Volpone; or, the fox by ben jonson

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VOLT: Well, now you know the carriage of the business,

Your constancy is all that is required

Unto the safety of it.
MOS: Is the lie

Safely convey'd amongst us? is that sure?

Knows every man his burden?
CORV: Yes.
MOS: Then shrink not.
CORV: But knows the advocate the truth?
MOS: O, sir,

By no means; I devised a formal tale,

That salv'd your reputation. But be valiant, sir.
CORV: I fear no one but him, that this his pleading

Should make him stand for a co-heir--

MOS: Co-halter!

Hang him; we will but use his tongue, his noise,

As we do croakers here.
CORV: Ay, what shall he do?
MOS: When we have done, you mean?
CORV: Yes.
MOS: Why, we'll think:

Sell him for mummia; he's half dust already.


Do not you smile, to see this buffalo,

How he does sport it with his head?


--I should,

If all were well and past.


--Sir, only you

Are he that shall enjoy the crop of all,

And these not know for whom they toil.

CORB: Ay, peace.
MOS [TURNING TO CORVINO.]: But you shall eat it.

Much! [ASIDE.]


--Worshipful sir,

Mercury sit upon your thundering tongue,

Or the French Hercules, and make your language

As conquering as his club, to beat along,

As with a tempest, flat, our adversaries;

But much more yours, sir.
VOLT: Here they come, have done.
MOS: I have another witness, if you need, sir,

I can produce.

VOLT: Who is it?
MOS: Sir, I have her.


1 AVOC: The like of this the senate never heard of.
2 AVOC: 'Twill come most strange to them when we report it.
4 AVOC: The gentlewoman has been ever held

Of unreproved name.

3 AVOC: So has the youth.
4 AVOC: The more unnatural part that of his father.
2 AVOC: More of the husband.
1 AVOC: I not know to give

His act a name, it is so monstrous!

4 AVOC: But the impostor, he's a thing created

To exceed example!

1 AVOC: And all after-times!
2 AVOC: I never heard a true voluptuary

Discribed, but him.

3 AVOC: Appear yet those were cited?
NOT: All, but the old magnifico, Volpone.
1 AVOC: Why is not he here?
MOS: Please your fatherhoods,

Here is his advocate: himself's so weak,

So feeble--
4 AVOC: What are you?
BON: His parasite,

His knave, his pandar--I beseech the court,

He may be forced to come, that your grave eyes

May bear strong witness of his strange impostures.

VOLT: Upon my faith and credit with your virtues,

He is not able to endure the air.

2 AVOC: Bring him, however.
3 AVOC: We will see him.
4 AVOC: Fetch him.
VOLT: Your fatherhoods fit pleasures be obey'd;


But sure, the sight will rather move your pities,

Than indignation. May it please the court,

In the mean time, he may be heard in me;

I know this place most void of prejudice,

And therefore crave it, since we have no reason

To fear our truth should hurt our cause.

3 AVOC: Speak free.
VOLT: Then know, most honour'd fathers, I must now

Discover to your strangely abused ears,

The most prodigious and most frontless piece

Of solid impudence, and treachery,

That ever vicious nature yet brought forth

To shame the state of Venice. This lewd woman,

That wants no artificial looks or tears

To help the vizor she has now put on,

Hath long been known a close adulteress,

To that lascivious youth there; not suspected,

I say, but known, and taken in the act

With him; and by this man, the easy husband,

Pardon'd: whose timeless bounty makes him now

Stand here, the most unhappy, innocent person,

That ever man's own goodness made accused.

For these not knowing how to owe a gift

Of that dear grace, but with their shame; being placed

So above all powers of their gratitude,

Began to hate the benefit; and, in place

Of thanks, devise to extirpe the memory

Of such an act: wherein I pray your fatherhoods

To observe the malice, yea, the rage of creatures

Discover'd in their evils; and what heart

Such take, even from their crimes:--but that anon

Will more appear.--This gentleman, the father,

Hearing of this foul fact, with many others,

Which daily struck at his too tender ears,

And grieved in nothing more than that he could not

Preserve himself a parent, (his son's ills

Growing to that strange flood,) at last decreed

To disinherit him.
1 AVOC: These be strange turns!
2 AVOC: The young man's fame was ever fair and honest.
VOLT: So much more full of danger is his vice,

That can beguile so under shade of virtue.

