Every Man in his Humour
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
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 domestic life.
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 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 imprudent 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 characters.
"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 stage."*
[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 profane" Chester?
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'scompany 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 ofbroad comedy which,
at court as well as in the city, was not the least element of Jonson's
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 moral 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 punishing them.
"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 Humou
r" 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 Jewry."
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 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 similtude, 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 matchedin stately
gravity and gnomic wisdom in its own wise and stately age.
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 from 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 the 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 passage 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: --
DRAMAS. -- 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.
POEMS. -- 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.
PROSE. -- Timber, or Discoveries made upon Men and Matter, fol., 1641; The
English Grammar, made by Ben Jonson for the benefit of Strangers, fol.,
Masques and Entertainments were published in the early folios.
WORKS. -- Fol., 1616, vol. 2, 1640 (1631-41); fol., 1692, 1716-19, 1729;
edited by P. Whalley, 7 vols., 1756; by Gifford (with Memoir), 9 vols.,
1816, 1846; re-edited by F. Cunningham, 3 vols., 1871; in 9 vols., 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 Library), 1885; Plays (7) and Poems (Newnes), 1905;
Poems, with Memoir by H. Bennett (Carlton Classics), 1907; Masques and
Entertainments, ed. by H. Morley, 1890.
SELECTIONS. -- 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,
LIFE. -- 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.
EVERY MAN IN HIS HUMOUR (Italian Edition).........................1
EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR......................................57
CYNTHIA'S REVELS: OR, THE FOUNTAIN OF SELF-LOVE............... 149
THE POETASTER: OR, HIS ARRAIGNMENT.............................233
SEJANUS: HIS FALL..............................................308
VOLPONE: OR, THE FOX...........................................400
EPICOENE: OR, THE SILENT WOMAN.................................489
EVERY MAN IN HIS HUMOUR (Anglicised Edition)....................559
EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR
TO THE NOBLEST NURSERIES OF HUMANITY AND LIBERTY IN
THE INNS OF COURT
I UNDERSTAND you, Gentlemen, not your houses: and a worthy succession of
you, to all time, as being born the judges of these studies. When I wrote
this poem, I had friendship with divers in your societies; who, as they
were great names in learning, so they were no less examples of living. Of
them, and then, that I say no more, it was not despised. Now that the
printer, by a doubled charge, thinks it worthy a longer life than commonly
the air of such things doth promise, I am careful to put it a servant to
their pleasures, who are the inheritors of the first favour born it. Yet,
I command it lie not in the way of your more noble and useful studies to
the public: for so I shall suffer for it. But when the gown and cap is
off, and the lord of liberty reigns, then, to take it in your hands,
perhaps may make some bencher, tincted with humanity, read and not repent
By your true honourer,
ASPER, the Presenter.
PUNTARVOLO, -- his Lady. -- Waiting Gent. -- Huntsman. -- Servingmen. --
Dog and Cat.
FASTIDIOUS BRISK, -- Cinedo, his Page.
DELIRO, FALLACE, -- Fido, their Servant. -- Musicians.
SORDIDO. -- His Hind.
FUNGOSO. -- Tailor, Haberdasher, Shoemaker
SHIFT. -- Rustics.
CLOVE, ORANGE. -- A Groom. -- Drawers. -- Constable, and Officers.
GREX. -- CORDATUS -- MITIS.
THE CHARACTERS OF THE PERSONS
ASPER, he is of an ingenious and free spirit, eager and constant in
reproof, without fear controlling the world's abuses. One whom no servile
hope of gain, or frosty apprehension of danger, can make to be a parasite,
either to time, place, or opinion.
MACILENTE, a man well parted, a sufficient scholar, and travelled; who,
wanting that place in the world's account which he thinks his merit capable
of, falls into such an envious apoplexy, with which his judgment is so
dazzled and distasted, that he grows violently impatient of any opposite
happiness in another.
PUNTARVOLO, a vain-glorious knight, over-englishing his travels, and wholly
consecrated to singularity; the very Jacob's staff of compliment; a sir
that hath lived to see the revolution of time in most of his apparel. Of
presence good enough, but so palpably affected to his own praise, that for
want of flatterers he commends himself, to the floutage of his own family.
He deals upon returns, and strange performances, resolving, in despite of
public derision, to stick to his own fashion, phrase, and gesture.
CARLO BUFFONE, a public, scurrilous, and profane jester, that more swift
than Circe, with absurd similes, will transform any person into deformity.
A good feast-hound or banquet-beagle, that will scent you out a supper some
three miles off, and swear to his patrons, damn him! he came in oars, when
he was but wafted over in a sculler. A slave that hath an extraordinary
gift in pleasing his palate, and will swill up more sack at a sitting than
would make all the guard a posset. His religion is railing, and his
FASTIDIOUS BRISK, a neat, spruce, affecting courtier, one that wears
clothes well, and in fashion; practiseth by his glass how to salute; speaks
good remnants, notwithstanding the base viol and tobacco; swears tersely
and with variety; cares not what lady's favour he belies, or great man's
familiarity: a good property to perfume the boot of a coach. He will
borrow another man's horse to praise, and backs him as his own. Or, for a
need, on foot can post himself into credit with his merchant, only with the
gingle of his spur, and the jerk of his wand.
DELIRO, a good doting citizen, who, it is thought, might be of the
common-council for his wealth; a fellow sincerely besotted on his own wife,
and so wrapt with a conceit of her perfections, that he simply holds
himself unworthy of her. And, in that hood-wink'd humour, lives more like
a suitor than a husband; standing in as true dread of her displeasure, as
when he first made love to her. He doth sacrifice two-pence in juniper to
her every morning before she rises, and wakes her with
villainous-out-of-tune music, which she out of her contempt (though not out
of her judgment) is sure to dislike.
