In The Duchess of Malfi, blood works classically as a multifaceted symbol. First and most simply, blood symbolizes violence. When an act is particularly violent or cruel it is described as bloody. Blood is also used to refer to both status and family; it represents rank and lineage. Thus when Ferdinand and the Cardinal kill the Duchess, they are spilling the noble blood of their own blood (i.e. family member). Finally, blood is used by Ferdinand to represent passion when he says, “Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, / Like diamonds we are cut with our own dust.” In the Renaissance it was common to believe that people were ruled by the four humors, all of which run through the blood (blood itself was also a humor). Ferdinand’s dying words contain multiple meanings for the word blood, including family and violence, but they also seem to evoke notions of passion and the four humors.
Blood Quotes in The Duchess of Malfi
The misery of us that are born great!
We are forced to woo because none dare woo us;
And, as a tyrant doubles with his words,
And fearfully equivocates, so we
Are forced to express our violent passions
In riddles and in dreams, and leave the path
Of simple virtue, which was never made
To seem the thing it is not.
Make not your heart so dead a piece of flesh
To fear more than to love me. Sir, be confident.
What is't distracts you? This is flesh and blood, sir;
'Tis not the figure, cut in alabaster,
Kneels at my husband's tomb.
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.
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.
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.
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.