"Soar Not Too High To Fall; But Stoop To Rise"
Context: In the opening scene of the play, Tiberio, a courtier, explains the present situation in the court of the city state of Milan to Stephano, another courtier. The duke, Ludovico Sforza, had always lived in the midst of danger, but his bravery and judgment had always brought the state safely through its hazards. Now, however, Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, and Francis I, King of France, are fighting for possession of Italy, and into the conflict they have drawn most of the city states on one side or the other. Sforza had cast his lot on the French side. If the Emperor wins, Sforza will be completely ruined. Tiberio adds that it is also the duchess's birthday and explains that the duchess, although the soul of honor, bears herself so proudly that she has offended Isabella, the duke's mother, and Mariana, his sister, both of whom resent the duchess's overbearing manner. In the second scene Mariana states to her mother that she will not attend the birthday celebration, and Isabella is of the opinion that she will not, either. Francisco, the duke's special favorite and Mariana's husband, urges them both to reconsider so as not to offend the duke, as he will be most ill disposed towards them if they slight his celebration. Isabella and Mariana both agree to do their duty, and Francisco tells them that they would be wise not to exalt themselves too high because doing so might bring about a fall; if they want to rise in the future, they would do well to bear themselves lowly at the present moment.
ISABELLAYou are ever forwardTo sing her praises.MARIANAOthers are as fair;I am sure, as noble.FRANCISCOI detract from none,In giving her what's due. Were she deformed,Yet being the duchess, I stand bound to serve her;But, as she is, to admire her. Never wifeMet with a purer heat her husband's fervor;A happy pair, one in the other blest!She confident in herself he's wholly hers,And cannot seek for change; and he secure,That 'tis not in the power of man to tempt her. . . .MARIANAI shall doWhat may become the sister of a prince;But will not stoop beneath it.FRANCISCOYet, be wise;Soar not too high, to fall; but stoop to rise.