FALLACE, Deliro's wife, and idol; a proud mincing peat, and as perverse as
he is officious. She dotes as perfectly upon the courtier, as her husband
doth on her, and only wants the face to be dishonest.
SAVIOLINA, a court-lady, whose weightiest praise is a light wit, admired by
herself, and one more, her servant Brisk.
SORDIDO, a wretched hob-nailed chuff, whose recreation is reading of
almanacks; and felicity, foul weather. One that never pray'd but for a
lean dearth, and ever wept in a fat harvest.
FUNGOSO, the son of Sordido, and a student; one that has revelled in his
time, and follows the fashion afar off, like a spy. He makes it the whole
bent of his endeavours to wring sufficient means from his wretched father,
to put him in the courtiers' cut; at which he earnestly aims, but so
unluckily, that he still lights short a suit.
SOGLIARDO, an essential clown, brother to Sordido, yet so enamoured of the
name of a gentleman, that he will have it, though he buys it. He comes up
every term to learn to take tobacco, and see new motions. He is in his
kingdom when in company where he may be well laughed at.
SHIFT, a thread-bare shark; one that never was a soldier, yet lives upon
lendings. His profession is skeldring and odling, his bank Paul's, and his
warehouse Picthatch. Takes up single testons upon oaths, till doomsday.
Falls under executions of three shillings, and enters into five-groat
bonds. He way-lays the reports of services, and cons them without book,
damning himself he came new from them, when all the while he was taking the
diet in the bawdy-house, or lay pawned in his chamber for rent and
victuals. He is of that admirable and happy memory, that he will salute
one for an old acquaintance that he never saw in his life before. He
usurps upon cheats, quarrels, and robberies, which he never did, only to
get him a name. His chief exercises are, taking the whiff, squiring a
cockatrice, and making privy searches for imparters.
CLOVE and ORANGE, an inseparable case of coxcombs, city born; the Gemini,
or twins of foppery; that like a pair of wooden foils, are fit for nothing
but to be practised upon. Being well flattered they'll lend money, and
repent when they have done. Their glory is to invite players, and make
suppers. And in company of better rank, to avoid the suspect of
insufficiency, will inforce their ignorance most desperately, to set upon
the understanding of any thing. Orange is the most humorous of the two,
(whose small portion of juice being squeezed out,) Clove serves to stick
him with commendations.
CORDATUS, the author's friend; a man inly acquainted with the scope and
drift of his plot; of a discreet and understanding judgment; and has the
place of a moderator.
MITIS, is a person of no action, and therefore we afford him no character.
THE STAGE. After the second sounding.
ENTER CORDATUS, ASPER, AND MITIS.
COR. Nay, my dear Asper.
MIT. Stay your mind.
Who is so patient of this impious world,
That he can check his spirit, or rein his tongue?
Or who hath such a dead unfeeling sense,
That heaven's horrid thunders cannot wake?
To see the earth crack'd with the weight of sin,
Hell gaping under us, and o'er our heads
Black, ravenous ruin, with her sail-stretch'd wings,
Ready to sink us down, and cover us.
Who can behold such prodigies as these,
And have his lips seal'd up? Not I: my soul
Was never ground into such oily colours,
To flatter vice, and daub iniquity:
But, with an armed and resolved hand,
I'll strip the ragged follies of the time
Naked as at their birth --
COR. Be not too bold.
ASP. You trouble me -- and with a whip of steel,
Print wounding lashes in their iron ribs.
I fear no mood stamp'd in a private brow,
When I am pleased t'unmask a public vice.
I fear no strumpet's drugs, nor ruffian's stab,
Should I detect their hateful luxuries:
No broker's usurer's, or lawyer's gripe,
Were I disposed to say, they are all corrupt.
I fear no courtier's frown, should I applaud
The easy flexure of his supple hams.
Tut, these are so innate and popular,
That drunken custom would not shame to laugh,
In scorn, at him, that should but dare to tax 'em:
And yet, not one of these, but knows his works,
Knows what damnation is, the devil, and hell;
Yet hourly they persist, grow rank in sin,
Puffing their souls away in perjurous air,
To cherish their extortion, pride, or lusts.
MIT. Forbear, good Asper; be not like your name.
ASP. O, but to such whose faces are all zeal,
And, with the words of Hercules, invade
Such crimes as these! that will not smell of sin,
But seem as they were made of sanctity!
Religion in their garments, and their hair
Cut shorter than their eye-brows! when the conscience
Is vaster than the ocean, and devours
More wretches than the counters.
MIT. Gentle Asper,
Contain our spirits in more stricter bounds,
And be not thus transported with the violence
Of your strong thoughts.
COX. Unless your breath had power,
To melt the world, and mould it new again,
It is in vain to spend it in these moods.
ASP. [TURNING TO THE STAGE.]
I not observed this thronged round till now !
Gracious and kind spectators, you are welcome;
Apollo and Muses feast your eyes
With graceful objects, and may our Minerva
Answer your hopes, unto their largest strain!
Yet here mistake me not, judicious friends;
I do not this, to beg your patience,
Or servilely to fawn on your applause,
Like some dry brain, despairing in his merit.
Let me be censured by the austerest brow,
Where I want art or judgment, tax me freely.
Let envious censors, with their broadest eyes,
Look through and through me, I pursue no favour;
Only vouchsafe me your attentions,
And I will give you music worth your ears.
O, how I hate the monstrousness of time,
Where every servile imitating spirit,
Plagued with an itching leprosy of wit,
In a mere halting fury, strives to fling
His ulcerous body in the Thespian spring,
And straight leaps forth a poet! but as lame
As Vulcan, or the founder of Cripplegate.
MIT. In faith this humour will come ill to some,
You will be thought to be too peremptory.
