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Robert Browning (1812–1889). A Blot in the ’Scutcheon.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Act IV Scene III

So ho! I’m glad to find you all together.

Here is the contract that shall make you happy,

My dear. You know already what it means.

Mariane(on her knees before ORGON)
Father, I beg you, in the name of Heaven

That knows my grief, and by whate’er can move you,

Relax a little your paternal rights,

And free my love from this obedience!

Oh, do not make me, by your harsh command,

Complain to Heaven you ever were my father;

Do not make wretched this poor life you gave me.

If, crossing that fond hope which I had formed,

You’ll not permit me to belong to one

Whom I have dared to love, at least, I beg you

Upon my knees, oh, save me from the torment

Of being possessed by one whom I abhor!

And do not drive me to some desperate act

By exercising all your rights upon me.

Orgon(a little touched)
Come, come, my heart, be firm! no human weakness!

I am not jealous of your love for him;

Display it freely; give him your estate,

And if that’s not enough, add all of mine;

I willingly agree, and give it up,

If only you’ll not give him me, your daughter;

Oh, rather let a convent’s rigid rule

Wear out the wretched days that Heaven allots me.

These girls are ninnies!—always turning nuns

When fathers thwart their silly love-affairs.

Get on your feet! The more you hate to have him,

The more ’twill help you earn your soul’s salvation.

So, mortify your senses by this marriage,

And don’t vex me about it any more.

But what…?

You hold your tongue, before your betters.

Don’t dare to say a single word, I tell you.

If you will let me answer, and advise…

Brother, I value your advice most highly;

’Tis well thought out; no better can be had;

But you’ll allow me—not to follow it.

Elmire(to her husband)
I can’t find words to cope with such a case;

Your blindness makes me quite astounded at you.

You are bewitched with him, to disbelieve

The things we tell you happened here to-day.

I am your humble servant, and can see

Things, when they’re plain as noses on folks’ faces,

I know you’re partial to my rascal son,

And didn’t dare to disavow the trick

He tried to play on this poor man; besides,

You were too calm, to be believed; if that

Had happened, you’d have been far more disturbed.

And must our honour always rush to arms

At the mere mention of illicit love?

Or can we answer no attack upon it

Except with blazing eyes and lips of scorn?

For my part, I just laugh away such nonsense;

I’ve no desire to make a loud to-do.

Our virtue should, I think, be gentle-natured;

Nor can I quite approve those savage prudes

Whose honour arms itself with teeth and claws

To tear men’s eyes out at the slightest word.

Heaven preserve me from that kind of honour!

I like my virtue not to be a vixen,

And I believe a quiet cold rebuff

No less effective to repulse a lover.

I know … and you can’t throw me off the scent.

Once more, I am astounded at your weakness;

I wonder what your unbelief would answer,

If I should let you see we’ve told the truth?

See it?



Come! If I should find

A way to make you see it clear as day?

All rubbish.

What a man! But answer me.

I’m not proposing now that you believe us;

But let’s suppose that here, from proper hiding,

You should be made to see and hear all plainly;

What would you say then, to your man of virtue?

Why, then, I’d say … say nothing. It can’t be.

Your error has endured too long already,

And quite too long you’ve branded me a liar.

I must at once, for my own satisfaction,

Make you a witness of the things we’ve told you.

Amen! I take you at your word. We’ll see

What tricks you have, and how you’ll keep your promise.

Elmire(to DORINE)
Send him to me.

Dorine(to ELMIRE)
The man’s a crafty codger,

Perhaps you’ll find it difficult to catch him.

Elmire(to DORINE)
Oh no! A lover’s never hard to cheat,

And self-conceit leads straight to self-deceit.

Bid him come down to me.

And you, withdraw.