Every Man In His Humour
by Ben Jonson
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By Ben Jonson


THE greatest of English dramatists except Shakespeare, the first literary dictator and poet-laureate, a writer of verse, prose, satire, and criticism who most potently of all the men of his time affected the subsequent course of English letters: such was Ben Jonson, and as such his strong personality assumes an interest to us almost unparalleled, at least in his age.

Ben Jonson came of the stock that was centuries after to give to the world Thomas Carlyle; for Jonson's grandfather was of Annandale, over the Solway, whence he migrated to England. Jonson's father lost his estate under Queen Mary, "having been cast into prison and forfeited." He entered the church, but died a month before his illustrious son was born, leaving his widow and child in poverty. Jonson's birthplace was Westminster, and the time of his birth early in 1573. He was thus nearly ten years Shakespeare's junior, and less well off, if a trifle better born. But Jonson did not profit even by this slight advantage. His mother married beneath her, a wright or bricklayer, and Jonson was for a time apprenticed to the trade. As a youth he attracted the attention of the famous antiquary, William Camden, then usher at Westminster School, and there the poet laid the solid foundations of his classical learning. Jonson always held Camden in veneration, acknowledging that to him he owed,

"All that I am in arts, all that I know;"

and dedicating his first dramatic success, "Every Man in His Humour," to him. It is doubtful whether Jonson ever went to either university, though Fuller says that he was "statutably admitted into St. John's College, Cambridge." He tells us that he took no degree, but was later "Master of Arts in both the universities, by their favour, not his study." When a mere youth Jonson enlisted as a soldier, trailing his pike in Flanders in the protracted wars of William the Silent against the Spanish. Jonson was a large and raw-boned lad; he became by his own account in time exceedingly bulky. In chat with his friend William Drummond of Hawthornden, Jonson told how "in his service in the Low Countries he had, in the face of both the camps, killed an enemy, and taken opima spolia from him;" and how "since his coming to England, being appealed to the fields, he had killed his adversary which had hurt him in the arm and whose sword was ten inches longer than his." Jonson's reach may have made up for the lack of his sword; certainly his prowess lost nothing in the telling. Obviously Jonson was brave, combative, and not averse to talking of himself and his doings.

In 1592, Jonson returned from abroad penniless. Soon after he married, almost as early and quite as imprudently as Shakespeare. He told Drummond curtly that "his wife was a shrew, yet honest"; for some years he lived apart from her in the household of Lord Albany. Yet two touching epitaphs among Jonson's "Epigrams," "On my first daughter," and "On my first son," attest the warmth of the poet's family affections. The daughter died in infancy, the son of the plague; another son grew up to manhood little credit to his father whom he survived. We know nothing beyond this of Jonson's 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 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 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'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 popularity.

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 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 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 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 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 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 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."




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 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.


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.








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, [ENTER STEPHANO] 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 stirring yet.

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?


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 intent.

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 [EXIT STEP.] 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 this letter.

LOR. SE. To me, sir? What do you mean? I pray you remember your court'sy. "To his dear and most selected friend, Signior Lorenzo di Pazzi." 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.

MUS. Sir.

LOR. SE. Make this gentleman drink here. I pray you go in, sir, an't please you. [EXEUNT.] 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? "Sir Lorenzo, 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 Nuntius." 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.


MUS. Sir.

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 opened it.

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.




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, [ENTER STEPHANO.] 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 even now?

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 other way.

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 your hose.

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, Fortune!

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. Come, cousin.

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.




MAT. I think this be the house: what ho!

COB. Who's there? oh, Signior Matheo. God give you good morrow, sir.

MAT. What? Cob? how doest thou, good Cob? does thou inhabit here, Cob?

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 Cob.

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 to-night.

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 hangman.



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, sir.

TIB. He would desire you to come up, sir; you come into a cleanly house here.

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 audacious.

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 you.

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 lodging.

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 again.

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 heard? 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 more grace.

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 heard, sir.

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 you, sir?

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.




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 need were.

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 the matter.

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.


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.


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 Muss.

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.

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