ASP. This humour? good! and why this humour, Mitis?
Nay, do not turn, but answer.
MIT. Answer, what?
ASP. I will not stir your patience, pardon me,
I urged it for some reasons, and the rather
To give these ignorant well-spoken days
Some taste of their abuse of this word humour.
COR. O, do not let your purpose fall, good Asper;
It cannot but arrive most acceptable,
Chiefly to such as have the happiness
Daily to see how the poor innocent word
Is rack'd and tortured.
MIT. Ay, I pray you proceed.
ASP. Ha, what? what is't?
COR. For the abuse of humour.
ASP. O, I crave pardon, I had lost my thoughts.
Why humour, as 'tis 'ens', we thus define it,
To be a quality of air, or water,
And in itself holds these two properties,
Moisture and fluxure: as, for demonstration,
Pour water on this floor, 'twill wet and run:
Likewise the air, forced through a horn or trumpet,
Flows instantly away, and leaves behind
A kind of dew; and hence we do conclude,
That whatsoe'er hath fluxure and humidity,
As wanting power to contain itself,
Is humour. So in every human body,
The choler, melancholy, phlegm, and blood,
By reason that they flow continually
In some one part, and are not continent,
Receive the name of humours. Now thus far
It may, by metaphor, apply itself
Unto the general disposition:
As when 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,
This may be truly said to be a humour
But that a rook, by wearing a pyed feather,
The cable hat-band, or the three-piled ruff,
A yard of shoe-tye, or the Switzer's knot
On his French garters, should affect a humour!
O, it is more than most ridiculous.
COR. He speaks pure truth; now if an idiot
Have but an apish or fantastic strain,
It is his humour.
ASP. Well, I will scourge those apes,
And to these courteous eyes oppose a mirror,
As large as is the stage whereon we act;
Where they shall see the time's deformity
Anatomised in every nerve, and sinew,
With constant courage, and contempt of fear.
MIT. Asper, (I urge it as your friend,) take heed,
The days are dangerous, full of exception,
And men are grown impatient of reproof.
ASP. Ha, ha!
You might as well have told me, yond' is heaven,
This earth, these men, and all had moved alike. --
Do not I know the time's condition?
Yes, Mitis, and their souls; and who they be
That either will or can except against me.
None but a sort of fools, so sick in taste,
That they contemn all physic of the mind,
And like gall'd camels, kick at every touch.
Good men, and virtuous spirits, that loath their vices,
Will cherish my free labours, love my lines,
And with the fervour of their shining grace
Make my brain fruitful, to bring forth more objects,
Worthy their serious and intentive eyes.
But why enforce I this? as fainting? no.
If any here chance to behold himself,
Let him not dare to challenge me of wrong;
For, if he shame to have his follies known,
First he should shame to act 'em: my strict hand
Was made to seize on vice, and with a gripe
Squeeze out the humour of such spongy souls,
As lick up every idle vanity.
COR. Why, this is right furor poeticus!
Kind gentlemen, we hope your patience
Will yet conceive the best, or entertain
This supposition, that a madman speaks.
ASP. What, are you ready there? Mitis, sit down,
And my Cordatus. Sound ho! and begin.
I leave you two, as censors, to sit here:
Observe what I present, and liberally
Speak your opinions upon every scene,
As it shall pass the view of these spectators.
Nay, now y'are tedious, sirs; for shame begin.
And, Mitis, note me; if in all this front
You can espy a gallant of this mark,
Who, to be thought one of the judicious,
Sits with his arms thus wreath'd, his hat pull'd here,
Cries mew, and nods, then shakes his empty head,
Will shew more several motions in his face
Than the new London, Rome, or Niniveh,
And, now and then, breaks a dry biscuit jest,
Which, that it may more easily be chew'd,
He steeps in his own laughter.
COR. Why, will that
Make it be sooner swallowed?
ASP. O, assure you.
Or if it did not, yet as Horace sings,
Mean cates are welcome still to hungry guests.
COR. 'Tis true; but why should we observe them, Asper?
ASP. O, I would know 'em; for in such assemblies
They are more infectious than the pestilence:
And therefore I would give them pills to purge,
And make them fit for fair societies.
How monstrous and detested is't to see
A fellow that has neither art nor brain,
Sit like an Aristarchus, or start ass,
Taking men's lines with a tobacco face,
In snuff still spitting, using his wry'd looks,
In nature of a vice, to wrest and turn
The good aspect of those that shall sit near him,
From what they do behold! O, 'tis most vile.
MIT. Nay, Asper.
ASP. Peace, Mitis, I do know your thought;
You'll say, your guests here will except at this:
Pish! you are too timorous, and full of doubt.
Then he, a patient, shall reject all physic,
'Cause the physician tells him, you are sick:
Or, if I say, that he is vicious,
You will not hear of virtue. Come, you are fond.
Shall I be so extravagant, to think,
That happy judgments, and composed spirits,
Will challenge me for taxing such as these?
I am ashamed.
COR. Nay, but good, pardon us;
We must not bear this peremptory sail,
But use our best endeavours how to please.
ASP. Why, therein I commend your careful thoughts,
And I will mix with you in industry
To please: but whom? attentive auditors,
Such as will join their profit with their pleasure,
And come to feed their understanding parts:
For these I'll prodigally spread myself,
And speak away my spirit into air;
For these, I'll melt my brain into invention,
Coin new conceits, and hang my richest words
As polish'd jewels in their bounteous ears?
But stay, I lose myself, and wrong their patience:
If I dwell here, they'll not begin, I see.
Friends, sit you still, and entertain this troop
With some familiar and by-conference,
I'll hast them sound. Now, gentlemen, I go
To turn an actor, and a humorist,
Where, ere I do resume my present person,
We hope to make the circles of your eyes
Flow with distilled laughter: if we fail,
We must impute it to this only chance,
Art hath an enemy call'd ignorance.
