Volpone; or, the fox by ben jonson

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of the Sanita and most learned College of Physicians; where I was

authorised, upon notice taken of the admirable virtues of my

medicaments, and mine own excellency in matter of rare and unknown

secrets, not only to disperse them publicly in this famous city,

but in all the territories, that happily joy under the government

of the most pious and magnificent states of Italy. But may some

other gallant fellow say, O, there be divers that make profession

to have as good, and as experimented receipts as yours: indeed,

very many have assayed, like apes, in imitation of that, which is

really and essentially in me, to make of this oil; bestowed great

cost in furnaces, stills, alembecks, continual fires, and

preparation of the ingredients, (as indeed there goes to it six

hundred several simples, besides some quantity of human fat, for

the conglutination, which we buy of the anatomists,) but, when

these practitioners come to the last decoction, blow, blow, puff,

puff, and all flies in fumo: ha, ha, ha! Poor wretches! I rather

pity their folly and indiscretion, than their loss of time and

money; for these may be recovered by industry: but to be a fool

born, is a disease incurable.

For myself, I always from my youth have endeavoured to get the

rarest secrets, and book them, either in exchange, or for money;

I spared nor cost nor labour, where any thing was worthy to be

learned. And gentlemen, honourable gentlemen, I will undertake,

by virtue of chemical art, out of the honourable hat that covers

your head, to extract the four elements; that is to say, the

fire, air, water, and earth, and return you your felt without

burn or stain. For, whilst others have been at the Balloo, I

have been at my book; and am now past the craggy paths of study,

and come to the flowery plains of honour and reputation.
SIR P: I do assure you, sir, that is his aim.
VOLP: But, to our price--
PER: And that withal, sir Pol.
VOLP: You all know, honourable gentlemen, I never valued this

ampulla, or vial, at less than eight crowns, but for this time,

I am content, to be deprived of it for six; six crowns is the

price; and less, in courtesy I know you cannot offer me; take it,

or leave it, howsoever, both it and I am at your service. I ask

you not as the value of the thing, for then I should demand of

you a thousand crowns, so the cardinals Montalto, Fernese, the

great Duke of Tuscany, my gossip, with divers other princes, have

given me; but I despise money. Only to shew my affection to you,

honourable gentlemen, and your illustrious State here, I have

neglected the messages of these princes, mine own offices,

framed my journey hither, only to present you with the fruits of

my travels.--Tune your voices once more to the touch of your

instruments, and give the honourable assembly some delightful

PER: What monstrous and most painful circumstance

Is here, to get some three or four gazettes,

Some three-pence in the whole! for that 'twill come to.
NANO [SINGS.]: You that would last long, list to my song,

Make no more coil, but buy of this oil.

Would you be ever fair and young?

Stout of teeth, and strong of tongue?

Tart of palate? quick of ear?

Sharp of sight? of nostril clear?

Moist of hand? and light of foot?

Or, I will come nearer to't,

Would you live free from all diseases?

Do the act your mistress pleases;

Yet fright all aches from your bones?

Here's a med'cine, for the nones.

VOLP: Well, I am in a humour at this time to make a present of

the small quantity my coffer contains; to the rich, in

courtesy, and to the poor for God's sake. Wherefore now mark:

I ask'd you six crowns, and six crowns, at other times, you

have paid me; you shall not give me six crowns, nor five, nor

four, nor three, nor two, nor one; nor half a ducat; no, nor a

moccinigo. Sixpence it will cost you, or six hundred pound--

expect no lower price, for, by the banner of my front, I will

not bate a bagatine, that I will have, only, a pledge of your

loves, to carry something from amongst you, to shew I am not

contemn'd by you. Therefore, now, toss your handkerchiefs,

cheerfully, cheerfully; and be advertised, that the first

heroic spirit that deignes to grace me with a handkerchief, I

will give it a little remembrance of something, beside, shall

please it better, than if I had presented it with a double


PER: Will you be that heroic spark, sir Pol?


