THE greatest of English dramatists except Shakespeare, the first
literary dictator and poet-laureate, a writer of verse, prose,
satire, and criticism who most potently of all the men of his time
affected the subsequent course of English letters: such was Ben
Jonson, and as such his strong personality assumes an interest to
us almost unparalleled, at least in his age.
Ben Jonson came of the stock that was centuries after to give to
the world Thomas Carlyle; for Jonson’s grandfather was of
Annandale, over the Solway, whence he migrated to England.
Jonson’s father lost his estate under Queen Mary, “having been cast
into prison and forfeited.” He entered the church, but died a
month before his illustrious son was born, leaving his widow and
child in poverty. Jonson’s birthplace was Westminster, and the
time of his birth early in 1573. He was thus nearly ten years
Shakespeare’s junior, and less well off, if a trifle better born.
But Jonson did not profit even by this slight advantage. His
mother married beneath her, a wright or bricklayer, and Jonson was
for a time apprenticed to the trade. As a youth he attracted the
attention of the famous antiquary, William Camden, then usher at
Westminster School, and there the poet laid the solid foundations
of his classical learning. Jonson always held Camden in
veneration, acknowledging that to him he owed,
“All that I am in arts, all that I know;”
and dedicating his first dramatic success, “Every Man in His
Humour,” to him. It is doubtful whether Jonson ever went to either
university, though Fuller says that he was “statutably admitted
into St. John’s College, Cambridge.” He tells us that he took no
degree, but was later “Master of Arts in both the universities, by
their favour, not his study.” When a mere youth Jonson enlisted as
a soldier, trailing his pike in Flanders in the protracted wars of
William the Silent against the Spanish. Jonson was a large and
raw-boned lad; he became by his own account in time exceedingly
bulky. In chat with his friend William Drummond of Hawthornden,
Jonson told how “in his service in the Low Countries he had, in the
face of both the camps, killed an enemy, and taken opima spolia
from him;” and how “since his coming to England, being appealed to
the fields, he had killed his adversary which had hurt him in the
arm and whose sword was ten inches longer than his.” Jonson’s
reach may have made up for the lack of his sword; certainly his
prowess lost nothing in the telling. Obviously Jonson was brave,
combative, and not averse to talking of himself and his doings.
In 1592, Jonson returned from abroad penniless. Soon after he
married, almost as early and quite as imprudently as Shakespeare.
He told Drummond curtly that “his wife was a shrew, yet honest”;
for some years he lived apart from her in the household of Lord
Albany. Yet two touching epitaphs among Jonson’s “Epigrams,” “On
my first daughter,” and “On my first son,” attest the warmth of the
poet’s family affections. The daughter died in infancy, the son of
the plague; another son grew up to manhood little credit to his
father whom he survived. We know nothing beyond this of Jonson’s
How soon Jonson drifted into what we now call grandly “the
theatrical profession” we do not know. In 1593, Marlowe made his
tragic exit from life, and Greene, Shakespeare’s other rival on the
popular stage, had preceded Marlowe in an equally miserable death
the year before. Shakespeare already had the running to himself.
Jonson appears first in the employment of Philip Henslowe, the
exploiter of several troupes of players, manager, and father-in-law
of the famous actor, Edward Alleyn. From entries in “Henslowe’s
Diary,” a species of theatrical account book which has been handed
down to us, we know that Jonson was connected with the Admiral’s
men; for he borrowed 4 pounds of Henslowe, July 28, 1597, paying
back 3s. 9d. on the same day on account of his “share” (in what is
not altogether clear); while later, on December 3, of the same
year, Henslowe advanced 20s. to him “upon a book which he showed
the plot unto the company which he promised to deliver unto the
company at Christmas next.” In the next August Jonson was in
collaboration with Chettle and Porter in a play called “Hot Anger
Soon Cold.” All this points to an association with Henslowe of
some duration, as no mere tyro would be thus paid in advance upon
mere promise. From allusions in Dekker’s play, “Satiromastix,” it
appears that Jonson, like Shakespeare, began life as an actor, and
that he “ambled in a leather pitch by a play-wagon” taking at one
time the part of Hieronimo in Kyd’s famous play, “The Spanish
Tragedy.” By the beginning of 1598, Jonson, though still in needy
circumstances, had begun to receive recognition. Francis Meres —
well known for his “Comparative Discourse of our English Poets with
the Greek, Latin, and Italian Poets,” printed in 1598, and for his
mention therein of a dozen plays of Shakespeare by title — accords
to Ben Jonson a place as one of “our best in tragedy,” a matter of
some surprise, as no known tragedy of Jonson from so early a date
has come down to us. That Jonson was at work on tragedy, however,
is proved by the entries in Henslowe of at least three tragedies,
now lost, in which he had a hand. These are “Page of Plymouth,”
“King Robert II. of Scotland,” and “Richard Crookback.” But all of
these came later, on his return to Henslowe, and range from August
1599 to June 1602.
Returning to the autumn of 1598, an event now happened to sever for
a time Jonson’s relations with Henslowe. In a letter to Alleyn,
dated September 26 of that year, Henslowe writes: “I have lost one
of my company that hurteth me greatly; that is Gabriel [Spencer],
for he is slain in Hogsden fields by the hands of Benjamin Jonson,
bricklayer.” The last word is perhaps Henslowe’s thrust at Jonson
in his displeasure rather than a designation of his actual
continuance at his trade up to this time. It is fair to Jonson to
remark however, that his adversary appears to have been a notorious
fire-eater who had shortly before killed one Feeke in a similar
squabble. Duelling was a frequent occurrence of the time among
gentlemen and the nobility; it was an impudent breach of the peace
on the part of a player. This duel is the one which Jonson
described years after to Drummond, and for it Jonson was duly
arraigned at Old Bailey, tried, and convicted. He was sent to
prison and such goods and chattels as he had “were forfeited.” It
is a thought to give one pause that, but for the ancient law
permitting convicted felons to plead, as it was called, the benefit
of clergy, Jonson might have been hanged for this deed. The
circumstance that the poet could read and write saved him; and he
received only a brand of the letter “T,” for Tyburn, on his left
thumb. While in jail Jonson became a Roman Catholic; but he
returned to the faith of the Church of England a dozen years later.
On his release, in disgrace with Henslowe and his former
associates, Jonson offered his services as a playwright to
Henslowe’s rivals, the Lord Chamberlain’s company, in which
Shakespeare was a prominent shareholder. A tradition of long
standing, though not susceptible of proof in a court of law,
narrates that Jonson had submitted the manuscript of “Every Man in
His Humour” to the Chamberlain’s men and had received from the
company a refusal; that Shakespeare called him back, read the play
himself, and at once accepted it. Whether this story is true or
not, certain it is that “Every Man in His Humour” was accepted by
Shakespeare’s company and acted for the first time in 1598, with
Shakespeare taking a part. The evidence of this is contained in
the list of actors prefixed to the comedy in the folio of Jonson’s
works, 1616. But it is a mistake to infer, because Shakespeare’s
name stands first in the list of actors and the elder Kno’well
first in the dramatis personae, that Shakespeare took that
particular part. The order of a list of Elizabethan players was
generally that of their importance or priority as shareholders in
the company and seldom if ever corresponded to the list of
“Every Man in His Humour” was an immediate success, and with it
Jonson’s reputation as one of the leading dramatists of his time
was established once and for all. This could have been by no means
Jonson’s earliest comedy, and we have just learned that he was
already reputed one of “our best in tragedy.” Indeed, one of
Jonson’s extant comedies, “The Case is Altered,” but one never
claimed by him or published as his, must certainly have preceded
“Every Man in His Humour” on the stage. The former play may be
described as a comedy modelled on the Latin plays of Plautus. (It
combines, in fact, situations derived from the “Captivi” and the
“Aulularia” of that dramatist). But the pretty story of the
beggar-maiden, Rachel, and her suitors, Jonson found, not among the
classics, but in the ideals of romantic love which Shakespeare had
already popularised on the stage. Jonson never again produced so
fresh and lovable a feminine personage as Rachel, although in other
respects “The Case is Altered” is not a conspicuous play, and, save
for the satirising of Antony Munday in the person of Antonio
Balladino and Gabriel Harvey as well, is perhaps the least
characteristic of the comedies of Jonson.
“Every Man in His Humour,” probably first acted late in the summer
of 1598 and at the Curtain, is commonly regarded as an epoch-making
play; and this view is not unjustified. As to plot, it tells
little more than how an intercepted letter enabled a father to
follow his supposedly studious son to London, and there observe his
life with the gallants of the time. The real quality of this
comedy is in its personages and in the theory upon which they are
conceived. Ben Jonson had theories about poetry and the drama, and
he was neither chary in talking of them nor in experimenting with
them in his plays. This makes Jonson, like Dryden in his time, and
Wordsworth much later, an author to reckon with; particularly when
we remember that many of Jonson’s notions came for a time
definitely to prevail and to modify the whole trend of English
poetry. First of all Jonson was a classicist, that is, he believed
in restraint and precedent in art in opposition to the prevalent
ungoverned and irresponsible Renaissance spirit. Jonson believed
that there was a professional way of doing things which might be
reached by a study of the best examples, and he found these
examples for the most part among the ancients. To confine our
attention to the drama, Jonson objected to the amateurishness and
haphazard nature of many contemporary plays, and set himself to do
something different; and the first and most striking thing that he
evolved was his conception and practice of the comedy of humours.
As Jonson has been much misrepresented in this matter, let us quote
his own words as to “humour.” A humour, according to Jonson, was a
bias of disposition, a warp, so to speak, in character by which
“Some one peculiar quality
Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw
All his affects, his spirits, and his powers,
In their confluctions, all to run one way.”
But continuing, Jonson is careful to add:
“But that a rook by wearing a pied feather,
The cable hat-band, or the three-piled ruff,
A yard of shoe-tie, or the Switzers knot
On his French garters, should affect a humour!
O, it is more than most ridiculous.”