COR. How do you like his spirit, Mitis?
MIT. I should like it much better, if he were less confident.
COR. Why, do you suspect his merit?
MIT. No; but I fear this will procure him much envy.
COR. O, that sets the stronger seal on his desert: if he had no enemies,
I should esteem his fortunes most wretched at this instant.
MIT. You have seen his play, Cordatus: pray you, how is it?
COR. Faith, sir, I must refrain to judge; only this I can say of it, 'tis
strange, and of a particular kind by itself, somewhat like 'Vetus
Comoedia'; a work that hath bounteously pleased me; how it will answer the
general expectation, I know not.
MIT. Does he observe all the laws of comedy in it?
COR. What laws mean you?
MIT. Why, the equal division of it into acts and scenes, according to the
Terentian manner; his true number of actors; the furnishing of the scene
with Grex or Chorus, and that the whole argument fall within compass of a
COR. O no, these are too nice observations.
MIT. They are such as must be received, by your favour, or it cannot be
COR. Troth, I can discern no such necessity.
COR. No, I assure you, signior. If those laws you speak of had been
delivered us 'ab initio', and in their present virtue and perfection, there
had been some reason of obeying their powers; but 'tis extant, that that
which we call 'Comoedia', was at first nothing but a simple and continued
song, sung by one only person, till Susario invented a second; after him,
Epicharmus a third; Phormus and Chionides devised to have four actors, with
a prologue and chorus; to which Cratinus, long after, added a fifth and
sixth: Eupolis, more; Aristophanes, more than they; every man in the
dignity of his spirit and judgment supplied something. And, though that in
him this kind of poem appeared absolute, and fully perfect, yet how is the
face of it changed since, in Menander, Philemon, Cecilius, Plautus, and the
rest! who have utterly excluded the chorus, altered the property of the
persons, their names, and natures, and augmented it with all liberty,
according to the elegancy and disposition of those times wherein they
wrote. I see not then, but we should enjoy the same license, or free power
to illustrate and heighten our invention, as they 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.
MIT. Well, we will not dispute of this now; but what's his scene?
COR. Marry, 'Insula Fortunata', sir.
MIT. O, the Fortunate Island: mass, he has bound himself to a strict law
COR. Why so?
MIT. He cannot lightly alter the scene, without crossing the seas.
COR. He needs not, having a whole island to run through, I think.
MIT. No! how comes it then, that in some one play we see so many seas,
countries, and kingdoms, passed over with such admirable dexterity?
COR. O, that but shews how well the authors can travel in their vocation,
and outrun the apprehension of their auditory. But, leaving this, I would
they would begin at once: this protraction is able to sour the
best-settled patience in the theatre.
[THE THIRD SOUNDING.
MIT. They have answered your wish, sir; they sound.
COR. O, here comes the Prologue.
Now, sir, if you had staid a little longer, I meant to have spoke your
prologue for you i'faith.
PROL. Marry, with all my heart, sir, you shall do it yet, and I thank you.
COR. Nay, nay, stay, stay; hear you?
PROL. You could not have studied to have done me a greater benefit at the
instant; for I protest to you, I am unperfect, and, had I spoke it, I must
of necessity have been out.
COR. Why, but do you speak this seriously?
PROL. Seriously! ay, wit's my help, do I; and esteem myself indebted to
your kindness for it.
COR. For what?
PROL. Why, for undertaking the prologue for me.
COR. How! did I undertake it for you?
PROL. Did you! I appeal to all these gentlemen, whether you did or no.
Come, come, it pleases you to cast a strange look on't now; but 'twill not
COR. 'Fore me, but it must serve; and therefore speak your prologue.
PROL. An I do, let me die poisoned with some venomous hiss, and never live
to look as high as the two-penny room again.
MIT. He has put you to it, sir.
COR. 'Sdeath, what a humorous fellow is this! Gentlemen, good faith I can
speak no prologue, howsoever his weak wit has had the fortune to make this
strong use of me here before you: but I protest --
[ENTER CARLO BUFFONE, FOLLOWED BY A BOY WITH WINE.
CAR. Come, come, leave these fustian protestations; away, come, I cannot
abide these grey-headed ceremonies. Boy, fetch me a glass quickly, I may
bid these gentlemen welcome; give them a health here. [EXIT BOY.] I
mar'le whose wit it was to put a prologue in yond' sackbut's mouth; they
might well think he'd be out of tune, and yet you'd play upon him too.
COR. Hang him, dull block!
CAR. O, good words, good words; a well-timber'd fellow, he would have made
a good column, an he had been thought on, when the house was a building --
[RE-ENTER BOY WITH GLASSES..
O, art thou come? Well said; give me, boy; fill so! Here's a cup of wine
sparkles like a diamond. Gentlewomen (I am sworn to put them in first) and
gentlemen, around, in place of a bad prologue, I drink this good draught to
your health here, Canary, the very elixir and spirit of wine. [DRINKS.]
This is that our poet calls Castalian liquor, when he comes abroad now and
then, once in a fortnight, and makes a good meal among players, where he
has 'caninum appetitum'; marry, at home he keeps a good philosophical diet,
beans and butter-milk; an honest pure rogue, he will take you off three,
four, five of these, one after another, and look villainously when he has
done, like a one-headed Cerberus. -- He does not hear me, I hope. -- And
then, when his belly is well ballaced, and his brain rigged a little, he
snails away withal, as though he would work wonders when he comes home. He
has made a play here, and he calls it, 'Every Man out of his Humour': but
an he get me out of the humour he has put me in, I'll trust none of his
tribe again while I live. Gentles, all I can say for him is, you are
welcome. I could wish my bottle here amongst you; but there's an old rule,
No pledging your own health. Marry, if any here be thirsty for it, their
best way (that I know) is, sit still, seal up their lips, and drink so much
of the play in at their ears.
