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.

Read the play here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top