Part 1 out of 5
Amy E Zelmer ^M
EPICOENE; OR, THE SILENT WOMAN
BY BEN JONSON
THE greatest of English dramatists except Shakespeare, the first
literary dictator and poet-laureate, a writer of verse, prose,
satire, and criticism who most potently of all the men of his time
affected the subsequent course of English letters: such was Ben
Jonson, and as such his strong personality assumes an interest to
us almost unparalleled, at least in his age.
Ben Jonson came of the stock that was centuries after to give to
the world Thomas Carlyle; for Jonson's grandfather was of
Annandale, over the Solway, whence he migrated to England.
Jonson's father lost his estate under Queen Mary, "having been cast
into prison and forfeited." He entered the church, but died a
month before his illustrious son was born, leaving his widow and
child in poverty. Jonson's birthplace was Westminster, and the
time of his birth early in 1573. He was thus nearly ten years
Shakespeare's junior, and less well off, if a trifle better born.
But Jonson did not profit even by this slight advantage. His
mother married beneath her, a wright or bricklayer, and Jonson was
for a time apprenticed to the trade. As a youth he attracted the
attention of the famous antiquary, William Camden, then usher at
Westminster School, and there the poet laid the solid foundations
of his classical learning. Jonson always held Camden in
veneration, acknowledging that to him he owed,
"All that I am in arts, all that I know;"
and dedicating his first dramatic success, "Every Man in His
Humour," to him. It is doubtful whether Jonson ever went to either
university, though Fuller says that he was "statutably admitted
into St. John's College, Cambridge." He tells us that he took no
degree, but was later "Master of Arts in both the universities, by
their favour, not his study." When a mere youth Jonson enlisted as
a soldier, trailing his pike in Flanders in the protracted wars of
William the Silent against the Spanish. Jonson was a large and
raw-boned lad; he became by his own account in time exceedingly
bulky. In chat with his friend William Drummond of Hawthornden,
Jonson told how "in his service in the Low Countries he had, in the
face of both the camps, killed an enemy, and taken opima spolia
from him;" and how "since his coming to England, being appealed to
the fields, he had killed his adversary which had hurt him in the
arm and whose sword was ten inches longer than his." Jonson's
reach may have made up for the lack of his sword; certainly his
prowess lost nothing in the telling. Obviously Jonson was brave,
combative, and not averse to talking of himself and his doings.
In 1592, Jonson returned from abroad penniless. Soon after he
married, almost as early and quite as imprudently as Shakespeare.
He told Drummond curtly that "his wife was a shrew, yet honest";
for some years he lived apart from her in the household of Lord
Albany. Yet two touching epitaphs among Jonson's "Epigrams," "On
my first daughter," and "On my first son," attest the warmth of the
poet's family affections. The daughter died in infancy, the son of
the plague; another son grew up to manhood little credit to his
father whom he survived. We know nothing beyond this of Jonson's
How soon Jonson drifted into what we now call grandly "the
theatrical profession" we do not know. In 1593, Marlowe made his
tragic exit from life, and Greene, Shakespeare's other rival on the
popular stage, had preceded Marlowe in an equally miserable death
the year before. Shakespeare already had the running to himself.
Jonson appears first in the employment of Philip Henslowe, the
exploiter of several troupes of players, manager, and father-in-law
of the famous actor, Edward Alleyn. From entries in "Henslowe's
Diary," a species of theatrical account book which has been handed
down to us, we know that Jonson was connected with the Admiral's
men; for he borrowed 4 pounds of Henslowe, July 28, 1597, paying
back 3s. 9d. on the same day on account of his "share" (in what is
not altogether clear); while later, on December 3, of the same
year, Henslowe advanced 20s. to him "upon a book which he showed
the plot unto the company which he promised to deliver unto the
company at Christmas next." In the next August Jonson was in
collaboration with Chettle and Porter in a play called "Hot Anger
Soon Cold." All this points to an association with Henslowe of
some duration, as no mere tyro would be thus paid in advance upon
mere promise. From allusions in Dekker's play, "Satiromastix," it
appears that Jonson, like Shakespeare, began life as an actor, and
that he "ambled in a leather pitch by a play-wagon" taking at one
time the part of Hieronimo in Kyd's famous play, "The Spanish
Tragedy." By the beginning of 1598, Jonson, though still in needy
circumstances, had begun to receive recognition. Francis Meres --
well known for his "Comparative Discourse of our English Poets with
the Greek, Latin, and Italian Poets," printed in 1598, and for his
mention therein of a dozen plays of Shakespeare by title -- accords
to Ben Jonson a place as one of "our best in tragedy," a matter of
some surprise, as no known tragedy of Jonson from so early a date
has come down to us. That Jonson was at work on tragedy, however,
is proved by the entries in Henslowe of at least three tragedies,
now lost, in which he had a hand. These are "Page of Plymouth,"
"King Robert II. of Scotland," and "Richard Crookback." But all of
these came later, on his return to Henslowe, and range from August
1599 to June 1602.
Returning to the autumn of 1598, an event now happened to sever for
a time Jonson's relations with Henslowe. In a letter to Alleyn,
dated September 26 of that year, Henslowe writes: "I have lost one
of my company that hurteth me greatly; that is Gabriel [Spencer],
for he is slain in Hogsden fields by the hands of Benjamin Jonson,
bricklayer." The last word is perhaps Henslowe's thrust at Jonson
in his displeasure rather than a designation of his actual
continuance at his trade up to this time. It is fair to Jonson to
remark however, that his adversary appears to have been a notorious
fire-eater who had shortly before killed one Feeke in a similar
squabble. Duelling was a frequent occurrence of the time among
gentlemen and the nobility; it was an impudent breach of the peace
on the part of a player. This duel is the one which Jonson
described years after to Drummond, and for it Jonson was duly
arraigned at Old Bailey, tried, and convicted. He was sent to
prison and such goods and chattels as he had "were forfeited." It
is a thought to give one pause that, but for the ancient law
permitting convicted felons to plead, as it was called, the benefit
of clergy, Jonson might have been hanged for this deed. The
circumstance that the poet could read and write saved him; and he
received only a brand of the letter "T," for Tyburn, on his left
thumb. While in jail Jonson became a Roman Catholic; but he
returned to the faith of the Church of England a dozen years later.
On his release, in disgrace with Henslowe and his former
associates, Jonson offered his services as a playwright to
Henslowe's rivals, the Lord Chamberlain's company, in which
Shakespeare was a prominent shareholder. A tradition of long
standing, though not susceptible of proof in a court of law,
narrates that Jonson had submitted the manuscript of "Every Man in
His Humour" to the Chamberlain's men and had received from the
company a refusal; that Shakespeare called him back, read the play
himself, and at once accepted it. Whether this story is true or
not, certain it is that "Every Man in His Humour" was accepted by
Shakespeare's company and acted for the first time in 1598, with
Shakespeare taking a part. The evidence of this is contained in
the list of actors prefixed to the comedy in the folio of Jonson's
works, 1616. But it is a mistake to infer, because Shakespeare's
name stands first in the list of actors and the elder Kno'well
first in the dramatis personae, that Shakespeare took that
particular part. The order of a list of Elizabethan players was
generally that of their importance or priority as shareholders in
the company and seldom if ever corresponded to the list of
"Every Man in His Humour" was an immediate success, and with it
Jonson's reputation as one of the leading dramatists of his time
was established once and for all. This could have been by no means
Jonson's earliest comedy, and we have just learned that he was
already reputed one of "our best in tragedy." Indeed, one of
Jonson's extant comedies, "The Case is Altered," but one never
claimed by him or published as his, must certainly have preceded
"Every Man in His Humour" on the stage. The former play may be
described as a comedy modelled on the Latin plays of Plautus. (It
combines, in fact, situations derived from the "Captivi" and the
"Aulularia" of that dramatist). But the pretty story of the
beggar-maiden, Rachel, and her suitors, Jonson found, not among the
classics, but in the ideals of romantic love which Shakespeare had
already popularised on the stage. Jonson never again produced so
fresh and lovable a feminine personage as Rachel, although in other
respects "The Case is Altered" is not a conspicuous play, and, save
for the satirising of Antony Munday in the person of Antonio
Balladino and Gabriel Harvey as well, is perhaps the least
characteristic of the comedies of Jonson.
"Every Man in His Humour," probably first acted late in the summer
of 1598 and at the Curtain, is commonly regarded as an epoch-making
play; and this view is not unjustified. As to plot, it tells
little more than how an intercepted letter enabled a father to
follow his supposedly studious son to London, and there observe his
life with the gallants of the time. The real quality of this
comedy is in its personages and in the theory upon which they are
conceived. Ben Jonson had theories about poetry and the drama, and
he was neither chary in talking of them nor in experimenting with
them in his plays. This makes Jonson, like Dryden in his time, and
Wordsworth much later, an author to reckon with; particularly when
we remember that many of Jonson's notions came for a time
definitely to prevail and to modify the whole trend of English
poetry. First of all Jonson was a classicist, that is, he believed
in restraint and precedent in art in opposition to the prevalent
ungoverned and irresponsible Renaissance spirit. Jonson believed
that there was a professional way of doing things which might be
reached by a study of the best examples, and he found these
examples for the most part among the ancients. To confine our
attention to the drama, Jonson objected to the amateurishness and
haphazard nature of many contemporary plays, and set himself to do
something different; and the first and most striking thing that he
evolved was his conception and practice of the comedy of humours.
As Jonson has been much misrepresented in this matter, let us quote
his own words as to "humour." A humour, according to Jonson, was a
bias of disposition, a warp, so to speak, in character by which
"Some one peculiar quality
Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw
All his affects, his spirits, and his powers,
In their confluctions, all to run one way."
But continuing, Jonson is careful to add:
"But that a rook by wearing a pied feather,
The cable hat-band, or the three-piled ruff,
A yard of shoe-tie, or the Switzers knot
On his French garters, should affect a humour!
O, it is more than most ridiculous."
Jonson's comedy of humours, in a word, conceived of stage
personages on the basis of a ruling trait or passion (a notable
simplification of actual life be it observed in passing); and,
placing these typified traits in juxtaposition in their conflict
and contrast, struck the spark of comedy. Downright, as his name
indicates, is "a plain squire"; Bobadill's humour is that of the
braggart who is incidentally, and with delightfully comic effect, a
coward; Brainworm's humour is the finding out of things to the end
of fooling everybody: of course he is fooled in the end himself.
