A New Way to Pay Old Debts by Philip Massinger

Persons in the Play

Lovell, an English lord
Sir Giles Overreach, a cruel extortioner
Wellborn, a prodigal, nephew to Sir Giles
Allworth, a young gentleman, page to Lord Lovell,
stepson to Lady Allworth
Marrall, a creature of Sir Giles Overreach
Willdo, a parson
Lady Allworth, a rich widow
Margaret, Sir Giles's daughter

The scene is laid in an English county

Act I

Scene I.A room in Overreach's house. Enter Overreach and Marrall.

Overreach: This varlet, Wellborn, lives too long to upbraid me
With my close cheat put on him. Will not cold
Nor hunger kill him?

Marrall: I've used all means; and the last night I caused
His host, the tapster, to turn him out of doors;
And since I've charged all of your friends and tenants
To refuse him even a crust of mouldy bread.

Overreach: Persuade him that 'tis better steal than beg:
Then, if I prove he have but robbed a hen roost,
Not all the world shall save him from the gallows.

Marrall: I'll do my best, sir.

Overreach: I'm now on my main work, with the Lord Lovell;
The gallant-minded, popular Lord Lovell.
He's come into the country; and my aims
Are to invite him to my house.

Marrall: I see.
This points at my young mistress.

Overreach: She must part with
That humble title, and write honourable—
Yes, Marrall, my right honourable daughter,
If all I have, or e'er shall get, will do it.

[Exit Overreach. Enter Wellborn.

Marrall: Before, like you, I had outlived my fortunes,
A withe had served my turn to hang myself.
Is there no purse to be cut? House to be broken?
Or market-woman with eggs that you may murder,
And so dispatch the business?

Wellborn: Here's variety,
 I must confess; but I'll accept of none
Of all your gentle offers, I assure you.
Despite the rhetoric that the fiend has taught you,
I am as far as thou art from despair.
Nay, I have confidence, which is more than hope,
To live, and suddenly, better than ever.
Come, dine with me, and with a gallant lady.

Marrall: With the lady of the lake or queen of
For I know it must be an enchanted dinner.

Wellborn: With the Lady Allworth, knave.

Marrall: Nay, now there's hope
Thy brain is cracked.

Wellborn: Mark thee with what respect
I am entertained.

Marrall: With choice, no doubt, of dog-whips!

Wellborn: 'Tis not far off; go with me; trust thine eyes.

Marrall: I will endure thy company.

Wellborn: Come along, then.


Scene II.The country. Marrall assures Overreach that the plot on Wellborn succeeds. The rich Lady Allworth has feasted him and is fallen in love with him; he lives to be a greater prey than ever to Overreach. Angered at the information, Overreach, who has himself attempted in vain to see her, knocks his creature down, mollifying him afterwards with gold.

Act II

Scene I.A chamber in Lady Allworth's house. Lovell and Allworth discovered. Having heard of the mutual attachment of Margaret and Allworth, Lord Lovell has assured the latter that he will help bring it to a successful issue, and that neither the beauty nor the wealth of Sir Giles's daughter shall tempt him to betray Allworth's confidence. Enter Marrall, and with him Sir Giles, who from what he has seen of their behaviour at a dinner given by him in LORD Lovell's honour believes that Lovell wishes to marry Margaret and that Lady Allworth is enamoured of Wellborn. To further this latter match and to prosecute new designs against Wellborn he has lent him a thousand pounds.

Overreach: A good day to my lord.

Lovell: You are an early riser, Sir Giles.

Overreach: And reason, to attend your lordship.
Go to my nephew, Marrall.
See all his debts discharged, and help his worship
To fit on his rich suit.

[Exit Marrall

Lovell: I have writ this morning
A few lines to my mistress, your fair daughter.

Overreach: 'Twill fire her, for she's wholly yours already.
Sweet Master Allworth, take my ring; 'twill carry
To her presence, I dare warrant you; and there plead
For my good lord, if you shall find occasion.
That done, pray ride to Nottingham; get a licence
Still by this token. I'll have it dispatched,
And suddenly, my lord, that I may say
My honourable, nay, right honourable daughter.

Lovell: Haste your return.

Allworth: I will not fail, my lord.


Overreach: I came not to make offer with my daughter
A certain portion; that were poor and trivial:
In one word, I pronounce all that is mine,
In lands, or leases, ready coin, or goods,
 With her, my lord, comes to you; nor shall you have
One motive to induce you to believe
I live too long, since every year I'll add
Something unto the heap, which shall be yours too.

Lovell: You are a right kind father.

Overreach: You'll have reason
To think me such. How do you like this seat?
Would it not serve to entertain your friends?

