Gonorill and Ragan complain about the impertinence of Cordella – so sober, courteous, demure, modest, precise, so talked about as exceeding the two. They fear most that she would marry best. But Skalliger comes in to inform them of Leir’s intentions to marry Ragan to Cambria and Gonorill to Cornwall, and his hope for Cordella to marry the King of Hibernia, but he feels she will resist. He also discloses the king’s plan of the love test, hoping the Cordella will feel thereby obliged to oblige him. After Skalliger leaves, the two sisters conceive a small plot, to be outrageous in their professions to put the squeeze on Cordella, who will not want to marry the Irish king, which will cause Leir’s love for Cordella to turn to hate.
Enter Gonorill and Ragan.
GONORILL: I marvel, Ragan, how you can endure
To see that proud pert Peat, our youngest sister,
So slightly to account of us, her elders,
As if we were no better than herself!
We cannot have a quaint device so soon,
Or new-made fashion, of our choice invention;
But if she like it, she will have the same,
Or study newer to exceed us both.
Besides, she is so nice and so demure;
So sober, courteous, modest, and precise, … [2.10]
That all the Court hath work enough to do,
To talk how she exceedeth me and you.
RAGAN: What should I do? would it were in my power,
To find a cure for this contagious ill:
Some desperate medicine must be soon applied,
To dim the glory of her mounting fame;
Else ere’t be long, she’ll have both prick and praise,
And we must be set by for working days.
Do you not see what several choice of Suitors
She daily hath, and of the best degree? … [2.20]
Say, amongst all, she hap to fancy one,
And have a husband when as we have none:
Why then, by right, to her we must give place,
Though it be ne’re so much to our disgrace.
GONORILL: By my virginity, rather than she shall have
A husband before me,
I’ll marry one or other in his shirt:
And yet I have made half a grant already
Of my good will unto the King of Cornwall.
RAGAN: Swear not so deeply (sister) here cometh my L. Skalliger: … [2.30]
Something his hasty coming doth import.
SKALLIGER: Sweet Princesses, I am glad I met you here so luckily,
Having good news which doth concern you both,
And craveth speedy expedition.
RAGAN: For Gods sake tell us what it is, my Lord,
I am with child until you utter it.
SKALLIGER: Madam, to save your longing, this it is:
Your father in great secrecy today,
Told me, he means to marry you out of hand,
Unto the noble Prince of Cambria; … [2.40]
You, Madam, to the King of Cornwall’s Grace:
Your younger sister he would fain bestow
Upon the rich King of Hibernia:
But that he doubts, she hardly will consent;
For hitherto she ne’re could fancy him.
If she do yield, why then, between you three,
He will divide his kingdom for your dowries.
But yet there is a further mystery,
Which, so you will conceal, I will disclose.
GONORILL: What e’re thou speakst to us, kind Skalliger, … [2.50]
Think that thou speakst it only to thyself.
SKALLIGER: He earnestly desireth for to know,
Which of you three do bear most love to him,
And on your loves he so extremely dotes,
As never any did, I think, before.
He presently doth mean to send for you,
To be resolved of this tormenting doubt:
And look, whose answer pleaseth him the best,
They shall have most unto their marriages.
RAGAN: O that I had some pleasing Mermaid’s voice, … [2.60]
For to enchant his senseless senses with!
SKALLIGER: For he supposeth that Cordella will
(Striving to go beyond you in her love)
Promise to do what ever he desires:
Then will he straight enjoin her for his sake,
The Hibernian King in marriage for to take.
This is the sum of all I have to say;
Which being done, I humbly take my leave,
Not doubting but your wisdoms will forsee,
What course will best unto your good agree. … [2.70]
GONORILL: Thanks gentle Skalliger, thy kindness undeserved,
Shall not be unrequited, if we live. Exit Skalliger.
RAGAN: Now have we fit occasion offered us,
To be revenged upon her unperceived.
GONORILL: Nay, our revenge we will inflict on her,
Shall be accounted piety in us:
I will so flatter with my doting father,
As he was ne’re so flattered in his life.
Nay, I will say, that if it be his pleasure,
To match me with a beggar, I will yield: … [2.80]
For why, I know whatever I will say,
He means to match me with the Cornwall King.
RAGAN: I’ll say the like: for I am well assured,
What e’re I say to please the old man’s mind,
Who dotes, as if he were a child again,
I shall enjoy the noble Cambrian Prince:
Only, to feed his humor, will suffice,
To say, I am content with anyone
Whom he’ll appoint me; this will please him more,
Than e’re Apollo’s music pleased Jove. … [2.90]
GONORILL: I smile to think, in what a woeful plight
Cordella will be, when we answer thus:
For she will rather die, than give consent
To join in marriage with the Irish King:
So will our father think, she loveth him not,
Because she will not grant to his desire,
Which we will aggravate in such bitter terms,
That he will soon convert his love to hate:
For he, you know, is always in extremes.
RAGAN: Not all the world could lay a better plot, … [2.100]
I long till it be put in practice.