But it was not Jonson's theories alone that made the success of
"Every Man in His Humour." The play is admirably written and each
character is vividly conceived, and with a firm touch based on
observation of the men of the London of the day. Jonson was
neither in this, his first great comedy (nor in any other play that
he wrote), a supine classicist, urging that English drama return to
a slavish adherence to classical conditions. He says as to the
laws of the old comedy (meaning by "laws," such matters as the
unities of time and place and the use of chorus): "I see not then,
but we should enjoy the same licence, or free power to illustrate
and heighten our invention as they [the ancients] did; and not be
tied to those strict and regular forms which the niceness of a few,
who are nothing but form, would thrust upon us." "Every Man in His
Humour" is written in prose, a novel practice which Jonson had of
his predecessor in comedy, John Lyly. Even the word "humour" seems
to have been employed in the Jonsonian sense by Chapman before
Jonson's use of it. Indeed, the comedy of humours itself is only a
heightened variety of the comedy of manners which represents life,
viewed at a satirical angle, and is the oldest and most persistent
species of comedy in the language. None the less, Jonson's comedy
merited its immediate success and marked out a definite course in
which comedy long continued to run. To mention only Shakespeare's
Falstaff and his rout, Bardolph, Pistol, Dame Quickly, and the
rest, whether in "Henry IV." or in "The Merry Wives of Windsor,"
all are conceived in the spirit of humours. So are the captains,
Welsh, Scotch, and Irish of "Henry V.," and Malvolio especially
later; though Shakespeare never employed the method of humours for
an important personage. It was not Jonson's fault that many of his
successors did precisely the thing that he had reprobated, that is,
degrade "the humour: into an oddity of speech, an eccentricity of
manner, of dress, or cut of beard. There was an anonymous play
called "Every Woman in Her Humour." Chapman wrote "A Humourous
Day's Mirth," Day, "Humour Out of Breath," Fletcher later, "The
Humourous Lieutenant," and Jonson, besides "Every Man Out of His
Humour," returned to the title in closing the cycle of his comedies
in "The Magnetic Lady or Humours Reconciled."
With the performance of "Every Man Out of His Humour" in 1599, by
Shakespeare's company once more at the Globe, we turn a new page in
Jonson's career. Despite his many real virtues, if there is one
feature more than any other that distinguishes Jonson, it is his
arrogance; and to this may be added his self-righteousness,
especially under criticism or satire. "Every Man Out of His
Humour" is the first of three "comical satires" which Jonson
contributed to what Dekker called the poetomachia or war of the
theatres as recent critics have named it. This play as a fabric of
plot is a very slight affair; but as a satirical picture of the
manners of the time, proceeding by means of vivid caricature,
couched in witty and brilliant dialogue and sustained by that
righteous indignation which must lie at the heart of all true
satire -- as a realisation, in short, of the classical ideal of
comedy -- there had been nothing like Jonson's comedy since the
days of Aristophanes. "Every Man in His Humour," like the two
plays that follow it, contains two kinds of attack, the critical or
generally satiric, levelled at abuses and corruptions in the
abstract; and the personal, in which specific application is made
of all this in the lampooning of poets and others, Jonson's
contemporaries. The method of personal attack by actual caricature
of a person on the stage is almost as old as the drama.
Aristophanes so lampooned Euripides in "The Acharnians" and
Socrates in "The Clouds," to mention no other examples; and in
English drama this kind of thing is alluded to again and again.
What Jonson really did, was to raise the dramatic lampoon to an
art, and make out of a casual burlesque and bit of mimicry a
dramatic satire of literary pretensions and permanency. With the
arrogant attitude mentioned above and his uncommon eloquence in
scorn, vituperation, and invective, it is no wonder that Jonson
soon involved himself in literary and even personal quarrels with
his fellow-authors. The circumstances of the origin of this
'poetomachia' are far from clear, and those who have written on the
topic, except of late, have not helped to make them clearer. The
origin of the "war" has been referred to satirical references,
apparently to Jonson, contained in "The Scourge of Villainy," a
satire in regular form after the manner of the ancients by John
Marston, a fellow playwright, subsequent friend and collaborator of
Jonson's. On the other hand, epigrams of Jonson have been
discovered (49, 68, and 100) variously charging "playwright"
(reasonably identified with Marston) with scurrility, cowardice,
and plagiarism; though the dates of the epigrams cannot be
ascertained with certainty. Jonson's own statement of the matter
to Drummond runs: "He had many quarrels with Marston, beat him,
and took his pistol from him, wrote his "Poetaster" on him; the
beginning[s] of them were that Marston represented him on the
[footnote] *The best account of this whole subject is to be found
in the edition of "Poetaster" and "Satiromastrix" by J. H. Penniman
in "Belles Lettres Series" shortly to appear. See also his earlier
work, "The War of the Theatres," 1892, and the excellent
contributions to the subject by H. C. Hart in "Notes and Queries,"
and in his edition of Jonson, 1906.
Here at least we are on certain ground; and the principals of the
quarrel are known. "Histriomastix," a play revised by Marston in
1598, has been regarded as the one in which Jonson was thus
"represented on the stage"; although the personage in question,
Chrisogonus, a poet, satirist, and translator, poor but proud, and
contemptuous of the common herd, seems rather a complimentary
portrait of Jonson than a caricature. As to the personages
actually ridiculed in "Every Man Out of His Humour," Carlo Buffone
was formerly thought certainly to be Marston, as he was described
as "a public, scurrilous, and profane jester," and elsewhere as the
grand scourge or second untruss [that is, satirist], of the time"
(Joseph Hall being by his own boast the first, and Marston's work
being entitled "The Scourge of Villainy"). Apparently we must now
prefer for Carlo a notorious character named Charles Chester, of
whom gossipy and inaccurate Aubrey relates that he was "a bold
impertinent fellow...a perpetual talker and made a noise like a
drum in a room. So one time at a tavern Sir Walter Raleigh beats
him and seals up his mouth (that is his upper and nether beard)
with hard wax. From him Ben Jonson takes his Carlo Buffone
['i.e.', jester] in "Every Man in His Humour" ['sic']." Is it
conceivable that after all Jonson was ridiculing Marston, and that
the point of the satire consisted in an intentional confusion of
"the grand scourge or second untruss" with "the scurrilous and
We have digressed into detail in this particular case to exemplify
the difficulties of criticism in its attempts to identify the
allusions in these forgotten quarrels. We are on sounder ground of
fact in recording other manifestations of Jonson's enmity. In "The
Case is Altered" there is clear ridicule in the character Antonio
Balladino of Anthony Munday, pageant-poet of the city, translator
of romances and playwright as well. In "Every Man in His Humour"
there is certainly a caricature of Samuel Daniel, accepted poet of
the court, sonneteer, and companion of men of fashion. These men
held recognised positions to which Jonson felt his talents better
entitled him; they were hence to him his natural enemies. It seems
almost certain that he pursued both in the personages of his satire
through "Every Man Out of His Humour," and "Cynthia's Revels,"
Daniel under the characters Fastidious Brisk and Hedon, Munday as
Puntarvolo and Amorphus; but in these last we venture on quagmire
once more. Jonson's literary rivalry of Daniel is traceable again
and again, in the entertainments that welcomed King James on his
way to London, in the masques at court, and in the pastoral drama.
As to Jonson's personal ambitions with respect to these two men, it
is notable that he became, not pageant-poet, but chronologer to the
City of London; and that, on the accession of the new king, he came
soon to triumph over Daniel as the accepted entertainer of royalty.
"Cynthia's Revels," the second "comical satire," was acted in 1600,
and, as a play, is even more lengthy, elaborate, and impossible
than "Every Man Out of His Humour." Here personal satire seems to
have absorbed everything, and while much of the caricature is
admirable, especially in the detail of witty and trenchantly
satirical dialogue, the central idea of a fountain of self-love is
not very well carried out, and the persons revert at times to
abstractions, the action to allegory. It adds to our wonder that
this difficult drama should have been acted by the Children of
Queen Elizabeth's Chapel, among them Nathaniel Field with whom
Jonson read Horace and Martial, and whom he taught later how to
make plays. Another of these precocious little actors was
Salathiel Pavy, who died before he was thirteen, already famed for
taking the parts of old men. Him Jonson immortalised in one of the
sweetest of his epitaphs. An interesting sidelight is this on the
character of this redoubtable and rugged satirist, that he should
thus have befriended and tenderly remembered these little
theatrical waifs, some of whom (as we know) had been literally
kidnapped to be pressed into the service of the theatre and whipped
to the conning of their difficult parts. To the caricature of
Daniel and Munday in "Cynthia's Revels" must be added Anaides
(impudence), here assuredly Marston, and Asotus (the prodigal),
interpreted as Lodge or, more perilously, Raleigh. Crites, like
Asper-Macilente in "Every Man Out of His Humour," is Jonson's
self-complaisant portrait of himself, the just, wholly admirable,
and judicious scholar, holding his head high above the pack of the
yelping curs of envy and detraction, but careless of their puny
attacks on his perfections with only too mindful a neglect.
The third and last of the "comical satires" is "Poetaster," acted,
once more, by the Children of the Chapel in 1601, and Jonson's only
avowed contribution to the fray. According to the author's own
account, this play was written in fifteen weeks on a report that
his enemies had entrusted to Dekker the preparation of
"Satiromastix, the Untrussing of the Humorous Poet," a dramatic
attack upon himself. In this attempt to forestall his enemies
Jonson succeeded, and "Poetaster" was an immediate and deserved
success. While hardly more closely knit in structure than its
earlier companion pieces, "Poetaster" is planned to lead up to the
ludicrous final scene in which, after a device borrowed from the
"Lexiphanes" of Lucian, the offending poetaster, Marston-Crispinus,
is made to throw up the difficult words with which he had
overburdened his stomach as well as overlarded his vocabulary. In
the end Crispinus with his fellow, Dekker-Demetrius, is bound over
to keep the peace and never thenceforward "malign, traduce, or
detract the person or writings of Quintus Horatius Flaccus [Jonson]
or any other eminent man transcending you in merit." One of the
most diverting personages in Jonson's comedy is Captain Tucca.
