Ben Jonson

"Volpone; Or, The Fox (Act 4 Scene 4.2)"

THE SCRUTINEO, OR SENATE-HOUSE.

ENTER VOLTORE, CORBACCIO, CORVINO, AND MOSCA.


VOLT
Well, now you know the carriage of the business,
Your constancy is all that is required
Unto the safety of it.

MOS
Is the lie
Safely convey'd amongst us? is that sure?
Knows every man his burden?

CORV
Yes.

MOS
Then shrink not.

CORV
But knows the advocate the truth?

MOS
O, sir,
By no means; I devised a formal tale,
That salv'd your reputation. But be valiant, sir.

CORV
I fear no one but him, that this his pleading
Should make him stand for a co-heir—

MOS
Co-halter!
Hang him; we will but use his tongue, his noise,
As we do croakers here.

CORV
Ay, what shall he do?

MOS
When we have done, you mean?

CORV
Yes.

MOS
Why, we'll think:
Sell him for mummia; he's half dust already.
[TO VOLTORE.]
Do not you smile, to see this buffalo,
How he does sport it with his head?
[ASIDE.]
—I should,
If all were well and past.
[TO CORBACCIO.]
—Sir, only you
Are he that shall enjoy the crop of all,
And these not know for whom they toil.

CORB
Ay, peace.

MOS
[TURNING TO CORVINO.]: But you shall eat it.
Much! [ASIDE.]
[TO VOLTORE.]
—Worshipful sir,
Mercury sit upon your thundering tongue,
Or the French Hercules, and make your language
As conquering as his club, to beat along,
As with a tempest, flat, our adversaries;
But much more yours, sir.

VOLT
Here they come, have done.

MOS
I have another witness, if you need, sir,
I can produce.

VOLT
Who is it?

MOS
Sir, I have her.

[ENTER AVOCATORI AND TAKE THEIR SEATS,
BONARIO, CELIA, NOTARIO, COMMANDADORI, SAFFI,
AND OTHER OFFICERS OF JUSTICE.]


1 AVOC
The like of this the senate never heard of.

2 AVOC
'Twill come most strange to them when we report it.

4 AVOC
The gentlewoman has been ever held
Of unreproved name.

3 AVOC
So has the youth.

4 AVOC
The more unnatural part that of his father.

2 AVOC
More of the husband.

1 AVOC
I not know to give
His act a name, it is so monstrous!

4 AVOC
But the impostor, he's a thing created
To exceed example!

1 AVOC
And all after-times!

2 AVOC
I never heard a true voluptuary
Discribed, but him.

3 AVOC
Appear yet those were cited?

NOT
All, but the old magnifico, Volpone.

1 AVOC
Why is not he here?

MOS
Please your fatherhoods,
Here is his advocate: himself's so weak,
So feeble—

4 AVOC
What are you?

BON
His parasite,
His knave, his pandar—I beseech the court,
He may be forced to come, that your grave eyes
May bear strong witness of his strange impostures.

VOLT
Upon my faith and credit with your virtues,
He is not able to endure the air.

2 AVOC
Bring him, however.

3 AVOC
We will see him.

4 AVOC
Fetch him.

VOLT
Your fatherhoods fit pleasures be obey'd;
[EXEUNT OFFICERS.]
But sure, the sight will rather move your pities,
Than indignation. May it please the court,
In the mean time, he may be heard in me;
I know this place most void of prejudice,
And therefore crave it, since we have no reason
To fear our truth should hurt our cause.