Jonson’s comedy of humours, in a word, conceived of stage
personages on the basis of a ruling trait or passion (a notable
simplification of actual life be it observed in passing); and,
placing these typified traits in juxtaposition in their conflict
and contrast, struck the spark of comedy. Downright, as his name
indicates, is “a plain squire”; Bobadill’s humour is that of the
braggart who is incidentally, and with delightfully comic effect, a
coward; Brainworm’s humour is the finding out of things to the end
of fooling everybody: of course he is fooled in the end himself.
But it was not Jonson’s theories alone that made the success of
“Every Man in His Humour.” The play is admirably written and each
character is vividly conceived, and with a firm touch based on
observation of the men of the London of the day. Jonson was
neither in this, his first great comedy (nor in any other play that
he wrote), a supine classicist, urging that English drama return to
a slavish adherence to classical conditions. He says as to the
laws of the old comedy (meaning by “laws,” such matters as the
unities of time and place and the use of chorus): “I see not then,
but we should enjoy the same licence, or free power to illustrate
and heighten our invention as they [the ancients] did; and not be
tied to those strict and regular forms which the niceness of a few,
who are nothing but form, would thrust upon us.” “Every Man in His
Humour” is written in prose, a novel practice which Jonson had of
his predecessor in comedy, John Lyly. Even the word “humour” seems
to have been employed in the Jonsonian sense by Chapman before
Jonson’s use of it. Indeed, the comedy of humours itself is only a
heightened variety of the comedy of manners which represents life,
viewed at a satirical angle, and is the oldest and most persistent
species of comedy in the language. None the less, Jonson’s comedy
merited its immediate success and marked out a definite course in
which comedy long continued to run. To mention only Shakespeare’s
Falstaff and his rout, Bardolph, Pistol, Dame Quickly, and the
rest, whether in “Henry IV.” or in “The Merry Wives of Windsor,”
all are conceived in the spirit of humours. So are the captains,
Welsh, Scotch, and Irish of “Henry V.,” and Malvolio especially
later; though Shakespeare never employed the method of humours for
an important personage. It was not Jonson’s fault that many of his
successors did precisely the thing that he had reprobated, that is,
degrade “the humour: into an oddity of speech, an eccentricity of
manner, of dress, or cut of beard. There was an anonymous play
called “Every Woman in Her Humour.” Chapman wrote “A Humourous
Day’s Mirth,” Day, “Humour Out of Breath,” Fletcher later, “The
Humourous Lieutenant,” and Jonson, besides “Every Man Out of His
Humour,” returned to the title in closing the cycle of his comedies
in “The Magnetic Lady or Humours Reconciled.”
With the performance of “Every Man Out of His Humour” in 1599, by
Shakespeare’s company once more at the Globe, we turn a new page in
Jonson’s career. Despite his many real virtues, if there is one
feature more than any other that distinguishes Jonson, it is his
arrogance; and to this may be added his self-righteousness,
especially under criticism or satire. “Every Man Out of His
Humour” is the first of three “comical satires” which Jonson
contributed to what Dekker called the poetomachia or war of the
theatres as recent critics have named it. This play as a fabric of
plot is a very slight affair; but as a satirical picture of the
manners of the time, proceeding by means of vivid caricature,
couched in witty and brilliant dialogue and sustained by that
righteous indignation which must lie at the heart of all true
satire — as a realisation, in short, of the classical ideal of
comedy — there had been nothing like Jonson’s comedy since the
days of Aristophanes. “Every Man in His Humour,” like the two
plays that follow it, contains two kinds of attack, the critical or
generally satiric, levelled at abuses and corruptions in the
abstract; and the personal, in which specific application is made
of all this in the lampooning of poets and others, Jonson’s
contemporaries. The method of personal attack by actual caricature
of a person on the stage is almost as old as the drama.
Aristophanes so lampooned Euripides in “The Acharnians” and
Socrates in “The Clouds,” to mention no other examples; and in
English drama this kind of thing is alluded to again and again.
What Jonson really did, was to raise the dramatic lampoon to an
art, and make out of a casual burlesque and bit of mimicry a
dramatic satire of literary pretensions and permanency. With the
arrogant attitude mentioned above and his uncommon eloquence in
scorn, vituperation, and invective, it is no wonder that Jonson
soon involved himself in literary and even personal quarrels with
his fellow-authors. The circumstances of the origin of this
‘poetomachia’ are far from clear, and those who have written on the
topic, except of late, have not helped to make them clearer. The
origin of the “war” has been referred to satirical references,
apparently to Jonson, contained in “The Scourge of Villainy,” a
satire in regular form after the manner of the ancients by John
Marston, a fellow playwright, subsequent friend and collaborator of
Jonson’s. On the other hand, epigrams of Jonson have been
discovered (49, 68, and 100) variously charging “playwright”
(reasonably identified with Marston) with scurrility, cowardice,
and plagiarism; though the dates of the epigrams cannot be
ascertained with certainty. Jonson’s own statement of the matter
to Drummond runs: “He had many quarrels with Marston, beat him,
and took his pistol from him, wrote his “Poetaster” on him; the
beginning[s] of them were that Marston represented him on the
[footnote] *The best account of this whole subject is to be found
in the edition of “Poetaster” and “Satiromastrix” by J. H. Penniman
in “Belles Lettres Series” shortly to appear. See also his earlier
work, “The War of the Theatres,” 1892, and the excellent
contributions to the subject by H. C. Hart in “Notes and Queries,”
and in his edition of Jonson, 1906.
Here at least we are on certain ground; and the principals of the
quarrel are known. “Histriomastix,” a play revised by Marston in
1598, has been regarded as the one in which Jonson was thus
“represented on the stage”; although the personage in question,
Chrisogonus, a poet, satirist, and translator, poor but proud, and
contemptuous of the common herd, seems rather a complimentary
portrait of Jonson than a caricature. As to the personages
actually ridiculed in “Every Man Out of His Humour,” Carlo Buffone
was formerly thought certainly to be Marston, as he was described
as “a public, scurrilous, and profane jester,” and elsewhere as the
grand scourge or second untruss [that is, satirist], of the time”
(Joseph Hall being by his own boast the first, and Marston’s work
being entitled “The Scourge of Villainy”). Apparently we must now
prefer for Carlo a notorious character named Charles Chester, of
whom gossipy and inaccurate Aubrey relates that he was “a bold
impertinent fellow…a perpetual talker and made a noise like a
drum in a room. So one time at a tavern Sir Walter Raleigh beats
him and seals up his mouth (that is his upper and nether beard)
with hard wax. From him Ben Jonson takes his Carlo Buffone
[‘i.e.’, jester] in “Every Man in His Humour” [‘sic’].” Is it
conceivable that after all Jonson was ridiculing Marston, and that
the point of the satire consisted in an intentional confusion of
“the grand scourge or second untruss” with “the scurrilous and
We have digressed into detail in this particular case to exemplify
the difficulties of criticism in its attempts to identify the
allusions in these forgotten quarrels. We are on sounder ground of
fact in recording other manifestations of Jonson’s enmity. In “The
Case is Altered” there is clear ridicule in the character Antonio
Balladino of Anthony Munday, pageant-poet of the city, translator
of romances and playwright as well. In “Every Man in His Humour”
there is certainly a caricature of Samuel Daniel, accepted poet of
the court, sonneteer, and companion of men of fashion. These men
held recognised positions to which Jonson felt his talents better
entitled him; they were hence to him his natural enemies. It seems
almost certain that he pursued both in the personages of his satire
through “Every Man Out of His Humour,” and “Cynthia’s Revels,”
Daniel under the characters Fastidious Brisk and Hedon, Munday as
Puntarvolo and Amorphus; but in these last we venture on quagmire
once more. Jonson’s literary rivalry of Daniel is traceable again
and again, in the entertainments that welcomed King James on his
way to London, in the masques at court, and in the pastoral drama.
As to Jonson’s personal ambitions with respect to these two men, it
is notable that he became, not pageant-poet, but chronologer to the
City of London; and that, on the accession of the new king, he came
soon to triumph over Daniel as the accepted entertainer of royalty.
“Cynthia’s Revels,” the second “comical satire,” was acted in 1600,
and, as a play, is even more lengthy, elaborate, and impossible
than “Every Man Out of His Humour.” Here personal satire seems to
have absorbed everything, and while much of the caricature is
admirable, especially in the detail of witty and trenchantly
satirical dialogue, the central idea of a fountain of self-love is
not very well carried out, and the persons revert at times to
abstractions, the action to allegory. It adds to our wonder that
this difficult drama should have been acted by the Children of
Queen Elizabeth’s Chapel, among them Nathaniel Field with whom
Jonson read Horace and Martial, and whom he taught later how to
make plays. Another of these precocious little actors was
Salathiel Pavy, who died before he was thirteen, already famed for
taking the parts of old men. Him Jonson immortalised in one of the
sweetest of his epitaphs. An interesting sidelight is this on the
character of this redoubtable and rugged satirist, that he should
thus have befriended and tenderly remembered these little
theatrical waifs, some of whom (as we know) had been literally
kidnapped to be pressed into the service of the theatre and whipped
to the conning of their difficult parts. To the caricature of
Daniel and Munday in “Cynthia’s Revels” must be added Anaides
(impudence), here assuredly Marston, and Asotus (the prodigal),
interpreted as Lodge or, more perilously, Raleigh. Crites, like
Asper-Macilente in “Every Man Out of His Humour,” is Jonson’s
self-complaisant portrait of himself, the just, wholly admirable,
and judicious scholar, holding his head high above the pack of the
yelping curs of envy and detraction, but careless of their puny
attacks on his perfections with only too mindful a neglect.
The third and last of the “comical satires” is “Poetaster,” acted,
once more, by the Children of the Chapel in 1601, and Jonson’s only
avowed contribution to the fray. According to the author’s own
account, this play was written in fifteen weeks on a report that
his enemies had entrusted to Dekker the preparation of
“Satiromastix, the Untrussing of the Humorous Poet,” a dramatic
attack upon himself. In this attempt to forestall his enemies
Jonson succeeded, and “Poetaster” was an immediate and deserved
success. While hardly more closely knit in structure than its
earlier companion pieces, “Poetaster” is planned to lead up to the
ludicrous final scene in which, after a device borrowed from the
“Lexiphanes” of Lucian, the offending poetaster, Marston-Crispinus,
is made to throw up the difficult words with which he had
overburdened his stomach as well as overlarded his vocabulary. In
the end Crispinus with his fellow, Dekker-Demetrius, is bound over
to keep the peace and never thenceforward “malign, traduce, or
detract the person or writings of Quintus Horatius Flaccus [Jonson]
or any other eminent man transcending you in merit.” One of the
most diverting personages in Jonson’s comedy is Captain Tucca.
