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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, enrich 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.” In the integrity and consistency of character, he generally fails, and in poetical imagery he seldom indulges : his excellence is in the poetry of scenic action, in which he manifests the most exquisite art. The White Devil, which was probably the first play he wrote alone, for he had before the date of the earliest edition assisted Dekker in the plays beforementioned, does not indeed seem to have received its just measure of applause, although there are scenes in it well calculated to engage the attention of an "understanding auditory,” to borrow Webster's phrase, when speaking of its failure. It is, however, more rambling, and lest compact and entire in its plot, than The Dutchess of Malfy, and Appius and Virginia ; its characters are more coarse, and its incidents less strange; the author rather winds round the main action than proceeds to it in a strait forward course. But, in the plays just mentioned, be marches right on to the catastrophe; he has no time, if he had inclination, to search for flowers by the way to deck the consummation of the solemn event; he is full of important business, deep and tragical—he looks neither to the right nor to the left-he needs no subsidiary plots to swell his drama to the proper dimensions; the weight of his matter carries him straight to the pith of the action, and there he dwells enamoured of horror.
But, to return to The White Devil, which we shall first noticemit may be as well, for the more perfect understanding of the extracts which will be made, to give a brief narrative of the plot. Brachiano, Duke of Brachiano, while in Rome, is bewitched by the charms of Vittoria, (the white devil,) the wife of Camillo, a lady of no great character, though of good family. Flamineo, the brother of Vittoria, is the honest promoter of the Duke's suit, which meets with very hopeful success. Vittoria ingeniously invents a dream for disposing of the Dutchess, which is aptly interpreted by the Duke, and he, in consequence, resolves to poison Isabella his wife, who, with her brother Francisco de Medicis, Duke of Florence, soon after arrives in Rome. An interview takes place between Brachiano and his wife, with whom he vows never to live again; a vow which, for the sake of preserving peace between her husband and her kinsmen, she generously pretends that she herself has made. By an exquisite refinement of barbarity, she is poisoned by means of Brachiano's picture, which she was in the habit of kissing nightly, before she retired to rest, and the divorce which had been commenced
by her husband was completed by the poisoned lips of his picture. Camillo is next disposed of by Flamineo, under pretence of an accident, but in so improbable a manner, that Vittoria is brought to trial, for the double crime of murder and incontinence. Of the latter charge she is convicted, and ordered to be confined in a house of penitents; from which she escapes with Brachiano, and they fly to his dukedom, where he marries her. Hither they are followed by the Duke of Florence, and some companions, in disguise ; who ultimately revenge the death of the Dutchess and Camillo, by the destruction of Brachiano, Vittoria, and Flamineo.
Isabella meets Brachiano, immediately after the Cardinal Monticelso, the cousin of Camillo, and Francisco de Medicis, have been remonstrating with him in irritating terms, against his attachment to Vittoria. The interview above alluded to, then takes place, which exhibits the tenderness and delicacy of Isabella in a most attractive light.
“ Bra. You are in health, we see.
Isa. And above health,
Bra. So, I wonder much
Isa. Devotion, my lord.
Bra. Devotion !
Isa. "Tis burthen'd with too many; and I think
Bra. Take your chamber.
Isa. Nay, my dear lord, I will not have you angry;
Bra. I do not use to kiss :
Isa. O my lov'd lord,
Bra. O your breath!
Isa. You have oft, for these two lips,
Of the spring-violet : they are not yet much wither'd.
Bra. O dissemblance !
Isa. Never, my dear lord.
trick To meet some amorous gallant here in Rome, That must supply our discontinuance?
Isa. I pray, sir, burst my heart, and in my death Turn to your antient pity, tho' not love.
Bra. Because your brother is the corpulent duke, That is, the great duke : 'sdeath, I shall not shortly Racket
five hundred crowns at tennis,
Isa. O, too too far you have curst.
Bra. Your hand I'll kiss;
Isa. Forbid it, the sweet union
Bra. Let not thy love
Isa. O my winding-sheet!
Let me hear once more, what I would not hear,
Isa. O my unkind lord ! may your sins find mercy,
pray for you, if not to turn your eyes
Bra. No more; go, go, complain to the great duke.
Isa. Now, my dear lord, you shall have present witness
The arraignment of Vittoria Corombona. Enter Francisco de Medicis, Cardinal Monticelso, Brachiano, Vit
toria Corombona, Ambassadors, &c.
“ Mon. I shall be plainer with you, and paint out
Vit. O you mistake,
Mon. I must spáre you, till proof cry' whore to that.
Vit. My honourable lord,
Mon. Oh your trade instructs your language !
Vit. Your invenom'd apothecary should do't.
Mon. I am resolved
This devil would betray it.
Vit. O poor charity !
Mon. Who knows not how, when several night by night
Vit. Ha ? whore? what's that?
Mon. Shall I expound whore to you? sure I shall!
Vit. This character 'scapes me.
Mon. You, gentlewoman?
Vit. Well, what then?
Mon. I'll tell thee;
Fr. Amb. She hath Jived ill.