O see! the window has prevented you.
VOLP: Lady, I kiss your bounty; and for this timely grace you

have done your poor Scoto of Mantua, I will return you, over and

above my oil, a secret of that high and inestimable nature,

shall make you for ever enamour'd on that minute, wherein your

eye first descended on so mean, yet not altogether to be

despised, an object. Here is a powder conceal'd in this paper,

of which, if I should speak to the worth, nine thousand volumes

were but as one page, that page as a line, that line as a word;

so short is this pilgrimage of man (which some call life) to the

expressing of it. Would I reflect on the price? why, the whole

world is but as an empire, that empire as a province, that

province as a bank, that bank as a private purse to the purchase

of it. I will only tell you; it is the powder that made Venus a

goddess (given her by Apollo,) that kept her perpetually young,

clear'd her wrinkles, firm'd her gums, fill'd her skin, colour'd

her hair; from her deriv'd to Helen, and at the sack of Troy

unfortunately lost: till now, in this our age, it was as happily

recovered, by a studious antiquary, out of some ruins of Asia,

who sent a moiety of it to the court of France, (but much

sophisticated,) wherewith the ladies there, now, colour their

hair. The rest, at this present, remains with me; extracted to a

quintessence: so that, whereever it but touches, in youth it

perpetually preserves, in age restores the complexion; seats your

teeth, did they dance like virginal jacks, firm as a wall; makes

them white as ivory, that were black, as--
COR: Spight o' the devil, and my shame! come down here;

Come down;--No house but mine to make your scene?

Signior Flaminio, will you down, sir? down?

What, is my wife your Franciscina, sir?

No windows on the whole Piazza, here,

To make your properties, but mine? but mine?


Heart! ere to-morrow, I shall be new-christen'd,

And call'd the Pantalone di Besogniosi,

About the town.

PER: What should this mean, sir Pol?
SIR P: Some trick of state, believe it. I will home.
PER: It may be some design on you:
SIR P: I know not.

I'll stand upon my guard.

PER: It is your best, sir.
SIR P: This three weeks, all my advices, all my letters,

They have been intercepted.

PER: Indeed, sir!

Best have a care.

SIR P: Nay, so I will.
PER: This knight,

I may not lose him, for my mirth, till night.

SCENE 2.2.
VOLP: O, I am wounded!
MOS: Where, sir?
VOLP: Not without;

Those blows were nothing: I could bear them ever.

But angry Cupid, bolting from her eyes,

Hath shot himself into me like a flame;

Where, now, he flings about his burning heat,

As in a furnace an ambitious fire,

Whose vent is stopt. The fight is all within me.

I cannot live, except thou help me, Mosca;

My liver melts, and I, without the hope

Of some soft air, from her refreshing breath,

Am but a heap of cinders.
MOS: 'Las, good sir,

Would you had never seen her!

VOLP: Nay, would thou

Had'st never told me of her!

MOS: Sir 'tis true;

I do confess I was unfortunate,

And you unhappy: but I'm bound in conscience,

No less than duty, to effect my best

To your release of torment, and I will, sir.
VOLP: Dear Mosca, shall I hope?
MOS: Sir, more than dear,

I will not bid you to dispair of aught

Within a human compass.
VOLP: O, there spoke

My better angel. Mosca, take my keys,

Gold, plate, and jewels, all's at thy devotion;

Employ them how thou wilt; nay, coin me too:

So thou, in this, but crown my longings, Mosca.
MOS: Use but your patience.
VOLP: So I have.
MOS: I doubt not

To bring success to your desires.

VOLP: Nay, then,

I not repent me of my late disguise.

MOS: If you can horn him, sir, you need not.
VOLP: True:

Besides, I never meant him for my heir.--

Is not the colour of my beard and eyebrows,

To make me known?

MOS: No jot.
VOLP: I did it well.
MOS: So well, would I could follow you in mine,

With half the happiness!


--and yet I would

Escape your Epilogue.
VOLP: But were they gull'd

With a belief that I was Scoto?