“His peculiarity” has been well described by Ward as “a buoyant
blackguardism which recovers itself instantaneously from the most
complete exposure, and a picturesqueness of speech like that of a
walking dictionary of slang.”
It was this character, Captain Tucca, that Dekker hit upon in his
reply, “Satiromastix,” and he amplified him, turning his abusive
vocabulary back upon Jonson and adding “an immodesty to his
dialogue that did not enter into Jonson’s conception.” It has been
held, altogether plausibly, that when Dekker was engaged
professionally, so to speak, to write a dramatic reply to Jonson,
he was at work on a species of chronicle history, dealing with the
story of Walter Terill in the reign of William Rufus. This he
hurriedly adapted to include the satirical characters suggested by
“Poetaster,” and fashioned to convey the satire of his reply. The
absurdity of placing Horace in the court of a Norman king is the
result. But Dekker’s play is not without its palpable hits at the
arrogance, the literary pride, and self-righteousness of
Jonson-Horace, whose “ningle” or pal, the absurd Asinius Bubo, has
recently been shown to figure forth, in all likelihood, Jonson’s
friend, the poet Drayton. Slight and hastily adapted as is
“Satiromastix,” especially in a comparison with the better wrought
and more significant satire of “Poetaster,” the town awarded the
palm to Dekker, not to Jonson; and Jonson gave over in consequence
his practice of “comical satire.” Though Jonson was cited to
appear before the Lord Chief Justice to answer certain charges to
the effect that he had attacked lawyers and soldiers in
“Poetaster,” nothing came of this complaint. It may be suspected
that much of this furious clatter and give-and-take was pure
playing to the gallery. The town was agog with the strife, and on
no less an authority than Shakespeare (“Hamlet,” ii. 2), we learn
that the children’s company (acting the plays of Jonson) did “so
berattle the common stages…that many, wearing rapiers, are afraid
of goose-quills, and dare scarce come thither.”
Several other plays have been thought to bear a greater or less
part in the war of the theatres. Among them the most important is
a college play, entitled “The Return from Parnassus,” dating
1601-02. In it a much-quoted passage makes Burbage, as a
character, declare: “Why here’s our fellow Shakespeare puts them
all down; aye and Ben Jonson, too. O that Ben Jonson is a
pestilent fellow; he brought up Horace, giving the poets a pill,
but our fellow Shakespeare hath given him a purge that made him
bewray his credit.” Was Shakespeare then concerned in this war of
the stages? And what could have been the nature of this “purge”?
Among several suggestions, “Troilus and Cressida” has been thought
by some to be the play in which Shakespeare thus “put down” his
friend, Jonson. A wiser interpretation finds the “purge” in
“Satiromastix,” which, though not written by Shakespeare, was
staged by his company, and therefore with his approval and under
his direction as one of the leaders of that company.
The last years of the reign of Elizabeth thus saw Jonson recognised
as a dramatist second only to Shakespeare, and not second even to
him as a dramatic satirist. But Jonson now turned his talents to
new fields. Plays on subjects derived from classical story and
myth had held the stage from the beginning of the drama, so that
Shakespeare was making no new departure when he wrote his “Julius
Caesar” about 1600. Therefore when Jonson staged “Sejanus,” three
years later and with Shakespeare’s company once more, he was only
following in the elder dramatist’s footsteps. But Jonson’s idea of
a play on classical history, on the one hand, and Shakespeare’s and
the elder popular dramatists, on the other, were very different.
Heywood some years before had put five straggling plays on the
stage in quick succession, all derived from stories in Ovid and
dramatised with little taste or discrimination. Shakespeare had a
finer conception of form, but even he was contented to take all his
ancient history from North’s translation of Plutarch and dramatise
his subject without further inquiry. Jonson was a scholar and a
classical antiquarian. He reprobated this slipshod amateurishness,
and wrote his “Sejanus” like a scholar, reading Tacitus, Suetonius,
and other authorities, to be certain of his facts, his setting, and
his atmosphere, and somewhat pedantically noting his authorities in
the margin when he came to print. “Sejanus” is a tragedy of
genuine dramatic power in which is told with discriminating taste
the story of the haughty favourite of Tiberius with his tragical
overthrow. Our drama presents no truer nor more painstaking
representation of ancient Roman life than may be found in Jonson’s
“Sejanus” and “Catiline his Conspiracy,” which followed in 1611. A
passage in the address of the former play to the reader, in which
Jonson refers to a collaboration in an earlier version, has led to
the surmise that Shakespeare may have been that “worthier pen.”
There is no evidence to determine the matter.
In 1605, we find Jonson in active collaboration with Chapman and
Marston in the admirable comedy of London life entitled “Eastward
Hoe.” In the previous year, Marston had dedicated his
“Malcontent,” in terms of fervid admiration, to Jonson; so that the
wounds of the war of the theatres must have been long since healed.
Between Jonson and Chapman there was the kinship of similar
scholarly ideals. The two continued friends throughout life.
“Eastward Hoe” achieved the extraordinary popularity represented in
a demand for three issues in one year. But this was not due
entirely to the merits of the play. In its earliest version a
passage which an irritable courtier conceived to be derogatory to
his nation, the Scots, sent both Chapman and Jonson to jail; but
the matter was soon patched up, for by this time Jonson had
influence at court.
With the accession of King James, Jonson began his long and
successful career as a writer of masques. He wrote more masques
than all his competitors together, and they are of an extraordinary
variety and poetic excellence. Jonson did not invent the masque;
for such premeditated devices to set and frame, so to speak, a
court ball had been known and practised in varying degrees of
elaboration long before his time. But Jonson gave dramatic value
to the masque, especially in his invention of the antimasque, a
comedy or farcical element of relief, entrusted to professional
players or dancers. He enhanced, as well, the beauty and dignity
of those portions of the masque in which noble lords and ladies
took their parts to create, by their gorgeous costumes and artistic
grouping and evolutions, a sumptuous show. On the mechanical and
scenic side Jonson had an inventive and ingenious partner in Inigo
Jones, the royal architect, who more than any one man raised the
standard of stage representation in the England of his day. Jonson
continued active in the service of the court in the writing of
masques and other entertainments far into the reign of King
Charles; but, towards the end, a quarrel with Jones embittered his
life, and the two testy old men appear to have become not only a
constant irritation to each other, but intolerable bores at court.
In “Hymenaei,” “The Masque of Queens,” “Love Freed from Ignorance,”
“Lovers made Men,” “Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue,” and many more
will be found Jonson’s aptitude, his taste, his poetry and
inventiveness in these by-forms of the drama; while in “The Masque
of Christmas,” and “The Gipsies Metamorphosed” especially, is
discoverable that power of broad comedy which, at court as well as
in the city, was not the least element of Jonson’s contemporary
But Jonson had by no means given up the popular stage when he
turned to the amusement of King James. In 1605 “Volpone” was
produced, “The Silent Woman” in 1609, “The Alchemist” in the
following year. These comedies, with “Bartholomew Fair,” 1614,
represent Jonson at his height, and for constructive cleverness,
character successfully conceived in the manner of caricature, wit
and brilliancy of dialogue, they stand alone in English drama.
“Volpone, or the Fox,” is, in a sense, a transition play from the
dramatic satires of the war of the theatres to the purer comedy
represented in the plays named above. Its subject is a struggle of
wit applied to chicanery; for among its dramatis personae, from
the villainous Fox himself, his rascally servant Mosca, Voltore
(the vulture), Corbaccio and Corvino (the big and the little
raven), to Sir Politic Would-be and the rest, there is scarcely a
virtuous character in the play. Question has been raised as to
whether a story so forbidding can be considered a comedy, for,
although the plot ends in the discomfiture and imprisonment of the
most vicious, it involves no mortal catastrophe. But Jonson was on
sound historical ground, for “Volpone” is conceived far more
logically on the lines of the ancients’ theory of comedy than was
ever the romantic drama of Shakespeare, however repulsive we may
find a philosophy of life that facilely divides the world into the
rogues and their dupes, and, identifying brains with roguery and
innocence with folly, admires the former while inconsistently
“The Silent Woman” is a gigantic farce of the most ingenious
construction. The whole comedy hinges on a huge joke, played by a
heartless nephew on his misanthropic uncle, who is induced to take
to himself a wife, young, fair, and warranted silent, but who, in
the end, turns out neither silent nor a woman at all. In “The
Alchemist,” again, we have the utmost cleverness in construction,
the whole fabric building climax on climax, witty, ingenious, and
so plausibly presented that we forget its departures from the
possibilities of life. In “The Alchemist” Jonson represented, none
the less to the life, certain sharpers of the metropolis, revelling
in their shrewdness and rascality and in the variety of the
stupidity and wickedness of their victims. We may object to the
fact that the only person in the play possessed of a scruple of
honesty is discomfited, and that the greatest scoundrel of all is
approved in the end and rewarded. The comedy is so admirably
written and contrived, the personages stand out with such lifelike
distinctness in their several kinds, and the whole is animated with
such verve and resourcefulness that “The Alchemist” is a new marvel
every time it is read. Lastly of this group comes the tremendous
comedy, “Bartholomew Fair,” less clear cut, less definite, and less
structurally worthy of praise than its three predecessors, but full
of the keenest and cleverest of satire and inventive to a degree
beyond any English comedy save some other of Jonson’s own. It is
in “Bartholomew Fair” that we are presented to the immortal
caricature of the Puritan, Zeal-in-the-Land Busy, and the
Littlewits that group about him, and it is in this extraordinary
comedy that the humour of Jonson, always open to this danger,
loosens into the Rabelaisian mode that so delighted King James in
“The Gipsies Metamorphosed.” Another comedy of less merit is “The
Devil is an Ass,” acted in 1616. It was the failure of this play
that caused Jonson to give over writing for the public stage for a
period of nearly ten years.
