Volpone; or, the fox by ben jonson

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VOLP: Why droops my Celia?

Thou hast, in place of a base husband, found

A worthy lover: use thy fortune well,

With secrecy and pleasure. See, behold,

What thou art queen of; not in expectation,

As I feed others: but possess'd, and crown'd.

See, here, a rope of pearl; and each, more orient

Than that the brave Egyptian queen caroused:

Dissolve and drink them. See, a carbuncle,

May put out both the eyes of our St Mark;

A diamond, would have bought Lollia Paulina,

When she came in like star-light, hid with jewels,

That were the spoils of provinces; take these,

And wear, and lose them: yet remains an ear-ring

To purchase them again, and this whole state.

A gem but worth a private patrimony,

Is nothing: we will eat such at a meal.

The heads of parrots, tongues of nightingales,

The brains of peacocks, and of estriches,

Shall be our food: and, could we get the phoenix,

Though nature lost her kind, she were our dish.
CEL: Good sir, these things might move a mind affected

With such delights; but I, whose innocence

Is all I can think wealthy, or worth th' enjoying,

And which, once lost, I have nought to lose beyond it,

Cannot be taken with these sensual baits:

If you have conscience--

VOLP: 'Tis the beggar's virtue,

If thou hast wisdom, hear me, Celia.

Thy baths shall be the juice of July-flowers,

Spirit of roses, and of violets,

The milk of unicorns, and panthers' breath

Gather'd in bags, and mixt with Cretan wines.

Our drink shall be prepared gold and amber;

Which we will take, until my roof whirl round

With the vertigo: and my dwarf shall dance,

My eunuch sing, my fool make up the antic.

Whilst we, in changed shapes, act Ovid's tales,

Thou, like Europa now, and I like Jove,

Then I like Mars, and thou like Erycine:

So, of the rest, till we have quite run through,

And wearied all the fables of the gods.

Then will I have thee in more modern forms,

Attired like some sprightly dame of France,

Brave Tuscan lady, or proud Spanish beauty;

Sometimes, unto the Persian sophy's wife;

Or the grand signior's mistress; and, for change,

To one of our most artful courtezans,

Or some quick Negro, or cold Russian;

And I will meet thee in as many shapes:

Where we may so transfuse our wandering souls,

Out at our lips, and score up sums of pleasures,


That the curious shall not know

How to tell them as they flow;

And the envious, when they find

What there number is, be pined.

CEL: If you have ears that will be pierc'd--or eyes

That can be open'd--a heart that may be touch'd--

Or any part that yet sounds man about you--

If you have touch of holy saints--or heaven--

Do me the grace to let me 'scape--if not,

Be bountiful and kill me. You do know,

I am a creature, hither ill betray'd,

By one, whose shame I would forget it were:

If you will deign me neither of these graces,

Yet feed your wrath, sir, rather than your lust,

(It is a vice comes nearer manliness,)

And punish that unhappy crime of nature,

Which you miscall my beauty; flay my face,

Or poison it with ointments, for seducing

Your blood to this rebellion. Rub these hands,

With what may cause an eating leprosy,

E'en to my bones and marrow: any thing,

That may disfavour me, save in my honour--

And I will kneel to you, pray for you, pay down

A thousand hourly vows, sir, for your health;

Report, and think you virtuous--
VOLP: Think me cold,

Frosen and impotent, and so report me?

That I had Nestor's hernia, thou wouldst think.

I do degenerate, and abuse my nation,

To play with opportunity thus long;

I should have done the act, and then have parley'd.

Yield, or I'll force thee.
CEL: O! just God!
VOLP: In vain--
BON [RUSHING IN]: Forbear, foul ravisher, libidinous swine!

Free the forced lady, or thou diest, impostor.

But that I'm loth to snatch thy punishment

Out of the hand of justice, thou shouldst, yet,

Be made the timely sacrifice of vengeance,

Before this altar, and this dross, thy idol.--

Lady, let's quit the place, it is the den

Of villany; fear nought, you have a guard:

And he, ere long, shall meet his just reward.
VOLP: Fall on me, roof, and bury me in ruin!

