The Witch "Though I Be Poor, I'm Honest"

Thomas Middleton

"Though I Be Poor, I'm Honest"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Sebastian comes home to Ravenna after three years spent in a war. Upon the day of his arrival he finds that Isabella, to whom he was betrothed when he left, is being married to Antonio. Her uncle, the governor of Ravenna, favoring Antonio, has given his niece to the new suitor. Sebastian vows that he can never have any peace without his beloved and goes to the witch Hecate for spells which will cause the newlyweds to have no joy in their marriage, but the witch tells him that the marriage has been made by God and so is beyond the power of any evil spirit. Sebastian then goes, in disguise, to become a servant in Antonio's household. There he soon learns that Antonio has had a mistress, Florida, for five years, and that the woman is still entertained in Antonio's home. The disguised Sebastian tells the newly-married Isabella of her husband's infidelity, but Isabella refuses to believe him. Sebastian defends himself to her as an honest man:

Thou'st found out thine own ruin; for to my knowledge
Thou dost belie him basely: I dare swear
He's a gentleman as free from that folly
As ever took religious life upon him.
Be not too confident to your own abuse, madam.
Since I've begun the truth, neither your frowns–
The only curses that I have on earth,
Because my means depends upon your service–
Nor all the execrations of man's fury,
Shall put me off: though I be poor, I'm honest,
And too just in this business. I perceive now
Too much respect and faithfulness to ladies
May be a wrong to servants.