The Duchess of Malfi

Daniel de Bosola Character Analysis

Bosola is the spy planted by Duke Ferdinand as the stable master at the Duchess’ estate. He is a man who is used to doing the dirty work for others: before the events of the play he spent time in jail for murdering a man on the orders of the Cardinal. He is also aware that the men who do the dirty work seldom actually get the rewards promised them, as the Cardinal refuses to speak or be seen with him. Even so, though he feels guilty for all of his actions – and does not even want to become a spy when Duke Ferdinand offers him the payment to become one – he feels that it is his duty to obey the Duke and accepts that to follow orders he must become corrupt. After he participates in the torture of the Duchess, though, his guilt becomes so great, and Ferdinand’s refusal to pay him for his services so outrageous, that he switches sides and plans to help Antonio and kill both Ferdinand and the Cardinal. That his plans go awry and he accidentally kills Antonio may suggest that it is not so simple to suddenly become good and moral, but he does willingly sacrifice himself and badly wound the Cardinal and kill Ferdinand.

Daniel de Bosola Quotes in The Duchess of Malfi

The The Duchess of Malfi quotes below are all either spoken by Daniel de Bosola or refer to Daniel de Bosola. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of The Duchess of Malfi published in 2015.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

With all your divinity do but direct me the way to it. I have
known many travel far for it, and yet return as arrant knaves
as they went forth, because they carried themselves always

along with them.

Related Characters: Daniel de Bosola (speaker), The Cardinal
Page Number: 1.1.40-43
Explanation and Analysis:

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

Related Characters: Daniel de Bosola (speaker), The Cardinal, Antonio Bologna, Delio
Page Number: 1.1.44-46
Explanation and Analysis:

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This foul melancholy
Will poison all his goodness, for, I'll tell you,
If too immoderate sleep be truly said
To be an inward rust unto the soul,
It then doth follow want of action
Breeds all black malcontents, and their close rearing,
Like moths in cloth, do hurt for want of wearing.

Related Characters: Antonio Bologna (speaker), The Duchess of Malfi, Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria, The Cardinal, Daniel de Bosola, Delio
Related Symbols: Poison
Page Number: 1.1.74-80
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

What thing is in this outward form of man
To be beloved? We account it ominous
If nature do produce a colt or lamb,
A fawn or goat, in any limb resembling
A man, and fly from't as a prodigy.
Man stands amazed to see his deformity
In any other creature but himself.

Related Characters: Daniel de Bosola (speaker), Castruccio, Old Lady
Related Symbols: Disease
Page Number: 2.1.45-51
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

Do you think that herbs or charms
Can force the will? Some trials have been made
In this foolish practice, but the ingredients
Were lenitive poisons, such as are of force
To make the patient mad; and straight the witch
Swears, by equivocation, they are in love.
The witchcraft lies in her rank blood.

Related Characters: Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria (speaker), The Duchess of Malfi, Daniel de Bosola
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 3.1.72-78
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

Do I not dream? Can this ambitious age
Have so much goodness in't as to prefer
A man merely for worth, without these shadows
Of wealth and painted honours? Possible?

Related Characters: Daniel de Bosola (speaker), The Duchess of Malfi, Antonio Bologna
Page Number: 3.2.276-279
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3, Scene 5 Quotes

Thou dost blanch mischief;
Wouldst make it white. See, see, like to calm weather
At sea, before a tempest, false hearts speak fair
To those they intend most mischief.

Related Characters: The Duchess of Malfi (speaker), Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria, The Cardinal, Antonio Bologna, Daniel de Bosola
Page Number: 3.5.23-26
Explanation and Analysis:

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Thou art happy that thou hast not understanding
To know thy misery; for all our wit
And reading brings us to a truer sense
Of sorrow.

Related Characters: The Duchess of Malfi (speaker), Antonio Bologna, Daniel de Bosola, Children
Page Number: 3.5.66-69
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 4, Scene 1 Quotes

That's the greatest torture souls feel in hell:
In hell that they must live, and cannot die.