“Volpone” was laid as to scene in Venice. Whether because of the
success of “Eastward Hoe” or for other reasons, the other three
comedies declare in the words of the prologue to “The Alchemist”:
“Our scene is London, ’cause we would make known
No country’s mirth is better than our own.”
Indeed Jonson went further when he came to revise his plays for
collected publication in his folio of 1616, he transferred the
scene of “Every Man in His Humour” from Florence to London also,
converting Signior Lorenzo di Pazzi to Old Kno’well, Prospero to
Master Welborn, and Hesperida to Dame Kitely “dwelling i’ the Old
In his comedies of London life, despite his trend towards
caricature, Jonson has shown himself a genuine realist, drawing
from the life about him with an experience and insight rare in any
generation. A happy comparison has been suggested between Ben
Jonson and Charles Dickens. Both were men of the people, lowly
born and hardly bred. Each knew the London of his time as few men
knew it; and each represented it intimately and in elaborate
detail. Both men were at heart moralists, seeking the truth by the
exaggerated methods of humour and caricature; perverse, even
wrong-headed at times, but possessed of a true pathos and largeness
of heart, and when all has been said — though the Elizabethan ran
to satire, the Victorian to sentimentality — leaving the world
better for the art that they practised in it.
In 1616, the year of the death of Shakespeare, Jonson collected his
plays, his poetry, and his masques for publication in a collective
edition. This was an unusual thing at the time and had been
attempted by no dramatist before Jonson. This volume published, in
a carefully revised text, all the plays thus far mentioned,
excepting “The Case is Altered,” which Jonson did not acknowledge,
“Bartholomew Fair,” and “The Devil is an Ass,” which was written
too late. It included likewise a book of some hundred and thirty
odd “Epigrams,” in which form of brief and pungent writing Jonson
was an acknowledged master; “The Forest,” a smaller collection of
lyric and occasional verse and some ten “Masques” and
“Entertainments.” In this same year Jonson was made poet laureate
with a pension of one hundred marks a year. This, with his fees
and returns from several noblemen, and the small earnings of his
plays must have formed the bulk of his income. The poet appears to
have done certain literary hack-work for others, as, for example,
parts of the Punic Wars contributed to Raleigh’s “History of the
World.” We know from a story, little to the credit of either, that
Jonson accompanied Raleigh’s son abroad in the capacity of a tutor.
In 1618 Jonson was granted the reversion of the office of Master of
the Revels, a post for which he was peculiarly fitted; but he did
not live to enjoy its perquisites. Jonson was honoured with
degrees by both universities, though when and under what
circumstances is not known. It has been said that he narrowly
escaped the honour of knighthood, which the satirists of the day
averred King James was wont to lavish with an indiscriminate hand.
Worse men were made knights in his day than worthy Ben Jonson.
From 1616 to the close of the reign of King James, Jonson produced
nothing for the stage. But he “prosecuted” what he calls “his
wonted studies” with such assiduity that he became in reality, as
by report, one of the most learned men of his time. Jonson’s
theory of authorship involved a wide acquaintance with books and
“an ability,” as he put it, “to convert the substance or riches of
another poet to his own use.” Accordingly Jonson read not only the
Greek and Latin classics down to the lesser writers, but he
acquainted himself especially with the Latin writings of his
learned contemporaries, their prose as well as their poetry, their
antiquities and curious lore as well as their more solid learning.
Though a poor man, Jonson was an indefatigable collector of books.
He told Drummond that “the Earl of Pembroke sent him 20 pounds every
first day of the new year to buy new books.” Unhappily, in 1623,
his library was destroyed by fire, an accident serio-comically
described in his witty poem, “An Execration upon Vulcan.” Yet even
now a book turns up from time to time in which is inscribed, in
fair large Italian lettering, the name, Ben Jonson. With respect
to Jonson’s use of his material, Dryden said memorably of him:
“[He] was not only a professed imitator of Horace, but a learned
plagiary of all the others; you track him everywhere in their
snow….But he has done his robberies so openly that one sees he
fears not to be taxed by any law. He invades authors like a
monarch, and what would be theft in other poets is only victory in
him.” And yet it is but fair to say that Jonson prided himself,
and justly, on his originality. In “Catiline,” he not only uses
Sallust’s account of the conspiracy, but he models some of the
speeches of Cicero on the Roman orator’s actual words. In
“Poetaster,” he lifts a whole satire out of Horace and dramatises
it effectively for his purposes. The sophist Libanius suggests the
situation of “The Silent Woman”; a Latin comedy of Giordano Bruno,
“Il Candelaio,” the relation of the dupes and the sharpers in “The
Alchemist,” the “Mostellaria” of Plautus, its admirable opening
scene. But Jonson commonly bettered his sources, and putting the
stamp of his sovereignty on whatever bullion he borrowed made it
thenceforward to all time current and his own.
The lyric and especially the occasional poetry of Jonson has a
peculiar merit. His theory demanded design and the perfection of
literary finish. He was furthest from the rhapsodist and the
careless singer of an idle day; and he believed that Apollo could
only be worthily served in singing robes and laurel crowned. And
yet many of Jonson’s lyrics will live as long as the language. Who
does not know “Queen and huntress, chaste and fair.” “Drink to me
only with thine eyes,” or “Still to be neat, still to be dressed”?
Beautiful in form, deft and graceful in expression, with not a word
too much or one that bears not its part in the total effect, there
is yet about the lyrics of Jonson a certain stiffness and
formality, a suspicion that they were not quite spontaneous and
unbidden, but that they were carved, so to speak, with
disproportionate labour by a potent man of letters whose habitual
thought is on greater things. It is for these reasons that Jonson
is even better in the epigram and in occasional verse where
rhetorical finish and pointed wit less interfere with the
spontaneity and emotion which we usually associate with lyrical
poetry. There are no such epitaphs as Ben Jonson’s, witness the
charming ones on his own children, on Salathiel Pavy, the
child-actor, and many more; and this even though the rigid law of
mine and thine must now restore to William Browne of Tavistock the
famous lines beginning: “Underneath this sable hearse.” Jonson is
unsurpassed, too, in the difficult poetry of compliment, seldom
falling into fulsome praise and disproportionate similitude, yet
showing again and again a generous appreciation of worth in others,
a discriminating taste and a generous personal regard. There was
no man in England of his rank so well known and universally beloved
as Ben Jonson. The list of his friends, of those to whom he had
written verses, and those who had written verses to him, includes
the name of every man of prominence in the England of King James.
And the tone of many of these productions discloses an affectionate
familiarity that speaks for the amiable personality and sound worth
of the laureate. In 1619, growing unwieldy through inactivity,
Jonson hit upon the heroic remedy of a journey afoot to Scotland.
On his way thither and back he was hospitably received at the
houses of many friends and by those to whom his friends had
recommended him. When he arrived in Edinburgh, the burgesses met
to grant him the freedom of the city, and Drummond, foremost of
Scottish poets, was proud to entertain him for weeks as his guest
at Hawthornden. Some of the noblest of Jonson’s poems were
inspired by friendship. Such is the fine “Ode to the memory of Sir
Lucius Cary and Sir Henry Moryson,” and that admirable piece of
critical insight and filial affection, prefixed to the first
Shakespeare folio, “To the memory of my beloved master, William
Shakespeare, and what he hath left us,” to mention only these. Nor
can the earlier “Epode,” beginning “Not to know vice at all,” be
matched in stately gravity and gnomic wisdom in its own wise and
But if Jonson had deserted the stage after the publication of his
folio and up to the end of the reign of King James, he was far from
inactive; for year after year his inexhaustible inventiveness
continued to contribute to the masquing and entertainment at court.
In “The Golden Age Restored,” Pallas turns the Iron Age with
its attendant evils into statues which sink out of sight; in
“Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue,” Atlas figures represented as an
old man, his shoulders covered with snow, and Comus, “the god of
cheer or the belly,” is one of the characters, a circumstance which
an imaginative boy of ten, named John Milton, was not to forget.
“Pan’s Anniversary,” late in the reign of James, proclaimed that
Jonson had not yet forgotten how to write exquisite lyrics, and
“The Gipsies Metamorphosed” displayed the old drollery and broad
humorous stroke still unimpaired and unmatchable. These, too, and
the earlier years of Charles were the days of the Apollo Room of
the Devil Tavern where Jonson presided, the absolute monarch of
English literary Bohemia. We hear of a room blazoned about with
Jonson’s own judicious “Leges Convivales” in letters of gold, of a
company made up of the choicest spirits of the time, devotedly
attached to their veteran dictator, his reminiscences, opinions,
affections, and enmities. And we hear, too, of valorous potations;
but in the words of Herrick addressed to his master, Jonson, at the
Devil Tavern, as at the Dog, the Triple Tun, and at the Mermaid,
“We such clusters had
As made us nobly wild, not mad,
And yet each verse of thine
Outdid the meat, outdid the frolic wine.”
But the patronage of the court failed in the days of King Charles,
though Jonson was not without royal favours; and the old poet
returned to the stage, producing, between 1625 and 1633, “The
Staple of News,” “The New Inn,” “The Magnetic Lady,” and “The Tale
of a Tub,” the last doubtless revised from a much earlier comedy.
None of these plays met with any marked success, although the
scathing generalisation of Dryden that designated them “Jonson’s
dotages” is unfair to their genuine merits. Thus the idea of an
office for the gathering, proper dressing, and promulgation of news
(wild flight of the fancy in its time) was an excellent subject for
satire on the existing absurdities among newsmongers; although
as much can hardly be said for “The Magnetic Lady,” who, in her
bounty, draws to her personages of differing humours to reconcile
them in the end according to the alternative title, or “Humours
Reconciled.” These last plays of the old dramatist revert to
caricature and the hard lines of allegory; the moralist is more
than ever present, the satire degenerates into personal lampoon,
especially of his sometime friend, Inigo Jones, who appears
unworthily to have used his influence at court against the
broken-down old poet. And now disease claimed Jonson, and he was
bedridden for months. He had succeeded Middleton in 1628 as
Chronologer to the City of London, but lost the post for not
fulfilling its duties. King Charles befriended him, and even
commissioned him to write still for the entertainment of the court;
and he was not without the sustaining hand of noble patrons and
devoted friends among the younger poets who were proud to be
“sealed of the tribe of Ben.”