MIT. What may this fellow be, Cordatus?
COR. Faith, if the time will suffer his description, I'll give it you. He
is one, the author calls him Carlo Buffone, an impudent common jester, a
violent railer, and an incomprehensible epicure; one whose company is
desired of all men, but beloved of none; he will sooner lose his soul than
a jest, and profane even the most holy things, to excite laughter: no
honourable or reverend personage whatsoever can come within the reach of
his eye, but is turned into all manner of variety, by his adulterate
MIT. You paint forth a monster.
COR. He will prefer all countries before his native, and thinks he can
never sufficiently, or with admiration enough, deliver his affectionate
conceit of foreign atheistical policies. But stay --
Observe these: he'll appear himself anon.
MIT. O, this is your envious man, Macilente, I think.
COR. The same, sir.
SCENE I. -- The Country.
ENTER MACILENTE, WITH A BOOK.
MACI. "Viri est, fortunae caecitatem facile ferre."
'Tis true; but, Stoic, where, in the vast world,
Doth that man breathe, that can so much command
His blood and his affection? Well, I see
I strive in vain to cure my wounded soul;
For every cordial that my thoughts apply
Turns to a corsive and doth eat it farther.
There is no taste in this philosophy;
'Tis like a potion that a man should drink,
But turns his stomach with the sight of it.
I am no such pill'd Cynick to believe,
That beggary is the only happiness;
Or with a number of these patient fools,
To sing: "My mind to me a kingdom is,"
When the lank hungry belly barks for food,
I look into the world, and there I meet
With objects, that do strike my blood-shot eyes
Into my brain: where, when I view myself,
Having before observ'd this man is great,
Mighty and fear'd; that lov'd and highly favour'd:
A third thought wise and learn'd; a fourth rich,
And therefore honour'd; a fifth rarely featur'd;
A sixth admired for his nuptial fortunes:
When I see these, I say, and view myself,
I wish the organs of my sight were crack'd;
And that the engine of my grief could cast
Mine eyeballs, like two globes of wildfire, forth,
To melt this unproportion'd frame of nature.
Oh, they are thoughts that have transfix'd my heart,
And often, in the strength of apprehension,
Made my cold passion stand upon my face,
Like drops of dew on a stiff cake of ice.
COR. This alludes well to that of the poet,
"Invidus suspirat, gemit, incutitque dentes,
Sudat frigidus, intuens quod odit."
MIT. O, peace, you break the scene.
[ENTER SOGLIARDO AND CARLO BUFFONE.
MACI. Soft, who be these?
I'll lay me down awhile till they be past.
CAR. Signior, note this gallant, I pray you.
MIT. What is he?
CAR. A tame rook, you'll take him presently; list.
SOG. Nay, look you, Carlo; this is my humour now! I have land and money,
my friends left me well, and I will be a gentleman whatsoever it cost me.
CAR. A most gentlemanlike resolution.
SOG. Tut! an I take an humour of a thing once, I am like your tailor's
needle, I go through: but, for my name, signior, how think you? will it
not serve for a gentleman's name, when the signior is put to it, ha?
CAR. Let me hear; how is it?
SOG. Signior Insulso Sogliardo: methinks it sounds well.
CAR. O excellent! tut! an all fitted to your name, you might very well
stand for a gentleman: I know many Sogliardos gentlemen.
SOG. Why, and for my wealth I might be a justice of peace.
CAR. Ay, and a constable for your wit.
SOG. All this is my lordship you see here, and those farms you came by.
CAR. Good steps to gentility too, marry: but, Sogliardo, if you affect to
be a gentleman indeed, you must observe all the rare qualities, humours,
and compliments of a gentleman.
SOG. I know it, signior, and if you please to instruct, I am not too good
to learn, I'll assure you.
CAR. Enough, sir. -- I'll make admirable use in the projection of my
medicine upon this lump of copper here. [ASIDE] -- I'll bethink me for
SOG. Signior, I will both pay you, and pray you, and thank you, and think
COR. Is this not purely good?
MACI. S'blood, why should such a prick-ear'd hind as this
Be rich, ha? a fool! such a transparent gull
That may be seen through! wherefore should he have land,
Houses, and lordships? O, I could eat my entrails,
And sink my soul into the earth with sorrow.
CAR. First, to be an accomplished gentleman, that is, a gentleman of the
time, you must give over housekeeping in the country, and live altogether
in the city amongst gallants: where, at your first appearance, 'twere good
you turn'd four or five hundred acres of your best land into two or three
trunks of apparel -- you may do it without going to a conjurer -- and be
sure you mix yourself still with such as flourish in the spring of the
fashion, and are least popular; study their carriage and behaviour in all;
learn to play at primero and passage, and ever (when you lose) have two or
three peculiar oaths to swear by, that no man else swears: but, above all,
protest in your play, and affirm, "Upon your credit, As you are a true gentleman", at every cast; you may do it with a safe conscience, I warrant you.
SOG. O admirable rare! he cannot choose but be a gentleman that has these
excellent gifts: more, more, I beseech you.
CAR. You must endeavour to feed cleanly at your ordinary, sit melancholy,
and pick your teeth when you cannot speak: and
when you come to plays, be humorous, look with a good starch'd face, and
ruffle your brow like a new boot, laugh at nothing but your own jests, or
else as the noblemen laugh. That's a special grace you must observe.
SAG. I warrant you, sir.
CAR. Ay, and sit on the stage and flout, provided you have a good suit.
SOG. O, I'll have a suit only for that, sir.
CAR. You must talk much of your kindred and allies.