Lovell: A well-built pile; and she that's mistress of it,
Worthy the large revenue.

Overreach: She, the mistress?
It may be so for a time; but let my lord
Say only he but like it, and would have it,
I say ere long 'tis his.

Lovell: Impossible.

Overreach: You do conclude too fast. 'Tis not alone
The Lady Allworth's lands; for these, once Wellborn's
(As, by her dotage on him, I know they will be),
Shall soon be mine. But point out any man's
In all the shire, and say they lie convenient
And useful for your lordship, and once more
I say aloud, they are yours.

Lovell: I dare not own
What's by unjust and cruel means extorted:
My fame and credit are too dear to me.

Overreach: Your reputation shall stand as fair
In all good men's opinions as now.
All my ambition is to have my daughter
Right honourable; which my lord can make her:
And might I live to dance upon my knee
A young Lord Lovell, borne by her unto you,
I write nil ultra to my proudest hopes.
I'll ruin the country to supply your waste:
The scourge of prodigals, want, shall never find you.

Lovell: Are you not moved with the imprecations
And curses of whole families, made wretched
 By these practices?

Overreach: Yes, as rocks are,
When foamy billows split themselves against
Their flinty ribs; or as the moon is moved
When wolves, with hunger pined, howl at her brightness.
I only think what 'tis to have my daughter
Right honourable; and 'tis a powerful charm,
Makes me insensible of remorse, or pity,
Or the least sting of conscience.

Lovell: I admire
The toughness of your nature.

Overreach: 'Tis for you,
My lord, and for my daughter I am marble.
My haste commands me hence: in one word, therefore,
Is it a match, my lord?

Lovell: I hope that is past doubt now.

Overreach: Then rest secure; not the hate of all mankind,
Not fear of what can fall on me hereafter,
Shall make me study aught but your advancement
One storey higher: an earl! if gold can do it.


Lovell: He's gone; I wonder how the earth can bear
Such a portent! I, that have lived a soldier,
And stood the enemy's violent charge undaunted,
Am bathed in a cold sweat.

Scene II.A chamber in Sir Giles's house. Enter Wellborn and Marrall.

Wellborn: Now, Master Marrall, what's the weighty secret
You promised to impart?

Marrall: This only, in a word: I know Sir Giles
Will come upon you for security
For his thousand pounds; which you must not consent to.
As he grows in heat (as I'm sure he will),
Be you but rough, and say, he's in your debt
 Ten times the sum upon sale of your land.
The deed in which you passed it over to him
Bid him produce: he'll have it to deliver
To the Lord Lovell, with many other writings,
And present moneys. I'll instruct you farther
As I wait on your worship.

Wellborn: I trust thee.

[Exeunt. Enter Margaret as if in anger, followed by Allworth.

Margaret: I'll pay my lord all debts due to his title;
And when with terms not taking from his honour
He does solicit me, I shall gladly hear him:
But in this peremptory, nay, commanding way,
To appoint a meeting, and without my knowledge,
Shows a confidence that deceives his lordship.

Allworth: I hope better, good lady.

Margaret: Hope, sir, what you please; I have
A father, and, without his full consent,
I can grant nothing.

[Enter Overreach, having overheard.

Overreach (aside): I like this obedience.
But whatever my lord writes must and shall be
Accepted and embraced. (Addressing Allworth.) Sweet
Master Allworth,
You show yourself a true and faithful servant.
How! frowning, Meg? Are these looks to receive
A messenger from my lord? In name of madness,
What could his honour write more to content you?

Margaret: Why, sir, I would be married like your daughter,
Not hurried away in the night, I know not whither,
Without all ceremony; no friends invited,
To honour the solemmnity.

Allworth: My lord desires this privacy, in respect
His honourable kinsmen are far off;
And he desires there should be no delay.

Margaret: Give me but in the church, and I'm content.

Overreach: So my lord have you, what care I who gives you?
Lord Lovell would be private, I'll not cross him.
Use my ring to my chaplain; he is beneficed
At my manor of Gotham, and called Parson Willdo.

Margaret: What warrant is your ring? He may suppose
I got that twenty ways without your knowledge.
Your presence would do better.

Overreach: Still perverse!
Paper and ink there.

Allworth: I can furnish you.

Overreach: I thank you; I can write then.

[Writes on his book.

Allworth: You may, if you please, leave out the name of my lord,
In respect he comes disguised, and only write,
"Marry her to this gentleman."

Overreach: Well advised.

[Margaret kneels.

'Tis done; away—my blessing, girl? Thou hast it.

[Exeunt Allworth and Margaret.

