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The apoplexy, catarrh, or cough o’the lungs,
Bos. Doth not death fright you ?
Duch. Who would be afraid on't, i
Bos. Yet methinks,
Duch. Not a whit.
(They strangle her, kneeling.)
Ferdinand enters. Ferd. Is she dead ?
Bos. She is what you would have her.
Other sins only speak; murder shrieks out.
Ferd. She and I were twins :
68 All the several parts of the dreadful apparatus with which the Duchesses death is ushered in are not more remote from the conceptions of ordinary vengeance, than the strange character of suffering which they seem to bring upon their victim, is beyond the imagination of ordinary poets. As they are not like inflictions of this life, so her language seems not of this world. She has lived among horrors till she is become “ native and endowed unto that element.” She speaks the dialect of despair, her tongue has a smatch of Tartarus and the souls in bale.- What are “ Luke's iron crown,” the brazen bull of Perillus, Procrustes' bed, to the waxen images which counterfeit death, to the wild masque of madmen, the tomb-maker, the bell-man, the living person's dirge, the mortification by degrees! To move a horror skilfully, to touch a soul to the quick, to lay upon fear as much as it can bear, to wean and weary a life till it is ready to drop and then step in with mortal instruments to take its last forfeit: this only a Webster can do. Writers of an inferior genius may “ upon horror's head horrors accumulate” but they cannot do this. They mistake quantity for quality, they “ terrify babes with painted devils” but they know not how a soul is capable of being moved; their terrors want dig. nity, their affrightments are without decorum,
THE WHITE DEVIL: OR, VITTORIA COROMBONA,
BY JOHN WEBSTER.69
The arraignment of Vittoria.—Paulo Giordano Ursini, Duke
of Brachiano, for the love of Vittoria Corombona, a Venetian Lady, and at her suggestion, causes her Husband Camillo to be murdered. Suspicion falls upon Vittoria, who is tried at Rome, on a double Charge of Murder and Incontinence: in the presence of Cardinal Monticelso, Cousin to the deceased Camillo; Francisco de Medicis, Brother in Law to Brachiano; the Ambassadors of France, Spain, England, &c. As the arraignment is beginning, the Duke confidently enters the Court.
Mon. Forbear, my Lord, here is no place assign'd you :
Bra. May it thrive with you.
69 The Author's Dedication to this Play is so modest, yet so conscious of self-merit withal, he speaks so frankly of the deservings of others, and by implication insinuates his own deserts so ingenuously, that I cannot forbear inserting it, as a specimen how a man may praise himself gracefully and commend others without suspi. cion of envy.
“ To the Reader. In publishing this Tragedy, I do but challenge to myself that li. berty which other men have taken before me ; not that I affect praise by it, for nos hæc novimus esse nihil ; only since it was acted in so open and black a theatre, that it wanted (that which is the only grace and setting-out of a tragedy) a full and understanding auditory; and that, since that time, I have noted, most of the people that come to that play-house resemble those ignorant "asses, (who, visiting stationers shops, their use is not to enquire for good
Bra. Forbear your kindness; an unbidden guest
Mon. At your pleasure, Sir.
lierum corruptissimam. Vit. What's he ?
Fra. A lawyer, that pleads against you. books, but new books) I present it to the general view with this confidence,
Nec rhoncos metues malignorum
Nec scombris tunicas dabis molestas. If it be objected this is no true dramatic poem, I shall easily confess it, non potes in nugas dicere plura meas, ipse ego quam dixi ; willingly, and not ignorantly, have I faulted. For should a man present, to such an auditory, the most sententious tragedy that ever was written, observing all the critical laws, as height of style, and gravity of person, inrich it with the sententious chorus, and, as it were, enliven death, in the passionate and weighty Nuntius : yet after all this divine rapture, 0 dura messorum Ilia, the breath that comes from the uncapable multitude is able to poison it; and ere it be acted, let the author resolve to fix to every scene this of Horace:
- Hæc hodie porcis comedenda relinques. To those who report I was a long time in finishing this Tragedy, I confess, I do not write with a goose-quill wing'd with two feathers; and if they will needs make it my fault, I must answer them with tltat of Euripides to Alcestides, a tragic writer: Alcestides objecting that Euripides had only, in three days, composed three verses, whereas himself had written three hundred: Thou tellst truth (quoth he); but here's the difference, thine shall only be read for three days, whereas mine shall continue three ages.
Detraction is the sworn friend to ignorance: for mine own part, I have ever truly cherish'd my good opinion of other men's worthy labours, especially of that full and heighten'd stile of Master Chapman, the labor'd and understanding works of Master Jonson, the no less worthy composures of the both worthily excellent Master Beaumont and Master Fletcher; and lastly, (without wrong last to be named) the right happy and copious industry of Master Shakspeare, Master Decker, and Master Heywood, wishing what I write may be read by their light; protesting thạt, in the strength of mine own judgment, I know them so worthy, that tho' I l'est silent in my own work, yet to most of theirs I dare (without fattery) fix that of Martial: non norunt hæc monumenta mori.