Become my grave, that wert my shelter! O!

I am unmask'd, unspirited, undone,

Betray'd to beggary, to infamy--

MOS: Where shall I run, most wretched shame of men,

To beat out my unlucky brains?

VOLP: Here, here.

What! dost thou bleed?

MOS: O that his well-driv'n sword

Had been so courteous to have cleft me down

Unto the navel; ere I lived to see

My life, my hopes, my spirits, my patron, all

Thus desperately engaged, by my error!
VOLP: Woe on thy fortune!
MOS: And my follies, sir.
VOLP: Thou hast made me miserable.
MOS: And myself, sir.

Who would have thought he would have harken'd, so?

VOLP: What shall we do?
MOS: I know not; if my heart

Could expiate the mischance, I'd pluck it out.

Will you be pleased to hang me? or cut my throat?

And I'll requite you, sir. Let us die like Romans,

Since we have lived like Grecians.
VOLP: Hark! who's there?

I hear some footing; officers, the saffi,

Come to apprehend us! I do feel the brand

Hissing already at my forehead; now,

Mine ears are boring.
MOS: To your couch, sir, you,

Make that place good, however.


--Guilty men

Suspect what they deserve still.


Signior Corbaccio!
CORB: Why, how now, Mosca?
MOS: O, undone, amazed, sir.

Your son, I know not by what accident,

Acquainted with your purpose to my patron,

Touching your Will, and making him your heir,

Enter'd our house with violence, his sword drawn

Sought for you, call'd you wretch, unnatural,

Vow'd he would kill you.
MOS: Yes, and my patron.
CORB: This act shall disinherit him indeed;

Here is the Will.

MOS: 'Tis well, sir.
CORB: Right and well:

Be you as careful now for me.

MOS: My life, sir,

Is not more tender'd; I am only yours.

CORB: How does he? will he die shortly, think'st thou?
MOS: I fear

He'll outlast May.

CORB: To-day?
MOS: No, last out May, sir.
CORB: Could'st thou not give him a dram?
MOS: O, by no means, sir.
CORB: Nay, I'll not bid you.
VOLT [COMING FORWARD.]: This is a knave, I see.
MOS [SEEING VOLTORE.]: How! signior Voltore!

[ASIDE.] did he hear me?

VOLT: Parasite!
MOS: Who's that?--O, sir, most timely welcome--
VOLT: Scarce,

To the discovery of your tricks, I fear.

You are his, ONLY? and mine, also? are you not?
MOS: Who? I, sir?
VOLT: You, sir. What device is this

About a Will?

MOS: A plot for you, sir.
VOLT: Come,

Put not your foists upon me; I shall scent them.

MOS: Did you not hear it?
VOLT: Yes, I hear Corbaccio

Hath made your patron there his heir.

MOS: 'Tis true,

By my device, drawn to it by my plot,

With hope--
VOLT: Your patron should reciprocate?

And you have promised?

MOS: For your good, I did, sir.

Nay, more, I told his son, brought, hid him here,

Where he might hear his father pass the deed:

Being persuaded to it by this thought, sir,

That the unnaturalness, first, of the act,

And then his father's oft disclaiming in him,

(Which I did mean t'help on,) would sure enrage him

To do some violence upon his parent,

On which the law should take sufficient hold,

And you be stated in a double hope:

Truth be my comfort, and my conscience,

My only aim was to dig you a fortune

Out of these two old rotten sepulchres--
VOLT: I cry thee mercy, Mosca.
MOS: Worth your patience,

And your great merit, sir. And see the change!

VOLT: Why, what success?
MOS: Most happless! you must help, sir.

Whilst we expected the old raven, in comes

Corvino's wife, sent hither by her husband--
VOLT: What, with a present?
MOS: No, sir, on visitation;

(I'll tell you how anon;) and staying long,

The youth he grows impatient, rushes forth,

Seizeth the lady, wounds me, makes her swear

(Or he would murder her, that was his vow)

To affirm my patron to have done her rape:

Which how unlike it is, you see! and hence,

With that pretext he's gone, to accuse his father,

Defame my patron, defeat you--
VOLT: Where is her husband?