But, as I said, my honour'd sires, his father

Having this settled purpose, by what means

To him betray'd, we know not, and this day

Appointed for the deed; that parricide,

I cannot style him better, by confederacy

Preparing this his paramour to be there,

Enter'd Volpone's house, (who was the man,

Your fatherhoods must understand, design'd

For the inheritance,) there sought his father:--

But with what purpose sought he him, my lords?

I tremble to pronounce it, that a son

Unto a father, and to such a father,

Should have so foul, felonious intent!

It was to murder him: when being prevented

By his more happy absence, what then did he?

Not check his wicked thoughts; no, now new deeds,

(Mischief doth ever end where it begins)

An act of horror, fathers! he dragg'd forth

The aged gentleman that had there lain bed-rid

Three years and more, out of his innocent couch,

Naked upon the floor, there left him; wounded

His servant in the face: and, with this strumpet

The stale to his forged practice, who was glad

To be so active,--(I shall here desire

Your fatherhoods to note but my collections,

As most remarkable,--) thought at once to stop

His father's ends; discredit his free choice

In the old gentleman, redeem themselves,

By laying infamy upon this man,

To whom, with blushing, they should owe their lives.

1 AVOC: What proofs have you of this?
BON: Most honoured fathers,

I humbly crave there be no credit given

To this man's mercenary tongue.
2 AVOC: Forbear.
BON: His soul moves in his fee.
3 AVOC: O, sir.
BON: This fellow,

For six sols more, would plead against his Maker.

1 AVOC: You do forget yourself.
VOLT: Nay, nay, grave fathers,

Let him have scope: can any man imagine

That he will spare his accuser, that would not

Have spared his parent?

1 AVOC: Well, produce your proofs.
CEL: I would I could forget I were a creature.
VOLT: Signior Corbaccio.
1 AVOC: What is he?
VOLT: The father.
2 AVOC: Has he had an oath?
NOT: Yes.
CORB: What must I do now?
NOT: Your testimony's craved.
CORB: Speak to the knave?

I'll have my mouth first stopt with earth; my heart

Abhors his knowledge: I disclaim in him.
1 AVOC: But for what cause?
CORB: The mere portent of nature!

He is an utter stranger to my loins.

BON: Have they made you to this?
CORB: I will not hear thee,

Monster of men, swine, goat, wolf, parricide!

Speak not, thou viper.
BON: Sir, I will sit down,

And rather wish my innocence should suffer,

Then I resist the authority of a father.
VOLT: Signior Corvino!
2 AVOC: This is strange.
1 AVOC: Who's this?
NOT: The husband.
4 AVOC: Is he sworn?
NOT: He is.
3 AVOC: Speak, then.
CORV: This woman, please your fatherhoods, is a whore,

Of most hot exercise, more than a partrich,

Upon record--
1 AVOC: No more.
CORV: Neighs like a jennet.
NOT: Preserve the honour of the court.
CORV: I shall,

And modesty of your most reverend ears.

And yet I hope that I may say, these eyes

Have seen her glued unto that piece of cedar,

That fine well-timber'd gallant; and that here

The letters may be read, through the horn,

That make the story perfect.
MOS: Excellent! sir.
CORV [ASIDE TO MOSCA.]: There's no shame in this now, is there?
MOS: None.
CORV: Or if I said, I hoped that she were onward

To her damnation, if there be a hell

Greater than whore and woman; a good catholic

May make the doubt.

3 AVOC: His grief hath made him frantic.
1 AVOC: Remove him hence.
2 AVOC: Look to the woman.
CORV: Rare!

Prettily feign'd, again!

4 AVOC: Stand from about her.
1 AVOC: Give her the air.
3 AVOC [TO MOSCA.]: What can you say?
MOS: My wound,

May it please your wisdoms, speaks for me, received

In aid of my good patron, when he mist

His sought-for father, when that well-taught dame

Had her cue given her, to cry out, A rape!
BON: O most laid impudence! Fathers--
3 AVOC: Sir, be silent;

You had your hearing free, so must they theirs.