Jonson died, August 6, 1637, and a second folio of his works, which
he had been some time gathering, was printed in 1640, bearing in
its various parts dates ranging from 1630 to 1642. It included all
the plays mentioned in the foregoing paragraphs, excepting “The
Case is Altered;” the masques, some fifteen, that date between 1617
and 1630; another collection of lyrics and occasional poetry called
“Underwoods, including some further entertainments; a translation
of “Horace’s Art of Poetry” (also published in a vicesimo quarto in
1640), and certain fragments and ingatherings which the poet would
hardly have included himself. These last comprise the fragment
(less than seventy lines) of a tragedy called “Mortimer his Fall,”
and three acts of a pastoral drama of much beauty and poetic
spirit, “The Sad Shepherd.” There is also the exceedingly
interesting “English Grammar” “made by Ben Jonson for the benefit
of all strangers out of his observation of the English language now
spoken and in use,” in Latin and English; and “Timber, or
Discoveries” “made upon men and matter as they have flowed out of
his daily reading, or had their reflux to his peculiar notion of
the times.” The “Discoveries,” as it is usually called, is a
commonplace book such as many literary men have kept, in which
their reading was chronicled, passages that took their fancy
translated or transcribed, and their passing opinions noted. Many
passages of Jonson’s “Discoveries” are literal translations from the
authors he chanced to be reading, with the reference, noted or not,
as the accident of the moment prescribed. At times he follows the
line of Macchiavelli’s argument as to the nature and conduct of
princes; at others he clarifies his own conception of poetry and
poets by recourse to Aristotle. He finds a choice paragraph on
eloquence in Seneca the elder and applies it to his own
recollection of Bacon’s power as an orator; and another on facile
and ready genius, and translates it, adapting it to his
recollection of his fellow-playwright, Shakespeare. To call such
passages — which Jonson never intended for publication —
plagiarism, is to obscure the significance of words. To disparage
his memory by citing them is a preposterous use of scholarship.
Jonson’s prose, both in his dramas, in the descriptive comments of
his masques, and in the “Discoveries,” is characterised by clarity
and vigorous directness, nor is it wanting in a fine sense of form
or in the subtler graces of diction.
When Jonson died there was a project for a handsome monument to his
memory. But the Civil War was at hand, and the project failed. A
memorial, not insufficient, was carved on the stone covering his
grave in one of the aisles of Westminster Abbey:
“O rare Ben Jonson.”
FELIX E. SCHELLING.
The following is a complete list of his published works: —
Every Man in his Humour, 4to, 1601;
The Case is Altered, 4to, 1609;
Every Man out of his Humour, 4to, 1600;
Cynthia’s Revels, 4to, 1601;
Poetaster, 4to, 1602;
Sejanus, 4to, 1605;
Eastward Ho (with Chapman and Marston), 4to, 1605;
Volpone, 4to, 1607;
Epicoene, or the Silent Woman, 4to, 1609 (?), fol., 1616;
The Alchemist, 4to, 1612;
Catiline, his Conspiracy, 4to, 1611;
Bartholomew Fayre, 4to, 1614 (?), fol., 1631;
The Divell is an Asse, fol., 1631;
The Staple of Newes, fol., 1631;
The New Sun, 8vo, 1631, fol., 1692;
The Magnetic Lady, or Humours Reconcild, fol., 1640;
A Tale of a Tub, fol., 1640;
The Sad Shepherd, or a Tale of Robin Hood, fol., 1641;
Mortimer his Fall (fragment), fol., 1640.
To Jonson have also been attributed additions to Kyd’s Jeronymo,
and collaboration in The Widow with Fletcher and Middleton, and
in the Bloody Brother with Fletcher.
Epigrams, The Forrest, Underwoods, published in fols., 1616, 1640;
Selections: Execration against Vulcan, and Epigrams, 1640;
G. Hor. Flaccus his art of Poetry, Englished by Ben Jonson, 1640;
Leges Convivialis, fol., 1692.
Other minor poems first appeared in Gifford’s edition of Works.
Timber, or Discoveries made upon Men and Matter, fol., 1641;
The English Grammar, made by Ben Jonson for the benefit of
Strangers, fol., 1640.
Masques and Entertainments were published in the early folios.
Fol., 1616, volume. 2, 1640 (1631-41);
fol., 1692, 1716-19, 1729;
edited by P. Whalley, 7 volumes., 1756;
by Gifford (with Memoir), 9 volumes., 1816, 1846;
re-edited by F. Cunningham, 3 volumes., 1871;
in 9 volumes., 1875;
by Barry Cornwall (with Memoir), 1838;
by B. Nicholson (Mermaid Series), with Introduction by
C. H. Herford, 1893, etc.;
Nine Plays, 1904;
ed. H. C. Hart (Standard Library), 1906, etc;
Plays and Poems, with Introduction by H. Morley (Universal
Plays (7) and Poems (Newnes), 1905;
Poems, with Memoir by H. Bennett (Carlton Classics), 1907;
Masques and Entertainments, ed. by H. Morley, 1890.
J. A. Symonds, with Biographical and Critical Essay,
(Canterbury Poets), 1886;
Grosart, Brave Translunary Things, 1895;
Arber, Jonson Anthology, 1901;
Underwoods, Cambridge University Press, 1905;
Lyrics (Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher), the Chap Books,
No. 4, 1906;
Songs (from Plays, Masques, etc.), with earliest known
setting, Eragny Press, 1906.
See Memoirs affixed to Works;
J. A. Symonds (English Worthies), 1886;
Notes of Ben Jonson Conversations with Drummond of Hawthornden;
Shakespeare Society, 1842;
ed. with Introduction and Notes by P. Sidney, 1906;
Swinburne, A Study of Ben Jonson, 1889.
BEN JONSON’S PLAYS
EVERY MAN IN HIS HUMOUR*
([footnote] *This is the “Italian Edition” of the comedy.
The later, superior, and more familiar Anglicised version,
ENTER LORENZO DI PAZZI SENIOR, MUSCO.
LOR. SE. Now trust me, here’s a goodly day toward.
Musco, call up my son Lorenzo; bid him rise; tell him, I have some
business to employ him in.
MUS. I will, sir, presently.
LOR. SE. But hear you, sirrah;
If he be at study disturb him not.
MUS. Very good, sir. [EXIT MUSCO.]
LOR. SE. How happy would I estimate myself,
Could I by any means retire my son,
From one vain course of study he affects!
He is a scholar (if a man may trust
The liberal voice of double-tongued report)
Of dear account, in all our “Academies.”
Yet this position must not breed in me
A fast opinion that he cannot err.
Myself was once a “student,” and indeed
Fed with the self-same humour he is now,
Dreaming on nought but idle “Poetry”;
But since, Experience hath awaked my spirits,
And reason taught them, how to comprehend
The sovereign use of study. What, cousin Stephano!
What news with you, that you are here so early?
STEP. Nothing: but e’en come to see how you do, uncle.
LOR. SE. That’s kindly done; you are welcome, cousin.
STEP. Ay, I know that sir, I would not have come else: how doth
my cousin, uncle?
LOR. SE. Oh, well, well, go in and see; I doubt he’s scarce
STEP. Uncle, afore I go in, can you tell me an he have e’er a book
of the sciences of hawking and hunting? I would fain borrow it.
LOR. SE. Why, I hope you will not a hawking now, will you?
STEP. No, wusse; but I’ll practise against next year; I have
bought me a hawk, and bells and all; I lack nothing but a book to
keep it by.
LOR. SE. Oh, most ridiculous.
STEP. Nay, look you now, you are angry, uncle, why, you know, an a
man have not skill in hawking and hunting now-a-days, I’ll not give
a rush for him; he is for no gentleman’s company, and (by God’s
will) I scorn it, ay, so I do, to be a consort for every
hum-drum; hang them scroyles, there’s nothing in them in the
world, what do you talk on it? a gentleman must shew himself like
a gentleman. Uncle, I pray you be not angry, I know what I have to
do, I trow, I am no novice.
LOR. SE. Go to, you are a prodigal, and self-willed fool.
Nay, never look at me, it’s I that speak,
Take’t as you will, I’ll not flatter you.
What? have you not means enow to waste
That which your friends have left you, but you must
Go cast away your money on a Buzzard,
And know not how to keep it when you have done?
Oh, it’s brave, this will make you a gentleman,
Well, cousin, well, I see you are e’en past hope
Of all reclaim; ay, so, now you are told on it, you
look another way.
STEP. What would you have me do, trow?
LOR. What would I have you do? marry,
Learn to be wise, and practise how to thrive,
That I would have you do, and not to spend
Your crowns on every one that humours you:
I would not have you to intrude yourself
In every gentleman’s society,
Till their affections or your own dessert,
Do worthily invite you to the place.
For he that’s so respectless in his courses,
Oft sells his reputation vile and cheap.
Let not your carriage and behaviour taste
Of affectation, lest while you pretend
To make a blaze of gentry to the world
A little puff of scorn extinguish it,
And you be left like an unsavoury snuff,
Whose property is only to offend.
Cousin, lay by such superficial forms,
And entertain a perfect real substance;
Stand not so much on your gentility,
But moderate your expenses (now at first)
As you may keep the same proportion still:
Bear a low sail. Soft, who’s this comes here?
[ENTER A SERVANT.]
SER. Gentlemen, God save you.
STEP. Welcome, good friend; we do not stand much upon our
gentility, yet I can assure you mine uncle is a man of a thousand
pound land a year; he hath but one son in the world; I am his next
heir, as simple as I stand here, if my cousin die. I have a fair
living of mine own too beside.
SER. In good time, sir.
STEP. In good time, sir! you do not flout me, do you?
SER. Not I, sir.
STEP. An you should, here be them can perceive it, and that
quickly too. Go to; and they can give it again soundly, an need be.
SER. Why, sir, let this satisfy you. Good faith, I had no such
STEP. By God, an I thought you had, sir, I would talk with you.
SER. So you may, sir, and at your pleasure.
STEP. And so I would, sir, an you were out of mine uncle’s ground,
I can tell you.
LOR. SE. Why, how now, cousin, will this ne’er be left?