MOS: Sir,

Scoto himself could hardly have distinguish'd!

I have not time to flatter you now; we'll part;

And as I prosper, so applaud my art.


SCENE 2.3.



CORV: Death of mine honour, with the city's fool!

A juggling, tooth-drawing, prating mountebank!

And at a public window! where, whilst he,

With his strain'd action, and his dole of faces,

To his drug-lecture draws your itching ears,

A crew of old, unmarried, noted letchers,

Stood leering up like satyrs; and you smile

Most graciously, and fan your favours forth,

To give your hot spectators satisfaction!

What; was your mountebank their call? their whistle?

Or were you enamour'd on his copper rings,

His saffron jewel, with the toad-stone in't,

Or his embroider'd suit, with the cope-stitch,

Made of a herse-cloth? or his old tilt-feather?

Or his starch'd beard? Well; you shall have him, yes!

He shall come home, and minister unto you

The fricace for the mother. Or, let me see,

I think you'd rather mount; would you not mount?

Why, if you'll mount, you may; yes truly, you may:

And so you may be seen, down to the foot.

Get you a cittern, lady Vanity,

And be a dealer with the virtuous man;

Make one: I'll but protest myself a cuckold,

And save your dowry. I'm a Dutchman, I!

For, if you thought me an Italian,

You would be damn'd, ere you did this, you whore!

Thou'dst tremble, to imagine, that the murder

Of father, mother, brother, all thy race,

Should follow, as the subject of my justice.
CEL: Good sir, have pacience.
CORV: What couldst thou propose

Less to thyself, than in this heat of wrath

And stung with my dishonour, I should strike

This steel into thee, with as many stabs,

As thou wert gaz'd upon with goatish eyes?
CEL: Alas, sir, be appeas'd! I could not think

My being at the window should more now

Move your impatience, than at other times.
CORV: No! not to seek and entertain a parley

With a known knave, before a multitude!

You were an actor with your handkerchief;

Which he most sweetly kist in the receipt,

And might, no doubt, return it with a letter,

And point the place where you might meet: your sister's,

Your mother's, or your aunt's might serve the turn.
CEL: Why, dear sir, when do I make these excuses,

Or ever stir abroad, but to the church?

And that so seldom--
CORV: Well, it shall be less;

And thy restraint before was liberty,

To what I now decree: and therefore mark me.

First, I will have this bawdy light damm'd up;

And till't be done, some two or three yards off,

I'll chalk a line: o'er which if thou but chance

To set thy desperate foot; more hell, more horror

More wild remorseless rage shall seize on thee,

Than on a conjurer, that had heedless left

His circle's safety ere his devil was laid.

Then here's a lock which I will hang upon thee;

And, now I think on't, I will keep thee backwards;

Thy lodging shall be backwards; thy walks backwards;

Thy prospect, all be backwards; and no pleasure,

That thou shalt know but backwards: nay, since you force

My honest nature, know, it is your own,

Being too open, makes me use you thus:

Since you will not contain your subtle nostrils

In a sweet room, but they must snuff the air

Of rank and sweaty passengers.


--One knocks.

Away, and be not seen, pain of thy life;

Nor look toward the window: if thou dost--

Nay, stay, hear this--let me not prosper, whore,

But I will make thee an anatomy,

Dissect thee mine own self, and read a lecture

Upon thee to the city, and in public.




Who's there?

SERV: 'Tis signior Mosca, sir.
CORV: Let him come in.


His master's dead: There's yet

Some good to help the bad.--


My Mosca, welcome!

I guess your news.
MOS: I fear you cannot, sir.
CORV: Is't not his death?
MOS: Rather the contrary.
CORV: Not his recovery?
MOS: Yes, sir,
CORV: I am curs'd,

I am bewitch'd, my crosses meet to vex me.