2 AVOC: I do begin to doubt the imposture here.
4 AVOC: This woman has too many moods.
VOLT: Grave fathers,

She is a creature of a most profest

And prostituted lewdness.
CORV: Most impetuous,

Unsatisfied, grave fathers!

VOLT: May her feignings

Not take your wisdoms: but this day she baited

A stranger, a grave knight, with her loose eyes,

And more lascivious kisses. This man saw them

Together on the water in a gondola.
MOS: Here is the lady herself, that saw them too;

Without; who then had in the open streets

Pursued them, but for saving her knight's honour.
1 AVOC: Produce that lady.
2 AVOC: Let her come.
4 AVOC: These things,

They strike with wonder!

3 AVOC: I am turn'd a stone.
MOS: Be resolute, madam.
LADY P: Ay, this same is she.


Out, thou chameleon harlot! now thine eyes

Vie tears with the hyaena. Dar'st thou look

Upon my wronged face?--I cry your pardons,

I fear I have forgettingly transgrest

Against the dignity of the court--
2 AVOC: No, madam.
LADY P: And been exorbitant--
2 AVOC: You have not, lady.
4 AVOC: These proofs are strong.
LADY P: Surely, I had no purpose

To scandalise your honours, or my sex's.

3 AVOC: We do believe it.
LADY P: Surely, you may believe it.
2 AVOC: Madam, we do.
LADY P: Indeed, you may; my breeding

Is not so coarse--

1 AVOC: We know it.
LADY P: To offend

With pertinacy--

3 AVOC: Lady--
LADY P: Such a presence!

No surely.

1 AVOC: We well think it.
LADY P: You may think it.
1 AVOC: Let her o'ercome. What witnesses have you

To make good your report?

BON: Our consciences.
CEL: And heaven, that never fails the innocent.
4 AVOC: These are no testimonies.
BON: Not in your courts,

Where multitude, and clamour overcomes.

1 AVOC: Nay, then you do wax insolent.
VOLT: Here, here,

The testimony comes, that will convince,

And put to utter dumbness their bold tongues:

See here, grave fathers, here's the ravisher,

The rider on men's wives, the great impostor,

The grand voluptuary! Do you not think

These limbs should affect venery? or these eyes

Covet a concubine? pray you mark these hands;

Are they not fit to stroke a lady's breasts?--

Perhaps he doth dissemble!

BON: So he does.
VOLT: Would you have him tortured?
BON: I would have him proved.
VOLT: Best try him then with goads, or burning irons;

Put him to the strappado: I have heard

The rack hath cured the gout; 'faith, give it him,

And help him of a malady; be courteous.

I'll undertake, before these honour'd fathers,

He shall have yet as many left diseases,

As she has known adulterers, or thou strumpets.--

O, my most equal hearers, if these deeds,

Acts of this bold and most exorbitant strain,

May pass with sufferance; what one citizen

But owes the forfeit of his life, yea, fame,

To him that dares traduce him? which of you

Are safe, my honour'd fathers? I would ask,

With leave of your grave fatherhoods, if their plot

Have any face or colour like to truth?

Or if, unto the dullest nostril here,

It smell not rank, and most abhorred slander?

I crave your care of this good gentleman,

Whose life is much endanger'd by their fable;

And as for them, I will conclude with this,

That vicious persons, when they're hot and flesh'd

In impious acts, their constancy abounds:

Damn'd deeds are done with greatest confidence.
1 AVOC: Take them to custody, and sever them.
2 AVOC: 'Tis pity two such prodigies should live.
1 AVOC: Let the old gentleman be return'd with care;


I'm sorry our credulity hath wrong'd him.
4 AVOC: These are two creatures!
3 AVOC: I've an earthquake in me.
2 AVOC: Their shame, even in their cradles, fled their faces.
4 AVOC [TO VOLT.]: You have done a worthy service to the state, sir,

In their discovery.

1 AVOC: You shall hear, ere night,

What punishment the court decrees upon them.

VOLT: We thank your fatherhoods.--How like you it?
MOS: Rare.

