Volpone; or, the fox by ben jonson

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That canst do nought, and yet mak'st men do all things;

The price of souls; even hell, with thee to boot,

Is made worth heaven. Thou art virtue, fame,

Honour, and all things else. Who can get thee,

He shall be noble, valiant, honest, wise,--
MOS: And what he will, sir. Riches are in fortune

A greater good than wisdom is in nature.

VOLP: True, my beloved Mosca. Yet I glory

More in the cunning purchase of my wealth,

Than in the glad possession; since I gain

No common way; I use no trade, no venture;

I wound no earth with plough-shares; fat no beasts,

To feed the shambles; have no mills for iron,

Oil, corn, or men, to grind them into powder:

I blow no subtle glass; expose no ships

To threat'nings of the furrow-faced sea;

I turn no monies in the public bank,

Nor usure private.
MOS: No sir, nor devour

Soft prodigals. You shall have some will swallow

A melting heir as glibly as your Dutch

Will pills of butter, and ne'er purge for it;

Tear forth the fathers of poor families

Out of their beds, and coffin them alive

In some kind clasping prison, where their bones

May be forth-coming, when the flesh is rotten:

But your sweet nature doth abhor these courses;

You lothe the widdow's or the orphan's tears

Should wash your pavements, or their piteous cries

Ring in your roofs, and beat the air for vengeance.

VOLP: Right, Mosca; I do lothe it.
MOS: And besides, sir,

You are not like a thresher that doth stand

With a huge flail, watching a heap of corn,

And, hungry, dares not taste the smallest grain,

But feeds on mallows, and such bitter herbs;

Nor like the merchant, who hath fill'd his vaults

With Romagnia, and rich Candian wines,

Yet drinks the lees of Lombard's vinegar:

You will not lie in straw, whilst moths and worms

Feed on your sumptuous hangings and soft beds;

You know the use of riches, and dare give now

From that bright heap, to me, your poor observer,

Or to your dwarf, or your hermaphrodite,

Your eunuch, or what other household-trifle

Your pleasure allows maintenance.
VOLP: Hold thee, Mosca,


Take of my hand; thou strik'st on truth in all,

And they are envious term thee parasite.

Call forth my dwarf, my eunuch, and my fool,

And let them make me sport.


What should I do,

But cocker up my genius, and live free

To all delights my fortune calls me to?

I have no wife, no parent, child, ally,

To give my substance to; but whom I make

Must be my heir: and this makes men observe me:

This draws new clients daily, to my house,

Women and men of every sex and age,

That bring me presents, send me plate, coin, jewels,

With hope that when I die (which they expect

Each greedy minute) it shall then return

Ten-fold upon them; whilst some, covetous

Above the rest, seek to engross me whole,

And counter-work the one unto the other,

Contend in gifts, as they would seem in love:

All which I suffer, playing with their hopes,

And am content to coin them into profit,

To look upon their kindness, and take more,

And look on that; still bearing them in hand,

Letting the cherry knock against their lips,

And draw it by their mouths, and back again.--

How now!
NAN: Now, room for fresh gamesters, who do will you to know,

They do bring you neither play, nor university show;

And therefore do entreat you, that whatsoever they rehearse,

May not fare a whit the worse, for the false pace of the verse.

If you wonder at this, you will wonder more ere we pass,

For know, here is inclosed the soul of Pythagoras,

That juggler divine, as hereafter shall follow;

Which soul, fast and loose, sir, came first from Apollo,

And was breath'd into Aethalides; Mercurius his son,

Where it had the gift to remember all that ever was done.

From thence it fled forth, and made quick transmigration

To goldy-lock'd Euphorbus, who was killed in good fashion,

At the siege of old Troy, by the cuckold of Sparta.

Hermotimus was next (I find it in my charta)

To whom it did pass, where no sooner it was missing

But with one Pyrrhus of Delos it learn'd to go a fishing;

And thence did it enter the sophist of Greece.

From Pythagore, she went into a beautiful piece,

Hight Aspasia, the meretrix; and the next toss of her

Was again of a whore, she became a philosopher,

Crates the cynick, as it self doth relate it:

Since kings, knights, and beggars, knaves, lords and fools gat it,

Besides, ox and ass, camel, mule, goat, and brock,

In all which it hath spoke, as in the cobler's cock.