Let him be sent for straight.

MOS: Sir, I'll go fetch him.
VOLT: Bring him to the Scrutineo.
MOS: Sir, I will.
VOLT: This must be stopt.
MOS: O you do nobly, sir.

Alas, 'twas labor'd all, sir, for your good;

Nor was there want of counsel in the plot:

But fortune can, at any time, o'erthrow

The projects of a hundred learned clerks, sir.
CORB [LISTENING]: What's that?
VOLT: Will't please you, sir, to go along?
MOS: Patron, go in, and pray for our success.
VOLP [RISING FROM HIS COUCH.]: Need makes devotion:

heaven your labour bless!


ACT 4. SCENE 4.1.

SIR P: I told you, sir, it was a plot: you see

What observation is! You mention'd me,

For some instructions: I will tell you, sir,

(Since we are met here in this height of Venice,)

Some few perticulars I have set down,

Only for this meridian, fit to be known

Of your crude traveller, and they are these.

I will not touch, sir, at your phrase, or clothes,

For they are old.
PER: Sir, I have better.
SIR P: Pardon,

I meant, as they are themes.

PER: O, sir, proceed:

I'll slander you no more of wit, good sir.

SIR P: First, for your garb, it must be grave and serious,

Very reserv'd, and lock'd; not tell a secret

On any terms, not to your father; scarce

A fable, but with caution; make sure choice

Both of your company, and discourse; beware

You never speak a truth--

PER: How!
SIR P: Not to strangers,

For those be they you must converse with, most;

Others I would not know, sir, but at distance,

So as I still might be a saver in them:

You shall have tricks else past upon you hourly.

And then, for your religion, profess none,

But wonder at the diversity, of all:

And, for your part, protest, were there no other

But simply the laws o' the land, you could content you,

Nic. Machiavel, and Monsieur Bodin, both

Were of this mind. Then must you learn the use

And handling of your silver fork at meals;

The metal of your glass; (these are main matters

With your Italian;) and to know the hour

When you must eat your melons, and your figs.
PER: Is that a point of state too?
SIR P: Here it is,

For your Venetian, if he see a man

Preposterous in the least, he has him straight;

He has; he strips him. I'll acquaint you, sir,

I now have lived here, 'tis some fourteen months

Within the first week of my landing here,

All took me for a citizen of Venice:

I knew the forms, so well--

PER [ASIDE.]: And nothing else.
SIR P: I had read Contarene, took me a house,

Dealt with my Jews to furnish it with moveables--

Well, if I could but find one man, one man

To mine own heart, whom I durst trust, I would--

PER: What, what, sir?
SIR P: Make him rich; make him a fortune:

He should not think again. I would command it.

PER: As how?
SIR P: With certain projects that I have;

Which I may not discover.

PER [ASIDE.]: If I had

But one to wager with, I would lay odds now,

He tells me instantly.
SIR P: One is, and that

I care not greatly who knows, to serve the state

Of Venice with red herrings for three years,

And at a certain rate, from Rotterdam,

Where I have correspendence. There's a letter,

Sent me from one of the states, and to that purpose:

He cannot write his name, but that's his mark.
PER: He's a chandler?
SIR P: No, a cheesemonger.

There are some others too with whom I treat

About the same negociation;

And I will undertake it: for, 'tis thus.

I'll do't with ease, I have cast it all: Your hoy

Carries but three men in her, and a boy;

And she shall make me three returns a year:

So, if there come but one of three, I save,

If two, I can defalk:--but this is now,

If my main project fail.

PER: Then you have others?
SIR P: I should be loth to draw the subtle air

Of such a place, without my thousand aims.

I'll not dissemble, sir: where'er I come,

I love to be considerative; and 'tis true,

I have at my free hours thought upon

Some certain goods unto the state of Venice,

Which I do call "my Cautions;" and, sir, which

I mean, in hope of pension, to propound

To the Great Council, then unto the Forty,

So to the Ten. My means are made already--

PER: By whom?
SIR P: Sir, one that, though his place be obscure,

Yet he can sway, and they will hear him. He's

A commandador.
PER: What! a common serjeant?
SIR P: Sir, such as they are, put it in their mouths,

What they should say, sometimes; as well as greater:

I think I have my notes to shew you--


PER: Good sir.
SIR P: But you shall swear unto me, on your gentry,

Not to anticipate--

PER: I, sir!
SIR P: Nor reveal

A circumstance--My paper is not with me.