SOG. Lies! no, signior, I shall not need to do so, I have kindred in the
city to talk of: I have a niece is a merchant's wife; and a nephew, my
brother Sordido's son, of the Inns of court.
CAR. O, but you must pretend alliance with courtiers and great persons:
and ever when you are to dine or sup in any strange presence, hire a fellow
with a great chain, (though it be copper, it's no matter,) to bring you
letters, feign'd from such a nobleman, or such a knight, or such a lady,
"To their worshipful, right rare, and nobly qualified friend and kinsman,
signior Insulso Sogliardo": give yourself style enough. And there, while
you intend circumstances of news, or enquiry of their health, or so, one of
your familiars whom you must carry about you still, breaks it up, as 'twere
in a jest, and reads it publicly at the table: at which you must seem to
take as unpardonable offence, as if he had torn your mistress's colours, or
breath'd upon her picture, and pursue it with that hot grace, as if you
would advance a challenge upon it presently.
SOG. Stay, I do not like that humour of challenge, it may be accepted; but
I'll tell you what's my humour now, I will do this: I will take occasion
of sending one of my suits to the tailor's, to have the pocket repaired, or
so; and there such a letter as you talk of, broke open and all shall be
left; O, the tailor will presently give out what I am, upon the reading of
it, worth twenty of your gallants.
CAR. But then you must put on an extreme face of discontentment at your
SOG. O, so I will, and beat him too: I'll have a man for the purpose.
MAC. You may; you have land and crowns: O partial fate!
CAR. Mass, well remember'd, you must keep your men gallant at the first,
fine pied liveries laid with good gold lace; there's no loss in it, they
may rip it off and pawn it when they lack victuals.
SOG. By 'r Lady, that is chargeable, signior, 'twill bring a man in debt.
CAR. Debt! why that's the more for your credit, sir: it's an excellent
policy to owe much in these days, if you note it.
SOG. As how, good signior? I would fain be a politician.
CAR. O! look where you are indebted any great sum, your creditor observes
you with no less regard, than if he were bound to you for some huge
benefit, and will quake to give you the least cause of offence, lest he
lose his money. I assure you, in these
times, no man has his servant more obsequious and pliant, than gentlemen
their creditors: to whom, if at any time you pay but a moiety, or a fourth
part, it comes more acceptably than if you gave them a new-year's gift.
SOG. I perceive you, sir: I will take up, and bring myself in credit, sure.
CAR. Marry this, always beware you commerce not with bankrupts, or poor
needy Ludgathians; they are impudent creatures, turbulent spirits, they
care not what violent tragedies they stir, nor how they play fast and loose
with a poor gentleman's fortunes, to get their own. Marry, these rich
fellows that have the world, or the better part of it, sleeping in their
counting-houses, they are ten times more placable, they; either fear, hope,
or modesty, restrains them from offering any outrages: but this is nothing
to your followers, you shall not run a penny more in arrearage for them, an
you list, yourself.
SOG. No! how should I keep 'em then?
CAR. Keep 'em! 'sblood, let them keep themselves, they are no sheep, are
they? what, you shall come in houses, where plate, apparel, jewels, and
divers other pretty commodities lie negligently scattered, and I would have
those Mercuries follow me, I trow, should remember they had not their
fingers for nothing.
SOG. That's not so good, methinks.
CAR. Why, after you have kept them a fortnight, or so, and shew'd them
enough to the world, you may turn them away, and keep no more but a boy,
SOG. Nay, my humour is not for boys, I'll keep men, an I keep any; and
I'll give coats, that's my humour: but I lack a cullisen.
CAR. Why, now you ride to the city, you may buy one; I'll bring you where
you shall have your choice for money.
SOG. Can you, sir?
CAR. O, ay: you shall have one take measure of you, and make you a coat
of arms to fit you, of what fashion you will.
SOG. By word of mouth, I thank you, signior; I'll be once a little
prodigal in a humour, i'faith, and have a most prodigious coat.
MAC. Torment and death! break head and brain at once,
To be deliver'd of your fighting issue.
Who can endure to see blind Fortune dote thus?
To be enamour'd on this dusty turf,
This clod, a whoreson puck-fist! O G----!
I could run wild with grief now, to behold
The rankness of her bounties, that doth breed
Such bulrushes; these mushroom gentlemen,
That shoot up in a night to place and worship.
CAR. [SEEING MACILENTE.] Let him alone; some stray, some stray.
SOG. Nay, I will examine him before I go, sure.
CAR. The lord of the soil has all wefts and strays here, has he not?
SOG. Yes, sir.
CAR. Faith then I pity the poor fellow, he's fallen into a fool's hands.
SOG. Sirrah, who gave you a commission to lie in my lordship?
MAC. Your lordship!
SOG. How! my lordship? do you know me, sir?
MAC. I do know you, sir.
CAR. He answers him like an echo.
SOG. Why, Who am I, sir?
MAC. One of those that fortune favours.
CAR. The periphrasis of a fool. I'll observe this better.
SOG. That fortune favours! how mean you that, friend?
MAC. I mean simply: that you are one that lives not by your wits.
SOG. By my wits! no sir, I scorn to live by my wits, I. I have better
means, I tell thee, than to take such base courses, as to live by my wits.
What, dost thou think I live by my wits?
MAC. Methinks, jester, you should not relish this well.
CAR. Ha! does he know me?
MAC. Though yours be the worst use a man can put his wit to, of thousands,
to prostitute it at every tavern and ordinary; yet, methinks, you should
have turn'd your broadside at this, and have been ready with an apology,
able to sink this hulk of ignorance into the bottom and depth of his
CAR. Oh, 'tis Macilente! Signior, you are well encountered; how is it?
