Volpone; or, the fox by ben jonson

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MOS: Hark,

There's some already.

VOLP: Look.
MOS: It is the Vulture:

He has the quickest scent.

VOLP: I'll to my place,

Thou to thy posture.

MOS: I am set.
VOLP: But, Mosca,

Play the artificer now, torture them rarely.

VOLT: How now, my Mosca?
MOS [WRITING.]: "Turkey carpets, nine"--
VOLT: Taking an inventory! that is well.
MOS: "Two suits of bedding, tissue"--
VOLT: Where's the Will?

Let me read that the while.

CORB: So, set me down:

And get you home.

VOLT: Is he come now, to trouble us!
MOS: "Of cloth of gold, two more"--
CORB: Is it done, Mosca?
MOS: "Of several velvets, eight"--
VOLT: I like his care.
CORB: Dost thou not hear?
CORB: Ha! is the hour come, Mosca?
VOLP [PEEPING OVER THE CURTAIN.]: Ay, now, they muster.
CORV: What does the advocate here,

Or this Corbaccio?

CORB: What do these here?
LADY P: Mosca!

Is his thread spun?

MOS: "Eight chests of linen"--

My fine dame Would-be, too!

CORV: Mosca, the Will,

That I may shew it these, and rid them hence.

MOS: "Six chests of diaper, four of damask."--There.
CORB: Is that the will?
MOS: "Down-beds, and bolsters"--
VOLP: Rare!

Be busy still. Now they begin to flutter:

They never think of me. Look, see, see, see!

How their swift eyes run over the long deed,

Unto the name, and to the legacies,

What is bequeath'd them there--

MOS: "Ten suits of hangings"--
VOLP: Ay, in their garters, Mosca. Now their hopes

Are at the gasp.

VOLT: Mosca the heir?
CORB: What's that?
VOLP: My advocate is dumb; look to my merchant,

He has heard of some strange storm, a ship is lost,

He faints; my lady will swoon. Old glazen eyes,

He hath not reach'd his despair yet.


Are out of hope: I am sure, the man.

CORV: But, Mosca--
MOS: "Two cabinets."
CORV: Is this in earnest?
MOS: "One

Of ebony"--

CORV: Or do you but delude me?
MOS: The other, mother of pearl--I am very busy.

Good faith, it is a fortune thrown upon me--

"Item, one salt of agate"--not my seeking.
LADY P: Do you hear, sir?
MOS: "A perfum'd box"--'Pray you forbear,

You see I'm troubled--"made of an onyx"--

LADY P: How!
MOS: To-morrow or next day, I shall be at leisure

To talk with you all.

CORV: Is this my large hope's issue?
LADY P: Sir, I must have a fairer answer.
MOS: Madam!

Marry, and shall: 'pray you, fairly quit my house.

Nay, raise no tempest with your looks; but hark you,

Remember what your ladyship offer'd me,

To put you in an heir; go to, think on it:

And what you said e'en your best madams did

For maintenance, and why not you? Enough.

Go home, and use the poor sir Pol, your knight, well,

For fear I tell some riddles; go, be melancholy.
VOLP: O, my fine devil!
CORV: Mosca, 'pray you a word.
MOS: Lord! will you not take your dispatch hence yet?

Methinks, of all, you should have been the example.

Why should you stay here? with what thought? what promise?

Hear you; do not you know, I know you an ass,

And that you would most fain have been a wittol,

If fortune would have let you? that you are

A declared cuckold, on good terms? This pearl,

You'll say, was yours? right: this diamond?

I'll not deny't, but thank you. Much here else?

It may be so. Why, think that these good works

May help to hide your bad. I'll not betray you;

Although you be but extraordinary,

And have it only in title, it sufficeth:

Go home, be melancholy too, or mad.

VOLP: Rare Mosca! how his villany becomes him!
VOLT: Certain he doth delude all these for me.
CORB: Mosca the heir!
VOLP: O, his four eyes have found it.
CORB: I am cozen'd, cheated, by a parasite slave;

Harlot, thou hast gull'd me.

MOS: Yes, sir. Stop your mouth,

Or I shall draw the only tooth is left.