But I come not here to discourse of that matter,

Or his one, two, or three, or his greath oath, BY QUATER!

His musics, his trigon, his golden thigh,

Or his telling how elements shift, but I

Would ask, how of late thou best suffered translation,

And shifted thy coat in these days of reformation.

AND: Like one of the reformed, a fool, as you see,

Counting all old doctrine heresy.

NAN: But not on thine own forbid meats hast thou ventured?
AND: On fish, when first a Carthusian I enter'd.
NAN: Why, then thy dogmatical silence hath left thee?
AND: Of that an obstreperous lawyer bereft me.
NAN: O wonderful change, when sir lawyer forsook thee!

For Pythagore's sake, what body then took thee?

AND: A good dull mule.
NAN: And how! by that means

Thou wert brought to allow of the eating of beans?

AND: Yes.
NAN: But from the mule into whom didst thou pass?
AND: Into a very strange beast, by some writers call'd an ass;

By others, a precise, pure, illuminate brother,

Of those devour flesh, and sometimes one another;

And will drop you forth a libel, or a sanctified lie,

Betwixt every spoonful of a nativity pie.
NAN: Now quit thee, for heaven, of that profane nation;

And gently report thy next transmigration.

AND: To the same that I am.
NAN: A creature of delight,

And, what is more than a fool, an hermaphrodite!

Now, prithee, sweet soul, in all thy variation,

Which body would'st thou choose, to keep up thy station?

AND: Troth, this I am in: even here would I tarry.
NAN: 'Cause here the delight of each sex thou canst vary?
AND: Alas, those pleasures be stale and forsaken;

No, 'tis your fool wherewith I am so taken,

The only one creature that I can call blessed:

For all other forms I have proved most distressed.

NAN: Spoke true, as thou wert in Pythagoras still.

This learned opinion we celebrate will,

Fellow eunuch, as behoves us, with all our wit and art,

To dignify that whereof ourselves are so great and special a part.

VOLP: Now, very, very pretty! Mosca, this

Was thy invention?

MOS: If it please my patron,

Not else.

VOLP: It doth, good Mosca.
MOS: Then it was, sir.
NANO AND CASTRONE [SING.]: Fools, they are the only nation

Worth men's envy, or admiration:

Free from care or sorrow-taking,

Selves and others merry making:

All they speak or do is sterling.

Your fool he is your great man's darling,

And your ladies' sport and pleasure;

Tongue and bauble are his treasure.

E'en his face begetteth laughter,

And he speaks truth free from slaughter;

He's the grace of every feast,

And sometimes the chiefest guest;

Hath his trencher and his stool,

When wit waits upon the fool:

O, who would not be

He, he, he?

VOLP: Who's that? Away!


Look, Mosca. Fool, begone!


MOS: 'Tis Signior Voltore, the advocate;

I know him by his knock.

VOLP: Fetch me my gown,

My furs and night-caps; say, my couch is changing,

And let him entertain himself awhile

Without i' the gallery.


Now, now, my clients

Begin their visitation! Vulture, kite,

Raven, and gorcrow, all my birds of prey,

That think me turning carcase, now they come;

I am not for them yet--


How now! the news?

MOS: A piece of plate, sir.
VOLP: Of what bigness?
MOS: Huge,

Massy, and antique, with your name inscribed,

And arms engraven.
VOLP: Good! and not a fox

Stretch'd on the earth, with fine delusive sleights,

Mocking a gaping crow? ha, Mosca?
MOS: Sharp, sir.
VOLP: Give me my furs.


Why dost thou laugh so, man?
MOS: I cannot choose, sir, when I apprehend

What thoughts he has without now, as he walks:

That this might be the last gift he should give;

That this would fetch you; if you died to-day,

And gave him all, what he should be to-morrow;

What large return would come of all his ventures;

How he should worship'd be, and reverenced;

Ride with his furs, and foot-cloths; waited on

By herds of fools, and clients; have clear way

Made for his mule, as letter'd as himself;

Be call'd the great and learned advocate:

And then concludes, there's nought impossible.

VOLP: Yes, to be learned, Mosca.
MOS: O no: rich

Implies it. Hood an ass with reverend purple,

So you can hide his two ambitious ears,

And he shall pass for a cathedral doctor.