PER: O, but you can remember, sir.
SIR P: My first is

Concerning tinder-boxes. You must know,

No family is here, without its box.

Now, sir, it being so portable a thing,

Put case, that you or I were ill affected

Unto the state, sir; with it in our pockets,

Might not I go into the Arsenal,

Or you, come out again, and none the wiser?

PER: Except yourself, sir.
SIR P: Go to, then. I therefore

Advertise to the state, how fit it were,

That none but such as were known patriots,

Sound lovers of their country, should be suffer'd

To enjoy them in their houses; and even those

Seal'd at some office, and at such a bigness

As might not lurk in pockets.
PER: Admirable!
SIR P: My next is, how to enquire, and be resolv'd,

By present demonstration, whether a ship,

Newly arrived from Soria, or from

Any suspected part of all the Levant,

Be guilty of the plague: and where they use

To lie out forty, fifty days, sometimes,

About the Lazaretto, for their trial;

I'll save that charge and loss unto the merchant,

And in an hour clear the doubt.
PER: Indeed, sir!
SIR P: Or--I will lose my labour.
PER: 'My faith, that's much.
SIR P: Nay, sir, conceive me. It will cost me in onions,

Some thirty livres--

PER: Which is one pound sterling.
SIR P: Beside my water-works: for this I do, sir.

First, I bring in your ship 'twixt two brick walls;

But those the state shall venture: On the one

I strain me a fair tarpauling, and in that

I stick my onions, cut in halves: the other

Is full of loop-holes, out at which I thrust

The noses of my bellows; and those bellows

I keep, with water-works, in perpetual motion,

Which is the easiest matter of a hundred.

Now, sir, your onion, which doth naturally

Attract the infection, and your bellows blowing

The air upon him, will show, instantly,

By his changed colour, if there be contagion;

Or else remain as fair as at the first.

--Now it is known, 'tis nothing.
PER: You are right, sir.
SIR P: I would I had my note.
PER: 'Faith, so would I:

But you have done well for once, sir.

SIR P: Were I false,

Or would be made so, I could shew you reasons

How I could sell this state now, to the Turk;

Spite of their galleys, or their--

PER: Pray you, sir Pol.
SIR P: I have them not about me.
PER: That I fear'd.

They are there, sir.

SIR P: No. This is my diary,

Wherein I note my actions of the day.

PER: Pray you let's see, sir. What is here?



A rat had gnawn my spur-leathers; notwithstanding,

I put on new, and did go forth: but first

I threw three beans over the threshold. Item,

I went and bought two tooth-picks, whereof one

I burst immediatly, in a discourse

With a Dutch merchant, 'bout ragion del stato.

From him I went and paid a moccinigo,

For piecing my silk stockings; by the way

I cheapen'd sprats; and at St. Mark's I urined."

'Faith, these are politic notes!
SIR P: Sir, I do slip

No action of my life, but thus I quote it.

PER: Believe me, it is wise!
SIR P: Nay, sir, read forth.


LADY P: Where should this loose knight be, trow?

sure he's housed.

NAN: Why, then he's fast.
LADY P: Ay, he plays both with me.

I pray you, stay. This heat will do more harm

To my complexion, than his heart is worth;

(I do not care to hinder, but to take him.)


How it comes off!

1 WOM: My master's yonder.
LADY P: Where?
1 WOM: With a young gentleman.
LADY P: That same's the party;

In man's apparel! 'Pray you, sir, jog my knight:

I'll be tender to his reputation,

However he demerit.

SIR P [SEEING HER]: My lady!
PER: Where?
SIR P: 'Tis she indeed, sir; you shall know her. She is,

Were she not mine, a lady of that merit,

For fashion and behaviour; and, for beauty

I durst compare--

PER: It seems you are not jealous,

That dare commend her.

