Ben Jonson

"Epicœne ~ Act 2. Scene 3"



Welcome Cutbeard! draw near with your fair charge: and in her
ear softly entreat her to unmasthey.


—So! Is the door shut?


—Enough. Now, Cutbeard, with the same discipline I use to my
family, I will question you. As I conceive, Cutbeard, this
gentlewoman is she you have provided, and brought, in hope she
will fit me in the place and person of a wife? Answer me not, but
with your leg, unless it be otherwise:


—Very well done, Cutbeard. I conceive, besides, Cutbeard, you
have been pre-acquainted with her birth, education, and qualities,
or else you would not prefer her to my acceptance, in the weighty
consequence of marriage.


—This I conceive, Cutbeard. Answer me not but with your leg, unless
it be otherwise.


—Very well done, Cutbeard. Give aside now a little, and leave me to
examine her condition, and aptitude to my affection.


—She is exceeding fair, and of a special good favour; a sweet
composition or harmony of limbs: her temper of beauty has the
true height of my blood. The knave hath exceedingly well fitted me
without: I will now try her within. Come near, fair gentlewoman:
let not my behaviour seem rude, though unto you, being rare, it
may haply appear strange.


—Nay, lady, you may speak, though Cutbeard and my man, might not;
for, of all sounds, only the sweet voice of a fair lady has the
just length of mine ears. I beseech you, say, lady; out of the
first fire of meeting eyes, they say, love is stricken: do you
feel any such motion suddenly shot into you, from any part you see
in me? ha, lady?


—Alas, lady, these answers by silent curtsies from you are too
courtless and simple. I have ever had my breeding in court: and
she that shall be my wife, must be accomplished with courtly and
audacious ornaments. Can you speak, lady?

[softly.] Judge you, forsooth.

What say you, lady? speak out, I beseech you.

Judge you, forsooth.

On my judgment, a divine softness! But can you naturally,
lady, as I enjoin these by doctrine and industry, refer yourself
to the search of my judgment, and, not taking pleasure in your
tongue, which is a woman's chiefest pleasure, think it plausible
to answer me by silent gestures, so long as my speeches jump
right with what you conceive?


—Excellent! divine! if it were possible she should hold out thus!
Peace, Cutbeard, thou art made for ever, as thou hast made me, if
this felicity have lasting: but I will try her further. Dear lady,
I am courtly, I tell you, and I must have mine ears banqueted with
pleasant and witty conferences, pretty girls, scoffs, and
dalliance in her that I mean to choose for my bed-phere. The
ladies in court think it a most desperate impair to their
quickness of wit, and good carriage, if they cannot give
occasion for a man to court 'em; and when an amorous discourse is set on foot, minister as good matter to continue it, as himself:
And do you alone so much differ from all them, that what they,
with so much circ*mstance, affect and toil for, to seem
learn'd, to seem judicious, to seem sharp and conceited, you
can bury in yourself with silence, and rather trust your graces
to the fair conscience of virtue, than to the world's or your own

I should be sorry else.

What say you lady? good lady, speak out.

I should be sorry else.

That sorrow doth fill me with gladness. O Morose, thou art
happy above mankind! pray that thou mayest contain thyself. I
will only put her to it once more, and it shall be with the utmost
touch and test of their sex. But hear me, fair lady; I do also
love to see her whom I shall choose for my heifer, to be the
first and principal in all fashions; precede all the dames at
court by a fortnight; have council of tailors, lineners,
lace-women, embroiderers, and sit with them sometimes twice a day upon French intelligences; and then come forth varied like
nature, or oftener than she, and better by the help of art, her
emulous servant. This do I affect: and how will you be able, lady,
with this frugality of speech, to give the manifold but
necessary instructions, for that bodice, these sleeves, those
skirts, this cut, that stitch, this embroidery, that lace, this
wire, those knots, that ruff, those roses, this girdle, that
fanne, the t'other scarf, these gloves? Ha! what say you, lady?

I'll leave it to you, sir.

How, lady? pray you rise a note.

I leave it to wisdom and you, sir.

Admirable creature! I will trouble you no more: I will not
sin against so sweet a simplicity. Let me now be bold to print on
those divine lips the seal of being mine.—Cutbeard, I give thee
the lease of thy house free: thank me not but with thy leg


—I know what thou wouldst say, she's poor, and her friends
deceased. She has brought a wealthy dowry in her silence, Cutbeard;
and in respect of her poverty, Cutbeard, I shall have her more
loving and obedient, Cutbeard. Go thy ways, and get me a minister
presently, with a soft low voice, to marry us; and pray him he will
not be impertinent, but brief as he can; away: softly,


—Sirrah, conduct your mistress into the dining-room, your now

—O my felicity! how I shall be revenged on mine insolent kinsman,
and his plots to fright me from marrying! This night I will get an
heir, and thrust him out of my blood, like a stranger; he would be
knighted, forsooth, and thought by that means to reign over me;
his title must do it: No, kinsman, I will now make you bring me
the tenth lord's and the sixteenth lady's letter, kinsman; and it
shall do you no good, kinsman. Your knighthood itself shall come
on its knees, and it shall be rejected; it shall be sued for its
fees to execution, and not be redeem'd; it shall cheat at the
twelvepenny ordinary, it knighthood, for its diet, all the term-
time, and tell tales for it in the vacation to the hostess; or it
knighthood shall do worse, take sanctuary in Cole-harbour, and fast. It shall fright all its friends with borrowing letters; and when
one of the fourscore hath brought it knighthood ten shillings, it
knighthood shall go to the Cranes, or the Bear at the Bridge-foot,
and be drunk in fear: it shall not have money to discharge one
tavern-reckoning, to invite the old creditors to forbear it
knighthood, or the new, that should be, to trust it knighthood. It
shall be the tenth name in the bond to take up the commodity of
pipkins and stone jugs: and the part thereof shall not furnish it
knighthood forth for the attempting of a baker's widow, a brown
baker's widow. It shall give it knighthood's name, for a stallion,
to all gamesome citizens' wives, and be refused; when the master
of a dancing school, or how do you call him, the worst reveller in
the town is taken: it shall want clothes, and by reason of that,
wit, to fool to lawyers. It shall not have hope to repair itself
by Constantinople, Ireland, or Virginia; but the best and last fortune to it knighthood shall be to make Dol Tear-Sheet, or Kate Common a lady: and so it knighthood may eat.


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