How? how? how? how?
MOS: Why, sir, with Scoto's oil;

Corbaccio and Voltore brought of it,

Whilst I was busy in an inner room--
CORV: Death! that damn'd mountebank; but for the law

Now, I could kill the rascal: it cannot be,

His oil should have that virtue. Have not I

Known him a common rogue, come fidling in

To the osteria, with a tumbling whore,

And, when he has done all his forced tricks, been glad

Of a poor spoonful of dead wine, with flies in't?

It cannot be. All his ingredients

Are a sheep's gall, a roasted bitch's marrow,

Some few sod earwigs pounded caterpillars,

A little capon's grease, and fasting spittle:

I know them to a dram.

MOS: I know not, sir,

But some on't, there, they pour'd into his ears,

Some in his nostrils, and recover'd him;

Applying but the fricace.

CORV: Pox o' that fricace.
MOS: And since, to seem the more officious

And flatt'ring of his health, there, they have had,

At extreme fees, the college of physicians

Consulting on him, how they might restore him;

Where one would have a cataplasm of spices,

Another a flay'd ape clapp'd to his breast,

A third would have it a dog, a fourth an oil,

With wild cats' skins: at last, they all resolved

That, to preserve him, was no other means,

But some young woman must be straight sought out,

Lusty, and full of juice, to sleep by him;

And to this service, most unhappily,

And most unwillingly, am I now employ'd,

Which here I thought to pre-acquaint you with,

For your advice, since it concerns you most;

Because, I would not do that thing might cross

Your ends, on whom I have my whole dependance, sir:

Yet, if I do it not, they may delate

My slackness to my patron, work me out

Of his opinion; and there all your hopes,

Ventures, or whatsoever, are all frustrate!

I do but tell you, sir. Besides, they are all

Now striving, who shall first present him; therefore--

I could entreat you, briefly conclude somewhat;

Prevent them if you can.
CORV: Death to my hopes,

This is my villainous fortune! Best to hire

Some common courtezan.
MOS: Ay, I thought on that, sir;

But they are all so subtle, full of art--

And age again doting and flexible,

So as--I cannot tell--we may, perchance,

Light on a quean may cheat us all.
CORV: 'Tis true.
MOS: No, no: it must be one that has no tricks, sir,

Some simple thing, a creature made unto it;

Some wench you may command. Have you no kinswoman?

Odso--Think, think, think, think, think, think, think, sir.

One o' the doctors offer'd there his daughter.
CORV: How!
MOS: Yes, signior Lupo, the physician.
CORV: His daughter!
MOS: And a virgin, sir. Why? alas,

He knows the state of's body, what it is;

That nought can warm his blood sir, but a fever;

Nor any incantation raise his spirit:

A long forgetfulness hath seized that part.

Besides sir, who shall know it? some one or two--

CORV: I prithee give me leave.


If any man

But I had had this luck--The thing in't self,

I know, is nothing--Wherefore should not I

As well command my blood and my affections,

As this dull doctor? In the point of honour,

The cases are all one of wife and daughter.

MOS [ASIDE.]: I hear him coming.
CORV: She shall do't: 'tis done.

Slight! if this doctor, who is not engaged,

Unless 't be for his counsel, which is nothing,

Offer his daughter, what should I, that am

So deeply in? I will prevent him: Wretch!

Covetous wretch!--Mosca, I have determined.

MOS: How, sir?
CORV: We'll make all sure. The party you wot of

Shall be mine own wife, Mosca.

MOS: Sir, the thing,

But that I would not seem to counsel you,

I should have motion'd to you, at the first:

And make your count, you have cut all their throats.

Why! 'tis directly taking a possession!

And in his next fit, we may let him go.

'Tis but to pull the pillow from his head,

And he is throttled: it had been done before,

But for your scrupulous doubts.
CORV: Ay, a plague on't,

My conscience fools my wit! Well, I'll be brief,

And so be thou, lest they should be before us:

Go home, prepare him, tell him with what zeal

And willingness I do it; swear it was

On the first hearing, as thou mayst do, truly,

Mine own free motion.
MOS: Sir, I warrant you,

I'll so possess him with it, that the rest

Of his starv'd clients shall be banish'd all;

And only you received. But come not, sir,

Until I send, for I have something else

To ripen for your good, you must not know't.

