Volpone; or, the fox by ben jonson



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BON [ASIDE.]: This cannot be a personated passion.--

I was to blame, so to mistake thy nature;

Prithee, forgive me: and speak out thy business.
MOS: Sir, it concerns you; and though I may seem,

At first to make a main offence in manners,

And in my gratitude unto my master;

Yet, for the pure love, which I bear all right,

And hatred of the wrong, I must reveal it.

This very hour your father is in purpose

To disinherit you--
BON: How!
MOS: And thrust you forth,

As a mere stranger to his blood; 'tis true, sir:

The work no way engageth me, but, as

I claim an interest in the general state

Of goodness and true virtue, which I hear

To abound in you: and, for which mere respect,

Without a second aim, sir, I have done it.
BON: This tale hath lost thee much of the late trust

Thou hadst with me; it is impossible:

I know not how to lend it any thought,

My father should be so unnatural.


MOS: It is a confidence that well becomes

Your piety; and form'd, no doubt, it is

From your own simple innocence: which makes

Your wrong more monstrous, and abhorr'd. But, sir,

I now will tell you more. This very minute,

It is, or will be doing; and, if you

Shall be but pleas'd to go with me, I'll bring you,

I dare not say where you shall see, but where

Your ear shall be a witness of the deed;

Hear yourself written bastard; and profest

The common issue of the earth.
BON: I am amazed!
MOS: Sir, if I do it not, draw your just sword,

And score your vengeance on my front and face;

Mark me your villain: you have too much wrong,

And I do suffer for you, sir. My heart

Weeps blood in anguish--
BON: Lead; I follow thee.
[EXEUNT.]
SCENE 3.2.
A ROOM IN VOLPONE'S HOUSE.
ENTER VOLPONE.
VOLP: Mosca stays long, methinks. Bring forth your sports,

And help to make the wretched time more sweet.


[ENTER NANO, ANDROGYNO, AND CASTRONE.]
NAN: Dwarf, fool, and eunuch, well met here we be.

A question it were now, whether of us three,

Being all the known delicates of a rich man,

In pleasing him, claim the precedency can?


CAS: I claim for myself.
AND: And so doth the fool.
NAN: 'Tis foolish indeed: let me set you both to school.

First for your dwarf, he's little and witty,

And every thing, as it is little, is pretty;

Else why do men say to a creature of my shape,

So soon as they see him, It's a pretty little ape?

And why a pretty ape, but for pleasing imitation

Of greater men's actions, in a ridiculous fashion?

Beside, this feat body of mine doth not crave

Half the meat, drink, and cloth, one of your bulks will have.

Admit your fool's face be the mother of laughter,

Yet, for his brain, it must always come after:

And though that do feed him, 'tis a pitiful case,

His body is beholding to such a bad face.
[KNOCKING WITHIN.]
VOLP: Who's there? my couch; away! look! Nano, see:

[EXE. AND. AND CAS.]

Give me my caps, first--go, enquire.

[EXIT NANO.]

--Now, Cupid

Send it be Mosca, and with fair return!


NAN [WITHIN.]: It is the beauteous madam--
VOLP: Would-be?--is it?
NAN: The same.
VOLP: Now torment on me! Squire her in;

For she will enter, or dwell here for ever:

Nay, quickly.

[RETIRES TO HIS COUCH.]

--That my fit were past! I fear

A second hell too, that my lothing this

Will quite expel my appetite to the other:

Would she were taking now her tedious leave.

Lord, how it threats me what I am to suffer!
[RE-ENTER NANO, WITH LADY POLITICK WOULD-BE.]
LADY P: I thank you, good sir. 'Pray you signify

Unto your patron, I am here.--This band

Shews not my neck enough.--I trouble you, sir;

Let me request you, bid one of my women

Come hither to me.--In good faith, I, am drest

Most favorably, to-day! It is no matter:

'Tis well enough.--

[ENTER 1 WAITING-WOMAN.]

Look, see, these petulant things,

How they have done this!


VOLP [ASIDE.]: I do feel the fever

Entering in at mine ears; O, for a charm,

To fright it hence.
LADY P: Come nearer: Is this curl

In his right place, or this? Why is this higher

Then all the rest? You have not wash'd your eyes, yet!

Or do they not stand even in your head?

Where is your fellow? call her.
[EXIT 1 WOMAN.]
NAN: Now, St. Mark

Deliver us! anon, she will beat her women,

Because her nose is red.
[RE-ENTER 1 WITH 2 WOMAN.]
LADY P: I pray you, view

This tire, forsooth; are all things apt, or no?