Related Characters: The Duchess of Malfi (speaker), Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria, The Cardinal, Antonio Bologna, Daniel de Bosola, Children
Page Number: 4.1.70-71
Explanation and Analysis:

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Damn her! That body of hers,
While that my blood ran pure in't, was more worth
Than that which thou wouldst comfort, called a soul.

Related Characters: Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria (speaker), The Duchess of Malfi, Daniel de Bosola
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 4.1.120-122
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 4, Scene 2 Quotes

BOSOLA: Doth not death fright you?

DUCHESS: Who would be afraid on't,
Knowing to meet such excellent company
In th'other world?

I know death hath ten thousand several doors
For men to take their exits; and 'tis found
They go on such strange, geometrical hinges,
You may open them both ways.
…Tell my brothers
That I perceive death, now I am well awake,
Best gift is they can give or I can take.

Related Characters: The Duchess of Malfi (speaker), Daniel de Bosola (speaker), Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria, The Cardinal
Page Number: 4.2.200-214
Explanation and Analysis:

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Only, I must confess, I had a hope,
Had she continued widow, to have gained
An infinite mass of treasure by her death,
And that was the main cause: her marriage -
That drew a stream of gall quite through my heart.
For thee - as we observe in tragedies
That a good actor many times is cursed
For playing a villain's part - I hate thee for't,
And, for my sake, say thou hast done much ill well.

Related Characters: Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria (speaker), The Duchess of Malfi, Daniel de Bosola
Page Number: 4.2.270-278
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

O poor Antonio! Though nothing be so needful
To thy estate as pity, yet I find
Nothing so dangerous.
… How this man
Bears up in blood, seems fearless! Why, 'tis well:
Security some men call the suburbs of hell -
Only a dead wall between. Well, good Antonio,
I'll seek thee out, and all my care shall be
To put thee into safety from the reach
Of these most cruel biters that have got
Some of thy blood already. It may be
I'll join with thee in a most just revenge.

Related Characters: Daniel de Bosola (speaker), Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria, The Cardinal, Antonio Bologna, Julia
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 5.2.326-339
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 5, Scene 4 Quotes

BOSOLA: O good Antonio,
I'll whisper one thing in thy dying ear
Shall make thy heart break quickly: thy fair Duchess
And two sweet children -

ANTONIO: Their very names
Kindle a little life in me.

BOSOLA: - are murdered!

ANTONIO: Some men have wished to die
At the hearing of sad tidings. I am glad
That I shall do't in sadness. I would not now
Wish my wounds balmed nor healed, for I have no use
To put my life to.

Related Characters: Antonio Bologna (speaker), Daniel de Bosola (speaker), The Duchess of Malfi
Page Number: 5.4.57-66
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 5, Scene 5 Quotes

MALATESTE: Thou wretched thing of blood,
How came Antonio by his death?

BOSOLA: In a mist - I know not how.
Such a mistake as I have often seen
In a play. Oh, I am gone!
We are only like dead walls, or vaulted graves
That, ruined, yields no echo. Fare you well.
It may be pain, but no harm to me to die
In so good a quarrel.

Related Characters: Daniel de Bosola (speaker), Count Malateste (speaker), Antonio Bologna
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 5.5.95-103
Explanation and Analysis:

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Daniel de Bosola Character Timeline in The Duchess of Malfi