"His peculiarity" has been well described by Ward as "a buoyant
blackguardism which recovers itself instantaneously from the most
complete exposure, and a picturesqueness of speech like that of a
walking dictionary of slang."
It was this character, Captain Tucca, that Dekker hit upon in his
reply, "Satiromastix," and he amplified him, turning his abusive
vocabulary back upon Jonson and adding "an immodesty to his
dialogue that did not enter into Jonson's conception." It has been
held, altogether plausibly, that when Dekker was engaged
professionally, so to speak, to write a dramatic reply to Jonson,
he was at work on a species of chronicle history, dealing with the
story of Walter Terill in the reign of William Rufus. This he
hurriedly adapted to include the satirical characters suggested by
"Poetaster," and fashioned to convey the satire of his reply. The
absurdity of placing Horace in the court of a Norman king is the
result. But Dekker's play is not without its palpable hits at the
arrogance, the literary pride, and self-righteousness of
Jonson-Horace, whose "ningle" or pal, the absurd Asinius Bubo, has
recently been shown to figure forth, in all likelihood, Jonson's
friend, the poet Drayton. Slight and hastily adapted as is
"Satiromastix," especially in a comparison with the better wrought
and more significant satire of "Poetaster," the town awarded the
palm to Dekker, not to Jonson; and Jonson gave over in consequence
his practice of "comical satire." Though Jonson was cited to
appear before the Lord Chief Justice to answer certain charges to
the effect that he had attacked lawyers and soldiers in
"Poetaster," nothing came of this complaint. It may be suspected
that much of this furious clatter and give-and-take was pure
playing to the gallery. The town was agog with the strife, and on
no less an authority than Shakespeare ("Hamlet," ii. 2), we learn
that the children's company (acting the plays of Jonson) did "so
berattle the common stages...that many, wearing rapiers, are afraid
of goose-quills, and dare scarce come thither."
Several other plays have been thought to bear a greater or less
part in the war of the theatres. Among them the most important is
a college play, entitled "The Return from Parnassus," dating
1601-02. In it a much-quoted passage makes Burbage, as a
character, declare: "Why here's our fellow Shakespeare puts them
all down; aye and Ben Jonson, too. O that Ben Jonson is a
pestilent fellow; he brought up Horace, giving the poets a pill,
but our fellow Shakespeare hath given him a purge that made him
bewray his credit." Was Shakespeare then concerned in this war of
the stages? And what could have been the nature of this "purge"?
Among several suggestions, "Troilus and Cressida" has been thought
by some to be the play in which Shakespeare thus "put down" his
friend, Jonson. A wiser interpretation finds the "purge" in
"Satiromastix," which, though not written by Shakespeare, was
staged by his company, and therefore with his approval and under
his direction as one of the leaders of that company.
The last years of the reign of Elizabeth thus saw Jonson recognised
as a dramatist second only to Shakespeare, and not second even to
him as a dramatic satirist. But Jonson now turned his talents to
new fields. Plays on subjects derived from classical story and
myth had held the stage from the beginning of the drama, so that
Shakespeare was making no new departure when he wrote his "Julius
Caesar" about 1600. Therefore when Jonson staged "Sejanus," three
years later and with Shakespeare's company once more, he was only
following in the elder dramatist's footsteps. But Jonson's idea of
a play on classical history, on the one hand, and Shakespeare's and
the elder popular dramatists, on the other, were very different.
Heywood some years before had put five straggling plays on the
stage in quick succession, all derived from stories in Ovid and
dramatised with little taste or discrimination. Shakespeare had a
finer conception of form, but even he was contented to take all his
ancient history from North's translation of Plutarch and dramatise
his subject without further inquiry. Jonson was a scholar and a
classical antiquarian. He reprobated this slipshod amateurishness,
and wrote his "Sejanus" like a scholar, reading Tacitus, Suetonius,
and other authorities, to be certain of his facts, his setting, and
his atmosphere, and somewhat pedantically noting his authorities in
the margin when he came to print. "Sejanus" is a tragedy of
genuine dramatic power in which is told with discriminating taste
the story of the haughty favourite of Tiberius with his tragical
overthrow. Our drama presents no truer nor more painstaking
representation of ancient Roman life than may be found in Jonson's
"Sejanus" and "Catiline his Conspiracy," which followed in 1611. A
passage in the address of the former play to the reader, in which
Jonson refers to a collaboration in an earlier version, has led to
the surmise that Shakespeare may have been that "worthier pen."
There is no evidence to determine the matter.
In 1605, we find Jonson in active collaboration with Chapman and
Marston in the admirable comedy of London life entitled "Eastward
Hoe." In the previous year, Marston had dedicated his
"Malcontent," in terms of fervid admiration, to Jonson; so that the
wounds of the war of the theatres must have been long since healed.
Between Jonson and Chapman there was the kinship of similar
scholarly ideals. The two continued friends throughout life.
"Eastward Hoe" achieved the extraordinary popularity represented in
a demand for three issues in one year. But this was not due
entirely to the merits of the play. In its earliest version a
passage which an irritable courtier conceived to be derogatory to
his nation, the Scots, sent both Chapman and Jonson to jail; but
the matter was soon patched up, for by this time Jonson had
influence at court.
With the accession of King James, Jonson began his long and
successful career as a writer of masques. He wrote more masques
than all his competitors together, and they are of an extraordinary
variety and poetic excellence. Jonson did not invent the masque;
for such premeditated devices to set and frame, so to speak, a
court ball had been known and practised in varying degrees of
elaboration long before his time. But Jonson gave dramatic value
to the masque, especially in his invention of the antimasque, a
comedy or farcical element of relief, entrusted to professional
players or dancers. He enhanced, as well, the beauty and dignity
of those portions of the masque in which noble lords and ladies
took their parts to create, by their gorgeous costumes and artistic
grouping and evolutions, a sumptuous show. On the mechanical and
scenic side Jonson had an inventive and ingenious partner in Inigo
Jones, the royal architect, who more than any one man raised the
standard of stage representation in the England of his day. Jonson
continued active in the service of the court in the writing of
masques and other entertainments far into the reign of King
Charles; but, towards the end, a quarrel with Jones embittered his
life, and the two testy old men appear to have become not only a
constant irritation to each other, but intolerable bores at court.
In "Hymenaei," "The Masque of Queens," "Love Freed from Ignorance,"
"Lovers made Men," "Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue," and many more
will be found Jonson's aptitude, his taste, his poetry and
inventiveness in these by-forms of the drama; while in "The Masque
of Christmas," and "The Gipsies Metamorphosed" especially, is
discoverable that power of broad comedy which, at court as well as
in the city, was not the least element of Jonson's contemporary
But Jonson had by no means given up the popular stage when he
turned to the amusement of King James. In 1605 "Volpone" was
produced, "The Silent Woman" in 1609, "The Alchemist" in the
following year. These comedies, with "Bartholomew Fair," 1614,
represent Jonson at his height, and for constructive cleverness,
character successfully conceived in the manner of caricature, wit
and brilliancy of dialogue, they stand alone in English drama.
"Volpone, or the Fox," is, in a sense, a transition play from the
dramatic satires of the war of the theatres to the purer comedy
represented in the plays named above. Its subject is a struggle of
wit applied to chicanery; for among its dramatis personae, from
the villainous Fox himself, his rascally servant Mosca, Voltore
(the vulture), Corbaccio and Corvino (the big and the little
raven), to Sir Politic Would-be and the rest, there is scarcely a
virtuous character in the play. Question has been raised as to
whether a story so forbidding can be considered a comedy, for,
although the plot ends in the discomfiture and imprisonment of the
most vicious, it involves no mortal catastrophe. But Jonson was on
sound historical ground, for "Volpone" is conceived far more
logically on the lines of the ancients' theory of comedy than was
ever the romantic drama of Shakespeare, however repulsive we may
find a philosophy of life that facilely divides the world into the
rogues and their dupes, and, identifying brains with roguery and
innocence with folly, admires the former while inconsistently
"The Silent Woman" is a gigantic farce of the most ingenious
construction. The whole comedy hinges on a huge joke, played by a
heartless nephew on his misanthropic uncle, who is induced to take
to himself a wife, young, fair, and warranted silent, but who, in
the end, turns out neither silent nor a woman at all. In "The
Alchemist," again, we have the utmost cleverness in construction,
the whole fabric building climax on climax, witty, ingenious, and
so plausibly presented that we forget its departures from the
possibilities of life. In "The Alchemist" Jonson represented, none
the less to the life, certain sharpers of the metropolis, revelling
in their shrewdness and rascality and in the variety of the
stupidity and wickedness of their victims. We may object to the
fact that the only person in the play possessed of a scruple of
honesty is discomfited, and that the greatest scoundrel of all is
approved in the end and rewarded. The comedy is so admirably
written and contrived, the personages stand out with such lifelike
distinctness in their several kinds, and the whole is animated with
such verve and resourcefulness that "The Alchemist" is a new marvel
every time it is read. Lastly of this group comes the tremendous
comedy, "Bartholomew Fair," less clear cut, less definite, and less
structurally worthy of praise than its three predecessors, but full
of the keenest and cleverest of satire and inventive to a degree
beyond any English comedy save some other of Jonson's own. It is
in "Bartholomew Fair" that we are presented to the immortal
caricature of the Puritan, Zeal-in-the-Land Busy, and the
Littlewits that group about him, and it is in this extraordinary
comedy that the humour of Jonson, always open to this danger,
loosens into the Rabelaisian mode that so delighted King James in
"The Gipsies Metamorphosed." Another comedy of less merit is "The
Devil is an Ass," acted in 1616. It was the failure of this play
that caused Jonson to give over writing for the public stage for a
period of nearly ten years.
"Volpone" was laid as to scene in Venice. Whether because of the
success of "Eastward Hoe" or for other reasons, the other three
comedies declare in the words of the prologue to "The Alchemist":
"Our scene is London, 'cause we would make known
No country's mirth is better than our own."
