The Duchess of Malfi

The Cardinal is the brother of Duke Ferdinand and the Duchess. Though he is a religious figure, he is in fact just as immoral and despicable as his brother, facts made clear by his attempt to bribe his way into being pope, the fact that Bosola once killed a man on his orders, and the affair he carries on with Julia, Castruccio’s wife. Like Ferdinand, he tries to prevent the Duchess from remarrying in order to preserve his sense of his family’s purity and honor as well as his access to the Duchess’s wealth. Unlike the wild Ferdinand, though, the Cardinal is careful, calculating, and controlled: he refuses to interact personally with the spy Bosola, and he threatens to walk away when Ferdinand becomes too overt about his plans for revenge on the Duchess. While it’s never explained whether the Cardinal is upset by Ferdinand’s violence or just trying to shut Ferdinand up in order to keep themselves looking clean while they plan their revenge, the fact that the Cardinal is entirely capable of murder – he later poisons Julia, after all, when she learns his secrets – suggests that it is the latter. Though he is aware of the religious consequences of his actions, he wields religion only as a tool to maintain his power. He never seems to feel true guilt for his actions, and there is a sense of poetic justice in the fact that ultimately the Cardinal dies after being stabbed by Bosola, the spy he used but refused to engage with or even pay, and his own brother, Ferdinand, who by the end of the play is guilt ridden and insane.

The Cardinal Quotes in The Duchess of Malfi

The The Duchess of Malfi quotes below are all either spoken by The Cardinal or refer to The Cardinal. 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 and citation info for the quotes below refers 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 1, Scene 2 Quotes

Some such flashes superficially hang on him, for form; but observe his inward character: he is a melancholy churchman. The spring in his face is nothing but the engendering of toads. Where he is jealous of any man he lays worse plots for them than ever was imposed on Hercules, for he strews in his way flatterers, panders, intelligencers, atheists, and a thousand such political monsters.

Related Characters: Antonio Bologna (speaker), The Cardinal, Delio
Page Number: 1.2.70-76
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2, Scene 4 Quotes

You may thank me, lady.
I have taken you off your melancholy perch,
Bore you upon my fist, and showed you game,
And let you fly at it. I pray thee, kiss me.
When thou wast with thy husband, thou wast watched
Like a tame elephant - still you are to thank me.

Related Characters: The Cardinal (speaker), Julia
Page Number: 2.4.27-32
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.

Related Characters: Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria (speaker), The Duchess of Malfi, The Cardinal
Page Number: 2.5.67-74
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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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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I account this world a tedious theatre,
For I do play a part in't 'gainst my will.

Related Characters: The Duchess of Malfi (speaker), Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria, The Cardinal, Antonio Bologna, Children
Page Number: 4.1.83-84
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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Act 5, Scene 1 Quotes

It may be that the sudden apprehension
Of danger - for I'll go in mine own shape –
When he shall see it fraught with love and duty,
May draw the poison out of him, and work
A friendly reconcilement. If it fail,
Yet it shall rid me of this infamous calling;
For better fall once than be ever falling.

Related Characters: Antonio Bologna (speaker), The Duchess of Malfi, The Cardinal, Delio
Related Symbols: Poison
Page Number: 5.1.67-73
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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The Cardinal Character Timeline in The Duchess of Malfi