The timeline below shows where the character Daniel de Bosola appears in The Duchess of Malfi. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
Antonio changes the subject as he sees Bosola, a former employee of the Cardinal and known murderer, entering the room. Antonio then describes... (full context)
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
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Bosola tries to talk to the Cardinal, but the Cardinal is extremely dismissive. Bosola believes he... (full context)
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Antonio asks Bosola what happened in the conversation, to which Bosola replies that the Cardinal and his brother... (full context)
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Once Antonio and Delio are alone, Delio explains that Bosola is known to have served seven years in the galleys for a “notorious murder,” supposedly... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
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After Antonio departs, Ferdinand tells the Duchess that he wants her to hire Bosola as the supervisor of her horses. She agrees to do it. Silvio announces that he... (full context)
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Bosola asks Ferdinand why the Cardinal is avoiding him. Ferdinand replies that it’s possibly because the... (full context)
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After receiving these instructions, Bosola says it seems like Ferdinand wants to turn him into an invisible devil-spy. Bosola comments... (full context)
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Ferdinand instructs Bosola to be himself and to keep up his melancholy demeanor since it will make him... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
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It is nine months after the events of Act 1. Bosola and Castruccio, an old Italian lord, enter in discussion about Castruccio’s desire to be an... (full context)
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
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At this point in the conversation an Old Lady enters, and Bosola asks her if she has “come from painting” (painting her face by putting on makeup).... (full context)
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Bosola continues on, saying that physicians grow wealthy by profiting on older people. He then begins... (full context)
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Castruccio and the Old Lady exit, and Bosola transitions to his other work. He notes that the Duchess has ben sick and she... (full context)
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
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...a discussion about the secret marriage, revealing that Antonio has confided in Delio. They meet Bosola and, since he’s always melancholy and contemplative, they joke and ask him if he’s trying... (full context)
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Bosola responds that he needs to remain in his station, since it is dangerous to reach... (full context)
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
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...she is out of breath, she asks if she is growing fat. She then asks Bosola to provide her a horse like the one the Duchess of Florence had. Bosola notes... (full context)
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Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
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...wearing hats or not in court, comparing the Italian courts to the kingdom in France. Bosola then offers the Duchess the apricots. In another aside, he notes how greedily she eats... (full context)
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...to preserve the secret. He says that to keep people away, they can say that Bosola poisoned the apricots and caused the Duchess to fall ill, but Antonio responds that this... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
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Bosola enters. He says that there is now no question that the Duchess is pregnant. The... (full context)
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
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...the gates and call all of the officers. Everyone is in such chaos that while Bosola privately wonders if the apricots were in fact somehow poisoned without his knowledge. A servant... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
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Bosola enters in the dark with a lantern, saying that he has heard a woman shrieking... (full context)
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...with a candle and a sword drawn. Having heard a noise, he asks “who’s there?” Bosola responds that Antonio doesn’t need to be afraid, and he reveals himself. In an aside,... (full context)
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Bosola asks if the loss was significant, but Antonio responds that it’s none of his business... (full context)
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Bosola then notices that Antonio dropped a piece of paper, on which he finds written the... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
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Ferdinand, the Duchess, and Bosola then enter, and Ferdinand says that he’s going to bed. He suggests to the Duchess... (full context)
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Now alone, Ferdinand asks Bosola what new information he has. Bosola says that it’s rumored that the Duchess has had... (full context)
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After dismissing Bosola’s beliefs about potions, Ferdinand asks for a key to the Duchess’s bedchamber. Bosola asks Ferdinand... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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...by Ferdinand, and they surmise that he wanted her to kill herself. At this point Bosola knocks, and Antonio leaves again so as not to be discovered as the Duchess’s lover. (full context)
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
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Bosola enters and says that Ferdinand has rushed off to Rome. But he also reveals that... (full context)
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Bosola reenters with some officers and the Duchess pretends to accuse Antonio of losing her money... (full context)
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The Duchess then asks Bosola for his opinion. He says that she’ll probably never have a servant as good as... (full context)
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Upon finding this out, Bosola questions aloud if he is dreaming, wondering if, in this time, someone could truly marry... (full context)
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After the ladies exit, Bosola is left alone to lament that he is a spy. Every profession, he says, has... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
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...and Pescara, a soldier and courtier, discuss Malateste, who they say is a terrible soldier. Bosola then enters and whispers to the Cardinal and Ferdinand, while Pescara, Silvo, and Delio wonder... (full context)