1 WOM: One hair a little, here, sticks out, forsooth.
LADY P: Does't so, forsooth? and where was your dear sight,

When it did so, forsooth! What now! bird-eyed?

And you too? 'Pray you, both approach and mend it.

Now, by that light, I muse you are not ashamed!

I, that have preach'd these things so oft unto you,

Read you the principles, argued all the grounds,

Disputed every fitness, every grace,

Call'd you to counsel of so frequent dressings--


NAN [ASIDE.]: More carefully than of your fame or honour.
LADY P: Made you acquainted, what an ample dowry

The knowledge of these things would be unto you,

Able, alone, to get you noble husbands

At your return: and you thus to neglect it!

Besides you seeing what a curious nation

The Italians are, what will they say of me?

"The English lady cannot dress herself."

Here's a fine imputation to our country:

Well, go your ways, and stay, in the next room.

This fucus was too course too, it's no matter.--

Good-sir, you will give them entertainment?
[EXEUNT NANO AND WAITING-WOMEN.]
VOLP: The storm comes toward me.
LADY P [GOES TO THE COUCH.]: How does my Volpone?
VOLP: Troubled with noise, I cannot sleep; I dreamt

That a strange fury enter'd, now, my house,

And, with the dreadful tempest of her breath,

Did cleave my roof asunder.


LADY P: Believe me, and I

Had the most fearful dream, could I remember't--


VOLP [ASIDE.]: Out on my fate! I have given her the occasion

How to torment me: she will tell me hers.


LADY P: Me thought, the golden mediocrity,

Polite and delicate--


VOLP: O, if you do love me,

No more; I sweat, and suffer, at the mention

Of any dream: feel, how I tremble yet.
LADY P: Alas, good soul! the passion of the heart.

Seed-pearl were good now, boil'd with syrup of apples,

Tincture of gold, and coral, citron-pills,

Your elicampane root, myrobalanes--


VOLP [ASIDE.]: Ah me, I have ta'en a grass-hopper by the wing!
LADY P: Burnt silk, and amber: you have muscadel

Good in the house--


VOLP: You will not drink, and part?
LADY P: No, fear not that. I doubt, we shall not get

Some English saffron, half a dram would serve;

Your sixteen cloves, a little musk, dried mints,

Bugloss, and barley-meal--


VOLP [ASIDE.]: She's in again!

Before I fain'd diseases, now I have one.


LADY P: And these applied with a right scarlet cloth.
VOLP [ASIDE.]: Another flood of words! a very torrent!
LADY P: Shall I, sir, make you a poultice?
VOLP: No, no, no;

I am very well: you need prescribe no more.


LADY P: I have a little studied physic; but now,

I'm all for music, save, in the forenoons,

An hour or two for painting. I would have

A lady, indeed, to have all, letters, and arts,

Be able to discourse, to write, to paint,

But principal, as Plato holds, your music,

And, so does wise Pythagoras, I take it,

Is your true rapture: when there is concent

In face, in voice, and clothes: and is, indeed,

Our sex's chiefest ornament.


VOLP: The poet

As old in time as Plato, and as knowing,

Says that your highest female grace is silence.
LADY P: Which of your poets? Petrarch, or Tasso, or Dante?

Guarini? Ariosto? Aretine?

Cieco di Hadria? I have read them all.
VOLP [ASIDE.]: Is every thing a cause to my distruction?
LADY P: I think I have two or three of them about me.
VOLP [ASIDE.]: The sun, the sea will sooner both stand still,

Then her eternal tongue; nothing can 'scape it.


LADY P: Here's pastor Fido--
VOLP [ASIDE.]: Profess obstinate silence,

That's now my safest.


LADY P: All our English writers,

I mean such as are happy in the Italian,

Will deign to steal out of this author, mainly:

Almost as much, as from Montagnie;

He has so modern and facile a vein,

Fitting the time, and catching the court-ear!

Your Petrarch is more passionate, yet he,

In days of sonetting, trusted them with much:

Dante is hard, and few can understand him.

But, for a desperate wit, there's Aretine;

Only, his pictures are a little obscene--

You mark me not.


