Swetnam the Woman Hater – Act Two, scene one

Return to the previous scene

Enter LISANDRO and LORETTA, severally.

My lord Lisandro, y’are met happily.

Loretta! Welcome, welcome as my life.
How fares my dearest saint?

Like a distressed prisoner, whose hard fate
Hath barr’d her from all joy in losing you,
A torment which se counts insufferable.

This separation, like the stroke of death,
Makes a divorce betwixt my soul and me,
For how can I live without her
In whom my life subsists?
For never did the lodestone more respect
The northern pole, by Nature’s kind instinct,
Than my affections truly sympathize
With her, the star of my felicity.

Therefore, she prays you, henceforth to desist,
Respecting your own safety. Worthy prince,
The times are troublesome and dangerous.
As for herself, she’s arm’d to undergo
All malice that for you they can inflict.

Oh, my Loretta! Thou appliest a balm
Worse than the wound itself. It is impossible
For me to live at all but in her sight.
But was this all she said,
That I should leave her? Death could not ha’ spoke
A word more fatal to my soul and me.
Let her enjoin me to some other task,
Though it were greater than the son of Jove
Did for his stepdame Juno ever act.
Let it be anything, so I may not leave
Her sweet society.

Then, here, my lord, read this.                                             [Gives him letter.

I kiss thee for her sake, whose beauteous hand
Hath here enclos’d so mild and sweet a doom.
See what a negative command she hath
Impos’d upon my sloth to visit her,
As if she taxed my neglect so long.
But pardon, dear Loretta, I come
To intimate thy favour for mystay,
Though thou wert guarded with an host of men.
But how?
I must disguise me in some other shape,
For this is noted, and too full of danger.
Loretta, who’s admitted best access
Unto my lady?

Friar Anthony,
Her grace’s confessor.

As I could wish. I know the friar well.
I must assume that shape. It is the best.
Loretta, wear this jewel for my sake;                               [Seems to decline it.
Nay, prithee, take it, not as recompense,
But as a token of that future good
Shall crown thy merits, with such height and honour,
Fortune shall be asham’d, and held a fool
To suffer poor desert to overmatch her.                                                  [Exit.

[Calling after him.] I humbly thank your grace!
Why, here’s a gift
Able to make a saint turn oratrix,
And plead ‘gaisnt chastity. I must confess,
Lisandro is a noble gentleman, and has good gifts, and is, indeed, gracious with my lady. Yet for all that, we poor gentlewomen that have no other fortunes by our attendance, must now and then make the best use of our places. We have precedent, and very lately too.
But who comes here? My lord Nicanor?


Here’s another client. I must devise some quaint device for him to delude his frosty apprehension. Oh, I ha’t.

Loretta, how is’t, wench? How trives
My suit, ha? Hast broke with thy lady yet?

[Aside.] He takes me for a she-broker, but I’ll fit him.
[To NICANOR.] I have, my lord, but find her so obdure,
That when I speak, she turns away her ear,
As if her mind were fix’d on something else.
The other day, finder her grace alone,
I came and mov’d your suit; told her how dear
She stood in your affection, and protested
You lov’d her more than all the world beside.

Good, good. Proceed.

At this she answer’d not a word,
But kept her eye still fix’d upon me;
Then I begun again, and told her grace,
As from myself, how much your honour
Had merited her favour by desert;
How great you stood i’th’general eye of all,
As one selected by the king her father—
Since Prince Lorenzo’d death—to personate
The kind of Sicil after his decease.

Excellent good, i’faith. Then what said she?

At this, I might perceive her colour change
From red to pale, and then to red again,
As if disdain and rage had faintly strove
In her confused breast for victory.
At length, having recall’d her spirits,
She broke forth into these words, “What, wilt thou
Conspire with youth and frailty to enforce
The rule of my affection ‘gainst my will?
Though my body be confin’d his prisoner,
Yet my mind is free. With that, she charge’d
That I never should hereafter urge your suit,
And this was all the comfort that I could
From her with all my diligence attain.

Cold comfort, wench, but ‘tis the general fault
Of women all to make show of dislike
To those they most affect; and in that hope
Thou shalt to her again. No city
Ever yielded at first skirmish. Before,
You came but to a parley; thou shalt know
A woman’s resolution, then rich gifts.
Then go, Loretta.

‘Las, my lord, you know—

Fear nothing, wench. Give her this chain of pearl;
With it, myself.

My lord, I’ll see what I can do with her,

What, Loretta? Oh, you look for a fee.
Here, take this gold; and if thou canst prevail—
Hark in thine ear—when I am king—                                 [Whispers.

I thank your lordship. Ha, ha, ha.                                               [Exit.

This woman’s weakness was well wrought upon;
Her words may take effect. ‘Tis often seen
That women are like diamonds; nothing cut so soon
As their own powder; yet there is one more
Will make a happy second.
Friar Anthony, her confessor; such men as he
Can prevail much with credulous penitents
In causes of persuasion. Ho, within!


Your lordship call?

Bid Friar Anthony
Come visit me with all speed possible.                        [Exit SCANFARDO.
I could not think upon a better agent.
Their seeming sanctity makes all their acts
Savour of truth, religion, piety,
And prove that love’s a heavenly charity
Without which there’s no safety. Here he comes.

Enter LISANDRO like a friar.

The benediction of the blessed saints
Attend your honour.

Welcome, holy friar.

And crown your wishes to your heart’s desire.

Amen, Anthonio,
I’ll say amen to that; but yet the means
To make me happy lies within thy power.

Your honour may command me.

Then ‘tis thus:
Thou know’st with what a general consent
Of all Sicilia I was prelected
By my dread sovereign to espouse the fair
Yet fond Leonida, granting me for dower
The Crown of Sicil after his decease.

I hope, my lord, there’s none dare question that.

To which intent, how many hopeful princes
Have been non-suited, only for my sake?
And to prevent all means of the access,
Establish’d me her guardian. Now, the princess,
Although I have her person, yet her heart
I find estrang’d from me, and all my love
Is quitted with contempt.

The heavens forbid!

It is forbidden both by heaven and earth,
And yet she does it; and thou know’st then, friar,
My hopes are frustrate. Therefore, holy man,
Thou art her counsel-closet, her confessor
Of reverend opinion with the princess.

I do conceive your honour.

Be my orator.

In what I may, my lord.

If thou prevail’st,
I’ll make thee metropolitain of Sicil.

It shall be all my care.

Then, farewell, father.                                                                          [Exit.

All my prayers attend ye.
So, here’s the fence thrown open. Now my way
Is made before me. Godamercy, cowl!
It is no marvel though the credulous world
Thought themselves safe from danger, when they were
Invested with this habit, ‘tis the best,
To cover, or to gain a free access
That can be possible in any project.
How finally I have gull’d my politician,
That covets love, only to gain a crown!
But if my love prove constant, I’ll withstand
All his desires with a more powerful hand.                                        [Exit.

Proceed to the next scene


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