Overreach: Farewell! Now all's cock sure.
Methink I hear already knights and ladies
Say, "Sir Giles Overreach, how is it with
Your honourable daughter? Has her honour
Slept well to-night?" Now for Wellborn
And the lands; were he once married to the widow—I
have him here. [Exit.


Scene I.A chamber in Lady Allworth's house. Enter Lovell and Lady Allworth contracted to one another. He has told her that only a desire to promote the union of her promising young stepson, Allworth, with Margaret Overreach tempted him  into a seeming courtship of Sir Giles's daughter. She has told him that her somewhat exaggerated courtesies and attentions to Wellborn were an obligation paid to one who in his prosperous days had ventured all for her dead husband. To them enter Wellborn in a rich habit.

Lady Allworth: You're welcome, sir. Now you look like yourself.

Wellborn: Your creature, madam. I will never hold
My life my own, when you please to command it.

Lady Allworth: I'm glad my endeavours prospered. Saw you lately
Sir Giles, your uncle?

Wellborn: I heard of him, madam,
By his minister, Marrall. He's grown into strange passions
About his daughter. This last night he looked for
Your lordship at his house; but missing you,
And she not yet appearing, his wise head
Is much perplexed and troubled.

Overreach (outside): Ha! find her, booby; thou huge lump of nothing.
I'll bore thine eyes out else.

Wellborn: May't please your lordship,
For some ends of my own, but to withdraw
A little out of sight, though not of hearing.

Lovell: You shall direct me.

[Steps aside. Enter Overreach, with distracted looks, driving in Marrall before him.

Overreach: Lady, by your leave, did you see my daughter, lady,
And the lord, her husband? Are they in your house?
If they are, discover, that I may bid them joy;
And, as an entrance to her place of honour,
See your ladyship on her left hand, and make curt'sies
When she nods on you; which you must receive
 As a special favour.

Lady Allworth: When I know, Sir Giles,
Her state require such ceremony I shall pay it;
Meantime, I neither know nor care where she is.

Overreach: Nephew!

Wellborn: Well.

Overreach: No more!

Wellborn: 'Tis all I owe you.

Overreach: I am familiar with the cause that makes you
Bear up thus bravely; there's a certain buz
Of a stolen marriage—do you hear? Of a stolen marriage;
In which, 'tis said, there's somebody hath been cozened.
I name no parties.

[Lady Allworth turns away.

Wellborn: Well, sir, and what follows?

Overreach: Marry, this, since you are peremptory. Remember
Upon mere hope of your great match I lent you
A thousand pounds. Put me in good security,
And suddenly, by mortgage or by statute,
Of some of your new possessions, or I'll have you
Dragged in your lavender robes to the jail.
Shall I have security?

Wellborn: No, indeed, you shall not:
Nor bond, nor bill, nor bare acknowledgment;
Your great looks fright not me. And whereas, sir,
You charge me with a debt of a thousand pounds,
Either restore my land, or I'll recover
A debt, that is truly due to me from you,
In value ten times more than what you challenge.

Overreach: Oh, monstrous impudence! Did I not purchase
The land left by thy father? [Enter servant with a box.
Is not here
The deed that does confirm it mine?

Marrall: Now, now.

Wellborn: I do acknowledge none; I ne'er passed o'er
Any such land; I grant, for a year or two,
You had it in trust; which if you do discharge,
Surrendering the possession, you shall ease
Yourself and me of chargeable suits in law.

Lady Allworth: In my opinion, he advises well.

Overreach: Good, good; conspire with your new husband, lady.
(To Wellborn) Yet, to shut up thy mouth, and make thee give
Thyself the lie, the loud lie! I draw out
The precious evidence. (Opens the box.) Ha!

Lady Allworth: A fair skin of parchment.

Wellborn: Indented, I confess, and labels too;
But neither wax nor words. How? Thunderstruck!
Is this your precious evidence, my wise uncle?

Overreach: What prodigy is this? What subtle devil
Hath razed out the inscription—the wax
Turned into dust? Do you deal with witches, rascal?
This juggling shall not save you.

Wellborn: TO save thee would beggar the stock of mercy.

Overreach: Marrall!

Marrall: Sir.

Overreach (flattering him): Though the witnesses are dead,
Help with an oath or two; and for thy master
I know thou wilt swear anything to dash
This cunning sleight; the deed being drawn, too,
By thee, my careful Marrall, and delivered
When thou wert present, will make good my title.
Wilt thou not swear this?

Marrall: I have a conscience not seared up like yours;
 I know no deeds.

Overreach: Wilt thou betray me?

Marrall: Yes, and uncase you, too. The lump of flesh,
The idiot, the patch, the slave, the booby,
The property fit only to be beaten,
Can now anatomise you, and lay open
All your black plots.