Indeed Jonson went further when he came to revise his plays for
collected publication in his folio of 1616, he transferred the
scene of "Every Man in His Humour" from Florence to London also,
converting Signior Lorenzo di Pazzi to Old Kno'well, Prospero to
Master Welborn, and Hesperida to Dame Kitely "dwelling i' the Old
In his comedies of London life, despite his trend towards
caricature, Jonson has shown himself a genuine realist, drawing
from the life about him with an experience and insight rare in any
generation. A happy comparison has been suggested between Ben
Jonson and Charles Dickens. Both were men of the people, lowly
born and hardly bred. Each knew the London of his time as few men
knew it; and each represented it intimately and in elaborate
detail. Both men were at heart moralists, seeking the truth by the
exaggerated methods of humour and caricature; perverse, even
wrong-headed at times, but possessed of a true pathos and largeness
of heart, and when all has been said -- though the Elizabethan ran
to satire, the Victorian to sentimentality -- leaving the world
better for the art that they practised in it.
In 1616, the year of the death of Shakespeare, Jonson collected his
plays, his poetry, and his masques for publication in a collective
edition. This was an unusual thing at the time and had been
attempted by no dramatist before Jonson. This volume published, in
a carefully revised text, all the plays thus far mentioned,
excepting "The Case is Altered," which Jonson did not acknowledge,
"Bartholomew Fair," and "The Devil is an Ass," which was written
too late. It included likewise a book of some hundred and thirty
odd "Epigrams," in which form of brief and pungent writing Jonson
was an acknowledged master; "The Forest," a smaller collection of
lyric and occasional verse and some ten "Masques" and
"Entertainments." In this same year Jonson was made poet laureate
with a pension of one hundred marks a year. This, with his fees
and returns from several noblemen, and the small earnings of his
plays must have formed the bulk of his income. The poet appears to
have done certain literary hack-work for others, as, for example,
parts of the Punic Wars contributed to Raleigh's "History of the
World." We know from a story, little to the credit of either, that
Jonson accompanied Raleigh's son abroad in the capacity of a tutor.
In 1618 Jonson was granted the reversion of the office of Master of
the Revels, a post for which he was peculiarly fitted; but he did
not live to enjoy its perquisites. Jonson was honoured with
degrees by both universities, though when and under what
circumstances is not known. It has been said that he narrowly
escaped the honour of knighthood, which the satirists of the day
averred King James was wont to lavish with an indiscriminate hand.
Worse men were made knights in his day than worthy Ben Jonson.
From 1616 to the close of the reign of King James, Jonson produced
nothing for the stage. But he "prosecuted" what he calls "his
wonted studies" with such assiduity that he became in reality, as
by report, one of the most learned men of his time. Jonson's
theory of authorship involved a wide acquaintance with books and
"an ability," as he put it, "to convert the substance or riches of
another poet to his own use." Accordingly Jonson read not only the
Greek and Latin classics down to the lesser writers, but he
acquainted himself especially with the Latin writings of his
learned contemporaries, their prose as well as their poetry, their
antiquities and curious lore as well as their more solid learning.
Though a poor man, Jonson was an indefatigable collector of books.
He told Drummond that "the Earl of Pembroke sent him 20 pounds every
first day of the new year to buy new books." Unhappily, in 1623,
his library was destroyed by fire, an accident serio-comically
described in his witty poem, "An Execration upon Vulcan." Yet even
now a book turns up from time to time in which is inscribed, in
fair large Italian lettering, the name, Ben Jonson. With respect
to Jonson's use of his material, Dryden said memorably of him:
"[He] was not only a professed imitator of Horace, but a learned
plagiary of all the others; you track him everywhere in their
snow....But he has done his robberies so openly that one sees he
fears not to be taxed by any law. He invades authors like a
monarch, and what would be theft in other poets is only victory in
him." And yet it is but fair to say that Jonson prided himself,
and justly, on his originality. In "Catiline," he not only uses
Sallust's account of the conspiracy, but he models some of the
speeches of Cicero on the Roman orator's actual words. In
"Poetaster," he lifts a whole satire out of Horace and dramatises
it effectively for his purposes. The sophist Libanius suggests the
situation of "The Silent Woman"; a Latin comedy of Giordano Bruno,
"Il Candelaio," the relation of the dupes and the sharpers in "The
Alchemist," the "Mostellaria" of Plautus, its admirable opening
scene. But Jonson commonly bettered his sources, and putting the
stamp of his sovereignty on whatever bullion he borrowed made it
thenceforward to all time current and his own.
The lyric and especially the occasional poetry of Jonson has a
peculiar merit. His theory demanded design and the perfection of
literary finish. He was furthest from the rhapsodist and the
careless singer of an idle day; and he believed that Apollo could
only be worthily served in singing robes and laurel crowned. And
yet many of Jonson's lyrics will live as long as the language. Who
does not know "Queen and huntress, chaste and fair." "Drink to me
only with thine eyes," or "Still to be neat, still to be dressed"?
Beautiful in form, deft and graceful in expression, with not a word
too much or one that bears not its part in the total effect, there
is yet about the lyrics of Jonson a certain stiffness and
formality, a suspicion that they were not quite spontaneous and
unbidden, but that they were carved, so to speak, with
disproportionate labour by a potent man of letters whose habitual
thought is on greater things. It is for these reasons that Jonson
is even better in the epigram and in occasional verse where
rhetorical finish and pointed wit less interfere with the
spontaneity and emotion which we usually associate with lyrical
poetry. There are no such epitaphs as Ben Jonson's, witness the
charming ones on his own children, on Salathiel Pavy, the
child-actor, and many more; and this even though the rigid law of
mine and thine must now restore to William Browne of Tavistock the
famous lines beginning: "Underneath this sable hearse." Jonson is
unsurpassed, too, in the difficult poetry of compliment, seldom
falling into fulsome praise and disproportionate similitude, yet
showing again and again a generous appreciation of worth in others,
a discriminating taste and a generous personal regard. There was
no man in England of his rank so well known and universally beloved
as Ben Jonson. The list of his friends, of those to whom he had
written verses, and those who had written verses to him, includes
the name of every man of prominence in the England of King James.
And the tone of many of these productions discloses an affectionate
familiarity that speaks for the amiable personality and sound worth
of the laureate. In 1619, growing unwieldy through inactivity,
Jonson hit upon the heroic remedy of a journey afoot to Scotland.
On his way thither and back he was hospitably received at the
houses of many friends and by those to whom his friends had
recommended him. When he arrived in Edinburgh, the burgesses met
to grant him the freedom of the city, and Drummond, foremost of
Scottish poets, was proud to entertain him for weeks as his guest
at Hawthornden. Some of the noblest of Jonson's poems were
inspired by friendship. Such is the fine "Ode to the memory of Sir
Lucius Cary and Sir Henry Moryson," and that admirable piece of
critical insight and filial affection, prefixed to the first
Shakespeare folio, "To the memory of my beloved master, William
Shakespeare, and what he hath left us," to mention only these. Nor
can the earlier "Epode," beginning "Not to know vice at all," be
matched in stately gravity and gnomic wisdom in its own wise and
But if Jonson had deserted the stage after the publication of his
folio and up to the end of the reign of King James, he was far from
inactive; for year after year his inexhaustible inventiveness
continued to contribute to the masquing and entertainment at court.
In "The Golden Age Restored," Pallas turns the Iron Age with
its attendant evils into statues which sink out of sight; in
"Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue," Atlas figures represented as an
old man, his shoulders covered with snow, and Comus, "the god of
cheer or the belly," is one of the characters, a circumstance which
an imaginative boy of ten, named John Milton, was not to forget.
"Pan's Anniversary," late in the reign of James, proclaimed that
Jonson had not yet forgotten how to write exquisite lyrics, and
"The Gipsies Metamorphosed" displayed the old drollery and broad
humorous stroke still unimpaired and unmatchable. These, too, and
the earlier years of Charles were the days of the Apollo Room of
the Devil Tavern where Jonson presided, the absolute monarch of
English literary Bohemia. We hear of a room blazoned about with
Jonson's own judicious "Leges Convivales" in letters of gold, of a
company made up of the choicest spirits of the time, devotedly
attached to their veteran dictator, his reminiscences, opinions,
affections, and enmities. And we hear, too, of valorous potations;
but in the words of Herrick addressed to his master, Jonson, at the
Devil Tavern, as at the Dog, the Triple Tun, and at the Mermaid,
"We such clusters had
As made us nobly wild, not mad,
And yet each verse of thine
Outdid the meat, outdid the frolic wine."
But the patronage of the court failed in the days of King Charles,
though Jonson was not without royal favours; and the old poet
returned to the stage, producing, between 1625 and 1633, "The
Staple of News," "The New Inn," "The Magnetic Lady," and "The Tale
of a Tub," the last doubtless revised from a much earlier comedy.
None of these plays met with any marked success, although the
scathing generalisation of Dryden that designated them "Jonson's
dotages" is unfair to their genuine merits. Thus the idea of an
office for the gathering, proper dressing, and promulgation of news
(wild flight of the fancy in its time) was an excellent subject for
satire on the existing absurdities among newsmongers; although
as much can hardly be said for "The Magnetic Lady," who, in her
bounty, draws to her personages of differing humours to reconcile
them in the end according to the alternative title, or "Humours
Reconciled." These last plays of the old dramatist revert to
caricature and the hard lines of allegory; the moralist is more
than ever present, the satire degenerates into personal lampoon,
especially of his sometime friend, Inigo Jones, who appears
unworthily to have used his influence at court against the
broken-down old poet. And now disease claimed Jonson, and he was
bedridden for months. He had succeeded Middleton in 1628 as
Chronologer to the City of London, but lost the post for not
fulfilling its duties. King Charles befriended him, and even
commissioned him to write still for the entertainment of the court;
and he was not without the sustaining hand of noble patrons and
devoted friends among the younger poets who were proud to be
"sealed of the tribe of Ben."
