The Duchess of Malfi: Salmon Tale Clip


Watch Lydia Wilson (Olivier Award-nominated for King Charles III) perform the Duchess' Salmon Tale speech from The Duchess of Malfi written by John Webster.

Transcription, Lydia Wilson as the Duchess:

‘I prithee, who is greatest? Can you tell?

Sad tales befit my woe. I'll tell you one:

A salmon, as she swam unto the sea,

Met with a dogfish, who encounters her

With this rough language: 'Why art thou so bold

To mix thyself with our high state of floods,

Being no eminent courtier, but one

That for the calmest and fresh time o'th' year

Dost live in shallow rivers; rank'st thyself

With silly smelts and shrimps? And darest thou

Pass by Our Dogship without reverence?'

'Oh,' quoth the salmon, 'sister, be at peace.

Thank Jupiter we both have passed the net.

Our value never can be truly known

Till in the fisher's basket we be shown.

I'th' market, then, my price may be the higher,

Even when I am nearest to the cook and fire.'

So to great men the moral may be stretched:

‘Men oft are valued high, when they're most wretched.’