Are not you he, that filthy covetous wretch,

With the three legs, that, here, in hope of prey,

Have, any time this three years, snuff'd about,

With your most grovelling nose; and would have hired

Me to the poisoning of my patron, sir?

Are not you he that have to-day in court

Profess'd the disinheriting of your son?

Perjured yourself? Go home, and die, and stink.

If you but croak a syllable, all comes out:

Away, and call your porters!

[exit corbaccio.]

Go, go, stink.

VOLP: Excellent varlet!
VOLT: Now, my faithful Mosca,

I find thy constancy.

MOS: Sir!
VOLT: Sincere.
MOS [WRITING.]: "A table

Of porphyry"--I marle, you'll be thus troublesome.

VOLP: Nay, leave off now, they are gone.
MOS: Why? who are you?

What! who did send for you? O, cry you mercy,

Reverend sir! Good faith, I am grieved for you,

That any chance of mine should thus defeat

Your (I must needs say) most deserving travails:

But I protest, sir, it was cast upon me,

And I could almost wish to be without it,

But that the will o' the dead must be observ'd,

Marry, my joy is that you need it not,

You have a gift, sir, (thank your education,)

Will never let you want, while there are men,

And malice, to breed causes. Would I had

But half the like, for all my fortune, sir!

If I have any suits, as I do hope,

Things being so easy and direct, I shall not,

I will make bold with your obstreperous aid,

Conceive me,--for your fee, sir. In mean time,

You that have so much law, I know have the conscience,

Not to be covetous of what is mine.

Good sir, I thank you for my plate; 'twill help

To set up a young man. Good faith, you look

As you were costive; best go home and purge, sir.


Bid him eat lettuce well.

My witty mischief,

Let me embrace thee. O that I could now

Transform thee to a Venus!--Mosca, go,

Straight take my habit of clarissimo,

And walk the streets; be seen, torment them more:

We must pursue, as well as plot. Who would

Have lost this feast?
MOS: I doubt it will lose them.
VOLP: O, my recovery shall recover all.

That I could now but think on some disguise

To meet them in, and ask them questions:

How I would vex them still at every turn!

MOS: Sir, I can fit you.
VOLP: Canst thou?
MOS: Yes, I know

One o' the commandadori, sir, so like you;

Him will I straight make drunk, and bring you his habit.
VOLP: A rare disguise, and answering thy brain!

O, I will be a sharp disease unto them.

MOS: Sir, you must look for curses--
VOLP: Till they burst;

The Fox fares ever best when he is curst.

SCENE 5.2.
PER: Am I enough disguised?
1 MER: I warrant you.
PER: All my ambition is to fright him only.
2 MER: If you could ship him away, 'twere excellent.
3 MER: To Zant, or to Aleppo?
PER: Yes, and have his

Adventures put i' the Book of Voyages.

And his gull'd story register'd for truth.

Well, gentlemen, when I am in a while,

And that you think us warm in our discourse,

Know your approaches.

1 MER: Trust it to our care.
PER: Save you, fair lady! Is sir Pol within?
WOM: I do not know, sir.
PER: Pray you say unto him,

Here is a merchant, upon earnest business,

Desires to speak with him.
WOM: I will see, sir.

PER: Pray you.--

I see the family is all female here.
WOM: He says, sir, he has weighty affairs of state,

That now require him whole; some other time

You may possess him.
PER: Pray you say again,

If those require him whole, these will exact him,

Whereof I bring him tidings.


--What might be

His grave affair of state now! how to make

Bolognian sausages here in Venice, sparing

One o' the ingredients?

WOM: Sir, he says, he knows

By your word "tidings," that you are no statesman,

And therefore wills you stay.
PER: Sweet, pray you return him;

I have not read so many proclamations,

And studied them for words, as he has done--

But--here he deigns to come.

SIR P: Sir, I must crave

Your courteous pardon. There hath chanced to-day,

Unkind disaster 'twixt my lady and me;

And I was penning my apology,

To give her satisfaction, as you came now.
PER: Sir, I am grieved I bring you worse disaster:

The gentleman you met at the port to-day,

That told you, he was newly arrived--
SIR P: Ay, was

A fugitive punk?