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Focus shifts to the conversation between Ferdinand, the Cardinal, and Bosola. The Cardinal says that the Duchess is using religion as her cover to flee with... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 5
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Bosola then enters with a letter from Ferdinand that is supposedly “all love and safety.” But... (full context)
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Bosola exits, and the Duchess says that she is afraid there will be an ambush. She... (full context)
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As soon as Antonio leaves, the dejected Duchess finds herself facing a disguised Bosola and several troops. Bosola says that she is not to see her husband anymore, and... (full context)
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When Bosola tells the Duchess to forget Antonio because of his low birth, she responds by telling... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
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In Amalfi, Ferdinand asks Bosola how the Duchess is bearing herself during her imprisonment. Bosola responds that she is doing... (full context)
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The Duchess enters, and Bosola greets her kindly, to which she responds that he is wrapping poison in gold and... (full context)
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...which appear the silhouettes of Antonio and their children, looking as if they were dead. Bosola states that the hand came from Antonio, that her family members are all dead, and... (full context)
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Bosola tries to comfort her, saying that things get better when they are at their worst,... (full context)
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...as she’s imprisoned), and Ferdinand reenters, excited that she finally seems to be experiencing despair. Bosola urges Ferdinand to cease his cruelty, but Ferdinand yells “Damn her!” and says that her... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
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...The madmen enter, sing a song, take turns speaking nonsense, and do a dance. Then Bosola enters, disguised as an old man, and the madmen and the servant exit. (full context)
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Bosola says that he has come to make the Duchess’s tomb. She asks if he thinks... (full context)
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...this point, the Duchess proclaims that she is still the Duchess of Malfi. She calls Bosola plain (though she doesn’t know his identity), and he responds that he’s simply a tomb... (full context)
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...that she has obedience in her blood and explains that death does not frighten her. Bosola rings the bell, and then gives a rhyming speech to prepare the Duchess for death.... (full context)
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Bosola instructs some of the executioners to go and strangle the children. Cariola is brought by... (full context)
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Ferdinand enters and asks if the Duchess is dead, to which Bosola responds that she is. Bosola asks what the children have done to deserve this fate,... (full context)
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Ferdinand then reveals that he and the Duchess were twins, and he asks Bosola to uncover her face. He asks why Bosola didn’t pity the Duchess and disobey him,... (full context)
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Bosola demands his payment, but Ferdinand rebuffs Bosola’s request and tells him to get out of... (full context)
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Bosola reflects that if he had the opportunity to do everything again, he wouldn’t trade peace... (full context)
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Bosola cries over her death, exhibiting what he calls “manly sorrow,” and he notes that he... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
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...wants to try to cure Ferdinand of his madness altogether. Ferdinand, Malateste, the Cardinal, and Bosola then enter. Ferdinand begins acting insane, asking to be left alone and attacking his own... (full context)
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Standing aside from this spectacle, Bosola comments that a fatal judgment has fallen on Ferdinand. Meanwhile, Pescara asks the Cardinal if... (full context)
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The Cardinal says in an aside that he doesn’t want Bosola to know that he was an accessory to the Duchess’s murder. The Cardinal then asks... (full context)
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...for the Duchess to marry, but he says that in order to make the match Bosola must first find Antonio and kill him. Bosola asks how he will find Antonio, to... (full context)
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Just then, Julia reenters holding a pistol. She threatens Bosola and accuses him of giving her a love potion, as this is the only explanation... (full context)
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...killed her, as he poisoned the book because he knew she couldn’t keep the secret. Bosola hastily emerges from the wardrobe in an attempt to stop the Cardinal, but too late.... (full context)
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Bosola jumps out of the wardrobe and says that he has come to the Cardinal to... (full context)
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After the Cardinal exits, Bosola cries out that he pities Antonio. He ultimately decides to seek Antonio out and try... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
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...is plaguing him, and that he would pray if the devil weren’t stopping him. Meanwhile, Bosola enters, unseen by the Cardinal. Bosola then overhears the Cardinal say that when Bosola has... (full context)
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...to unravel the mistake and confusion that lead to his death. He simply asks for Bosola to give his regards to Delio, and to tell his oldest son to “fly the... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
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...is like from a scholarly perspective. As he laments the pains of a guilty conscience, Bosola and the Servant enter with Antonio’s body. The Cardinal comments that Bosola looks terrible, somehow... (full context)
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Bosola kills the servant to make sure no one will unlock the door to the Cardinal’s... (full context)
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...blood, or lust, / Like diamonds we are cut with our own dust,” and dies. Bosola says that he is himself on the verge of death just as Pescara, Malateste, Roderigo,... (full context)
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Pescara comments on how the Cardinal prevented his own rescue, and Malateste calls Bosola a “wretched thing of blood” and asks how Antonio died. Bosola says Antonio died “in... (full context)