A monologue from the play by Pedro Calderón 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 breath
    Turn royal mercy into needless threat;
    Though it be true my bosom has so long
    This secret kept close prisoner, and hop'd
    To have it buried with me in my grave,
    Yet if I peril my own name and theirs
    By such a silence, I'll not leave to rumour
    Another hour's suspicion; but reveal
    To you, my liege, yea, and to heaven and earth,
    My most disastrous story.
    My father, though of lineage high and clear
    As the sun's self, was poor; and knowing well
    How 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 estate
    Was 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 on
    Doing my duty toward him, hoping still
    To have a son to fill the gaping void
    That lay between us--yea, I pray'd for one
    So earnestly, that God, who has ordain'd
    That we should ask at once for all and nothing
    Of him who best knows what is best for us,
    Denied me what I wrongly coveted.
    Well, let me turn the leaf on which are written
    The 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 youth
    A gentleman enamour'd--Oh, my liege,
    Ask not his name--yet why should I conceal it,
    Whose honour may not leave a single chink
    For doubt to nestle in?--Sir, 'twas Don Mendo,
    Your minister; who, when his idle suit
    Prosper'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 honour
    That like a villain he had come to steal;
    Then, but a few weeks after, (so men quit
    All obligation save of their desire,)
    Married another, and growing great at court,
    Went on your father's bidding into France
    Ambassador, and from that hour to this
    Knows 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 her
    The secret I have told you, and of which
    She bore within her bosom such a witness
    As 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 boon
    That was her shame and sorrow; till at last,
    Out of the tangle of this double grief
    I drew a thread to extricate us both,
    By giving forth myself about to bear
    The child whose birth my sister should conceal.
    'Twas done--the day came on--I feign'd the pain
    She felt, and on my bosom as my own
    Cherish'd the crying infant she had borne,
    And died in bearing--for even so it was;
    I and another matron (who alone
    Was 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 mine
    The punishment; I pleading on my knees
    My love both to my husband and my sister
    As 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 design
    I might deceive my husband and the world,
    At least I have not shamed my birth and honour.