3 AVOC
Speak free.

VOLT
Then know, most honour'd fathers, I must now
Discover to your strangely abused ears,
The most prodigious and most frontless piece
Of solid impudence, and treachery,
That ever vicious nature yet brought forth
To shame the state of Venice. This lewd woman,
That wants no artificial looks or tears
To help the vizor she has now put on,
Hath long been known a close adulteress,
To that lascivious youth there; not suspected,
I say, but known, and taken in the act
With him; and by this man, the easy husband,
Pardon'd: whose timeless bounty makes him now
Stand here, the most unhappy, innocent person,
That ever man's own goodness made accused.
For these not knowing how to owe a gift
Of that dear grace, but with their shame; being placed
So above all powers of their gratitude,
Began to hate the benefit; and, in place
Of thanks, devise to extirpe the memory
Of such an act: wherein I pray your fatherhoods
To observe the malice, yea, the rage of creatures
Discover'd in their evils; and what heart
Such take, even from their crimes:—but that anon
Will more appear.—This gentleman, the father,
Hearing of this foul fact, with many others,
Which daily struck at his too tender ears,
And grieved in nothing more than that he could not
Preserve himself a parent, (his son's ills
Growing to that strange flood,)
at last decreed
To disinherit him.

1 AVOC
These be strange turns!

2 AVOC
The young man's fame was ever fair and honest.

VOLT
So much more full of danger is his vice,
That can beguile so under shade of virtue.
But, as I said, my honour'd sires, his father
Having this settled purpose, by what means
To him betray'd, we know not, and this day
Appointed for the deed; that parricide,
I cannot style him better, by confederacy
Preparing this his paramour to be there,
Enter'd Volpone's house, (who was the man,
Your fatherhoods must understand, design'd
For the inheritance,)
there sought his father:—
But with what purpose sought he him, my lords?
I tremble to pronounce it, that a son
Unto a father, and to such a father,
Should have so foul, felonious intent!
It was to murder him: when being prevented
By his more happy absence, what then did he?
Not check his wicked thoughts; no, now new deeds,
(Mischief doth ever end where it begins)
An act of horror, fathers! he dragg'd forth
The aged gentleman that had there lain bed-rid
Three years and more, out of his innocent couch,
Naked upon the floor, there left him; wounded
His servant in the face: and, with this strumpet
The stale to his forged practice, who was glad
To be so active,—(I shall here desire
Your fatherhoods to note but my collections,
As most remarkable,—)
thought at once to stop
His father's ends; discredit his free choice
In the old gentleman, redeem themselves,
By laying infamy upon this man,
To whom, with blushing, they should owe their lives.

1 AVOC
What proofs have you of this?

BON
Most honoured fathers,
I humbly crave there be no credit given
To this man's mercenary tongue.

2 AVOC
Forbear.

BON
His soul moves in his fee.

3 AVOC
O, sir.

BON
This fellow,
For six sols more, would plead against his Maker.

1 AVOC
You do forget yourself.

VOLT: Nay, nay, grave fathers,
Let him have scope: can any man imagine
That he will spare his accuser, that would not
Have spared his parent?

1 AVOC
Well, produce your proofs.

CEL
I would I could forget I were a creature.

VOLT
Signior Corbaccio.

[CORBACCIO COMES FORWARD.]

1 AVOC
What is he?

VOLT
The father.

2 AVOC
Has he had an oath?

NOT
Yes.

CORB
What must I do now?

NOT
Your testimony's craved.

CORB
Speak to the knave?
I'll have my mouth first stopt with earth; my heart
Abhors his knowledge: I disclaim in him.

1 AVOC
But for what cause?

CORB
The mere portent of nature!
He is an utter stranger to my loins.

BON
Have they made you to this?

CORB
I will not hear thee,
Monster of men, swine, goat, wolf, parricide!
Speak not, thou viper.

BON
Sir, I will sit down,
And rather wish my innocence should suffer,
Then I resist the authority of a father.

VOLT
Signior Corvino!

[CORVINO COMES FORWARD.]

2 AVOC
This is strange.

1 AVOC
Who's this?

NOT
The husband.

4 AVOC
Is he sworn?

NOT
He is.

3 AVOC
Speak, then.

CORV
This woman, please your fatherhoods, is a whore,
Of most hot exercise, more than a partrich,
Upon record—

1 AVOC
No more.

CORV
Neighs like a jennet.