PER: No, sir, a spy set on you;

And he has made relation to the senate,

That you profest to him to have a plot

To sell the State of Venice to the Turk.

SIR P: O me!
PER: For which, warrants are sign'd by this time,

To apprehend you, and to search your study

For papers--
SIR P: Alas, sir, I have none, but notes

Drawn out of play-books--

PER: All the better, sir.
SIR P: And some essays. What shall I do?
PER: Sir, best

Convey yourself into a sugar-chest;

Or, if you could lie round, a frail were rare:

And I could send you aboard.

SIR P: Sir, I but talk'd so,

For discourse sake merely.

PER: Hark! they are there.
SIR P: I am a wretch, a wretch!
PER: What will you do, sir?

Have you ne'er a currant-butt to leap into?

They'll put you to the rack, you must be sudden.
SIR P: Sir, I have an ingine--
3 MER [WITHIN.]: Sir Politick Would-be?
2 MER [WITHIN.]: Where is he?
SIR P: That I have thought upon before time.
PER: What is it?
SIR P: I shall ne'er endure the torture.

Marry, it is, sir, of a tortoise-shell,

Fitted for these extremities: pray you, sir, help me.

Here I've a place, sir, to put back my legs,

Please you to lay it on, sir,


--with this cap,

And my black gloves. I'll lie, sir, like a tortoise,

'Till they are gone.
PER: And call you this an ingine?
SIR P: Mine own device--Good sir, bid my wife's women

To burn my papers.

1 MER: Where is he hid?
3 MER: We must,

And will sure find him.

2 MER: Which is his study?
1 MER: What

Are you, sir?

PER: I am a merchant, that came here

To look upon this tortoise.

3 MER: How!
1 MER: St. Mark!

What beast is this!

PER: It is a fish.
2 MER: Come out here!
PER: Nay, you may strike him, sir, and tread upon him;

He'll bear a cart.

1 MER: What, to run over him?
PER: Yes, sir.
3 MER: Let's jump upon him.
2 MER: Can he not go?
PER: He creeps, sir.
1 MER: Let's see him creep.
PER: No, good sir, you will hurt him.
2 MER: Heart, I will see him creep, or prick his guts.
3 MER: Come out here!
PER: Pray you, sir!


--Creep a little.
1 MER: Forth.
2 MER: Yet farther.
PER: Good sir!--Creep.
2 MER: We'll see his legs.


3 MER: Ods so, he has garters!
1 MER: Ay, and gloves!
2 MER: Is this

Your fearful tortoise?

PER [DISCOVERING HIMSELF.]: Now, sir Pol, we are even;

For your next project I shall be prepared:

I am sorry for the funeral of your notes, sir.
1 MER: 'Twere a rare motion to be seen in Fleet-street.
2 MER: Ay, in the Term.
1 MER: Or Smithfield, in the fair.
3 MER: Methinks 'tis but a melancholy sight.
PER: Farewell, most politic tortoise!
SIR P: Where's my lady?

Knows she of this?

WOM: I know not, sir.
SIR P: Enquire.--

O, I shall be the fable of all feasts,

The freight of the gazetti; ship-boy's tale;

And, which is worst, even talk for ordinaries.

WOM: My lady's come most melancholy home,

And says, sir, she will straight to sea, for physic.

SIR P: And I to shun this place and clime for ever;

Creeping with house on back: and think it well,

To shrink my poor head in my politic shell.

SCENE 5.3.



VOLP: Am I then like him?
MOS: O, sir, you are he;

No man can sever you.

VOLP: Good.
MOS: But what am I?
VOLP: 'Fore heaven, a brave clarissimo, thou becom'st it!

Pity thou wert not born one.

MOS [ASIDE.]: If I hold

My made one, 'twill be well.

VOLP: I'll go and see

What news first at the court.

MOS: Do so. My Fox

Is out of his hole, and ere he shall re-enter,

I'll make him languish in his borrow'd case,

Except he come to composition with me.--

Androgyno, Castrone, Nano!
ALL: Here.
MOS: Go, recreate yourselves abroad; go sport.--


So, now I have the keys, and am possest.