Jonson died, August 6, 1637, and a second folio of his works, which
he had been some time gathering, was printed in 1640, bearing in
its various parts dates ranging from 1630 to 1642. It included all
the plays mentioned in the foregoing paragraphs, excepting "The
Case is Altered;" the masques, some fifteen, that date between 1617
and 1630; another collection of lyrics and occasional poetry called
"Underwoods, including some further entertainments; a translation
of "Horace's Art of Poetry" (also published in a vicesimo quarto in
1640), and certain fragments and ingatherings which the poet would
hardly have included himself. These last comprise the fragment
(less than seventy lines) of a tragedy called "Mortimer his Fall,"
and three acts of a pastoral drama of much beauty and poetic
spirit, "The Sad Shepherd." There is also the exceedingly
interesting "English Grammar" "made by Ben Jonson for the benefit
of all strangers out of his observation of the English language now
spoken and in use," in Latin and English; and "Timber, or
Discoveries" "made upon men and matter as they have flowed out of
his daily reading, or had their reflux to his peculiar notion of
the times." The "Discoveries," as it is usually called, is a
commonplace book such as many literary men have kept, in which
their reading was chronicled, passages that took their fancy
translated or transcribed, and their passing opinions noted. Many
passages of Jonson's "Discoveries" are literal translations from the
authors he chanced to be reading, with the reference, noted or not,
as the accident of the moment prescribed. At times he follows the
line of Macchiavelli's argument as to the nature and conduct of
princes; at others he clarifies his own conception of poetry and
poets by recourse to Aristotle. He finds a choice paragraph on
eloquence in Seneca the elder and applies it to his own
recollection of Bacon's power as an orator; and another on facile
and ready genius, and translates it, adapting it to his
recollection of his fellow-playwright, Shakespeare. To call such
passages -- which Jonson never intended for publication --
plagiarism, is to obscure the significance of words. To disparage
his memory by citing them is a preposterous use of scholarship.
Jonson's prose, both in his dramas, in the descriptive comments of
his masques, and in the "Discoveries," is characterised by clarity
and vigorous directness, nor is it wanting in a fine sense of form
or in the subtler graces of diction.
When Jonson died there was a project for a handsome monument to his
memory. But the Civil War was at hand, and the project failed. A
memorial, not insufficient, was carved on the stone covering his
grave in one of the aisles of Westminster Abbey:
"O rare Ben Jonson."
FELIX E. SCHELLING.
The following is a complete list of his published works: --
Every Man in his Humour, 4to, 1601;
The Case is Altered, 4to, 1609;
Every Man out of his Humour, 4to, 1600;
Cynthia's Revels, 4to, 1601;
Poetaster, 4to, 1602;
Sejanus, 4to, 1605;
Eastward Ho (with Chapman and Marston), 4to, 1605;
Volpone, 4to, 1607;
Epicoene, or the Silent Woman, 4to, 1609 (?), fol., 1616;
The Alchemist, 4to, 1612;
Catiline, his Conspiracy, 4to, 1611;
Bartholomew Fayre, 4to, 1614 (?), fol., 1631;
The Divell is an Asse, fol., 1631;
The Staple of Newes, fol., 1631;
The New Sun, 8vo, 1631, fol., 1692;
The Magnetic Lady, or Humours Reconcild, fol., 1640;
A Tale of a Tub, fol., 1640;
The Sad Shepherd, or a Tale of Robin Hood, fol., 1641;
Mortimer his Fall (fragment), fol., 1640.
To Jonson have also been attributed additions to Kyd's Jeronymo,
and collaboration in The Widow with Fletcher and Middleton, and
in the Bloody Brother with Fletcher.
Epigrams, The Forrest, Underwoods, published in fols., 1616, 1640;
Selections: Execration against Vulcan, and Epigrams, 1640;
G. Hor. Flaccus his art of Poetry, Englished by Ben Jonson, 1640;
Leges Convivialis, fol., 1692.
Other minor poems first appeared in Gifford's edition of Works.
Timber, or Discoveries made upon Men and Matter, fol., 1641;
The English Grammar, made by Ben Jonson for the benefit of
Strangers, fol., 1640.
Masques and Entertainments were published in the early folios.
Fol., 1616, volume. 2, 1640 (1631-41);
fol., 1692, 1716-19, 1729;
edited by P. Whalley, 7 volumes., 1756;
by Gifford (with Memoir), 9 volumes., 1816, 1846;
re-edited by F. Cunningham, 3 volumes., 1871;
in 9 volumes., 1875;
by Barry Cornwall (with Memoir), 1838;
by B. Nicholson (Mermaid Series), with Introduction by
C. H. Herford, 1893, etc.;
Nine Plays, 1904;
ed. H. C. Hart (Standard Library), 1906, etc;
Plays and Poems, with Introduction by H. Morley (Universal
Plays (7) and Poems (Newnes), 1905;
Poems, with Memoir by H. Bennett (Carlton Classics), 1907;
Masques and Entertainments, ed. by H. Morley, 1890.
J. A. Symonds, with Biographical and Critical Essay,
(Canterbury Poets), 1886;
Grosart, Brave Translunary Things, 1895;
Arber, Jonson Anthology, 1901;
Underwoods, Cambridge University Press, 1905;
Lyrics (Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher), the Chap Books,
No. 4, 1906;
Songs (from Plays, Masques, etc.), with earliest known
setting, Eragny Press, 1906.
See Memoirs affixed to Works;
J. A. Symonds (English Worthies), 1886;
Notes of Ben Jonson Conversations with Drummond of Hawthornden;
Shakespeare Society, 1842;
ed. with Introduction and Notes by P. Sidney, 1906;
Swinburne, A Study of Ben Jonson, 1889.
BEN JONSON'S PLAYS
EPICOENE; OR, THE SILENT WOMAN
BY BEN JONSON
BEN JONSON'S PLAYS
EPICOENE; OR, THE SILENT WOMAN BY BEN JONSON
TO THE TRULY NOBLE BY ALL TITLES
SIR FRANCIS STUART
My hope is not so nourished by example, as it will conclude,
this dumb piece should please you, because it hath pleased
others before; but by trust, that when you have read it,
you will find it worthy to have displeased none. This makes
that I now number you, not only in the names of favour, but
the names of justice to what I write; and do presently call
you to the exercise of that noblest, and manliest virtue;
as coveting rather to be freed in my fame, by the authority
of a judge, than the credit of an undertaker. Read,
therefore, I pray you, and censure. There is not a line, or
syllable in it, changed from the simplicity of the first
copy. And, when you shall consider, through the certain
hatred of some, how much a man's innocency may be endangered
by an uncertain accusation; you will, I doubt not, so begin
to hate the iniquity of such natures, as I shall love the
contumely done me, whose end was so honourable as to be
wiped off by your sentence.
Your unprofitable, but true Lover,
MOROSE, a Gentleman that loves no noise.
SIR DAUPHINE EUGENIE, a Knight, his Nephew.
NED CLERIMONT, a Gentleman, his Friend.
TRUEWIT, another Friend.
SIR JOHN DAW, a Knight.
SIR AMOROUS LA-FOOLE, a Knight also.
THOMAS OTTER, a Land and Sea Captain.
CUTBEARD, a Barber.
MUTE, one of MOROSE's Servants.
Page to CLERIMONT.
EPICOENE, supposed the Silent Woman.
LADY HAUGHTY, LADY CENTAURE, MISTRESS DOL MAVIS,
MISTRESS OTTER, the Captain's Wife, MISTRESS TRUSTY,
LADY HAUGHTY'S Woman, Pretenders.
Pages, Servants, etc.
SCENE -- LONDON.
Truth says, of old the art of making plays
Was to content the people; and their praise
Was to the poet money, wine, and bays.
But in this age, a sect of writers are,
That, only, for particular likings care,
And will taste nothing that is popular.
With such we mingle neither brains nor breasts;
Our wishes, like to those make public feasts,
Are not to please the cook's taste, but the guests'.
Yet, if those cunning palates hither come,
They shall find guests' entreaty, and good room;
And though all relish not, sure there will be some,
That, when they leave their seats, shall make them say,
Who wrote that piece, could so have wrote a play,
But that he knew this was the better way.
For, to present all custard, or all tart,
And have no other meats, to bear a part.
Or to want bread, and salt, were but course art.
The poet prays you then, with better thought
To sit; and, when his cates are all in brought,
Though there be none far-fet, there will dear-bought,
Be fit for ladies: some for lords, knights, 'squires;
Some for your waiting-wench, and city-wires;
Some for your men, and daughters of Whitefriars.
Nor is it, only, while you keep your seat
Here, that his feast will last; but you shall eat
A week at ord'naries, on his broken meat:
If his muse be true,
Who commends her to you.
The ends of all, who for the scene do write,
Are, or should be, to profit and delight.
And still't hath been the praise of all best times,
So persons were not touch'd, to tax the crimes.
Then, in this play, which we present to-night,
And make the object of your ear and sight,
On forfeit of yourselves, think nothing true:
Lest so you make the maker to judge you,
For he knows, poet never credit gain'd
By writing truths, but things (like truths) well feign'd.
If any yet will, with particular sleight
Of application, wrest what he doth write;
And that he meant, or him, or her, will say:
They make a libel, which he made a play.
ACT 1. SCENE 1.1.
A ROOM IN CLERIMONT'S HOUSE.
ENTER CLERIMONT, MAKING HIMSELF READY, FOLLOWED BY HIS PAGE.
CLER: Have you got the song yet perfect, I gave you, boy?
PAGE: Yes, sir.
CLER: Let me hear it.
PAGE: You shall, sir, but i'faith let nobody else.
CLER: Why, I pray?
PAGE: It will get you the dangerous name of a poet in town, sir;
besides me a perfect deal of ill-will at the mansion you wot of,
whose lady is the argument of it; where now I am the welcomest
thing under a man that comes there.
CLER: I think, and above a man too, if the truth were rack'd out
PAGE: No, faith, I'll confess before, sir. The gentlewomen play with
me, and throw me on the bed; and carry me in to my lady; and she
kisses me with her oil'd face; and puts a peruke on my head; and
asks me an I will wear her gown? and I say, no: and then she
hits me a blow o' the ear, and calls me Innocent! and lets me go.
CLER: No marvel if the door be kept shut against your master, when
the entrance is so easy to you--well sir, you shall go there no
more, lest I be fain to seek your voice in my lady's rushes, a
fortnight hence. Sing, sir.
PAGE [SINGS]: Still to be neat, still to be drest--
TRUE: Why, here's the man that can melt away his time and never
feels it! What between his mistress abroad, and his ingle at
home, high fare, soft lodging, fine clothes, and his fiddle; he
thinks the hours have no wings, or the day no post-horse. Well,
sir gallant, were you struck with the plague this minute, or
condemn'd to any capital punishment to-morrow, you would begin
then to think, and value every article of your time, esteem it
at the true rate, and give all for it.
CLER: Why what should a man do?
TRUE: Why, nothing; or that which, when it is done, is as idle.
