THREE JUDGMENTS AT A BLOW Essay

Published: 2021-09-10 19:05:10
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Category: Literature

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A monologue from the play by Pedro Calderon de la Barca
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Eight Dramas of Calderon. Trans. Edward Fitzgerald. London: Macmillan & Co., 1906.
DONNA BLANCA: Oh, my liege,Not in one breathTurn royal mercy into needless threat;Though it be true my bosom has so longThis secret kept close prisoner, and hop’dTo have it buried with me in my grave,Yet if I peril my own name and theirsBy such a silence, I’ll not leave to rumourAnother hour’s suspicion; but revealTo you, my liege, yea, and to heaven and earth,My most disastrous story.My father, though of lineage high and clearAs the sun’s self, was poor; and knowing wellHow in this world honour fares ill alone,Betroth’d the beauty of my earliest years(The only dowry that I brought with me)To Lope de Urrea, whose estateWas to supply the much he miss’d of youth.We married–like December wed to May,Or flower of earliest summer set in snow;Yet heaven witness that I honour’d, ay,And loved him; though with little cause of love,And ever cold returns; but I went onDoing my duty toward him, hoping stillTo have a son to fill the gaping voidThat lay between us–yea, I pray’d for oneSo earnestly, that God, who has ordain’dThat we should ask at once for all and nothingOf him who best knows what is best for us,Denied me what I wrongly coveted.Well, let me turn the leaf on which are writtenThe troubles of those ill-assorted years,And to my tale. I had a younger sister,Whom to console me in my wretched home,I took to live with me–of whose fair youthA gentleman enamour’d–Oh, my liege,Ask not his name–yet why should I conceal it,Whose honour may not leave a single chinkFor doubt to nestle in?–Sir, ’twas Don Mendo,Your minister; who, when his idle suitProsper’d not in my sister’s ear, found means,Feeing one of the household to his purpose,To get admittance to her room by night;Where, swearing marriage soon should sanction love,He went away the victor of an honourThat like a villain he had come to steal;Then, but a few weeks after, (so men quitAll obligation save of their desire,)Married another, and growing great at court,Went on your father’s bidding into FranceAmbassador, and from that hour to thisKnows not the tragic issue of his crime.I, who perceived my sister’s altered looks,And how in mind and body she fared ill,With menace and persuasion wrung from herThe secret I have told you, and of whichShe bore within her bosom such a witnessAs double prey’d upon her life. Enough;She was my sister, why reproach her then,And to no purpose now the deed was done?Only I wonder’d at mysterious Heaven,Which her misfortune made to double mine,Who had been pining for the very boonThat was her shame and sorrow; till at last,Out of the tangle of this double griefI drew a thread to extricate us both,By giving forth myself about to bearThe child whose birth my sister should conceal.‘Twas done–the day came on–I feign’d the painShe felt, and on my bosom as my ownCherish’d the crying infant she had borne,And died in bearing–for even so it was;I and another matron (who aloneWas partner in the plot)Assigning other illness for her death.This is my story, sir–this is the crime,Of which the guilt being wholly mine, be mineThe punishment; I pleading on my kneesMy love both to my husband and my sisterAs some excuse. Pedro of Arragon,Whom people call the Just, be just to me:I do not ask for mercy, but for justice,And that, whatever be my punishment,It may be told of me, and put on record,That, howsoever and with what designI might deceive my husband and the world,At least I have not shamed my birth and honour.

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