VOLP: My caps, my caps, good Mosca. Fetch him in.
MOS: Stay, sir, your ointment for your eyes.
VOLP: That's true;

Dispatch, dispatch: I long to have possession

Of my new present.
MOS: That, and thousands more,

I hope, to see you lord of.

VOLP: Thanks, kind Mosca.
MOS: And that, when I am lost in blended dust,

And hundred such as I am, in succession--

VOLP: Nay, that were too much, Mosca.
MOS: You shall live,

Still, to delude these harpies.

VOLP: Loving Mosca!

'Tis well: my pillow now, and let him enter.


Now, my fain'd cough, my pthisic, and my gout,

My apoplexy, palsy, and catarrhs,

Help, with your forced functions, this my posture,

Wherein, this three year, I have milk'd their hopes.

He comes; I hear him--Uh! [COUGHING.] uh! uh! uh! O--

MOS: You still are what you were, sir. Only you,

Of all the rest, are he commands his love,

And you do wisely to preserve it thus,

With early visitation, and kind notes

Of your good meaning to him, which, I know,

Cannot but come most grateful. Patron! sir!

Here's signior Voltore is come--
VOLP [FAINTLY.]: What say you?
MOS: Sir, signior Voltore is come this morning

To visit you.

VOLP: I thank him.
MOS: And hath brought

A piece of antique plate, bought of St Mark,

With which he here presents you.
VOLP: He is welcome.

Pray him to come more often.

MOS: Yes.
VOLT: What says he?
MOS: He thanks you, and desires you see him often.
VOLP: Mosca.
MOS: My patron!
VOLP: Bring him near, where is he?

I long to feel his hand.

MOS: The plate is here, sir.
VOLT: How fare you, sir?
VOLP: I thank you, signior Voltore;

Where is the plate? mine eyes are bad.


To see you still thus weak.

MOS [ASIDE.]: That he's not weaker.
VOLP: You are too munificent.
VOLT: No sir; would to heaven,

I could as well give health to you, as that plate!

VOLP: You give, sir, what you can: I thank you. Your love

Hath taste in this, and shall not be unanswer'd:

I pray you see me often.
VOLT: Yes, I shall sir.
VOLP: Be not far from me.
MOS: Do you observe that, sir?
VOLP: Hearken unto me still; it will concern you.
MOS: You are a happy man, sir; know your good.
VOLP: I cannot now last long--
MOS: You are his heir, sir.
VOLP: I feel me going; Uh! uh! uh! uh!

I'm sailing to my port, Uh! uh! uh! uh!

And I am glad I am so near my haven.
MOS: Alas, kind gentleman! Well, we must all go--
VOLT: But, Mosca--
MOS: Age will conquer.
VOLT: 'Pray thee hear me:

Am I inscribed his heir for certain?

MOS: Are you!

I do beseech you, sir, you will vouchsafe

To write me in your family. All my hopes

Depend upon your worship: I am lost,

Except the rising sun do shine on me.
VOLT: It shall both shine, and warm thee, Mosca.
MOS: Sir,

I am a man, that hath not done your love

All the worst offices: here I wear your keys,

See all your coffers and your caskets lock'd,

Keep the poor inventory of your jewels,

Your plate and monies; am your steward, sir.

Husband your goods here.
VOLT: But am I sole heir?
MOS: Without a partner, sir; confirm'd this morning:

The wax is warm yet, and the ink scarce dry

Upon the parchment.
VOLT: Happy, happy, me!

By what good chance, sweet Mosca?

MOS: Your desert, sir;

I know no second cause.

VOLT: Thy modesty

Is not to know it; well, we shall requite it.

MOS: He ever liked your course sir; that first took him.

I oft have heard him say, how he admired

Men of your large profession, that could speak

To every cause, and things mere contraries,

Till they were hoarse again, yet all be law;

That, with most quick agility, could turn,

And [re-] return; [could] make knots, and undo them;

Give forked counsel; take provoking gold

On either hand, and put it up: these men,

He knew, would thrive with their humility.