I'd have your tongue, sir, tipt with gold for this;

I'd have you be the heir to the whole city;

The earth I'd have want men, ere you want living:

They're bound to erect your statue in St. Mark's.

Signior Corvino, I would have you go

And shew yourself, that you have conquer'd.
CORV: Yes.
MOS: It was much better that you should profess

Yourself a cuckold thus, than that the other

Should have been prov'd.
CORV: Nay, I consider'd that:

Now it is her fault:

MOS: Then it had been yours.
CORV: True; I do doubt this advocate still.
MOS: I'faith,

You need not, I dare ease you of that care.

CORV: I trust thee, Mosca.
MOS: As your own soul, sir.
CORB: Mosca!
MOS: Now for your business, sir.
CORB: How! have you business?
MOS: Yes, your's, sir.
CORB: O, none else?
MOS: None else, not I.
CORB: Be careful, then.
MOS: Rest you with both your eyes, sir.
CORB: Dispatch it.
MOS: Instantly.
CORB: And look that all,

Whatever, be put in, jewels, plate, moneys,

Household stuff, bedding, curtains.
MOS: Curtain-rings, sir.

Only the advocate's fee must be deducted.

CORB: I'll pay him now; you'll be too prodigal.
MOS: Sir, I must tender it.
CORB: Two chequines is well?
MOS: No, six, sir.
CORB: 'Tis too much.
MOS: He talk'd a great while;

You must consider that, sir.

CORB: Well, there's three--
MOS: I'll give it him.
CORB: Do so, and there's for thee.
MOS [ASIDE.]: Bountiful bones! What horrid strange offence

Did he commit 'gainst nature, in his youth,

Worthy this age?

[TO VOLT.]--You see, sir, how I work

Unto your ends; take you no notice.

I'll leave you.

MOS: All is yours, the devil and all:

Good advocate!--Madam, I'll bring you home.

LADY P: No, I'll go see your patron.
MOS: That you shall not:

I'll tell you why. My purpose is to urge

My patron to reform his Will; and for

The zeal you have shewn to-day, whereas before

You were but third or fourth, you shall be now

Put in the first; which would appear as begg'd,

If you were present. Therefore--
LADY P: You shall sway me.

ACT 5. SCENE 5.1

VOLP: Well, I am here, and all this brunt is past.

I ne'er was in dislike with my disguise

Till this fled moment; here 'twas good, in private;

But in your public,--cave whilst I breathe.

'Fore God, my left leg began to have the cramp,

And I apprehended straight some power had struck me

With a dead palsy: Well! I must be merry,

And shake it off. A many of these fears

Would put me into some villanous disease,

Should they come thick upon me: I'll prevent 'em.

Give me a bowl of lusty wine, to fright

This humour from my heart.


Hum, hum, hum!

'Tis almost gone already; I shall conquer.

Any device, now, of rare ingenious knavery,

That would possess me with a violent laughter,

Would make me up again.


So, so, so, so!

This heat is life; 'tis blood by this time:--Mosca!
MOS: How now, sir? does the day look clear again?

Are we recover'd, and wrought out of error,

Into our way, to see our path before us?

Is our trade free once more?

VOLP: Exquisite Mosca!
MOS: Was it not carried learnedly?
VOLP: And stoutly:

Good wits are greatest in extremities.

MOS: It were a folly beyond thought, to trust

Any grand act unto a cowardly spirit:

You are not taken with it enough, methinks?
VOLP: O, more than if I had enjoy'd the wench:

The pleasure of all woman-kind's not like it.

MOS: Why now you speak, sir. We must here be fix'd;

Here we must rest; this is our master-peice;

We cannot think to go beyond this.
VOLP: True.

Thou hast play'd thy prize, my precious Mosca.

MOS: Nay, sir,

To gull the court--

VOLP: And quite divert the torrent

Upon the innocent.

MOS: Yes, and to make

So rare a music out of discords--

VOLP: Right.

That yet to me's the strangest, how thou hast borne it!

That these, being so divided 'mongst themselves,

Should not scent somewhat, or in me or thee,

Or doubt their own side.
MOS: True, they will not see't.