NOT
Preserve the honour of the court.

CORV
I shall,
And modesty of your most reverend ears.
And yet I hope that I may say, these eyes
Have seen her glued unto that piece of cedar,
That fine well-timber'd gallant; and that here
The letters may be read, through the horn,
That make the story perfect.

MOS
Excellent! sir.

CORV
[ASIDE TO MOSCA.]: There's no shame in this now, is there?

MOS
None.

CORV
Or if I said, I hoped that she were onward
To her damnation, if there be a hell
Greater than whore and woman; a good catholic
May make the doubt.

3 AVOC
His grief hath made him frantic.

1 AVOC
Remove him hence.

2 AVOC
Look to the woman.

[CELIA SWOONS.]

CORV
Rare!
Prettily feign'd, again!

4 AVOC
Stand from about her.

1 AVOC
Give her the air.

3 AVOC
[TO MOSCA.]: What can you say?

MOS
My wound,
May it please your wisdoms, speaks for me, received
In aid of my good patron, when he mist
His sought-for father, when that well-taught dame
Had her cue given her, to cry out, A rape!

BON
O most laid impudence! Fathers—

3 AVOC
Sir, be silent;
You had your hearing free, so must they theirs.

2 AVOC
I do begin to doubt the imposture here.

4 AVOC
This woman has too many moods.

VOLT
Grave fathers,
She is a creature of a most profest
And prostituted lewdness.

CORV
Most impetuous,
Unsatisfied, grave fathers!

VOLT
May her feignings
Not take your wisdoms: but this day she baited
A stranger, a grave knight, with her loose eyes,
And more lascivious kisses. This man saw them
Together on the water in a gondola.

MOS
Here is the lady herself, that saw them too;
Without; who then had in the open streets
Pursued them, but for saving her knight's honour.

1 AVOC
Produce that lady.

2 AVOC
Let her come.

[EXIT MOSCA.]

4 AVOC
These things,
They strike with wonder!

3 AVOC
I am turn'd a stone.

[RE-ENTER MOSCA WITH LADY WOULD-BE.]

MOS
Be resolute, madam.

LADY P
Ay, this same is she.
[POINTING TO CELIA.]
Out, thou chameleon harlot! now thine eyes
Vie tears with the hyaena. Dar'st thou look
Upon my wronged face?—I cry your pardons,
I fear I have forgettingly transgrest
Against the dignity of the court—

2 AVOC
No, madam.

LADY P
And been exorbitant—

2 AVOC
You have not, lady.

4 AVOC
These proofs are strong.

LADY P
Surely, I had no purpose
To scandalise your honours, or my sex's.

3 AVOC
We do believe it.

LADY P
Surely, you may believe it.

2 AVOC
Madam, we do.

LADY P
Indeed, you may; my breeding
Is not so coarse—

1 AVOC
We know it.

LADY P
To offend
With pertinacy—

3 AVOC
Lady—

LADY P
Such a presence!
No surely.

1 AVOC
We well think it.

LADY P
You may think it.

1 AVOC
Let her o'ercome. What witnesses have you
To make good your report?

BON
Our consciences.

CEL
And heaven, that never fails the innocent.

4 AVOC
These are no testimonies.

BON
Not in your courts,
Where multitude, and clamour overcomes.

1 AVOC
Nay, then you do wax insolent.

[RE-ENTER OFFICERS, BEARING VOLPONE ON A COUCH.]

VOLT
Here, here,
The testimony comes, that will convince,
And put to utter dumbness their bold tongues:
See here, grave fathers, here's the ravisher,
The rider on men's wives, the great impostor,
The grand voluptuary! Do you not think
These limbs should affect venery? or these eyes
Covet a concubine? pray you mark these hands;
Are they not fit to stroke a lady's breasts?—
Perhaps he doth dissemble!

BON
So he does.

VOLT
Would you have him tortured?

BON
I would have him proved.