Overreach: But that I will live, rogue, to torture thee,
And make thee wish and kneel in vain to die,
These swords, that keep thee from me, should fix here.
I play the fool and make my anger but ridiculous.
There will be a time, and place, there will be, cowards!
When you shall feel what I dare do.
After these storms, at length a calm appears.

[Enter Parson Willdo.

Welcome, most welcome; is the deed done?

Willdo: Yes, I assure you.

Overreach: Vanish all sad thoughts!
My doubts and fears are in the titles drowned
Of my right honourable, right honourable daughter.
A lane there for my lord!

[Loud music. Enter Allworth, Margaret, and Lovell.

Margaret: Sir, first your pardon, then your blessing, with
Your full allowance of the choice I have made.
(Kneeling) This is my husband.

Overreach: How?

Allworth: So I assure you.

Overreach: Devil! Are they married?

Willdo: They are married, sir; but why this rage to me?
Is not this your letter, sir? And these the words,
"Marry her to this gentleman"?

Overreach: I never will believe it, 'death! I will not;
That I should be gulled, baffled, fooled, defeated
 By children, all my hopes and labours crossed.

Wellborn: You are so, my grave uncle, it appears.

Overreach: Village nurses revenge their wrongs with curses,
I'll waste no words, but thus I take the life
Which, wretch, I gave to thee.

[Offers to kill Margaret.

Lovell: Hold, for your own sake!

Overreach: Lord! thus I spit at thee,
And at thy counsel; and again desire thee
As thou'rt a soldier, let us quit the house
And change six words in private.

Lovell: I am ready.

Lady Allworth: Stay, sir; would you contest with one distraited?

Overreach: Are you pale?
Borrow his help; though Hercules call it odds,
I'll stand against both, as I am, hemmed in thus.
Alone, I can do nothing, but I have servants
And friends to succour me; and if I make not
This house a heap of ashes, or leave one throat uncut,
Hell add to my afflictions!


Marrall: Is't not brave sport?

Allworth (to Margaret): Nay, weep not, dearest,
though't express your pity.

Marrall: Was it not a rare trick,
An't please your worship, to make the deed nothing?
I can do twenty neater, if you please
To purchase and grow rich. They are mysteries
Not to be spoke in public; certain minerals
Incorporated in the ink and wax.

Wellborn: You are a rascal. He that dares be false
To a master, though unjust, will ne'er be true
To any other. Look not for reward
Or favour from me. Instantly begone.

Marrall: At this haven false servants still arrive.

[Exit. Re-enter Overreach. [Exit. Re-enter Overreach.
Willdo: Some little time I have spent, under your favours,
In physical studies, and, if my judgment err not,
He's mad beyond recovery.

Overreach: Were they a squadron of pikes, when I am mounted
Upon my injuries, shall I fear to charge them?

[Flourishing his sword sheathed.

I'll fall to execution—ha! I am feeble:
Some undone widow sits upon mine arm,
And takes away the use of 't! And my sword,
Glued to my scabbard with wronged orphans' tears,
Will not be drawn. Are these the hangmen?
But I'll be forced to hell like to myself;
Though you were legions of accursed spirits,
Thus would I fly among you.

[Rushes forward.

Wellborn: There's no help;
Disarm him first, then bind him.

Margaret: Oh, my dear father!

[They force Overreach off.

Allworth: You must be patient, mistress.

Lovell: Pray take comfort.
I will endeavour you shall be his guardians
In his distraction: and for your land, Master Wellborn,
Be it good or ill in law, I'll be an umpire
Between you and this the undoubted heir
Of Sir Giles Overreach; for me, here's the anchor
That I must fix on.

[Takes Lady Allworth's hand.

 Of all Shakespeare's immediate successors one of the most powerful, as well as the most prolific, was Philip Massinger. The son of a retainer in the household of the Earl of Pembroke, he was born during the second half of 1583, and entered St. Alban's Hall, Oxford, in 1602, but left without a degree four years later. Coming to London, he appears to have mixed freely with writers for the stage, and soon made a reputation as playwright. The full extent of his literary activities is not known, inasmuch as a great deal of his work has been lost. He also collaborated with other authors, particularly with Fletcher (see Vol. XVI, p. 133) in whose grave he was buried on March 18, 1639. It is certain, however, that he wrote single-handed fifteen plays, of which the best known is the masterly and satirical comedy, "A New Way to Pay Old Debts." Printed in 1633, but probably written between 1625 and 1626, the piece retained its popularity longer than any other of Massinger's plays. The construction is ingenious, the dialogue witty, but the dramatis personŠ, with the exception of Sir Giles Overreach, are feeble and without vitality.

Arthur Mee J. A. Hammerton