The White Devil "Cowardly Dogs Bark Loudest"

John Webster

"Cowardly Dogs Bark Loudest"

Context: Paulo Giordano Ursini, Duke of Brachiano, falls in love with Vittoria Corombona and, with the help of her brother, his secretary, the duke pursues her; and she proves willing for the suit to take place. The duke's wife, Isabella, a sister of Francisco de Medicis, Duke of Florence, is thus deserted by her husband; and her brother, with the help of Cardinal Monticelso, seeks to patch up the rift between the married couple. In order to aid his master in having Vittoria Corombona as his mistress, Flamineo, Duke Brachiano's secretary and Vittoria's brother, kills Camillo, Vittoria's husband, making the death look like an accident, giving out that the husband broke his neck jumping a vaulting-horse. At a hearing following Camillo's death, Cardinal Monticelso deals harshly with Vittoria, accusing her of killing her husband that she might more easily have an affair with the Duke of Brachiano. Having had no part in the crime, she asserts her innocence; but the cardinal treats her all the more harshly in his questioning. He asks if she had any visitors the night of her husband's death, and she replies truthfully that she was visited by the duke. The Duke of Brachiano, an observer at the hearing, though uninvited, interferes on her behalf, interrupting the cardinal to say that he had gone to her home to see if he could help her pay off a debt to the cardinal, fearful that the churchman might cheat her. Monticelso then turns on Brachiano:

Who made you overseer?
Why, my charity, my charity, which should flow
From every generous and noble spirit
To orphans and to widows.
Your lust.
Cowardly dogs bark loudest: sirrah priest,
I'll talk with you hereafter. Do you hear?
The sword you frame of such an excellent temper
I'll sheathe in your own bowels.
There are a number of thy coat resemble
Your common post-boys.
Your mercenary post-boys:
Your letters carry truth, but 'tis your guise
To fill your mouths with gross and impudent lies.