Act 4 scene 3


Francisco asks Lodovico, who is looking after the ambassadors, to guard also the conclave of cardinals who have met to elect a new Pope. Lodovico explains to Gasparo whom the ambassadors represent and also ensures that a servant checks each cardinal's food for hidden messages. Suddenly a cardinal appears, dismissing the food, since the new Pope is about to be elected. The Cardinal of Aragon appears and proclaims in Latin that Cardinal Monticelso has been elected as Pope Paul IV.

A servant enters and informs Francisco that Vittoria has fled with Brachiano and they have taken Giovanni with them. He pretends to be angry but after the servant has left he confesses that he is pleased as it means that Brachiano has destroyed his reputation by marrying a prostitute. He vows to take action against Brachiano.

Monticelso enters in his papal robes, hears from Francisco that Vittoria and Brachiano have eloped, and makes his first pronouncement as Pope their excommunication and banishment.

Everyone leaves except Francisco and Lodovico, who discuss their revenge on Brachiano. Francisco leaves and Monticelso re-enters, questioning Lodovico about what he and Francisco are plotting. At first Lodovico refuses to tell him anything, but then decides he will tell him not as an informant but as part of a confession from a sinner to a priest.

Lodovico then tells Monticelso that he has vowed to avenge Isabella's murder, but the Pope warns him he will be damned. Monticelso leaves and Lodovico decides to renounce his plan of vengeance. However, when Francisco re-enters with money purported to be from the Pope, Lodovico believes Monticelso must have been intending to bribe him with this money before he heard his confession.

Disillusioned, Lodovico now dismisses Monticelso's moral advice about vengeance and determines to proceed with his revenge on Brachiano.


conclave: Meeting of cardinals to elect a new pope.

Room for the ambassadors … such discovery: The ambassadors dressed in the finery of the different knightly orders pass over the stage. This would add to the spectacle and stress the importance of the process of electing the pope.

admiration: A particular candidate could be elected Pope if two thirds of the cardinals turned and bowed to him.

Denuntio vobis … Paulus Quartus: Latin - I announce to you tidings of great joy. The Most Reverend Cardinal Lorenzo de Monticelso has been elected to the Apostolic See, and has chosen for himself the name of Paul IV.

ALL: Long live the Holy Father Paul IV.

How fortunate are my wishes: This shows Francisco's hypocrisy (he had previously pretended to be angry at Vittoria's escape), in keeping with his role as a Machiavellian villain.

Concedimus vobis … peccatorum: Latin – We grant you the Apostolic blessing and remission of sins.

tane the sacrament to prosecute: Lodovico has taken the bread and wine of the Catholic Mass as part of his vow to enact vengeance.

career .. 'sault .. ring-galliard: Dressage terms

You have o'erta'en me: Monticelso realises he has been tricked as he cannot use anything he is told as part of a confession.

‘tis damnable … shameful fall: Taking revenge is an unchristian act. As Pope, Monticelso reminds Lodovico of the danger to his soul.

melancholic yew tree: Yew trees traditionally grow in graveyards. Lodovico is likened to a yew in that he is hoping to advance himself through the death of others.

Furies: Goddesses of Revenge in Greek mythology.

Bear him these thousand ducats: In saying that the money is from the Pope, Francisco is again acting like a Machiavellian villain in this double dealing with Lodovico. He now has no regard for his former colleague Monticelso, lying about him and blackening his reputation.

Investigating Act 4 scene 3

  • Why do you think Webster chose the papal election as the setting for this scene?
    • What other scenes have provided similar dramatic spectacle?
  • In what way has Monticelso appeared to have changed as a result of his election as Pope?
    • What effect does his speech beginning: ‘Miserable creature...' have on Lodovico?
  • What does Francisco do which changes Lodovico's mind?
    • How does it influence Lodovico's view of Monticelso, as expressed in the closing speech of the scene?

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