STEP. Whoreson, base fellow, by God’s lid, an ’twere not for
shame, I would —
LOR. SE. What would you do? you peremptory ass,
An you’ll not be quiet, get you hence.
You see, the gentleman contains himself
In modest limits, giving no reply
To your unseason’d rude comparatives;
Yet you’ll demean yourself without respect
Either of duty or humanity.
Go, get you in: ‘fore God, I am asham’d
Thou hast a kinsman’s interest in me.
SER. I pray you, sir, is this Pazzi house?
LOR. SE. Yes, marry is it, sir.
SER. I should enquire for a gentleman here, one Signior Lorenzo di
Pazzi; do you know any such, sir, I pray you?
LOR. SE. Yes, sir; or else I should forget myself.
SER. I cry you mercy, sir, I was requested by a gentleman of
Florence (having some occasion to ride this way) to deliver you
LOR. SE. To me, sir? What do you mean? I pray you remember your
“To his dear and most selected friend, Signior Lorenzo di
What might the gentleman’s name be, sir, that sent it?
Nay, pray you be covered.
SER. Signior Prospero.
LOR. SE. Signior Prospero? A young gentleman of the family of
Strozzi, is he not?
SER. Ay, sir, the same: Signior Thorello, the rich Florentine
merchant married his sister.
LOR. SE. You say very true. — Musco.
LOR. SE. Make this gentleman drink here.
I pray you go in, sir, an’t please you.
Now (without doubt) this letter’s to my son.
Well, all is one: I’ll be so bold as read it,
Be it but for the style’s sake, and the phrase;
Both which (I do presume) are excellent,
And greatly varied from the vulgar form,
If Prospero’s invention gave them life.
How now! what stuff is here?
I muse we cannot see thee at Florence: ‘Sblood, I doubt,
Apollo hath got thee to be his Ingle, that thou comest
not abroad, to visit thine old friends: well, take heed
of him; he may do somewhat for his household servants, or
so; But for his Retainers, I am sure, I have known some
of them, that have followed him, three, four, five years
together, scorning the world with their bare heels, and
at length been glad for a shift (though no clean shift)
to lie a whole winter, in half a sheet cursing Charles’
wain, and the rest of the stars intolerably. But (quis
contra diuos?) well; Sir, sweet villain, come and see me;
but spend one minute in my company, and ’tis enough: I
think I have a world of good jests for thee: oh, sir, I
can shew thee two of the most perfect, rare and absolute
true Gulls, that ever thou saw’st, if thou wilt come.
‘Sblood, invent some famous memorable lie, or other,
to flap thy Father in the mouth withal: thou hast been
father of a thousand, in thy days, thou could’st be no
Poet else: any scurvy roguish excuse will serve; say
thou com’st but to fetch wool for thine Ink-horn. And
then, too, thy Father will say thy wits are a wool-
gathering. But it’s no matter; the worse, the better.
Anything is good enough for the old man. Sir, how if thy
Father should see this now? what would he think of me?
Well, (how ever I write to thee) I reverence him in my
soul, for the general good all Florence delivers of him.
Lorenzo, I conjure thee (by what, let me see) by the depth
of our love, by all the strange sights we have seen in
our days, (ay, or nights either), to come to me to
Florence this day. Go to, you shall come, and let your
Muses go spin for once. If thou wilt not, ‘s hart, what’s
your god’s name? Apollo? Ay, Apollo. If this melancholy
rogue (Lorenzo here) do not come, grant, that he do turn
Fool presently, and never hereafter be able to make a good
jest, or a blank verse, but live in more penury of wit
and invention, than either the Hall-Beadle, or Poet
Well, it is the strangest letter that ever I read.
Is this the man, my son so oft hath praised
To be the happiest, and most precious wit
That ever was familiar with Art?
Now, by our Lady’s blessed son, I swear,
I rather think him most unfortunate
In the possession of such holy gifts,
Being the master of so loose a spirit.
Why, what unhallowed ruffian would have writ
With so profane a pen unto his friend?
The modest paper e’en looks pale for grief,
To feel her virgin-cheek defiled and stained
With such a black and criminal inscription.
Well, I had thought my son could not have strayed
So far from judgment as to mart himself
Thus cheaply in the open trade of scorn
To jeering folly and fantastic humour.
But now I see opinion is a fool,
And hath abused my senses. — Musco.
LOR. SE. What, is the fellow gone that brought this letter?
MUS. Yes sir, a pretty while since.
LOR. SE. And where’s Lorenzo?
MUS. In his chamber, sir.
LOR. SE. He spake not with the fellow, did he?
MUS. No, sir, he saw him not.
LOR. SE. Then, Musco, take this letter, and deliver it unto
Lorenzo: but, sirrah, on your life take you no knowledge I have
MUS. O Lord, sir, that were a jest indeed.
LOR. SE. I am resolv’d I will not cross his journey,
Nor will I practise any violent means
To stay the hot and lusty course of youth.
For youth restrained straight grows impatient,
And, in condition, like an eager dog,
Who, ne’er so little from his game withheld,
Turns head and leaps up at his master’s throat.
Therefore I’ll study, by some milder drift,
To call my son unto a happier shrift.
ACT I. SCENE II.
ENTER LORENZO JUNIOR, WITH MUSCO.
MUS. Yes, sir, on my word he opened it, and read the contents.
LOR. JU. It scarce contents me that he did so. But, Musco, didst
thou observe his countenance in the reading of it, whether he were
angry or pleased?
MUS. Why, sir, I saw him not read it.
LOR. JU. No? how knowest thou then that he opened it?
MUS. Marry, sir, because he charg’d me on my life to tell nobody
that he opened it, which, unless he had done, he would never fear
to have it revealed.
LOR. JU. That’s true: well, Musco, hie thee in again,
Lest thy protracted absence do lend light,
To dark suspicion: Musco, be assured
I’ll not forget this thy respective love.
STEP. Oh, Musco, didst thou not see a fellow here in a
what-sha-call-him doublet; he brought mine uncle a letter
MUS. Yes, sir, what of him?
STEP. Where is he, canst thou tell?
MUS. Why, he is gone.
STEP. Gone? which way? when went he? how long since?
MUS. It’s almost half an hour ago since he rode hence.
STEP. Whoreson scanderbag rogue; oh that I had a horse; by God’s
lid, I’d fetch him back again, with heave and ho.
MUS. Why, you may have my master’s bay gelding, an you will.
STEP. But I have no boots, that’s the spite on it.
MUS. Then it’s no boot to follow him. Let him go and hang, sir.
STEP. Ay, by my troth; Musco, I pray thee help to truss me a
little; nothing angers me, but I have waited such a while for him
all unlac’d and untrussed yonder; and now to see he is gone the
MUS. Nay, I pray you stand still, sir.
STEP. I will, I will: oh, how it vexes me.
MUS. Tut, never vex yourself with the thought of such a base
fellow as he.
STEP. Nay, to see he stood upon points with me too.
MUS. Like enough so; that was because he saw you had so few at
STEP. What! Hast thou done? Godamercy, good Musco.
MUS. I marle, sir, you wear such ill-favoured coarse stockings,
having so good a leg as you have.
STEP. Foh! the stockings be good enough for this time of the
year; but I’ll have a pair of silk, e’er it be long: I think my
leg would shew well in a silk hose.
MUS. Ay, afore God, would it, rarely well.
STEP. In sadness I think it would: I have a reasonable good leg?
MUS. You have an excellent good leg, sir: I pray you pardon me.
I have a little haste in, sir.
STEP. A thousand thanks, good Musco.
What, I hope he laughs not at me; an he do —
LOR. JU. Here is a style indeed, for a man’s senses to leap over,
e’er they come at it: why, it is able to break the shins of any
old man’s patience in the world. My father read this with
patience? Then will I be made an Eunuch, and learn to sing
Ballads. I do not deny, but my father may have as much patience as
any other man; for he used to take physic, and oft taking physic
makes a man a very patient creature. But, Signior Prospero, had
your swaggering Epistle here arrived in my father’s hands at such
an hour of his patience, I mean, when he had taken physic, it is to
be doubted whether I should have read “sweet villain here.” But,
what? My wise cousin; Nay then, I’ll furnish our feast with one
Gull more toward a mess; he writes to me of two, and here’s one,
that’s three, i’faith. Oh for a fourth! now, Fortune, or never,
STEP. Oh, now I see who he laughed at: he laughed at somebody in
that letter. By this good light, an he had laughed at me, I would
have told mine uncle.
LOR. JU. Cousin Stephano: good morrow, good cousin, how fare you?
STEP. The better for your asking, I will assure you. I have been
all about to seek you. Since I came I saw mine uncle; and i’faith
how have you done this great while? Good Lord, by my troth, I am
glad you are well, cousin.
LOR. JU. And I am as glad of your coming, I protest to you, for I
am sent for by a private gentleman, my most special dear friend, to
come to him to Florence this morning, and you shall go with me,
cousin, if it please you, not else, I will enjoin you no further
than stands with your own consent, and the condition of a friend.
STEP. Why, cousin, you shall command me an ’twere twice so far as
Florence, to do you good; what, do you think I will not go with
you? I protest —
LOR. JU. Nay, nay, you shall not protest
STEP. By God, but I will, sir, by your leave I’ll protest more to
my friend than I’ll speak of at this time.
LOR. JU. You speak very well, sir.
STEP. Nay, not so neither, but I speak to serve my turn.
LOR. JU. Your turn? why, cousin, a gentleman of so fair sort as
you are, of so true carriage, so special good parts; of so dear and
choice estimation; one whose lowest condition bears the stamp of a
great spirit; nay more, a man so graced, gilded, or rather, to use
a more fit metaphor, tinfoiled by nature; not that you have a
leaden constitution, coz, although perhaps a little inclining to
that temper, and so the more apt to melt with pity, when you fall
into the fire of rage, but for your lustre only, which reflects as
bright to the world as an old ale-wife’s pewter again a good time;
and will you now, with nice modesty, hide such real ornaments as
these, and shadow their glory as a milliner’s wife doth her wrought
stomacher, with a smoky lawn or a black cyprus? Come, come; for
shame do not wrong the quality of your dessert in so poor a kind;
but let the idea of what you are be portrayed in your aspect, that
men may read in your looks: “Here within this place is to be seen
the most admirable, rare, and accomplished work of nature!”