SIR P: Nay, and for discourse--
PER: Being your wife, she cannot miss that.

Here is a gentleman, pray you, use him fairly;

He seems a youth, but he is--
LADY P: None.
SIR P: Yes, one

Has put his face as soon into the world--

LADY P: You mean, as early? but to-day?
SIR P: How's this?
LADY P: Why, in this habit, sir; you apprehend me:--

Well, master Would-be, this doth not become you;

I had thought the odour, sir, of your good name,

Had been more precious to you; that you would not

Have done this dire massacre on your honour;

One of your gravity and rank besides!

But knights, I see, care little for the oath

They make to ladies; chiefly, their own ladies.

SIR P: Now by my spurs, the symbol of my knighthood,--
PER [ASIDE.]: Lord, how his brain is humbled for an oath!
SIR P: I reach you not.
LADY P: Right, sir, your policy

May bear it through, thus.


sir, a word with you.

I would be loth to contest publicly

With any gentlewoman, or to seem

Froward, or violent, as the courtier says;

It comes too near rusticity in a lady,

Which I would shun by all means: and however

I may deserve from master Would-be, yet

T'have one fair gentlewoman thus be made

The unkind instrument to wrong another,

And one she knows not, ay, and to persever;

In my poor judgment, is not warranted

From being a solecism in our sex,

If not in manners.

PER: How is this!
SIR P: Sweet madam,

Come nearer to your aim.

LADY P: Marry, and will, sir.

Since you provoke me with your impudence,

And laughter of your light land-syren here,

Your Sporus, your hermaphrodite--

PER: What's here?

Poetic fury, and historic storms?

SIR P: The gentleman, believe it, is of worth,

And of our nation.

LADY P: Ay, your White-friars nation.

Come, I blush for you, master Would-be, I;

And am asham'd you should have no more forehead,

Than thus to be the patron, or St. George,

To a lewd harlot, a base fricatrice,

A female devil, in a male outside.

SIR P: Nay,

And you be such a one, I must bid adieu

To your delights. The case appears too liquid.
LADY P: Ay, you may carry't clear, with your state-face!--

But for your carnival concupiscence,

Who here is fled for liberty of conscience,

From furious persecution of the marshal,

Her will I dis'ple.
PER: This is fine, i'faith!

And do you use this often? Is this part

Of your wit's exercise, 'gainst you have occasion?

LADY P: Go to, sir.

PER: Do you hear me, lady?

Why, if your knight have set you to beg shirts,

Or to invite me home, you might have done it

A nearer way, by far:

LADY P: This cannot work you

Out of my snare.

PER: Why, am I in it, then?

Indeed your husband told me you were fair,

And so you are; only your nose inclines,

That side that's next the sun, to the queen-apple.

LADY P: This cannot be endur'd by any patience.
MOS: What is the matter, madam?
LADY P: If the Senate

Right not my quest in this; I'll protest them

To all the world, no aristocracy.
MOS: What is the injury, lady?
LADY P: Why, the callet

You told me of, here I have ta'en disguised.

MOS: Who? this! what means your ladyship? the creature

I mention'd to you is apprehended now,

Before the senate; you shall see her--
LADY P: Where?
MOS: I'll bring you to her. This young gentleman,

I saw him land this morning at the port.

LADY P: Is't possible! how has my judgment wander'd?

Sir, I must, blushing, say to you, I have err'd;

And plead your pardon.
PER: What, more changes yet!
LADY P: I hope you have not the malice to remember

A gentlewoman's passion. If you stay

In Venice here, please you to use me, sir--
MOS: Will you go, madam?
LADY P: 'Pray you, sir, use me. In faith,

The more you see me, the more I shall conceive

You have forgot our quarrel.
PER: This is rare!

Sir Politick Would-be? no; sir Politick Bawd.

To bring me thus acquainted with his wife!

Well, wise sir Pol, since you have practised thus

Upon my freshman-ship, I'll try your salt-head,

What proof it is against a counter-plot.

SCENE 4.2.

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