Since he will needs be dead afore his time,

I'll bury him, or gain by him: I am his heir,

And so will keep me, till he share at least.

To cozen him of all, were but a cheat

Well placed; no man would construe it a sin:

Let his sport pay for it, this is call'd the Fox-trap.


CORB: They say, the court is set.
CORV: We must maintain

Our first tale good, for both our reputations.

CORB: Why, mine's no tale: my son would there have kill'd me.
CORV: That's true, I had forgot:--

[ASIDE.]--mine is, I am sure.

But for your Will, sir.
CORB: Ay, I'll come upon him

For that hereafter; now his patron's dead.

VOLP: Signior Corvino! and Corbaccio! sir,

Much joy unto you.

CORV: Of what?
VOLP: The sudden good,

Dropt down upon you--

CORB: Where?
VOLP: And, none knows how,

From old Volpone, sir.

CORB: Out, arrant knave!
VOLP: Let not your too much wealth, sir, make you furious.
CORB: Away, thou varlet!
VOLP: Why, sir?
CORB: Dost thou mock me?
VOLP: You mock the world, sir; did you not change Wills?
CORB: Out, harlot!
VOLP: O! belike you are the man,

Signior Corvino? 'faith, you carry it well;

You grow not mad withal: I love your spirit:

You are not over-leaven'd with your fortune.

You should have some would swell now, like a wine-fat,

With such an autumn--Did he give you all, sir?

CORB: Avoid, you rascal!
VOLP: Troth, your wife has shewn

Herself a very woman; but you are well,

You need not care, you have a good estate,

To bear it out sir, better by this chance:

Except Corbaccio have a share.
CORV: Hence, varlet.
VOLP: You will not be acknown, sir; why, 'tis wise.

Thus do all gamesters, at all games, dissemble:

No man will seem to win.

[exeunt corvino and corbaccio.]

--Here comes my vulture,

Heaving his beak up in the air, and snuffing.

VOLT: Outstript thus, by a parasite! a slave,

Would run on errands, and make legs for crumbs?

Well, what I'll do--
VOLP: The court stays for your worship.

I e'en rejoice, sir, at your worship's happiness,

And that it fell into so learned hands,

That understand the fingering--

VOLT: What do you mean?
VOLP: I mean to be a suitor to your worship,

For the small tenement, out of reparations,

That, to the end of your long row of houses,

By the Piscaria: it was, in Volpone's time,

Your predecessor, ere he grew diseased,

A handsome, pretty, custom'd bawdy-house,

As any was in Venice, none dispraised;

But fell with him; his body and that house

Decay'd, together.
VOLT: Come sir, leave your prating.
VOLP: Why, if your worship give me but your hand,

That I may have the refusal, I have done.

'Tis a mere toy to you, sir; candle-rents;

As your learn'd worship knows--

VOLT: What do I know?
VOLP: Marry, no end of your wealth, sir, God decrease it!
VOLT: Mistaking knave! what, mockst thou my misfortune?
VOLP: His blessing on your heart, sir; would 'twere more!--

Now to my first again, at the next corner.


SCENE 5.5.



CORB: See, in our habit! see the impudent varlet!
CORV: That I could shoot mine eyes at him like gun-stones.
VOLP: But is this true, sir, of the parasite?
CORB: Again, to afflict us! monster!
VOLP: In good faith, sir,

I'm heartily grieved, a beard of your grave length

Should be so over-reach'd. I never brook'd

That parasite's hair; methought his nose should cozen:

There still was somewhat in his look, did promise

The bane of a clarissimo.

CORB: Knave--
VOLP: Methinks

Yet you, that are so traded in the world,

A witty merchant, the fine bird, Corvino,

That have such moral emblems on your name,

Should not have sung your shame; and dropt your cheese,

To let the Fox laugh at your emptiness.

CORV: Sirrah, you think the privilege of the place,

And your red saucy cap, that seems to me

Nail'd to your jolt-head with those two chequines,

Can warrant your abuses; come you hither:

You shall perceive, sir, I dare beat you; approach.
VOLP: No haste, sir, I do know your valour well,

Since you durst publish what you are, sir.

CORV: Tarry,

I'd speak with you.

