tis rumoured she hath had three bastards”

B about D’s kids

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“witchcraft lies in her rank blood.”


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“a false key into her bedchamber”


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“you are your own chronicle too much, and grossly flatter yourself”

“I never gave pension but to flatterers till I entertained thee”

B speaks truth about F

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“you get no lodging here tonight my lord”, “I hope in time ‘twill grow into a custom that noble men shall come with cap and knee to purchase a night’s lodging of their wives”

“I must lie here”, “nay but that’s one! Venus had two soft doves to draw her chariot: I must have another”

final flirting between A and D

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“I love to see her angry”

A loves to see D angry

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“love mixed with fear is sweetest”

love and fear

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“‘tis welcome: for know, whether I am doomed to live or die, I can do both like a prince”

D after she notices F

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FERDINAND gives her a poniard

F wants D to kill herself

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“if I could change eyes with a basilisk”

F will only looks at A if he can kill him

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“the howling of a wolf is music to thee, screech owl”, “vile woman”

F rude to D

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“Why might not I marry? I have not gone about in this to create any new custom.”

“Why should only I, of all the other princes in the world, be cased up like a holy relic?”

D questioning why she can’t marry

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“thou art undone”

F undone

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“were you not my princely brother I would say too wilful”

F acting too concerned

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