O, we must not regard what he says, man, a trout, a shallow fool, he has no
more brain than a butterfly, a mere stuft suit; he looks like a musty
bottle new wicker'd, his head's the cork, light, light! [ASIDE TO
MACILENTE.] -- I am glad to see you so well return'd, signior.
MAC. You are! gramercy, good Janus.
SOG. Is he one of your acquaintance? I love him the better for that.
CAR. Od's precious, come away, man, what do you mean? an you knew him as
I do, you'd shun him as you would do the plague.
SOG. Why, sir?
CAR. O, he's a black fellow, take heed of him.
SOG. Is he a scholar, or a soldier?
CAR. Both, both; a lean mongrel, he looks as if he were chop-fallen, with
barking at other men's good fortunes: 'ware how you offend him; he carries
oil and fire in his pen, will scald where it drops: his spirit is like
powder, quick, violent; he'll blow a man up with a jest: I fear him worse
than a rotten wall does the cannon; shake an hour after at the report.
Away, come not near him.
SOG. For God's sake let's be gone; an he be a scholar, you know I cannot
abide him; I had as lieve see a cockatrice, specially as cockatrices go now.
CAR. What, you'll stay, signior? this gentleman Sogliardo, and I, are to visit the knight Puntarvolo, and from thence to the city; we shall meet there.
[EXIT WITH SOGLIARDO.
MAC. Ay, when I cannot shun you, we will meet.
'Tis strange! of all the creatures I have seen,
I envy not this Buffone, for indeed
Neither his fortunes nor his parts deserve it:
But I do hate him, as I hate the devil,
Or that brass-visaged monster Barbarism.
O, 'tis an open-throated, black-mouth'd cur,
That bites at all, but eats on those that feed him.
A slave, that to your face will, serpent-like,
Creep on the ground, as he would eat the dust,
And to your back will turn the tail, and sting
More deadly than the scorpion: stay, who's this?
Now, for my soul, another minion
Of the old lady Chance's! I'll observe him.
[ENTER SORDIDO WITH AN ALMANACK IN HIS HAND.
SORD. O rare! good, good, good, good, good!
I thank my stars, I thank my stars for it.
MAC. Said I not true? doth not his passion speak
Out of my divination? O my senses,
Why lost you not your powers, and become
Dull'd, if not deaded, with this spectacle?
I know him, it is Sordido, the farmer,
A boor, and brother to that swine was here.
SORD. Excellent, excellent, excellent! as I would wish, as I would wish.
MAC. See how the strumpet fortune tickles him,
And makes him swoon with laughter, O, O, O!
SORD. Ha, ha, ha! I will not sow my grounds this year. Let me see, what
harvest shall we have? "June, July?"
MAC. What, is't a prognostication raps him so?
SORD. "The 20, 21, 22 days, rain and wind." O good, good! "the 23, and
24, rain and some wind," good! "the 25, rain," good still! "26, 27, 28,
wind and some rain"; would it had been rain and some wind! well, 'tis
good, when it can be no better. "29, inclining to rain": inclining to
rain! that's not so good now: "30, and 31, wind and no rain": no rain!
'slid, stay: this is worse and worse: What says he of St. Swithin's?
turn back, look, "saint Swithin's: no rain!"
MAC. O, here's a precious, dirty, damned rogue,
That fats himself with expectation
Of rotten weather, and unseason'd hours;
And he is rich for it, an elder brother!
His barns are full, his ricks and mows well trod,
His garners crack with store! O, 'tis well; ha, ha, ha!
A plague consume thee, and thy house!
SORD. O here, "St. Swithin's, the 15 day, variable weather, for the most
part rain", good! "for the most part rain": why, it should rain forty
days after, now, more or less, it was a rule held, afore I was able to hold
a plough, and yet here are two days no rain; ha! it makes me muse. We'll
see how the next month begins, if that be better. "August 1, 2, 3, and 4,
days, rainy and blustering:" this is well now: "5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, rainy,
with some thunder;" Ay marry, this is excellent; the other was false
printed sure: "the 10 and 11, great store of rain"; O good, good, good,
good, good! "the 12, 13, and 14 days, rain"; good still: "15, and 16,
rain"; good still: "17 and 18, rain", good still: "19 and 20", good
still, good still, good still, good still, good still! "21, some rain";
some rain! well, we must be patient, and attend the heaven's pleasure,
would it were more though: "the 22, 23, great tempests of rain, thunder
O good again, past expectation good!
I thank my blessed angel; never, never
Laid I [a] penny better out than this,
To purchase this dear book: not dear for price,
And yet of me as dearly prized as life,
Since in it is contain'd the very life,
Blood, strength, and sinews, of my happiness.
Blest be the hour wherein I bought this book;
His studies happy that composed the book,
And the man fortunate that sold the book!
Sleep with this charm, and be as true to me,
As I am joy'd and confident in thee
[PUTS IT UP.
[ENTER A HIND, AND GIVES SORDIDO A PAPER TO READ.
MAC. Ha, ha, ha!
Is not this good? Is not pleasing this?
Ha, ha, ha! God pardon me! ha, ha!
Is't possible that such a spacious villain
Should live, and not be plagued? or lies be hid
Within the wrinkled bosom of the world,
Where Heaven cannot see him? S'blood! methinks
'Tis rare, and strange, that he should breathe and walk,
Feed with digestion, sleep, enjoy his health,
And, like a boisterous whale swallowing the poor,
Still swim in wealth and pleasure! is't not strange?
Unless his house and skin were thunder proof,
I wonder at it! Methinks, now, the hectic,
Gout, leprosy, or some such loath'd disease,
Might light upon him; of that fire from heaven
Might fall upon his barns; or mice and rats
Eat up his grain; or else that it might rot
Within the hoary ricks, even as it stands:
Methinks this might be well; and after all
The devil might come and fetch him. Ay, 'tis true!