CORV: But do not you forget to send now.
MOS: Fear not.
CORV: Where are you, wife? my Celia? wife?


--What, blubbering?

Come, dry those tears. I think thou thought'st me in earnest;

Ha! by this light I talk'd so but to try thee:

Methinks the lightness of the occasion

Should have confirm'd thee. Come, I am not jealous.
CEL: No!
CORV: Faith I am not I, nor never was;

It is a poor unprofitable humour.

Do not I know, if women have a will,

They'll do 'gainst all the watches of the world,

And that the feircest spies are tamed with gold?

Tut, I am confident in thee, thou shalt see't;

And see I'll give thee cause too, to believe it.

Come kiss me. Go, and make thee ready, straight,

In all thy best attire, thy choicest jewels,

Put them all on, and, with them, thy best looks:

We are invited to a solemn feast,

At old Volpone's, where it shall appear

How far I am free from jealousy or fear.
ACT 3. SCENE 3.1.
MOS: I fear, I shall begin to grow in love

With my dear self, and my most prosperous parts,

They do so spring and burgeon; I can feel

A whimsy in my blood: I know not how,

Success hath made me wanton. I could skip

Out of my skin, now, like a subtle snake,

I am so limber. O! your parasite

Is a most precious thing, dropt from above,

Not bred 'mongst clods, and clodpoles, here on earth.

I muse, the mystery was not made a science,

It is so liberally profest! almost

All the wise world is little else, in nature,

But parasites, or sub-parasites.--And yet,

I mean not those that have your bare town-art,

To know who's fit to feed them; have no house,

No family, no care, and therefore mould

Tales for men's ears, to bait that sense; or get

Kitchen-invention, and some stale receipts

To please the belly, and the groin; nor those,

With their court dog-tricks, that can fawn and fleer,

Make their revenue out of legs and faces,

Echo my lord, and lick away a moth:

But your fine elegant rascal, that can rise,

And stoop, almost together, like an arrow;

Shoot through the air as nimbly as a star;

Turn short as doth a swallow; and be here,

And there, and here, and yonder, all at once;

Present to any humour, all occasion;

And change a visor, swifter than a thought!

This is the creature had the art born with him;

Toils not to learn it, but doth practise it

Out of most excellent nature: and such sparks

Are the true parasites, others but their zanis.
MOS: Who's this? Bonario, old Corbaccio's son?

The person I was bound to seek.--Fair sir,

You are happily met.
BON: That cannot be by thee.
MOS: Why, sir?
BON: Nay, pray thee know thy way, and leave me:

I would be loth to interchange discourse

With such a mate as thou art
MOS: Courteous sir,

Scorn not my poverty.

BON: Not I, by heaven;

But thou shalt give me leave to hate thy baseness.

MOS: Baseness!
BON: Ay; answer me, is not thy sloth

Sufficient argument? thy flattery?

Thy means of feeding?
MOS: Heaven be good to me!

These imputations are too common, sir,

And easily stuck on virtue when she's poor.

You are unequal to me, and however,

Your sentence may be righteous, yet you are not

That, ere you know me, thus proceed in censure:

St. Mark bear witness 'gainst you, 'tis inhuman.

BON [ASIDE.]: What! does he weep? the sign is soft and good;

I do repent me that I was so harsh.
MOS: 'Tis true, that, sway'd by strong necessity,

I am enforced to eat my careful bread

With too much obsequy; 'tis true, beside,

That I am fain to spin mine own poor raiment

Out of my mere observance, being not born

To a free fortune: but that I have done

Base offices, in rending friends asunder,

Dividing families, betraying counsels,

Whispering false lies, or mining men with praises,

Train'd their credulity with perjuries,

Corrupted chastity, or am in love

With mine own tender ease, but would not rather

Prove the most rugged, and laborious course,

That might redeem my present estimation,

Let me here perish, in all hope of goodness.

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