VOLP: Alas, my mind is perturb'd.
LADY P: Why, in such cases, we must cure ourselves,

Make use of our philosophy--


VOLP: Oh me!
LADY P: And as we find our passions do rebel,

Encounter them with reason, or divert them,

By giving scope unto some other humour

Of lesser danger: as, in politic bodies,

There's nothing more doth overwhelm the judgment,

And cloud the understanding, than too much

Settling and fixing, and, as 'twere, subsiding

Upon one object. For the incorporating

Of these same outward things, into that part,

Which we call mental, leaves some certain faeces

That stop the organs, and as Plato says,

Assassinate our Knowledge.


VOLP [ASIDE.]: Now, the spirit

Of patience help me!


LADY P: Come, in faith, I must

Visit you more a days; and make you well:

Laugh and be lusty.
VOLP [ASIDE.]: My good angel save me!
LADY P: There was but one sole man in all the world,

With whom I e'er could sympathise; and he

Would lie you, often, three, four hours together

To hear me speak; and be sometimes so rapt,

As he would answer me quite from the purpose,

Like you, and you are like him, just. I'll discourse,

An't be but only, sir, to bring you asleep,

How we did spend our time and loves together,

For some six years.
VOLP: Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!
LADY P: For we were coaetanei, and brought up--
VOLP: Some power, some fate, some fortune rescue me!
[ENTER MOSCA.]
MOS: God save you, madam!
LADY P: Good sir.
VOLP: Mosca? welcome,

Welcome to my redemption.


MOS: Why, sir?
VOLP: Oh,

Rid me of this my torture, quickly, there;

My madam, with the everlasting voice:

The bells, in time of pestilence, ne'er made

Like noise, or were in that perpetual motion!

The Cock-pit comes not near it. All my house,

But now, steam'd like a bath with her thick breath.

A lawyer could not have been heard; nor scarce

Another woman, such a hail of words

She has let fall. For hell's sake, rid her hence.


MOS: Has she presented?
VOLP: O, I do not care;

I'll take her absence, upon any price,

With any loss.
MOS: Madam--
LADY P: I have brought your patron

A toy, a cap here, of mine own work.


MOS: 'Tis well.

I had forgot to tell you, I saw your knight,

Where you would little think it.--
LADY P: Where?
MOS: Marry,

Where yet, if you make haste, you may apprehend,

Rowing upon the water in a gondole,

With the most cunning courtezan of Venice.


LADY P: Is't true?
MOS: Pursue them, and believe your eyes;

Leave me, to make your gift.

[EXIT LADY P. HASTILY.]

--I knew 'twould take:

For, lightly, they, that use themselves most license,

Are still most jealous.


VOLP: Mosca, hearty thanks,

For thy quick fiction, and delivery of me.

Now to my hopes, what say'st thou?
[RE-ENTER LADY P. WOULD-BE.]
LADY P: But do you hear, sir?--
VOLP: Again! I fear a paroxysm.
LADY P: Which way

Row'd they together?


MOS: Toward the Rialto.
LADY P: I pray you lend me your dwarf.
MOS: I pray you, take him.--

[EXIT LADY P.]

Your hopes, sir, are like happy blossoms, fair,

And promise timely fruit, if you will stay

But the maturing; keep you at your couch,

Corbaccio will arrive straight, with the Will;

When he is gone, I'll tell you more.
[EXIT.]
VOLP: My blood,

My spirits are return'd; I am alive:

And like your wanton gamester, at primero,

Whose thought had whisper'd to him, not go less,

Methinks I lie, and draw--for an encounter.
[THE SCENE CLOSES UPON VOLPONE.]
SCENE 3.3
THE PASSAGE LEADING TO VOLPONE'S CHAMBER.
ENTER MOSCA AND BONARIO.
MOS: Sir, here conceal'd,

[SHEWS HIM A CLOSET.]

you may here all. But, pray you,

Have patience, sir;

[KNOCKING WITHIN.]

--the same's your father knocks:

I am compell'd to leave you.
[EXIT.]
BON: Do so.--Yet,

Cannot my thought imagine this a truth.


[GOES INTO THE CLOSET.]
SCENE 3.4.
ANOTHER PART OF THE SAME.
ENTER MOSCA AND CORVINO, CELIA FOLLOWING.
MOS: Death on me! you are come too soon, what meant you?

Did not I say, I would send?


CORV: Yes, but I fear'd

You might forget it, and then they prevent us.


MOS [ASIDE.]: Prevent! did e'er man haste so, for his horns?

A courtier would not ply it so, for a place.

--Well, now there's no helping it, stay here;

I'll presently return.


[EXIT.]
CORV: Where are you, Celia?

