The Duchess of Malfi

Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria Character Analysis

Duke Ferdinand is the brother of the Cardinal and the twin brother of the Duchess. He doesn’t want his widowed sister to remarry, in part because of his pride and his greed for her wealth, but also because he harbors his own incestuous desires for her. It is Ferdinand who places Bosola in the Duchess’s employment and then hires Bosola to spy on her activities. When rumors reach Ferdinand of the Duchess possibly giving birth to children (and thus also having sex), his anger is so overwhelming that his violent outbursts about the horrible ways he plans to revenge himself on her are too much even for the Cardinal. When he finds out that she has secretly married Antonio and had three children, Ferdinand acts decisively: he has her imprisoned, tortured, and killed. He seems to enjoy the torture, and act as if the torture he makes her endure is just payback for torture that she has made him endure, though the clear implication is that the “torture” he experienced was his sexual jealousy of the Duchess. Upon seeing the Duchess’s dead body, however, Ferdinand almost immediately feels remorse, and his guilt eventually drives him insane. In his madness he stabs the Cardinal, and is killed by Bosola.

Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria Quotes in The Duchess of Malfi

The The Duchess of Malfi quotes below are all either spoken by Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria or refer to Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria. 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

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 Symbols: Poison
Page Number: 1.1.74-80
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

Believe my experience: that realm is never long in quiet where
the ruler is a soldier.

Related Characters: Castruccio (speaker), Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria
Page Number: 1.2.20-21
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Duke there? A most perverse and turbulent nature;
What appears in him mirth is merely outside.
If he laugh heartily, it is to laugh
All honesty out of fashion.

He speaks with others' tongues, and hears men's suits
With others' ears; will seem to sleep o’th' bench
Only to entrap offenders in their answers;
Dooms men to death by information,
Rewards by hearsay.

Related Characters: Antonio Bologna (speaker), Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria, Delio
Page Number: 1.2.82-89
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

You live in a rank pasture here, i'th' court.
There is a kind of honey-dew that's deadly:
'Twill poison your fame. Look to't. Be not cunning,
For they whose faces do belie their hearts
Are witches ere they arrive at twenty years,
Ay, and give the devil suck.

Your darkest actions - nay, your privat'st thoughts –
Will come to light.

Related Characters: Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria (speaker), The Duchess of Malfi
Related Symbols: Poison
Page Number: 1.3.218-228
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 2, Scene 5 Quotes

I would have their bodies
Burnt in a coal-pit, with the ventage stopped,
That their curs'd smoke might not ascend to heaven;
Or dip the sheets they lie in in pitch or sulphur,
Wrap them in't, and then light them like a match;
Or else to boil their bastard to a cullis,
And give't his lecherous father to renew
The sin of his back.

Page Number: 2.5.67-74
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 Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 3.1.72-78
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.

Page Number: 3.5.23-26
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.

Page Number: 4.1.70-71
Explanation and Analysis:
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I account this world a tedious theatre,
For I do play a part in't 'gainst my will.

Page Number: 4.1.83-84
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 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), Daneil de Bosola (speaker), Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria, Children
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.

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 Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 5.2.326-339
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 5, Scene 5 Quotes

My sister! Oh, my sister! There's the cause on't.
Whether we fall by ambition, blood or lust,
Like diamonds we are cut with our own dust.

Related Characters: Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria (speaker), The Duchess of Malfi
Page Number: 5.5.73-75
Explanation and Analysis:
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Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria Character Timeline in The Duchess of Malfi