Harken after the next horse-race or hunting-match; lay wagers,
praise Puppy, or Pepper-corn, White-foot, Franklin; swear upon
Whitemane's party; speak aloud, that my lords may hear you;
visit my ladies at night, and be able to give them the character
of every bowler or better on the green. These be the things
wherein your fashionable men exercise themselves, and I for
CLER: Nay, if I have thy authority, I'll not leave yet. Come,
the other are considerations, when we come to have gray heads
and weak hams, moist eyes and shrunk members. We'll think on
'em then; and we'll pray and fast.
TRUE: Ay, and destine only that time of age to goodness, which our
want of ability will not let us employ in evil!
CLER: Why, then 'tis time enough.
TRUE: Yes; as if a man should sleep all the term, and think to
effect his business the last day. O, Clerimont, this time, because
it is an incorporeal thing, and not subject to sense, we mock
ourselves the fineliest out of it, with vanity and misery
indeed! not seeking an end of wretchedness, but only changing the
CLER: Nay, thou wilt not leave now--
TRUE: See but our common disease! with what justice can we complain,
that great men will not look upon us, nor be at leisure to give
our affairs such dispatch as we expect, when we will never do it
to ourselves? nor hear, nor regard ourselves?
CLER: Foh! thou hast read Plutarch's morals, now, or some such
tedious fellow; and it shews so vilely with thee! 'fore God, 'twill
spoil thy wit utterly. Talk me of pins, and feathers, and
ladies, and rushes, and such things: and leave this Stoicity
alone, till thou mak'st sermons.
TRUE: Well, sir; if it will not take, I have learn'd to lose as
little of my kindness as I can. I'll do good to no man against his
will, certainly. When were you at the college?
CLER: What college?
TRUE: As if you knew not!
CLER: No faith, I came but from court yesterday.
TRUE: Why, is it not arrived there yet, the news? A new foundation,
sir, here in the town, of ladies, that call themselves the
collegiates, an order between courtiers and country-madams,
that live from their husbands; and give entertainment to all the
wits, and braveries of the time, as they call them: cry down, or
up, what they like or dislike in a brain or a fashion, with most
masculine, or rather hermaphroditical authority; and every day
gain to their college some new probationer.
CLER: Who is the president?
TRUE: The grave, and youthful matron, the lady Haughty.
CLER: A pox of her autumnal face, her pieced beauty! there's no man
can be admitted till she be ready, now-a-days, till she has
painted, and perfumed, and wash'd, and scour'd, but the boy here;
and him she wipes her oil'd lips upon, like a sponge. I have made
a song, I pray thee hear it, on the subject.
Still to be neat, still to be drest,
As you were going to a feast;
Still to be powder'd, still perfum'd;
Lady, it is to be presumed,
Though art's hid causes are not found,
All is not sweet, all is not sound.
Give me a look, give me a face,
That makes simplicity a grace;
Robes loosely flowing, hair as free:
Such sweet neglect more taketh me,
Then all the adulteries of art;
They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.
TRUE: And I am clearly on the other side: I love a good dressing
before any beauty o' the world. O, a woman is then like a
delicate garden; nor is there one kind of it; she may vary every
hour; take often counsel of her glass, and choose the best. If
she have good ears, shew them; good hair, lay it out; good
legs, wear short clothes; a good hand, discover it often;
practise any art to mend breath, cleanse teeth, repair eye-brows;
paint, and profess it.
CLER: How? publicly?
TRUE: The doing of it, not the manner: that must be private. Many
things that seem foul in the doing, do please done. A lady
should, indeed, study her face, when we think she sleeps; nor,
when the doors are shut, should men be enquiring; all is sacred
within, then. Is it for us to see their perukes put on, their
false teeth, their complexion, their eye-brows, their nails? You
see guilders will not work, but inclosed. They must not discover
how little serves, with the help of art, to adorn a great deal.
How long did the canvas hang afore Aldgate? Were the people
suffered to see the city's Love and Charity, while they were rude
stone, before they were painted and burnish'd? No: no more should
Servants approach their mistresses, but when they are complete and
CLER: Well said, my Truewit.
TRUE: And a wise lady will keep a guard always upon the place, that
she may do things securely. I once followed a rude fellow into a
chamber, where the poor madam, for haste, and troubled, snatch'd
at her peruke to cover her baldness; and put it on the wrong way.
CLER: O prodigy!
TRUE: And the unconscionable knave held her in complement an hour
with that reverst face, when I still look'd when she should talk
from the t'other side.
CLER: Why, thou shouldst have relieved her.
TRUE: No, faith, I let her alone, as we'll let this argument, if you
please, and pass to another. When saw you Dauphine Eugenie?
CLER: Not these three days. Shall we go to him this morning? he is
very melancholy, I hear.
TRUE: Sick of the uncle? is he? I met that stiff piece of
formality, his uncle, yesterday, with a huge turban of night-caps
on his head, buckled over his ears.
CLER: O, that's his custom when he walks abroad. He can endure no
TRUE: So I have heard. But is the disease so ridiculous in him as it
is made? They say he has been upon divers treaties with the
fish-wives and orange-women; and articles propounded between
them: marry, the chimney-sweepers will not be drawn in.
CLER: No, nor the broom-men: they stand out stiffly. He cannot
endure a costard-monger, he swoons if he hear one.
TRUE: Methinks a smith should be ominous.
CLER: Or any hammer-man. A brasier is not suffer'd to dwell in the
parish, nor an armourer. He would have hang'd a pewterer's prentice
once on a Shrove-tuesday's riot, for being of that trade, when the
rest were quit.
TRUE: A trumpet should fright him terribly, or the hautboys.
CLER: Out of his senses. The waights of the city have a pension of
him not to come near that ward. This youth practised on him one
night like the bell-man; and never left till he had brought him
down to the door with a long-sword: and there left him
flourishing with the air.
PAGE: Why, sir, he hath chosen a street to lie in so narrow at both
ends, that it will receive no coaches, nor carts, nor any of these
common noises: and therefore we that love him, devise to bring him
in such as we may, now and then, for his exercise, to breathe him.
He would grow resty else in his ease: his virtue would rust without
action. I entreated a bearward, one day, to come down with the
dogs of some four parishes that way, and I thank him he did;
and cried his games under master Morose's window: till he was
sent crying away, with his head made a most bleeding spectacle to
the multitude. And, another time, a fencer marchng to his prize, had
his drum most tragically run through, for taking that street in his
way at my request.
TRUE: A good wag! How does he for the bells?
CLER: O, in the Queen's time, he was wont to go out of town every
Saturday at ten o'clock, or on holy day eves. But now, by reason of
the sickness, the perpetuity of ringing has made him devise a
room, with double walls, and treble ceilings; the windows close
shut and caulk'd: and there he lives by candlelight. He turn'd away
a man, last week, for having a pair of new shoes that creak'd.
And this fellow waits on him now in tennis-court socks, or slippers
soled with wool: and they talk each to other in a trunk. See, who
[ENTER SIR DAUPHINE EUGENIE.]
DAUP: How now! what ail you sirs? dumb?
TRUE: Struck into stone, almost, I am here, with tales o' thine
uncle. There was never such a prodigy heard of.
DAUP: I would you would once lose this subject, my masters, for my
sake. They are such as you are, that have brought me into that
predicament I am with him.
TRUE: How is that?
DAUP: Marry, that he will disinherit me; no more. He thinks, I and
my company are authors of all the ridiculous Acts and Monuments are
told of him.
TRUE: S'lid, I would be the author of more to vex him; that purpose
deserves it: it gives thee law of plaguing him. I will tell thee
what I would do. I would make a false almanack; get it printed:
and then have him drawn out on a coronation day to the Tower-wharf,
and kill him with the noise of the ordnance. Disinherit thee! he
cannot, man. Art not thou next of blood, and his sister's son?
DAUP: Ay, but he will thrust me out of it, he vows, and marry.
TRUE: How! that's a more portent. Can he endure no noise, and will
venture on a wife?
CLER: Yes: why thou art a stranger, it seems, to his best trick,
yet. He has employed a fellow this half year all over England to
hearken him out a dumb woman; be she of any form, or any
quality, so she be able to bear children: her silence is dowry
enough, he says.
TRUE: But I trust to God he has found none.
CLER: No; but he has heard of one that is lodged in the next street
to him, who is exceedingly soft-spoken; thrifty of her speech; that
spends but six words a day. And her he's about now, and shall have
TRUE: Is't possible! who is his agent in the business?
CLER: Marry a barber; one Cutbeard; an honest fellow, one that
tells Dauphine all here.
TRUE: Why you oppress me with wonder: a woman, and a barber, and
love no noise!
CLER: Yes, faith. The fellow trims him silently, and has not the
knack with his sheers or his fingers: and that continence in a
barber he thinks so eminent a virtue, as it has made him chief of
TRUE: Is the barber to be seen, or the wench?
CLER: Yes, that they are.
TRUE: I prithee, Dauphine, let us go thither.
DAUP: I have some business now: I cannot, i'faith.
TRUE: You shall have no business shall make you neglect this, sir;
we'll make her talk, believe it; or, if she will not, we can give
out at least so much as shall interrupt the treaty; we will break
it. Thou art bound in conscience, when he suspects thee without
cause, to torment him.
DAUP: Not I, by any means. I will give no suffrage to't. He shall
never have that plea against me, that I opposed the least phant'sy
of his. Let it lie upon my stars to be guilty, I'll be innocent.
TRUE: Yes, and be poor, and beg; do, innocent: when some groom of
his has got him an heir, or this barber, if he himself cannot.
Innocent!--I prithee, Ned, where lies she? let him be innocent
CLER: Why, right over against the barber's; in the house where
sir John Daw lies.
TRUE: You do not mean to confound me!
TRUE: Does he that would marry her know so much?
CLER: I cannot tell.
TRUE: 'Twere enough of imputation to her with him.
TRUE: The only talking sir in the town! Jack Daw! and he teach her
not to speak!--God be wi' you. I have some business too.
CLER: Will you not go thither, then?
TRUE: Not with the danger to meet Daw, for mine ears.
CLER: Why? I thought you two had been upon very good terms.
TRUE: Yes, of keeping distance.
CLER: They say, he is a very good scholar.
TRUE: Ay, and he says it first. A pox on him, a fellow that
pretends only to learning, buys titles, and nothing else of
books in him!
CLER: The world reports him to be very learned.
TRUE: I am sorry the world should so conspire to belie him.
CLER: Good faith, I have heard very good things come from him.