Cousin, what think you of this?
STEP. Marry, I do think of it, and I will be more melancholy and
gentlemanlike than I have been, I do ensure you.
LOR. JU. Why, this is well: now if I can but hold up this humour
in him, as it is begun, Catso for Florence, match him an she can.
STEP. I’ll follow you.
LOR. JU. Follow me! you must go before!
STEP. Must I? nay, then I pray you shew me, good cousin.
ACT I. SCENE III.
ENTER SIGNIOR MATHEO, TO HIM COB.
MAT. I think this be the house: what ho!
COB. Who’s there? oh, Signior Matheo. God give you good morrow,
MAT. What? Cob? how doest thou, good Cob? does thou inhabit
COB. Ay, sir, I and my lineage have kept a poor house in our days.
MAT. Thy lineage, Monsieur Cob! what lineage, what lineage?
COB. Why, sir, an ancient lineage, and a princely: mine ancestry
came from a king’s loins, no worse man; and yet no man neither but
Herring the king of fish, one of the monarchs of the world, I
assure you. I do fetch my pedigree and name from the first red
herring that was eaten in Adam and Eve’s kitchen: his Cob was my
great, great, mighty great grandfather.
MAT. Why mighty? why mighty?
COB. Oh, it’s a mighty while ago, sir, and it was a mighty great
MAT. How knowest thou that?
COB. How know I? why, his ghost comes to me every night.
MAT. Oh, unsavoury jest: the ghost of a herring Cob.
COB. Ay, why not the ghost of a herring Cob, as well as the ghost
of Rashero Bacono, they were both broiled on the coals? you are a
scholar, upsolve me that now.
MAT. Oh, rude ignorance! Cob, canst thou shew me of a gentleman,
one Signior Bobadilla, where his lodging is?
COB. Oh, my guest, sir, you mean?
MAT. Thy guest, alas! ha, ha.
COB. Why do you laugh, sir? do you not mean Signior Bobadilla?
MAT. Cob, I pray thee advise thyself well: do not wrong the
gentleman, and thyself too. I dare be sworn he scorns thy house;
he! he lodge in such a base obscure place as thy house? Tut, I
know his disposition so well, he would not lie in thy bed if
thou’dst give it him.
COB. I will not give it him. Mass, I thought somewhat was in it,
we could not get him to bed all night. Well sir, though he lie not
on my bed, he lies on my bench, an’t please you to go up, sir, you
shall find him with two cushions under his head, and his cloak
wrapt about him, as though he had neither won nor lost, and yet I
warrant he ne’er cast better in his life than he hath done
MAT. Why, was he drunk?
COB. Drunk, sir? you hear not me say so; perhaps he swallow’d a
tavern token, or some such device, sir; I have nothing to do
withal: I deal with water and not with wine. Give me my tankard
there, ho! God be with you, sir; it’s six o’clock: I should have
carried two turns by this, what ho! my stopple, come.
MAT. Lie in a water-bearer’s house, a gentleman of his note?
Well, I’ll tell him my mind.
COB. What, Tib, shew this gentleman up to Signior Bobadilla: oh,
an my house were the Brazen head now, faith it would e’en cry moe
fools yet: you should have some now, would take him to be a
gentleman at least; alas, God help the simple, his father’s an
honest man, a good fishmonger, and so forth: and now doth he creep
and wriggle into acquaintance with all the brave gallants about
the town, such as my guest is, (oh, my guest is a fine man!) and
they flout him invincibly. He useth every day to a merchant’s
house, (where I serve water) one M. Thorello’s; and here’s the
jest, he is in love with my master’s sister, and calls her
mistress: and there he sits a whole afternoon sometimes,
reading of these same abominable, vile, (a pox on them, I cannot
abide them!) rascally verses, Poetry, poetry, and speaking of
Interludes, ’twill make a man burst to hear him: and the wenches,
they do so jeer and tihe at him; well, should they do as much to
me, I’d forswear them all, by the life of Pharaoh, there’s an oath:
how many water-bearers shall you hear swear such an oath? oh, I
have a guest, (he teacheth me) he doth swear the best of any man
christened. By Phoebus, By the life of Pharaoh, By the body of me,
As I am gentleman, and a soldier: such dainty oaths; and withal he
doth take this same filthy roguish tobacco, the finest and
cleanliest; it would do a man good to see the fume come forth at
his nostrils: well, he owes me forty shillings, (my wife lent him
out of her purse; by sixpence a time,) besides his lodging; I would
I had it: I shall have it, he saith, next Action. Helter skelter,
hang sorrow, care will kill a cat, up-tails all, and a pox on the
[BOBADILLA DISCOVERS HIMSELF; ON A BENCH; TO HIM TIB.]
BOB. Hostess, hostess.
TIB. What say you, sir?
BOB. A cup of your small beer, sweet hostess.
TIB. Sir, there’s a gentleman below would speak with you.
BOB. A gentleman? (God’s so) I am not within.
TIB. My husband told him you were, sir.
BOB. What a plague! what meant he?
MAT. Signior Bobadilla.
BOB. Who’s there? (take away the bason, good hostess) come up,
TIB. He would desire you to come up, sir; you come into a cleanly
MAT. God save you, sir, God save you.
BOB. Signior Matheo, is’t you, sir? please you sit down.
MAT. I thank you, good Signior, you may see I am somewhat
BOB. Not so, Signior, I was requested to supper yesternight by a
sort of gallants, where you were wished for, and drunk to, I assure
MAT. Vouchsafe me by whom, good Signior.
BOB. Marry, by Signior Prospero, and others; why, hostess, a stool
here for this gentleman.
MAT. No haste, sir, it is very well.
BOB. Body of me, it was so late ere we parted last night, I can
scarce open mine eyes yet; I was but new risen as you came; how
passes the day abroad, sir? you can tell.
MAT. Faith, some half hour to seven: now trust me, you have an
exceeding fine lodging here, very neat, and private.
BOB. Ay, sir, sit down. I pray you, Signior Matheo, in any case
possess no gentlemen of your acquaintance with notice of my
MAT. Who? I, sir? no.
BOB. Not that I need to care who know it, but in regard I would
not be so popular and general as some be.
MAT. True, Signior, I conceive you.
BOB. For do you see, sir, by the heart of myself, (except it be
to some peculiar and choice spirits, to whom I am extraordinarily
engaged, as yourself, or so,) I could not extend thus far.
MAT. O Lord, sir! I resolve so.
BOB. What new book have you there? What? “Go by Hieronymo.”
MAT. Ay, did you ever see it acted? is’t not well penned?
BOB. Well penned: I would fain see all the Poets of our time pen
such another play as that was; they’ll prate and swagger, and keep
a stir of art and devices, when (by God’s so) they are the most
shallow, pitiful fellows that live upon the face of the earth
MAT. Indeed, here are a number of fine speeches in this book:
“Oh eyes, no eyes, but fountains fraught with tears;” there’s a
conceit: Fountains fraught with tears. “Oh life, no life, but
lively form of death;” is’t not excellent? “Oh world, no world,
but mass of public wrongs;” O God’s me: “confused and filled with
murder and misdeeds.” Is’t not simply the best that ever you
Ha, how do you like it?
BOB. ‘Tis good.
MAT. “To thee, the purest object to my sense,
The most refined essence heaven covers,
Send I these lines, wherein I do commence
The happy state of true deserving lovers.
If they prove rough, unpolish’d, harsh, and rude,
Haste made that waste; thus mildly I conclude.”
BOB. Nay, proceed, proceed, where’s this? where’s this?
MAT. This, sir, a toy of mine own in my non-age: but when will
you come and see my study? good faith, I can shew you some very
good things I have done of late: that boot becomes your leg
passing well, sir, methinks.
BOB. So, so, it’s a fashion gentlemen use.
MAT. Mass, sir, and now you speak of the fashion, Signior
Prospero’s elder brother and I are fallen out exceedingly: this
other day I happened to enter into some discourse of a hanger,
which, I assure you, both for fashion and workmanship was most
beautiful and gentlemanlike; yet he condemned it for the most
pied and ridiculous that ever he saw.
BOB. Signior Giuliano, was it not? the elder brother?
MAT. Ay, sir, he.
BOB. Hang him, rook! he! why, he has no more judgment than a
malt-horse. By St. George, I hold him the most peremptory absurd
clown (one a them) in Christendom: I protest to you (as I am a
gentleman and a soldier) I ne’er talk’d with the like of him: he
has not so much as a good word in his belly, all iron, iron, a
good commodity for a smith to make hob-nails on.
MAT. Ay, and he thinks to carry it away with his manhood still
where he comes: he brags he will give me the bastinado, as I hear.
BOB. How, the bastinado? how came he by that word, trow?
MAT. Nay, indeed, he said cudgel me; I termed it so for the
BOB. That may be, for I was sure it was none of his word: but
when, when said he so?
MAT. Faith, yesterday, they say, a young gallant, a friend of
mine, told me so.
BOB. By the life of Pharaoh, an’t were my case now, I should send
him a challenge presently: the bastinado! come hither, you shall
challenge him; I’ll shew you a trick or two, you shall kill him at
pleasure, the first stoccado if you will, by this air.
MAT. Indeed, you have absolute knowledge in the mystery, I have
BOB. Of whom? of whom, I pray?
MAT. Faith, I have heard it spoken of divers, that you have very
rare skill, sir.
BOB. By heaven, no, not I, no skill in the earth: some small
science, know my time, distance, or so, I have profest it more for
noblemen and gentlemen’s use than mine own practise, I assure you.
Hostess, lend us another bed-staff here quickly: look you, sir,
exalt not your point above this state at any hand, and let your
poniard maintain your defence thus: give it the gentleman. So,
sir, come on, oh, twine your body more about, that you may come to
a more sweet comely gentlemanlike guard; so indifferent. Hollow
your body more, sir, thus: now stand fast on your left leg, note
your distance, keep your due proportion of time: oh, you disorder
your point most vilely.
MAT. How is the bearing of it now, sir?
BOB. Oh, out of measure ill, a well-experienced man would pass
upon you at pleasure.