The timeline below shows where the character Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria appears in The Duchess of Malfi. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
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...the previous scene with the entrance of Castruccio, Silvio, Roderigo, and Grisolan, four courtiers to Duke Ferdinand, the Duchess’s brother. Delio notes that the hall is filling up with people, and... (full context)
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Ferdinand and his courtiers then begin discussing the merits and pitfalls of a leader going to... (full context)
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...might have been Pope if he hadn’t tried to bribe his way into the office. Duke Ferdinand, Antonio continues, is just like his brother: he appears humorous and kind on the... (full context)
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After Antonio departs, Ferdinand tells the Duchess that he wants her to hire Bosola as the supervisor of her... (full context)
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Bosola asks Ferdinand why the Cardinal is avoiding him. Ferdinand replies that it’s possibly because the Cardinal suspects... (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 that the payment would make... (full context)
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Ferdinand instructs Bosola to be himself and to keep up his melancholy demeanor since it will... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
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The Cardinal, the Duchess, and the Duchess’s hand-maiden Cariola enter and join Ferdinand. The Cardinal informs the Duchess that they are leaving, and then tells her that she... (full context)
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The Duchess concedes that she’ll never marry again, but the Cardinal and Ferdinand continue telling her not to. The Cardinal says most widows promise not to marry, but... (full context)
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...Cardinal continues that the Duchess might want to get married privately or in secret, and Ferdinand adds that she might think that in doing so she is taking a good path... (full context)
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Ferdinand in response launches into an extremely uncomfortable speech in which he references his father’s dagger... (full context)
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...service as her steward with a kiss. Antonio is worried about how the Cardinal and Ferdinand will react, but the Duchess reassures him that he should not think of them, since... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
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...next day and he decides to have Castruccio carry the horoscope in a letter to Ferdinand and the Cardinal. (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
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...it. Then the servant reenters and says that Castruccio has come with a letter to Ferdinand that put him out of his wits. Julia says that she’ll go to see her... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 5
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Ferdinand and the Cardinal enter with the letter, and Ferdinand says he has dug up a... (full context)
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...blood will be tainted, wondering who the father of the Duchess’s child might be, and Ferdinand says they must use drastic measures “to purge infected blood.” He says that he’ll have... (full context)
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Ferdinand starts imagining who the Duchess’s lover might be. When the Cardinal tries to calm him,... (full context)
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Ferdinand then calms down and says he will study calmness and practice seeming calm even though... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
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...this news has reached the Cardinal, and Antonio responds that he fears it has, as Ferdinand has been acting strangely. The common people say that the Duchess is a “strumpet,” and... (full context)
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Ferdinand, the Duchess, and Bosola then enter, and Ferdinand says that he’s going to bed. He... (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... (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 what he intends to... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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As the Duchess talks to herself, Ferdinand enters behind her. She turns to see him and, terrified, wonders aloud if she will... (full context)
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Ferdinand then proceeds to curse the Duchess, calling her a screech owl, and he says that... (full context)
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Ferdinand accuses the Duchess of disrespecting her dead first husband. The Duchess responds that Ferdinand is... (full context)
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Ferdinand leaves, and immediately afterwards Antonio reenters with a pistol and with Cariola. Antonio says that... (full context)
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Bosola enters and says that Ferdinand has rushed off to Rome. But he also reveals that before Ferdinand left, he had... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
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...Malateste discuss war and the French king. Meanwhile, on the other side of the stage, Ferdinand, Delio, Silvio, and Pescara, a soldier and courtier, discuss Malateste, who they say is a... (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... (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 the Duchess immediately calls Bosola out for... (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... (full context)
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...to which she responds that he is wrapping poison in gold and sugar. Bosola relays Ferdinand’s message: Ferdinand is going to visit her, but since Ferdinand vowed never to see her... (full context)
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The two of them put out the lights, and Ferdinand enters. He comments that the darkness suits her well. The Duchess asks for his pardon,... (full context)
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The Duchess then leaves the room (though probably not the palace, as she’s imprisoned), and Ferdinand reenters, excited that she finally seems to be experiencing despair. Bosola urges Ferdinand to cease... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
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...Cariola hear a horrible noise offstage. Cariola says that it’s the cohort of madmen that Ferdinand relocated from the asylum to torture the Duchess and keep her sleepless. The Duchess replies... (full context)
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A servant then enters and informs them that Ferdinand is sending in the madmen as a sort of cure to treat her melancholy. The... (full context)
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Ferdinand enters and asks if the Duchess is dead, to which Bosola responds that she is.... (full context)
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Ferdinand then reveals that he and the Duchess were twins, and he asks Bosola to uncover... (full context)
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Bosola demands his payment, but Ferdinand rebuffs Bosola’s request and tells him to get out of his sight. Bosola says that... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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...prompted to seize much of Antonio’s lands, and he argues that if the Cardinal and Ferdinand are depriving Antonio of his means of life – his property and wealth – they... (full context)
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...Delio that if he asks for noble things, Pescara will be happy to oblige him. Ferdinand is apparently sick with a frenzy, Pescara notes as he departs. (full context)
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...life) that very night. He has gained access to the Cardinal’s private chamber (just as Ferdinand did earlier to the Duchess), and he will go undisguised and with love, and in... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
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In the Cardinal and Ferdinand’s palace in Milan Pescara and a Doctor discuss the condition of the Duke. The doctor... (full context)
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...that there is reason to anticipate a relapse. Therefore, he wants to try to cure Ferdinand of his madness altogether. Ferdinand, Malateste, the Cardinal, and Bosola then enter. Ferdinand begins acting... (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 he knows what has caused Ferdinand’s outburst. The Cardinal... (full context)
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...not to know that she is already dead. He tells Bosola not to worry about Ferdinand’s behavior. Julia briefly enters and asks the Cardinal if he is coming to supper. When... (full context)
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The Cardinal then reenters the room, worrying to himself that Ferdinand in his insane state might talk about the murder. Julia asks the Cardinal what’s wrong,... (full context)
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...he has come to the Cardinal to try to collect payment for his service, since Ferdinand in his crazed state will not pay. The Cardinal threatens to hack Bosola to pieces... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
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...the Cardinal’s palace, the Cardinal tells Pescara, Malateste, Roderigo, and Grisolan to leave the sick Ferdinand alone that night. The Cardinal emphasizes that they must promise not to come into the... (full context)
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Ferdinand then enters, saying that “strangling is a very quiet death.” Ferdinand continues talking to himself... (full context)
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...son to “fly the courts of princes,” which either means that he should escape the Duke and Cardinal, or leave the Italian court and courtly life in general. Antonio dies, and... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
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...Cardinal that he slayed Antonio by mistake. Bosola stabs the Cardinal twice, at which point Ferdinand enters after hearing the commotion. The Cardinal asks his brother for help, but Ferdinand mistakes... (full context)
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Ferdinand, gravely wounded, says that the world is a no better than a dog kennel, and... (full context)