TRUE: You may; there's none so desperately ignorant to deny that:
would they were his own! God be wi' you, gentleman.
CLER: This is very abrupt!
DAUP: Come, you are a strange open man, to tell every thing thus.
CLER: Why, believe it, Dauphine, Truewit's a very honest fellow.
DAUP: I think no other: but this frank nature of his is not for
CLER: Nay, then, you are mistaken, Dauphine: I know where he has been
well trusted, and discharged the trust very truly, and heartily.
DAUP: I contend not, Ned; but with the fewer a business is carried,
it is ever the safer. Now we are alone, if you will go thither, I
am for you.
CLER: When were you there?
DAUP: Last night: and such a Decameron of sport fallen out! Boccace
never thought of the like. Daw does nothing but court her; and the
wrong way. He would lie with her, and praises her modesty; desires
that she would talk and be free, and commends her silence in
verses: which he reads, and swears are the best that ever man
made. Then rails at his fortunes, stamps, and mutines, why he is
not made a counsellor, and call'd to affairs of state.
CLER: I prithee let's go. I would fain partake this. Some water,
DAUP: We are invited to dinner together, he and I, by one that came
thither to him, sir La-Foole.
CLER: O, that's a precious mannikin.
DAUP: Do you know him?
CLER: Ay, and he will know you too, if e'er he saw you but once,
though you should meet him at church in the midst of prayers. He is
one of the braveries, though he be none of the wits. He will salute
a judge upon the bench, and a bishop in the pulpit, a lawyer when
he is pleading at the bar, and a lady when she is dancing in a
masque, and put her out. He does give plays, and suppers, and
invites his guests to them, aloud, out of his window, as they
ride by in coaches. He has a lodging in the Strand for the purpose:
or to watch when ladies are gone to the china-houses, or the
Exchange, that he may meet them by chance, and give them presents,
some two or three hundred pounds' worth of toys, to be laugh'd at.
He is never without a spare banquet, or sweet-meats in his chamber,
for their women to alight at, and come up to for a bait.
DAUP: Excellent! he was a fine youth last night; but now he is much
finer! what is his Christian name? I have forgot.
CLER: Sir Amorous La-Foole.
PAGE: The gentleman is here below that owns that name.
CLER: 'Heart, he's come to invite me to dinner, I hold my life.
DAUP: Like enough: prithee, let's have him up.
CLER: Boy, marshal him.
PAGE: With a truncheon, sir?
CLER: Away, I beseech you.
I'll make him tell us his pedegree, now; and what meat he has to
dinner; and who are his guests; and the whole course of his
fortunes: with a breath.
[ENTER SIR AMOROUS LA-FOOLE.]
LA-F: 'Save, dear sir Dauphine! honoured master Clerimont!
CLER: Sir Amorous! you have very much honested my lodging with your
LA-F: Good faith, it is a fine lodging: almost as delicate a lodging
CLER: Not so, sir.
LA-F: Excuse me, sir, if it were in the Strand, I assure you. I am
come, master Clerimont, to entreat you to wait upon two or three
ladies, to dinner, to-day.
CLER: How, sir! wait upon them? did you ever see me carry dishes?
LA-F: No, sir, dispense with me; I meant, to bear them company.
CLER: O, that I will, sir: the doubtfulness of your phrase, believe
it, sir, would breed you a quarrel once an hour, with the terrible
boys, if you should but keep them fellowship a day.
LA-F: It should be extremely against my will, sir, if I contested
with any man.
CLER: I believe it, sir; where hold you your feast?
LA-F: At Tom Otter's, sir.
PAGE: Tom Otter? what's he?
LA-F: Captain Otter, sir; he is a kind of gamester, but he has had
command both by sea and by land.
PAGE: O, then he is animal amphibium?
LA-F: Ay, sir: his wife was the rich china-woman, that the courtiers
visited so often; that gave the rare entertainment. She commands
all at home.
CLER: Then she is captain Otter.
LA-F: You say very well, sir: she is my kinswoman, a La-Foole by the
mother-side, and will invite any great ladies for my sake.
PAGE: Not of the La-Fooles of Essex?
LA-F: No, sir, the La-Fooles of London.
CLER: Now, he's in. [ASIDE.]
LA-F: They all come out of our house, the La-Fooles of the north, the
La-Fooles of the west, the La-Fooles of the east and south--we are
as ancient a family as any is in Europe--but I myself am descended
lineally of the French La-Fooles--and, we do bear for our coat
yellow, or or, checker'd azure, and gules, and some three or four
colours more, which is a very noted coat, and has, sometimes, been
solemnly worn by divers nobility of our house--but let that go,
antiquity is not respected now.--I had a brace of fat does sent me,
gentlemen, and half a dozen of pheasants, a dozen or two of
godwits, and some other fowl, which I would have eaten, while they
are good, and in good company:--there will be a great lady, or two,
my lady Haughty, my lady Centaure, mistress Dol Mavis--and they come
o' purpose to see the silent gentlewoman, mistress Epicoene, that
honest sir John Daw has promis'd to bring thither--and then, mistress
Trusty, my lady's woman, will be there too, and this honourable
knight, sir Dauphine, with yourself, master Clerimont--and we'll
be very merry, and have fidlers, and dance.--I have been a mad wag
in my time, and have spent some crowns since I was a page in
court, to my lord Lofty, and after, my lady's gentleman-usher, who
got me knighted in Ireland, since it pleased my elder brother to
die.--I had as fair a gold jerkin on that day, as any worn in
the island voyage, or at Cadiz, none dispraised; and I came over in
it hither, shew'd myself to my friends in court, and after went
down to my tenants in the country, and surveyed my lands, let
new leases, took their money, spent it in the eye o' the land
here, upon ladies:--and now I can take up at my pleasure.
DAUP: Can you take up ladies, sir?
CLER: O, let him breathe, he has not recover'd.
DAUP: Would I were your half in that commodity!
LA-F.: No, sir, excuse me: I meant money, which can take up any
thing. I have another guest or two, to invite, and say as much to,
gentlemen. I will take my leave abruptly, in hope you will not
DAUP: We will not fail you, sir precious La-Foole; but she shall,
that your ladies come to see, if I have credit afore sir Daw.
CLER: Did you ever hear such a wind-sucker, as this?
DAUP: Or, such a rook as the other! that will betray his mistress
to be seen! Come, 'tis time we prevented it.
ACT 2. SCENE 2.1.
A ROOM IN MOROSE'S HOUSE.
ENTER MOROSE, WITH A TUBE IN HIS HAND, FOLLOWED BY MUTE.
MOR: Cannot I, yet, find out a more compendious method, than by
this trunk, to save my servants the labour of speech, and mine
ears the discord of sounds? Let me see: all discourses but my
own afflict me, they seem harsh, impertinent, and irksome. Is
it not possible, that thou should'st answer me by signs, and I
apprehend thee, fellow? Speak not, though I question you. You have
taken the ring off from the street door, as I bade you? answer me
not by speech, but by silence; unless it be otherwise
[MUTE MAKES A LEG.]
--very good. And you have fastened on a thick quilt, or flock-bed,
on the outside of the door; that if they knock with their
daggers, or with brick-bats, they can make no noise?--But with
your leg, your answer, unless it be otherwise,
[MUTE MAKES A LEG.]
--Very good. This is not only fit modesty in a servant, but good
state and discretion in a master. And you have been with Cutbeard
the barber, to have him come to me?
[MUTE MAKES A LEG.]
--Good. And, he will come presently? Answer me not but with your
leg, unless it be otherwise: if it be otherwise, shake your
head, or shrug.
[MUTE MAKES A LEG.]
--So! Your Italian and Spaniard are wise in these: and it is a
frugal and comely gravity. How long will it be ere Cutbeard come?
Stay, if an hour, hold up your whole hand, if half an hour, two
fingers; if a quarter, one;
[MUTE HOLDS UP A FINGER BENT.]
--Good: half a quarter? 'tis well. And have you given him a key,
to come in without knocking?
[MUTE MAKES A LEG.]
--good. And is the lock oil'd, and the hinges, to-day?
[MUTE MAKES A LEG.]
--good. And the quilting of the stairs no where worn out, and
[MUTE MAKES A LEG.]
--Very good. I see, by much doctrine, and impulsion, it may be
effected: stand by. The Turk, in this divine discipline, is
admirable, exceeding all the potentates of the earth; still waited
on by mutes; and all his commands so executed; yea, even in the
war, as I have heard, and in his marches, most of his charges
and directions given by signs, and with silence: an exquisite
art! and I am heartily ashamed, and angry oftentimes, that the
princes of Christendom should suffer a barbarian to transcend
them in so high a point of felicity. I will practise it hereafter.
[A HORN WINDED WITHIN.]
--How now? oh! oh! what villain, what prodigy of mankind is that?
--Oh! cut his throat, cut his throat! what murderer, hell-hound,
devil can this be?
MUTE: It is a post from the court--
MOR: Out rogue! and must thou blow thy horn too?
MUTE: Alas, it is a post from the court, sir, that says, he must
speak with you, pain of death--
MOR: Pain of thy life, be silent!
[ENTER TRUEWIT WITH A POST-HORN, AND A HALTER IN HIS HAND.]
TRUE: By your leave, sir;--I am a stranger here:--Is your name
master Morose? is your name master Morose? Fishes! Pythagoreans
all! This is strange. What say you, sir? nothing? Has Harpocrates
been here with his club, among you? Well sir, I will believe you
to be the man at this time: I will venture upon you, sir. Your
friends at court commend them to you, sir--
MOR: O men! O manners! was there ever such an impudence?
TRUE: And are extremely solicitous for you, sir.
MOR: Whose knave are you?
TRUE: Mine own knave, and your compeer, sir.
MOR: Fetch me my sword--
TRUE: You shall taste the one half of my dagger, if you do, groom;
and you, the other, if you stir, sir: Be patient, I charge you,
in the king's name, and hear me without insurrection. They say, you
are to marry; to marry! do you mark, sir?
MOR: How then, rude companion!