MAT. How mean you pass upon me?
BOB. Why, thus, sir: make a thrust at me; come in upon my time;
control your point, and make a full career at the body: the
best-practis’d gentlemen of the time term it the passado, a most
desperate thrust, believe it.
MAT. Well, come, sir.
BOB. Why, you do not manage your weapons with that facility and
grace that you should do, I have no spirit to play with you, your
dearth of judgment makes you seem tedious.
MAT. But one venue, sir.
BOB. Fie! venue, most gross denomination as ever I heard: oh,
the stoccado while you live, Signior, not that. Come, put on
your cloak, and we’ll go to some private place where you are
acquainted, some tavern or so, and we’ll send for one of these
fencers, where he shall breathe you at my direction, and then I’ll
teach you that trick; you shall kill him with it at the first if
you please: why, I’ll learn you by the true judgment of the eye,
hand, and foot, to control any man’s point in the world; Should
your adversary confront you with a pistol, ’twere nothing, you
should (by the same rule) control the bullet, most certain, by
Phoebus: unless it were hail-shot: what money have you about
MAT. Faith, I have not past two shillings, or so.
BOB. ‘Tis somewhat with the least, but come, when we have done,
we’ll call up Signior Prospero; perhaps we shall meet with
Coridon his brother there.
ACT I. SCENE IV.
ENTER THORELLO, GIULIANO, PISO.
THO. Piso, come hither: there lies a note within, upon my desk;
here, take my key: it’s no matter neither, where’s the boy?
PIS. Within, sir, in the warehouse.
THO. Let him tell over that Spanish gold, and weigh it, and do you
see the delivery of those wares to Signior Bentivole: I’ll be
there myself at the receipt of the money anon.
PIS. Very good, sir.
THO. Brother, did you see that same fellow there?
GIU. Ay, what of him?
THO. He is e’en the honestest, faithful servant that is this day
in Florence; (I speak a proud word now;) and one that I durst trust
my life into his hands, I have so strong opinion of his love, if
GIU. God send me never such need: but you said you had somewhat
to tell me, what is’t?
THO. Faith, brother, I am loath to utter it,
As fearing to abuse your patience,
But that I know your judgment more direct,
Able to sway the nearest of affection.
GIU. Come, come, what needs this circumstance?
THO. I will not say what honour I ascribe
Unto your friendship, nor in what dear state
I hold your love; let my continued zeal,
The constant and religious regard,
That I have ever carried to your name,
My carriage with your sister, all contest,
How much I stand affected to your house.
GIU. You are too tedious, come to the matter, come to
THO. Then (without further ceremony) thus.
My brother Prospero (I know not how)
Of late is much declined from what he was,
And greatly alter’d in his disposition.
When he came first to lodge here in my house,
Ne’er trust me, if I was not proud of him:
Methought he bare himself with such observance,
So true election and so fair a form:
And (what was chief) it shew’d not borrow’d in him,
But all he did became him as his own,
And seem’d as perfect, proper, and innate,
Unto the mind, as colour to the blood,
But now, his course is so irregular,
So loose affected, and deprived of grace,
And he himself withal so far fallen off
From his first place, that scarce no note remains,
To tell men’s judgments where he lately stood;
He’s grown a stranger to all due respect,
Forgetful of his friends, and not content
To stale himself in all societies,
He makes my house as common as a Mart,
A Theatre, a public receptacle
For giddy humour, and diseased riot,
And there, (as in a tavern, or a stews,)
He, and his wild associates, spend their hours,
In repetition of lascivious jests,
Swear, leap, and dance, and revel night by night,
Control my servants: and indeed what not?
GIU. Faith, I know not what I should say to him: so God save me,
I am e’en at my wits’ end, I have told him enough, one would think,
if that would serve: well, he knows what to trust to for me: let
him spend, and spend, and domineer till his heart ache: an he get
a penny more of me, I’ll give him this ear.
THO. Nay, good brother, have patience.
GIU. ‘Sblood, he mads me, I could eat my very flesh for anger: I
marle you will not tell him of it, how he disquiets your house.
THO. O, there are divers reasons to dissuade me,
But would yourself vouchsafe to travail in it,
(Though but with plain and easy circumstance,)
It would both come much better to his sense,
And savour less of grief and discontent.
You are his elder brother, and that title
Confirms and warrants your authority:
Which (seconded by your aspect) will breed
A kind of duty in him, and regard.
Whereas, if I should intimate the least,
It would but add contempt to his neglect,
Heap worse on ill, rear a huge pile of hate,
That in the building would come tottering down,
And in her ruins bury all our love.
Nay, more than this, brother; if I should speak,
He would be ready in the heat of passion,
To fill the ears of his familiars,
With oft reporting to them, what disgrace
And gross disparagement I had proposed him.
And then would they straight back him in opinion,
Make some loose comment upon every word,
And out of their distracted phantasies,
Contrive some slander, that should dwell with me.
And what would that be, think you? marry, this,
They would give out, (because my wife is fair,
Myself but lately married, and my sister
Here sojourning a virgin in my house,)
That I were jealous: nay, as sure as death,
Thus they would say: and how that I had wrong’d
My brother purposely, thereby to find
An apt pretext to banish them my house.
GIU. Mass, perhaps so.
THO. Brother, they would, believe it: so should I
(Like one of these penurious quack-salvers)
But try experiments upon myself,
Open the gates unto mine own disgrace,
Lend bare-ribb’d envy opportunity
To stab my reputation, and good name.
[ENTER BOBA. AND MAT.]
MAT. I will speak to him.
BOB. Speak to him? away, by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not,
you shall not do him that grace: the time of day to you,
gentlemen: is Signior Prospero stirring?
GIU. How then? what should he do?
BOB. Signior Thorello, is he within, sir?
THO. He came not to his lodging to-night, sir, I assure you.
GIU. Why, do you hear? you.
BOB. This gentleman hath satisfied me, I’ll talk to no Scavenger.
GIU. How, Scavenger? stay, sir, stay.
THO. Nay, brother Giuliano.
GIU. ‘Sblood, stand you away, an you love me.
THO. You shall not follow him now, I pray you,
Good faith, you shall not.
GIU. Ha! Scavenger! well, go to, I say little, but, by this good
day, (God forgive me I should swear) if I put it up so, say I am
the rankest — that ever pist. ‘Sblood, an I swallow this, I’ll
ne’er draw my sword in the sight of man again while I live; I’ll
sit in a barn with Madge-owlet first. Scavenger! ‘Heart, and I’ll
go near to fill that huge tumbrel slop of yours with somewhat, as I
have good luck, your Garagantua breech cannot carry it away so.
THO. Oh, do not fret yourself thus, never think on’t.
GIU. These are my brother’s consorts, these, these are his
Comrades, his walking mates, he’s a gallant, a Cavaliero too, right
hangman cut. God let me not live, an I could not find in my heart
to swinge the whole nest of them, one after another, and begin with
him first, I am grieved it should be said he is my brother, and
take these courses, well, he shall hear on’t, and that tightly too,
an I live, i’faith.
THO. But, brother, let your apprehension (then)
Run in an easy current, not transported
With heady rashness, or devouring choler,
And rather carry a persuading spirit,
Whose powers will pierce more gently; and allure
Th’ imperfect thoughts you labour to reclaim,
To a more sudden and resolved assent.
GIU. Ay, ay, let me alone for that, I warrant you.
THO. How now! oh, the bell rings to breakfast.
Brother Giuliano, I pray you go in and bear my wife company:
I’ll but give order to my servants for the dispatch of some
business, and come to you presently.
[EXIT GIU., ENTER COB.]
What, Cob! our maids will have you by the back (i’faith)
For coming so late this morning.
COB. Perhaps so, sir, take heed somebody have not them
by the belly for walking so late in the evening.
THO. Now (in good faith) my mind is somewhat eased,
Though not reposed in that security
As I could wish; well, I must be content,
Howe’er I set a face on’t to the world,
Would I had lost this finger at a vent,
So Prospero had ne’er lodged in my house,
Why’t cannot be, where there is such resort
Of wanton gallants, and young revellers,
That any woman should be honest long.
Is’t like, that factious beauty will preserve
The sovereign state of chastity unscarr’d,
When such strong motives muster, and make head
Against her single peace? no, no: beware
When mutual pleasure sways the appetite,
And spirits of one kind and quality,
Do meet to parley in the pride of blood.
Well, (to be plain) if I but thought the time
Had answer’d their affections, all the world
Should not persuade me, but I were a cuckold:
Marry, I hope they have not got that start.
For opportunity hath balk’d them yet,
And shall do still, while I have eyes and ears
To attend the imposition of my heart:
My presence shall be as an iron bar,
‘Twixt the conspiring motions of desire,
Yea, every look or glance mine eye objects,
Shall check occasion, as one doth his slave,
When he forgets the limits of prescription.
[ENTER BIANCHA WITH HESPERIDA.]
BIA. Sister Hesperida, I pray you fetch down the rose-water
above in the closet: Sweet-heart, will you come in to breakfast?
THO. An she have overheard me now?
BIA. I pray thee, (good Muss) we stay for you.
THO. By Christ, I would not for a thousand crowns.
BIA. What ail you, sweet-heart? are you not well? speak, good
THO. Troth, my head aches extremely on a sudden.
BIA. Oh Jesu!
THO. How now! what!
BIA. Good Lord, how it burns! Muss, keep you warm; good truth,
it is this new disease, there’s a number are troubled withall for
God’s sake, sweet-heart, come in out of the air.
THO. How simple, and how subtle are her answers!
A new disease, and many troubled with it.
Why true, she heard me all the world to nothing.
BIA. I pray thee, good sweet-heart, come in; the air will do you
harm, in troth.
THO. I’ll come to you presently, it will away, I hope.
BIA. Pray God it do.
THO. A new disease! I know not, new or old,
But it may well be call’d poor mortals’ Plague;
For like a pestilence it doth infect
The houses of the brain: first it begins
Solely to work upon the phantasy,
Filling her seat with such pestiferous air,
As soon corrupts the judgment, and from thence,
Sends like contagion to the memory,
Still each of other catching the infection,
Which as a searching vapour spreads itself