The timeline below shows where the character The Cardinal 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 Bosola as a man who satirizes... (full context)
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
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Bosola tries to talk to the Cardinal, but the Cardinal is extremely dismissive. Bosola believes he deserves better treatment, as he was... (full context)
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
Antonio asks Bosola what happened in the conversation, to which Bosola replies that the Cardinal and his brother are like plum trees rich with fruit, but only fed on by... (full context)
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
...have served seven years in the galleys for a “notorious murder,” supposedly ordered by the Cardinal. Antonio says that it’s unfortunate that the Cardinal is ignoring Bosola, because he has heard... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
...steered back to the best qualities of horses, and to Antonio and his horsemanship. The Cardinal and Duchess then enter. (full context)
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
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Once the Cardinal and Duchess enter, Antonio steps aside and begins quietly telling Delio about the character of... (full context)
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Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
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...Silvio announces that he is leaving for Milan, and everyone exits the stage but the Cardinal and Ferdinand. Once alone, the Cardinal tells Ferdinand to hire Bosola as a spy to... (full context)
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Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
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Bosola asks Ferdinand why the Cardinal is avoiding him. Ferdinand replies that it’s possibly because the Cardinal suspects Bosola of some... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
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Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
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The Cardinal, the Duchess, and the Duchess’s hand-maiden Cariola enter and join Ferdinand. The Cardinal informs the... (full context)
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Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
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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... (full context)
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The Cardinal continues that the Duchess might want to get married privately or in secret, and Ferdinand... (full context)
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...for his 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... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
...he decides to have Castruccio carry the horoscope in a letter to Ferdinand and the Cardinal. (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
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This scene takes place in Rome and begins with the Cardinal and his mistress Julia entering. The Cardinal asks Julia what excuse she made up to... (full context)
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Julia begins to cry, but the Cardinal says she’ll probably also cry to her husband that she loves only him. When she... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 5
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Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
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Ferdinand and the Cardinal enter with the letter, and Ferdinand says he has dug up a mandrake, which is... (full context)
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The Cardinal asks if their royal blood will be tainted, wondering who the father of the Duchess’s... (full context)
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Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Ferdinand starts imagining who the Duchess’s lover might be. When the Cardinal tries to calm him, Ferdinand says that it’s “not your whore’s milk that shall quench... (full context)
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
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...still enraged. He says he could kill the Duchess now by killing himself or the Cardinal, since he thinks that the Duchess’ disobedience is heaven’s revenge on the brothers for their... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
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...the Duchess have had two more children. Delio asks if this news has reached the Cardinal, and Antonio responds that he fears it has, as Ferdinand has been acting strangely. The... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
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In the Cardinal’s residence in Rome, the Cardinal and a Roman courtier named Malateste discuss war and the... (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... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
Religion and Sin Theme Icon
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...the Duchess fled under the pretense of a religious pilgrimage. Two Pilgrims comment that the Cardinal is apparently going to “resign his cardinal’s hat” at the shrine. The Duchess, who is... (full context)
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Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
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After the dumb show, the Pilgrims wonder why the Cardinal is being so cruel to the Duchess. They repeat the information that she has been... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
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...has been 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... (full context)
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...of Antonio’s citadels, but Pescara says no. Then Julia enters with a letter from the Cardinal asking Pescara to give the same citadel to Julia. Pescara gives it to her and... (full context)
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
...now nothing more than his 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... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
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In the Cardinal and Ferdinand’s palace in Milan Pescara and a Doctor discuss the condition of the Duke.... (full context)
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...Therefore, he 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... (full context)
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...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 lies and tells a story... (full context)
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The Cardinal says in an aside that he doesn’t want Bosola to know that he was an... (full context)
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The Cardinal then says that he has found the perfect man for the Duchess to marry, but... (full context)
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...is beautiful, and then realizes in an aside that he can use her against the Cardinal. He asks her if the Cardinal would be angry if he saw them together. She... (full context)
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The Cardinal then reenters the room, worrying to himself that Ferdinand in his insane state might talk... (full context)
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The Cardinal asks if Julia can keep this dark secret, but she says that he is in... (full context)
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Bosola jumps out of the wardrobe and says that he has come to the Cardinal to try to collect payment for his service, since Ferdinand in his crazed state will... (full context)
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After the Cardinal exits, Bosola cries out that he pities Antonio. He ultimately decides to seek Antonio out... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
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Antonio and Delio are outside of the Cardinal’s window at his palace in Milan. Unbeknownst to Antonio and Delio, they are very nearby... (full context)
Love and Male Authority Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
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...says “aye, wife’s voice.” The echo seems to discourage him from going to see the Cardinal and tells him to be mindful of his safety, and it goes as far as... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
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Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
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In the Cardinal’s palace, the Cardinal tells Pescara, Malateste, Roderigo, and Grisolan to leave the sick Ferdinand alone... (full context)
Politics and Corruption Theme Icon
Guilt, Death, and Suffering Theme Icon
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...find “him” at his prayers; Antonio is saying that he hopes he can find the Cardinal while he’s praying because that will be the best time to make peace with him.... (full context)
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...“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 Bosola asks... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
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The Cardinal is in his chambers, holding a book and questioning what hell is like from a... (full context)
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Bosola kills the servant to make sure no one will unlock the door to the Cardinal’s room. He then admits to the Cardinal that he slayed Antonio by mistake. Bosola stabs... (full context)
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...revenge for Antonio (who was murdered by mistake) and Julia (who was poisoned by the Cardinal). Finally, he says, he has taken revenge for himself, who was an actor involved with... (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... (full context)