You know not wherefore I have brought you hither?


CEL: Not well, except you told me.
CORV: Now, I will:

Hark hither.


[EXEUNT.]
SCENE 3.5.
A CLOSET OPENING INTO A GALLERY.
ENTER MOSCA AND BONARIO.
MOS: Sir, your father hath sent word,

It will be half an hour ere he come;

And therefore, if you please to walk the while

Into that gallery--at the upper end,

There are some books to entertain the time:

And I'll take care no man shall come unto you, sir.


BON: Yes, I will stay there.

[ASIDE.]--I do doubt this fellow.


[EXIT.]
MOS [LOOKING AFTER HIM.]: There; he is far enough;

he can hear nothing:

And, for his father, I can keep him off.
[EXIT.]
SCENE 3.6.
VOLPONE'S CHAMBER.--VOLPONE ON HIS COUCH.

MOSCA SITTING BY HIM.


ENTER CORVINO, FORCING IN CELIA.
CORV: Nay, now, there is no starting back, and therefore,

Resolve upon it: I have so decreed.

It must be done. Nor would I move't, afore,

Because I would avoid all shifts and tricks,

That might deny me.
CEL: Sir, let me beseech you,

Affect not these strange trials; if you doubt

My chastity, why, lock me up for ever:

Make me the heir of darkness. Let me live,

Where I may please your fears, if not your trust.
CORV: Believe it, I have no such humour, I.

All that I speak I mean; yet I'm not mad;

Nor horn-mad, see you? Go to, shew yourself

Obedient, and a wife.


CEL: O heaven!
CORV: I say it,

Do so.
CEL: Was this the train?


CORV: I've told you reasons;

What the physicians have set down; how much

It may concern me; what my engagements are;

My means; and the necessity of those means,

For my recovery: wherefore, if you be

Loyal, and mine, be won, respect my venture.


CEL: Before your honour?
CORV: Honour! tut, a breath:

There's no such thing, in nature: a mere term

Invented to awe fools. What is my gold

The worse, for touching, clothes for being look'd on?

Why, this is no more. An old decrepit wretch,

That has no sense, no sinew; takes his meat

With others' fingers; only knows to gape,

When you do scald his gums; a voice; a shadow;

And, what can this man hurt you?
CEL [ASIDE.]: Lord! what spirit

Is this hath enter'd him?


CORV: And for your fame,

That's such a jig; as if I would go tell it,

Cry it on the Piazza! who shall know it,

But he that cannot speak it, and this fellow,

Whose lips are in my pocket? save yourself,

(If you'll proclaim't, you may,) I know no other,

Shall come to know it.
CEL: Are heaven and saints then nothing?

Will they be blind or stupid?


CORV: How!
CEL: Good sir,

Be jealous still, emulate them; and think

What hate they burn with toward every sin.
CORV: I grant you: if I thought it were a sin,

I would not urge you. Should I offer this

To some young Frenchman, or hot Tuscan blood

That had read Aretine, conn'd all his prints,

Knew every quirk within lust's labyrinth,

And were professed critic in lechery;

And I would look upon him, and applaud him,

This were a sin: but here, 'tis contrary,

A pious work, mere charity for physic,

And honest polity, to assure mine own.


CEL: O heaven! canst thou suffer such a change?
VOLP: Thou art mine honour, Mosca, and my pride,

My joy, my tickling, my delight! Go bring them.


MOS [ADVANCING.]: Please you draw near, sir.
CORV: Come on, what--

You will not be rebellious? by that light--


MOS: Sir,

Signior Corvino, here, is come to see you.


VOLP: Oh!
MOS: And hearing of the consultation had,

So lately, for your health, is come to offer,

Or rather, sir, to prostitute--
CORV: Thanks, sweet Mosca.
MOS: Freely, unask'd, or unintreated--
CORV: Well.
MOS: As the true fervent instance of his love,

His own most fair and proper wife; the beauty,

Only of price in Venice--
CORV: 'Tis well urged.
MOS: To be your comfortress, and to preserve you.
VOLP: Alas, I am past, already! Pray you, thank him

For his good care and promptness; but for that,

'Tis a vain labour e'en to fight 'gainst heaven;

Applying fire to stone--

[COUGHING.] uh, uh, uh, uh!

Making a dead leaf grow again. I take

His wishes gently, though; and you may tell him,

What I have done for him: marry, my state is hopeless.

Will him to pray for me; and to use his fortune

With reverence, when he comes to't.