VOLT
Best try him then with goads, or burning irons;
Put him to the strappado: I have heard
The rack hath cured the gout; 'faith, give it him,
And help him of a malady; be courteous.
I'll undertake, before these honour'd fathers,
He shall have yet as many left diseases,
As she has known adulterers, or thou strumpets.—
O, my most equal hearers, if these deeds,
Acts of this bold and most exorbitant strain,
May pass with sufferance; what one citizen
But owes the forfeit of his life, yea, fame,
To him that dares traduce him? which of you
Are safe, my honour'd fathers? I would ask,
With leave of your grave fatherhoods, if their plot
Have any face or colour like to truth?
Or if, unto the dullest nostril here,
It smell not rank, and most abhorred slander?
I crave your care of this good gentleman,
Whose life is much endanger'd by their fable;
And as for them, I will conclude with this,
That vicious persons, when they're hot and flesh'd
In impious acts, their constancy abounds:
Damn'd deeds are done with greatest confidence.

1 AVOC
Take them to custody, and sever them.

2 AVOC
'Tis pity two such prodigies should live.

1 AVOC
Let the old gentleman be return'd with care;
[EXEUNT OFFICERS WITH VOLPONE.]
I'm sorry our credulity hath wrong'd him.

4 AVOC
These are two creatures!

3 AVOC
I've an earthquake in me.

2 AVOC
Their shame, even in their cradles, fled their faces.

4 AVOC
[TO VOLT.]: You have done a worthy service to the state, sir,
In their discovery.

1 AVOC
You shall hear, ere night,
What punishment the court decrees upon them.

[EXEUNT AVOCAT., NOT., AND OFFICERS WITH BONARIO AND CELIA.]

VOLT
We thank your fatherhoods.—How like you it?

MOS
Rare.
I'd have your tongue, sir, tipt with gold for this;
I'd have you be the heir to the whole city;
The earth I'd have want men, ere you want living:
They're bound to erect your statue in St. Mark's.
Signior Corvino, I would have you go
And shew yourself, that you have conquer'd.

CORV
Yes.

MOS
It was much better that you should profess
Yourself a cuckold thus, than that the other
Should have been prov'd.

CORV
Nay, I consider'd that:
Now it is her fault:

MOS
Then it had been yours.

CORV
True; I do doubt this advocate still.

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

CORV
I trust thee, Mosca.

[EXIT.]

MOS
As your own soul, sir.

CORB
Mosca!

MOS
Now for your business, sir.

CORB
How! have you business?

MOS
Yes, your's, sir.

CORB
O, none else?

MOS
None else, not I.

CORB
Be careful, then.

MOS
Rest you with both your eyes, sir.

CORB
Dispatch it.

MOS
Instantly.

CORB
And look that all,
Whatever, be put in, jewels, plate, moneys,
Household stuff, bedding, curtains.

MOS
Curtain-rings, sir.
Only the advocate's fee must be deducted.

CORB
I'll pay him now; you'll be too prodigal.

MOS
Sir, I must tender it.

CORB
Two chequines is well?

MOS
No, six, sir.

CORB
'Tis too much.

MOS
He talk'd a great while;
You must consider that, sir.

CORB
Well, there's three—

MOS
I'll give it him.

CORB
Do so, and there's for thee.

[EXIT.]

MOS
[ASIDE.]: Bountiful bones! What horrid strange offence
Did he commit 'gainst nature, in his youth,
Worthy this age?
[TO VOLT.]—You see, sir, how I work
Unto your ends; take you no notice.

VOLT
No,
I'll leave you.

[EXIT.]

MOS
All is yours, the devil and all:
Good advocate!—Madam, I'll bring you home.

LADY P
No, I'll go see your patron.

MOS
That you shall not:
I'll tell you why. My purpose is to urge
My patron to reform his Will; and for
The zeal you have shewn to-day, whereas before
You were but third or fourth, you shall be now
Put in the first; which would appear as begg'd,
If you were present. Therefore—

LADY P
You shall sway me.

[EXEUNT.]

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