TRUE: Marry, your friends do wonder, sir, the Thames being so near,
wherein you may drown, so handsomely; or London-bridge, at a low
fall, with a fine leap, to hurry you down the stream; or, such a
delicate steeple, in the town as Bow, to vault from; or, a braver
height, as Paul's; Or, if you affected to do it nearer home, and a
shorter way, an excellent garret-window into the street; or, a
beam in the said garret, with this halter
[HE SHEWS HIM A HALTER.]--
which they have sent, and desire, that you would sooner commit your
grave head to this knot, than to the wedlock noose; or, take a
little sublimate, and go out of the world like a rat; or a fly,
as one said, with a straw in your arse: any way, rather than to
follow this goblin Matrimony. Alas, sir, do you ever think to
find a chaste wife in these times? now? when there are so many
masques, plays, Puritan preachings, mad folks, and other strange
sights to be seen daily, private and public? If you had lived
in king Ethelred's time, sir, or Edward the Confessor, you might,
perhaps, have found one in some cold country hamlet, then, a dull
frosty wench, would have been contented with one man: now, they
will as soon be pleased with one leg, or one eye. I'll tell you,
sir, the monstrous hazards you shall run with a wife.
MOR: Good sir, have I ever cozen'd any friends of yours of their
land? bought their possessions? taken forfeit of their mortgage?
begg'd a reversion from them? bastarded their issue? What have I
done, that may deserve this?
TRUE: Nothing, sir, that I know, but your itch of marriage.
MOR: Why? if I had made an assassinate upon your father, vitiated
your mother, ravished your sisters--
TRUE: I would kill you, sir, I would kill you, if you had.
MOR: Why, you do more in this, sir: it were a vengeance centuple,
for all facinorous acts that could be named, to do that you do.
TRUE: Alas, sir, I am but a messenger: I but tell you, what you
must hear. It seems your friends are careful after your soul's
health, sir, and would have you know the danger: (but you may do
your pleasure for all them, I persuade not, sir.) If, after you are
married, your wife do run away with a vaulter, or the Frenchman
that walks upon ropes, or him that dances the jig, or a fencer
for his skill at his weapon; why it is not their fault, they have
discharged their consciences; when you know what may happen. Nay,
suffer valiantly, sir, for I must tell you all the perils that
you are obnoxious to. If she be fair, young and vegetous, no sweet-
meats ever drew more flies; all the yellow doublets and great
roses in the town will be there. If foul and crooked, she'll be
with them, and buy those doublets and roses, sir. If rich, and
that you marry her dowry, not her, she'll reign in your house
as imperious as a widow. If noble, all her kindred will be your
tyrants. If fruitful, as proud as May, and humorous as April; she
must have her doctors, her midwives, her nurses, her longings every
hour; though it be for the dearest morsel of man. If learned,
there was never such a parrot; all your patrimony will be too
little for the guests that must be invited to hear her speak
Latin and Greek; and you must lie with her in those languages
too, if you will please her. If precise, you must feast all the
silenced brethren, once in three days; salute the sisters;
entertain the whole family, or wood of them; and hear long-winded
exercises, singings and catechisings, which you are not given to,
and yet must give for: to please the zealous matron your wife, who
for the holy cause, will cozen you, over and above. You begin to
sweat, sir! but this is not half, i'faith: you may do your
pleasure, notwithstanding, as I said before: I come not to persuade
[MUTE IS STEALING AWAY.]
--Upon my faith, master servingman, if you do stir, I will beat
MOR: O, what is my sin! what is my sin!
TRUE: Then, if you love your wife, or rather dote on her, sir: O, how
she'll torture you! and take pleasure in your torments! you shall
lie with her but when she lists; she will not hurt her beauty, her
complexion; or it must be for that jewel, or that pearl, when she
does: every half hour's pleasure must be bought anew: and with the
same pain and charge you woo'd her at first. Then you must
keep what servants she please; what company she will; that friend
must not visit you without her license; and him she loves most, she
will seem to hate eagerliest, to decline your jealousy; or, feign
to be jealous of you first; and for that cause go live with her
she-friend, or cousin at the college, that can instruct her in all
the mysteries of writing letters, corrupting servants, taming
spies; where she must have that rich gown for such a great day; a
new one for the next; a richer for the third; be served in silver;
have the chamber fill'd with a succession of grooms, footmen,
ushers, and other messengers; besides embroiderers, jewellers,
tire-women, sempsters, feathermen, perfumers; whilst she feels not
how the land drops away; nor the acres melt; nor foresees the
change, when the mercer has your woods for her velvets; never
weighs what her pride costs, sir: so she may kiss a page, or a
smooth chin, that has the despair of a beard; be a stateswoman,
know all the news, what was done at Salisbury, what at the Bath,
what at court, what in progress; or, so she may censure poets, and
authors, and styles, and compare them, Daniel with Spenser, Jonson
with the t'other youth, and so forth: or be thought cunning in
controversies, or the very knots of divinity; and have often in
her mouth the state of the question: and then skip to the
mathematics, and demonstration: and answer in religion to one,
in state to another, in bawdry to a third.
MOR: O, O!
TRUE: All this is very true, sir. And then her going in disguise to
that conjurer, and this cunning woman: where the first question is,
how soon you shall die? next, if her present servant love her?
next, if she shall have a new servant? and how many? which of her
family would make the best bawd, male, or female? what precedence
she shall have by her next match? and sets down the answers, and
believes them above the scriptures. Nay, perhaps she will study the
MOR: Gentle sir, have you done? have you had your pleasure of me?
I'll think of these things.
TRUE: Yes sir: and then comes reeking home of vapour and sweat,
with going a foot, and lies in a month of a new face, all oil and
birdlime; and rises in asses' milk, and is cleansed with a new
fucus: God be wi' you, sir. One thing more, which I had almost
forgot. This too, with whom you are to marry, may have made a
conveyance of her virginity afore hand, as your wise widows do of
their states, before they marry, in trust to some friend, sir: who
can tell? Or if she have not done it yet, she may do, upon the
wedding-day, or the night before, and antedate you cuckold. The
like has been heard of in nature. 'Tis no devised, impossible
thing, sir. God be wi' you: I'll be bold to leave this rope with
you, sir, for a remembrance. Farewell, Mute!
MOR: Come, have me to my chamber: but first shut the door.
[TRUEWIT WINDS THE HORN WITHOUT.]
O, shut the door, shut the door! is he come again?
CUT: 'tis I, sir, your barber.
MOR: O, Cutbeard, Cutbeard, Cutbeard! here has been a cut-throat
with me: help me in to my bed, and give me physic with thy counsel.
A ROOM IN SIR JOHN DAW'S HOUSE.
ENTER DAW, CLERIMONT, DAUPHINE, AND EPICOENE.
DAW: Nay, an she will, let her refuse at her own charges: 'tis
nothing to me, gentlemen: but she will not be invited to the like
feasts or guests every day.
CLER: O, by no means, she may not refuse--to stay at home, if you
love your reputation: 'Slight, you are invited thither o' purpose
to be seen, and laughed at by the lady of the college, and her
shadows. This trumpeter hath proclaim'd you.
[ASIDE TO EPICOENE.]
DAUP: You shall not go; let him be laugh'd at in your stead, for
not bringing you: and put him to his extemporal faculty of fooling
and talking loud, to satisfy the company.
[ASIDE TO EPICOENE.]
CLER: He will suspect us, talk aloud.--'Pray, mistress Epicoene,
let us see your verses; we have sir John Daw's leave: do not
conceal your servant's merit, and your own glories.
EPI: They'll prove my servant's glories, if you have his leave so
DAUP: His vain-glories, lady!
DAW: Shew them, shew them, mistress, I dare own them.
EPI: Judge you, what glories.
DAW: Nay, I'll read them myself too: an author must recite his
own works. It is a madrigal of Modesty.
Modest, and fair, for fair and good are near
DAUP: Very good.
CLER: Ay, is't not?
DAW: No noble virtue ever was alone,
But two in one.
CLER: That again, I pray, sir John.
DAUP: It has something in't like rare wit and sense.
DAW: No noble virtue ever was alone,
But two in one.
Then, when I praise sweet modesty, I praise
Bright beauty's rays:
And having praised both beauty and modesty,
I have praised thee.
CLER: How it chimes, and cries tink in the close, divinely!
DAUP: Ay, 'tis Seneca.
CLER: No, I think 'tis Plutarch.
DAW: The dor on Plutarch, and Seneca! I hate it: they are mine own
imaginations, by that light. I wonder those fellows have such
credit with gentlemen.
CLER: They are very grave authors.
DAW: Grave asses! mere essayists: a few loose sentences, and that's
all. A man would talk so, his whole age: I do utter as good things
every hour, if they were collected and observed, as either of
DAUP: Indeed, sir John!
CLER: He must needs; living among the wits and braveries too.
DAUP: Ay, and being president of them, as he is.
DAW: There's Aristotle, a mere common-place fellow; Plato, a
discourser; Thucydides and Livy, tedious and dry; Tacitus, an
entire knot: sometimes worth the untying, very seldom.
CLER: What do you think of the poets, sir John?
DAW: Not worthy to be named for authors. Homer, an old tedious,
prolix ass, talks of curriers, and chines of beef. Virgil of
dunging of land, and bees. Horace, of I know not what.
CLER: I think so.
DAW: And so Pindarus, Lycophron, Anacreon, Catullus, Seneca the
tragedian, Lucan, Propertius, Tibullus, Martial, Juvenal,
Ausonius, Statius, Politian, Valerius Flaccus, and the rest--
CLER: What a sack full of their names he has got!
DAUP: And how he pours them out! Politian with Valerius Flaccus!
CLER: Was not the character right of him?
DAUP: As could be made, i'faith.
DAW: And Persius, a crabbed coxcomb, not to be endured.
DAUP: Why, whom do you account for authors, sir John Daw?
DAW: Syntagma juris civilis; Corpus juris civilis; Corpus juris
canonici; the king of Spain's bible--
DAUP: Is the king of Spain's bible an author?
CLER: Yes, and Syntagma.
DAUP: What was that Syntagma, sir?
DAW: A civil lawyer, a Spaniard.
DAUP: Sure, Corpus was a Dutchman.
CLER: Ay, both the Corpuses, I knew 'em: they were very corpulent
DAW: And, then there's Vatablus, Pomponatius, Symancha: the other
are not to be received, within the thought of a scholar.
DAUP: 'Fore God, you have a simple learned servant, lady,--
in titles. [ASIDE.]
CLER: I wonder that he is not called to the helm, and made a
DAUP: He is one extraordinary.
CLER: Nay, but in ordinary: to say truth, the state wants such.