MOS: Do you hear, sir?

Go to him with your wife.


CORV: Heart of my father!

Wilt thou persist thus? come, I pray thee, come.

Thou seest 'tis nothing, Celia. By this hand,

I shall grow violent. Come, do't, I say.


CEL: Sir, kill me, rather: I will take down poison,

Eat burning coals, do any thing.--


CORV: Be damn'd!

Heart, I'll drag thee hence, home, by the hair;

Cry thee a strumpet through the streets; rip up

Thy mouth unto thine ears; and slit thy nose,

Like a raw rotchet!--Do not tempt me; come,

Yield, I am loth--Death! I will buy some slave

Whom I will kill, and bind thee to him, alive;

And at my window hang you forth: devising

Some monstrous crime, which I, in capital letters,

Will eat into thy flesh with aquafortis,

And burning corsives, on this stubborn breast.

Now, by the blood thou hast incensed, I'll do it!


CEL: Sir, what you please, you may, I am your martyr.
CORV: Be not thus obstinate, I have not deserved it:

Think who it is intreats you. 'Prithee, sweet;--

Good faith, thou shalt have jewels, gowns, attires,

What thou wilt think, and ask. Do but go kiss him.

Or touch him, but. For my sake.--At my suit.--

This once.--No! not! I shall remember this.

Will you disgrace me thus? Do you thirst my undoing?
MOS: Nay, gentle lady, be advised.
CORV: No, no.

She has watch'd her time. Ods precious, this is scurvy,

'Tis very scurvy: and you are--
MOS: Nay, good, sir.
CORV: An arrant Locust, by heaven, a locust!

Whore, crocodile, that hast thy tears prepared,

Expecting how thou'lt bid them flow--
MOS: Nay, 'Pray you, sir!

She will consider.


CEL: Would my life would serve

To satisfy--


CORV: S'death! if she would but speak to him,

And save my reputation, it were somewhat;

But spightfully to affect my utter ruin!
MOS: Ay, now you have put your fortune in her hands.

Why i'faith, it is her modesty, I must quit her.

If you were absent, she would be more coming;

I know it: and dare undertake for her.

What woman can before her husband? 'pray you,

Let us depart, and leave her here.


CORV: Sweet Celia,

Thou may'st redeem all, yet; I'll say no more:

If not, esteem yourself as lost,--Nay, stay there.
[SHUTS THE DOOR, AND EXIT WITH MOSCA.]
CEL: O God, and his good angels! whither, whither,

Is shame fled human breasts? that with such ease,

Men dare put off your honours, and their own?

Is that, which ever was a cause of life,

Now placed beneath the basest circumstance,

And modesty an exile made, for money?


VOLP: Ay, in Corvino, and such earth-fed minds,

[LEAPING FROM HIS COUCH.]

That never tasted the true heaven of love.

Assure thee, Celia, he that would sell thee,

Only for hope of gain, and that uncertain,

He would have sold his part of Paradise

For ready money, had he met a cope-man.

Why art thou mazed to see me thus revived?

Rather applaud thy beauty's miracle;

'Tis thy great work: that hath, not now alone,

But sundry times raised me, in several shapes,

And, but this morning, like a mountebank;

To see thee at thy window: ay, before

I would have left my practice, for thy love,

In varying figures, I would have contended

With the blue Proteus, or the horned flood.

Now art thou welcome.
CEL: Sir!
VOLP: Nay, fly me not.

Nor let thy false imagination

That I was bed-rid, make thee think I am so:

Thou shalt not find it. I am, now, as fresh,

As hot, as high, and in as jovial plight,

As when, in that so celebrated scene,

At recitation of our comedy,

For entertainment of the great Valois,

I acted young Antinous; and attracted

The eyes and ears of all the ladies present,

To admire each graceful gesture, note, and footing.

[SINGS.]


Come, my Celia, let us prove,

While we can, the sports of love,

Time will not be ours for ever,

He, at length, our good will sever;

Spend not then his gifts in vain;

Suns, that set, may rise again:

But if once we loose this light,

'Tis with us perpetual night.

Why should we defer our joys?

Fame and rumour are but toys.

Cannot we delude the eyes

Of a few poor household spies?

Or his easier ears beguile,

Thus remooved by our wile?--

'Tis no sin love's fruits to steal:

But the sweet thefts to reveal;

To be taken, to be seen,

These have crimes accounted been.


CEL: Some serene blast me, or dire lightning strike

This my offending face!


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