VOLP: Sir, sir, another time--
CORV: Nay, now.
VOLP: O lord, sir! I were a wise man,

Would stand the fury of a distracted cuckold.

CORB: What, come again!
VOLP: Upon 'em, Mosca; save me.
CORB: The air's infected where he breathes.
CORV: Let's fly him.
VOLP: Excellent basilisk! turn upon the vulture.
VOLT: Well, flesh-fly, it is summer with you now;

Your winter will come on.

MOS: Good advocate,

Prithee not rail, nor threaten out of place thus;

Thou'lt make a solecism, as madam says.

Get you a biggin more, your brain breaks loose.

VOLT: Well, sir.
VOLP: Would you have me beat the insolent slave,

Throw dirt upon his first good clothes?

VOLT: This same

Is doubtless some familiar.

VOLP: Sir, the court,

In troth, stays for you. I am mad, a mule

That never read Justinian, should get up,

And ride an advocate. Had you no quirk

To avoid gullage, sir, by such a creature?

I hope you do but jest; he has not done it:

'Tis but confederacy, to blind the rest.

You are the heir.

VOLT: A strange, officious,

Troublesome knave! thou dost torment me.

VOLP: I know--

It cannot be, sir, that you should be cozen'd;

'Tis not within the wit of man to do it;

You are so wise, so prudent; and 'tis fit

That wealth and wisdom still should go together.

SCENE 5.6.



1 AVOC: Are all the parties here?
NOT: All but the advocate.
2 AVOC: And here he comes.
1 AVOC: Then bring them forth to sentence.
VOLT: O, my most honour'd fathers, let your mercy

Once win upon your justice, to forgive--

I am distracted--
VOLP [ASIDE.]: What will he do now?

I know not which to address myself to first;

Whether your fatherhoods, or these innocents--
CORV [ASIDE.]: Will he betray himself?
VOLT: Whom equally

I have abused, out of most covetous ends--

CORV: The man is mad!
CORB: What's that?
CORV: He is possest.
VOLT: For which, now struck in conscience, here, I prostate

Myself at your offended feet, for pardon.

1, 2 AVOC: Arise.
CEL: O heaven, how just thou art!
VOLP [ASIDE.]: I am caught

In mine own noose--

CORV [TO CORBACCIO.]: Be constant, sir: nought now

Can help, but impudence.

1 AVOC: Speak forward.
COM: Silence!
VOLT: It is not passion in me, reverend fathers,

But only conscience, conscience, my good sires,

That makes me now tell trueth. That parasite,

That knave, hath been the instrument of all.

1 AVOC: Where is that knave? fetch him.
VOLP: I go.
CORV: Grave fathers,

This man's distracted; he confest it now:

For, hoping to be old Volpone's heir,

Who now is dead--

3 AVOC: How?
2 AVOC: Is Volpone dead?
CORV: Dead since, grave fathers--
BON: O sure vengeance!
1 AVOC: Stay,

Then he was no deceiver?

VOLT: O no, none:

The parasite, grave fathers.

CORV: He does speak

Out of mere envy, 'cause the servant's made

The thing he gaped for: please your fatherhoods,

This is the truth, though I'll not justify

The other, but he may be some-deal faulty.
VOLT: Ay, to your hopes, as well as mine, Corvino:

But I'll use modesty. Pleaseth your wisdoms,

To view these certain notes, and but confer them;

As I hope favour, they shall speak clear truth.

CORV: The devil has enter'd him!
BON: Or bides in you.
4 AVOC: We have done ill, by a public officer,

To send for him, if he be heir.

2 AVOC: For whom?
4 AVOC: Him that they call the parasite.
3 AVOC: 'Tis true,

He is a man of great estate, now left.

4 AVOC: Go you, and learn his name, and say, the court

Entreats his presence here, but to the clearing

Of some few doubts.
2 AVOC: This same's a labyrinth!
1 AVOC: Stand you unto your first report?
CORV: My state,

My life, my fame--

BON: Where is it?
CORV: Are at the stake
1 AVOC: Is yours so too?
CORB: The advocate's a knave,

And has a forked tongue--

2 AVOC: Speak to the point.
CORB: So is the parasite too.

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