Meantime he surfeits in prosperity,
And thou, in envy of him, gnaw'st thyself:
Peace, fool, get hence, and tell thy vexed spirit,
Wealth in this age will scarcely look on merit.
[RISES AND EXIT.
SORD. Who brought this same, sirrah?
HIND. Marry, sir, one of the justice's men; he says 'tis a precept, and
all their hands be at it.
SORD. Ay, and the prints of them stick in my flesh,
Deeper than in their letters: they have sent me
Pills wrapt in paper here, that, should I take them,
Would poison all the sweetness of my book,
And turn my honey into hemlock juice.
But I am wiser than to serve their precepts,
Or follow their prescriptions. Here's a device,
To charge me bring my grain unto the markets:
Ay, much! when I have neither barn nor garner,
Nor earth to hid it in, I'll bring 't; till then,
Each corn I send shall be as big as Paul's.
O, but (say some) the poor are like to starve.
Why, let 'em starve, what's that to me? are bees
Bound to keep life in drones and idle moths? no:
Why such are these that term themselves the poor,
Only because they would be pitied,
But are indeed a sort of lazy beggars,
Licentious rogues, and sturdy vagabonds,
Bred by the sloth of a fat plenteous year,
Like snakes in heat of summer, out of dung;
And this is all that these cheap times are good for:
Whereas a wholesome and penurious dearth
Purges the soil of such vile excrements,
And kills the vipers up.
HIND. O, but master,
Take heed they hear you not.
SORD. Why so?
HIND. They will exclaim against you.
SORD. Ay, their exclaims
Move me as much, as thy breath moves a mountain.
Poor worms, they hiss at me, whilst I at home
Can be contented to applaud myself,
To sit and clap my hands, and laugh, and leap,
Knocking my head against my roof, with joy
To see how plump my bags are, and my barns.
Sirrah, go hie you home, and bid your fellows
Get all their flails ready again I come.
HIND. I will, sir.
SORD. I'll instantly set all my hinds to thrashing
Of a whole rick of corn, which I will hide
Under the ground; and with the straw thereof
I'll stuff the outsides of my other mows:
That done, I'll have them empty all my garners,
And in the friendly earth bury my store,
That, when the searchers come, they may suppose
All's spent, and that my fortunes were belied.
And to lend more opinion to my want,
And stop that many-mouthed vulgar dog,
Which else would still be baying at my door,
Each market-day I will be seen to buy
Part of the purest wheat, as for my household;
Where when it comes, it shall increase my heaps:
'Twill yield me treble gain at this dear time,
Promised in this dear book: I have cast all.
Till then I will not sell an ear, I'll hang first.
O, I shall make my prices as I list;
My house and I can feed on peas and barley.
What though a world of wretches starve the while;
He that will thrive must think no courses vile.
COR. Now, signior, how approve you this? have the humourists exprest
themselves truly or no?
MIT. Yes, if it be well prosecuted, 'tis hitherto happy enough: but
methinks Macilente went hence too soon; he might have been made to stay,
and speak somewhat in reproof of Sordido's wretchedness now at the last.
COR. O, no, that had been extremely improper; besides, he had continued
the scene too long with him, as 'twas, being in no more action.
MIT. You may inforce the length as a necessary reason; but for propriety,
the scene wou'd very well have borne it, in my judgment.
COR. O, worst of both; why, you mistake his humour utterly then.
MIT. How do I mistake it? Is it not envy?
COR. Yes, but you must understand, signior, he envies him not as he is a
villain, a wolf in the commonwealth, but as he is rich and fortunate; for
the true condition of envy is, 'dolor alienae felicitatis', to have our
eyes continually fixed upon another man's prosperity that is, his chief
happiness, and to grieve at that. Whereas, if we make his monstrous and
abhorr'd actions our object, the grief we take then comes nearer the nature
of hate than envy, as being bred out of a kind of contempt and loathing in
MIT. So you'll infer it had been hate, not envy in him, to reprehend the
humour of Sordido?
COR. Right, for what a man truly envies in another, he could always love
and cherish in himself; but no man truly reprehends in another, what he
loves in himself; therefore reprehension is out of his hate. And this
distinction hath he himself made in a speech there, if you marked it, where
he says, "I envy not this Buffone, but I hate him." Why might he not as
well have hated Sordido as him?
COR. No, sir, there was subject for his envy in Sordido, his wealth: so
was there not in the other. He stood possest of no one eminent gift, but a
most odious and fiend-like disposition, that would turn charity itself into
hate, much more envy, for the present.
MIT. You have satisfied me, sir. O, here comes the fool, and the jester
COR. 'Twere pity they should be parted, sir.
MIT. What bright-shining gallant's that with them? the knight they went to?
COR. No, sir, this is one monsieur Fastidious Brisk, otherwise called the
fresh Frenchified courtier.
MIT. A humourist too?
COR. As humorous as quicksilver; do but observe him; the scene is the
country still, remember.
SCENE I. -- THE COUNTRY; BEFORE PUNTARVOLO'S HOUSE.
ENTER FASTIDIOUS BRISK, CINEDO, CARLO BUFFONE, AND SOGLIARDO.
FAST. Cinedo, watch when the knight comes, and give us word.
CIN. I will, sir.
FAST. How lik'st thou my boy, Carlo?
CAR. O, well, well. He looks like a colonel of the Pigmies horse, or one
of these motions in a great antique clock; he would shew well upon a
haberdasher's stall, at a corner shop, rarely.
FAST. 'Sheart, what a damn'd witty rogue's this! How he confounds with
CAR. Better with similes than smiles: and whither were you riding now,
FAST. Who, I? What a silly jest's that! Whither should I ride but to the
CAR. O, pardon me, sir, twenty places more; your hot-house, or your