And, for his part, he thought he should be blest

To have his heir of such a suffering spirit,

So wise, so grave, of so perplex'd a tongue,

And loud withal, that would not wag, nor scarce

Lie still, without a fee; when every word

Your worship but lets fall, is a chequin!--


Who's that? one knocks; I would not have you seen, sir.

And yet--pretend you came, and went in haste:

I'll fashion an excuse.--and, gentle sir,

When you do come to swim in golden lard,

Up to the arms in honey, that your chin

Is born up stiff, with fatness of the flood,

Think on your vassal; but remember me:

I have not been your worst of clients.
VOLT: Mosca!--
MOS: When will you have your inventory brought, sir?

Or see a coppy of the will?--Anon!--

I will bring them to you, sir. Away, be gone,

Put business in your face.

VOLP [SPRINGING UP.]: Excellent Mosca!

Come hither, let me kiss thee.

MOS: Keep you still, sir.

Here is Corbaccio.

VOLP: Set the plate away:

The vulture's gone, and the old raven's come!

MOS: Betake you to your silence, and your sleep:

Stand there and multiply.


Now, shall we see

A wretch who is indeed more impotent

Than this can feign to be; yet hopes to hop

Over his grave.--


Signior Corbaccio!

You're very welcome, sir.

CORB: How does your patron?
MOS: Troth, as he did, sir; no amends.
CORB: What! mends he?
MOS: No, sir: he's rather worse.
CORB: That's well. Where is he?
MOS: Upon his couch sir, newly fall'n asleep.
CORB: Does he sleep well?
MOS: No wink, sir, all this night.

Nor yesterday; but slumbers.

CORB: Good! he should take

Some counsel of physicians: I have brought him

An opiate here, from mine own doctor.
MOS: He will not hear of drugs.
CORB: Why? I myself

Stood by while it was made; saw all the ingredients:

And know, it cannot but most gently work:

My life for his, 'tis but to make him sleep.

VOLP [ASIDE.]: Ay, his last sleep, if he would take it.
MOS: Sir,

He has no faith in physic.

CORB: 'Say you? 'say you?
MOS: He has no faith in physic: he does think

Most of your doctors are the greater danger,

And worse disease, to escape. I often have

Heard him protest, that your physician

Should never be his heir.
CORB: Not I his heir?
MOS: Not your physician, sir.
CORB: O, no, no, no,

I do not mean it.

MOS: No, sir, nor their fees

He cannot brook: he says, they flay a man,

Before they kill him.
CORB: Right, I do conceive you.
MOS: And then they do it by experiment;

For which the law not only doth absolve them,

But gives them great reward: and he is loth

To hire his death, so.

CORB: It is true, they kill,

With as much license as a judge.

MOS: Nay, more;

For he but kills, sir, where the law condemns,

And these can kill him too.
CORB: Ay, or me;

Or any man. How does his apoplex?

Is that strong on him still?
MOS: Most violent.

His speech is broken, and his eyes are set,

His face drawn longer than 'twas wont--
CORB: How! how!

Stronger then he was wont?

MOS: No, sir: his face

Drawn longer than 'twas wont.

CORB: O, good!
MOS: His mouth

Is ever gaping, and his eyelids hang.

CORB: Good.
MOS: A freezing numbness stiffens all his joints,

And makes the colour of his flesh like lead.

CORB: 'Tis good.
MOS: His pulse beats slow, and dull.
CORB: Good symptoms, still.
MOS: And from his brain--
CORB: I conceive you; good.
MOS: Flows a cold sweat, with a continual rheum,

Forth the resolved corners of his eyes.

CORB: Is't possible? yet I am better, ha!

How does he, with the swimming of his head?

B: O, sir, 'tis past the scotomy; he now

Hath lost his feeling, and hath left to snort:

You hardly can perceive him, that he breathes.
CORB: Excellent, excellent! sure I shall outlast him:

This makes me young again, a score of years.

MOS: I was a coming for you, sir.
CORB: Has he made his will?

What has he given me?

MOS: No, sir.
CORB: Nothing! ha?
MOS: He has not made his will, sir.
CORB: Oh, oh, oh!

But what did Voltore, the Lawyer, here?

MOS: He smelt a carcase, sir, when he but heard

My master was about his testament;

As I did urge him to it for your good--
CORB: He came unto him, did he? I thought so.
MOS: Yes, and presented him this piece of plate.
CORB: To be his heir?
MOS: I do not know, sir.
CORB: True:

I know it too.