Too much light blinds them, I think. Each of them

Is so possest and stuft with his own hopes,

That any thing unto the contrary,

Never so true, or never so apparent,

Never so palpable, they will resist it--

VOLP: Like a temptation of the devil.
MOS: Right, sir.

Merchants may talk of trade, and your great signiors

Of land that yields well; but if Italy

Have any glebe more fruitful than these fellows,

I am deceiv'd. Did not your advocate rare?
VOLP: O--"My most honour'd fathers, my grave fathers,

Under correction of your fatherhoods,

What face of truth is here? If these strange deeds

May pass, most honour'd fathers"--I had much ado

To forbear laughing.
MOS: It seem'd to me, you sweat, sir.
VOLP: In troth, I did a little.
MOS: But confess, sir,

Were you not daunted?

VOLP: In good faith, I was

A little in a mist, but not dejected;

Never, but still my self.
MOS: I think it, sir.

Now, so truth help me, I must needs say this, sir,

And out of conscience for your advocate:

He has taken pains, in faith, sir, and deserv'd,

In my poor judgment, I speak it under favour,

Not to contrary you, sir, very richly--

Well--to be cozen'd.
VOLP: Troth, and I think so too,

By that I heard him, in the latter end.

MOS: O, but before, sir: had you heard him first

Draw it to certain heads, then aggravate,

Then use his vehement figures--I look'd still

When he would shift a shirt: and, doing this

Out of pure love, no hope of gain--
VOLP: 'Tis right.

I cannot answer him, Mosca, as I would,

Not yet; but for thy sake, at thy entreaty,

I will begin, even now--to vex them all,

This very instant.
MOS: Good sir.
VOLP: Call the dwarf

And eunuch forth.

MOS: Castrone, Nano!
NANO: Here.
VOLP: Shall we have a jig now?
MOS: What you please, sir.

Straight give out about the streets, you two,

That I am dead; do it with constancy,

Sadly, do you hear? impute it to the grief

Of this late slander.
MOS: What do you mean, sir?

I shall have instantly my Vulture, Crow,

Raven, come flying hither, on the news,

To peck for carrion, my she-wolfe, and all,

Greedy, and full of expectation--
MOS: And then to have it ravish'd from their mouths!
VOLP: 'Tis true. I will have thee put on a gown,

And take upon thee, as thou wert mine heir:

Shew them a will; Open that chest, and reach

Forth one of those that has the blanks; I'll straight

Put in thy name.
MOS [GIVES HIM A PAPER.]: It will be rare, sir.

When they ev'n gape, and find themselves deluded--

MOS: Yes.
VOLP: And thou use them scurvily!

Dispatch, get on thy gown.

MOS [PUTTING ON A GOWN.]: But, what, sir, if they ask

After the body?

VOLP: Say, it was corrupted.
MOS: I'll say it stunk, sir; and was fain to have it

Coffin'd up instantly, and sent away.

VOLP: Any thing; what thou wilt. Hold, here's my will.

Get thee a cap, a count-book, pen and ink,

Papers afore thee; sit as thou wert taking

An inventory of parcels: I'll get up

Behind the curtain, on a stool, and hearken;

Sometime peep over, see how they do look,

With what degrees their blood doth leave their faces,

O, 'twill afford me a rare meal of laughter!


Your advocate will turn stark dull upon it.

VOLP: It will take off his oratory's edge.
MOS: But your clarissimo, old round-back, he

Will crump you like a hog-louse, with the touch.

VOLP: And what Corvino?
MOS: O, sir, look for him,

To-morrow morning, with a rope and dagger,

To visit all the streets; he must run mad.

My lady too, that came into the court,

To bear false witness for your worship--
VOLP: Yes,

And kist me 'fore the fathers; when my face

Flow'd all with oils.
MOS: And sweat, sir. Why, your gold

Is such another med'cine, it dries up

All those offensive savours: it transforms

The most deformed, and restores them lovely,

As 'twere the strange poetical girdle. Jove

Could not invent t' himself a shroud more subtle

To pass Acrisius' guards. It is the thing

Makes all the world her grace, her youth, her beauty.

VOLP: I think she loves me.
MOS: Who? the lady, sir?

She's jealous of you.

VOLP: Dost thou say so?

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