MOS [ASIDE.]: By your own scale, sir.
CORB: Well,

I shall prevent him, yet. See, Mosca, look,

Here, I have brought a bag of bright chequines,

Will quite weigh down his plate.

MOS [TAKING THE BAG.]: Yea, marry, sir.

This is true physic, this your sacred medicine,

No talk of opiates, to this great elixir!
CORB: 'Tis aurum palpabile, if not potabile.
MOS: It shall be minister'd to him, in his bowl.
CORB: Ay, do, do, do.
MOS: Most blessed cordial!

This will recover him.

CORB: Yes, do, do, do.
MOS: I think it were not best, sir.
CORB: What?
MOS: To recover him.
CORB: O, no, no, no; by no means.
MOS: Why, sir, this

Will work some strange effect, if he but feel it.

CORB: 'Tis true, therefore forbear; I'll take my venture:

Give me it again.

MOS: At no hand; pardon me:

You shall not do yourself that wrong, sir. I

Will so advise you, you shall have it all.
CORB: How?
MOS: All, sir; 'tis your right, your own; no man

Can claim a part: 'tis yours, without a rival,

Decreed by destiny.
CORB: How, how, good Mosca?
MOS: I'll tell you sir. This fit he shall recover.
CORB: I do conceive you.
MOS: And, on first advantage

Of his gain'd sense, will I re-importune him

Unto the making of his testament:

And shew him this.

CORB: Good, good.
MOS: 'Tis better yet,

If you will hear, sir.

CORB: Yes, with all my heart.
MOS: Now, would I counsel you, make home with speed;

There, frame a will; whereto you shall inscribe

My master your sole heir.
CORB: And disinherit

My son!
MOS: O, sir, the better: for that colour

Shall make it much more taking.
CORB: O, but colour?
MOS: This will sir, you shall send it unto me.

Now, when I come to inforce, as I will do,

Your cares, your watchings, and your many prayers,

Your more than many gifts, your this day's present,

And last, produce your will; where, without thought,

Or least regard, unto your proper issue,

A son so brave, and highly meriting,

The stream of your diverted love hath thrown you

Upon my master, and made him your heir:

He cannot be so stupid, or stone-dead,

But out of conscience, and mere gratitude--
CORB: He must pronounce me his?
MOS: 'Tis true.
CORB: This plot

Did I think on before.

MOS: I do believe it.
CORB: Do you not believe it?
MOS: Yes, sir.
CORB: Mine own project.
MOS: Which, when he hath done, sir.
CORB: Publish'd me his heir?
MOS: And you so certain to survive him--
MOS: Being so lusty a man--
CORB: 'Tis true.
MOS: Yes, sir--
CORB: I thought on that too. See, how he should be

The very organ to express my thoughts!

MOS: You have not only done yourself a good--
CORB: But multiplied it on my son.
MOS: 'Tis right, sir.
CORB: Still, my invention.
MOS: 'Las, sir! heaven knows,

It hath been all my study, all my care,

(I e'en grow gray withal,) how to work things--
CORB: I do conceive, sweet Mosca.
MOS: You are he,

For whom I labour here.

CORB: Ay, do, do, do:

I'll straight about it.

MOS: Rook go with you, raven!
CORB: I know thee honest.
MOS [ASIDE.]: You do lie, sir!
CORB: And--
MOS: Your knowledge is no better than your ears, sir.
CORB: I do not doubt, to be a father to thee.
MOS: Nor I to gull my brother of his blessing.
CORB: I may have my youth restored to me, why not?
MOS: Your worship is a precious ass!
CORB: What say'st thou?
MOS: I do desire your worship to make haste, sir.
CORB: 'Tis done, 'tis done, I go.


Let out my sides, let out my sides--
MOS: Contain

Your flux of laughter, sir: you know this hope

Is such a bait, it covers any hook.
VOLP: O, but thy working, and thy placing it!

I cannot hold; good rascal, let me kiss thee:

I never knew thee in so rare a humour.
MOS: Alas sir, I but do as I am taught;

Follow your grave instructions; give them words;

Pour oil into their ears, and send them hence.

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