Ben Jonson

"Cynthia’s Revels Act 2. Scene 1"

                                        THE COURT.


Why, this was most unexpectedly followed, my divine delicate
Mercury, by the beard of Jove, thou art a precious deity.

Nay, Cupid, leave to speak improperly; since we are turn'd
cracks, let's study to be like cracks; practise their language, and
behaviours, and not with a dead imitation: Act freely, carelessly,
and capriciously, as if our veins ran with quicksilver, and not
utter a phrase, but what shall come forth steep'd in the very brine
of conceit, and sparkle like salt in fire.

That's not every one's happiness, Hermes: Though you can
presume upon the easiness and dexterity of your wit, you shall give
me leave to be a little jealous of mine; and not desperately to
hazard it after your capering humour.

Nay, then, Cupid, I think we must have you hood-wink'd again;
for you are grown too provident since your eyes were at liberty.

Not so, Mercury, I am still blind Cupid to thee.

And what to the lady nymph you serve?

Troth, page, boy, and sirrah: these are all my titles.

Then thou hast not altered thy name with thy disguise?

O, no, that had been supererogation; you shall never hear
your courtier call but by one of these three.

Faith, then both our fortunes are the same.

Why, what parcel of man hast thou lighted on for a master?

Such a one as, before I begin to decipher him, I dare not
affirm to be any thing less than a courtier. So much he is during
this open time of revels, and would be longer, but that his means
are to leave him shortly after. His name is Hedon, a gallant
wholly consecrated to his pleasures.

Hedon! he uses much to my lady's chamber, I think.

How is she call'd, and then I can shew thee?

Madame Philautia.

O ay, he affects her very particularly indeed. These are his
graces. He doth (besides me) keep a barber and a monkey; he has a rich wrought waistcoat to entertain his visitants in, with a cap
almost suitable. His curtains and bedding are thought to be his
own; his bathing-tub is not suspected. He loves to have a fencer,
a pedant, and a musician seen in his lodging a-mornings.

And not a poet?

Fie no: himself is a rhymer, and that's thought better than
a poet. He is not lightly within to his mercer, no, though he come
when he takes physic, which is commonly after his play. He beats a
tailor very well, but a stocking-seller admirably: and so
consequently any one he owes money to, that dares not resist him.
He never makes general invitement, but against the publishing of a
new suit; marry, then you shall have more drawn to his lodging,
than come to the launching of some three ships; especially if he be
furnish'd with supplies for the retiring of his old wardrobe from
pawn: if not, he does hire a stock of apparel, and some forty or
fifty pound in gold, for that forenoon to shew. He is thought a
very necessary perfume for the presence, and for that only cause
welcome thither: six milliners' shops afford you not the like
scent. He courts ladies with how many great horse he hath rid that
morning, or how oft he hath done the whole, or half the pommado in a seven-night before: and sometime ventures so far upon the virtue of his pomander, that he dares tell 'em, how many shirts he has sweat at tennis that week; but wisely conceals so many dozen of balls he is on the score. Here he comes, that is all this.




Are any of the ladies in the presence?

None yet, sir.

Give me some gold,—more.

Is that thy boy, Hedon?

Ay, what think'st thou of him?

I'd geld him; I warrant he has the philosopher's stone.

Well said, my good melancholy devil: sirrah, I have devised
one or two of the prettiest oaths, this morning in my bed, as ever
thou heard'st, to protest withal in the presence.

Prithee, let's hear them.

Soft, thou'lt use them afore me.

No, d—mn me then—I have more oaths than I know how to
utter, by this air.

Faith, one is, "By the tip of your ear, sweet lady." Is it
not pretty, and genteel?

Yes, for the person 'tis applied to, a lady. It should be
light, and—

Nay, the other is better, exceeds it much: the invention is
farther fet too. "By the white valley that lies between the alpine
hills of your bosom, I protest.—"

Well, you travell'd for that, Hedon.

Ay, in a map, where his eyes were but blind guides to his
understanding, it seems.

And then I have a salutation will nick all, by this caper:

How is that?

You know I call madam Philautia, my Honour; and she calls me
her Ambition. Now, when I meet her in the presence anon, I will
come to her, and say, "Sweet Honour, I have hitherto contented my
sense with the lilies of your hand; but now I will taste the roses
of your lip"; and, withal, kiss her: to which she cannot but
blushing answer, "Nay now you are too ambitious." And then do I
reply: "I cannot be too Ambitious of Honour, sweet lady." Will't
not be good? ha? ha?

O, assure your soul.

By heaven, I think 'twill be excellent: and a very politic
achievement of a kiss.

I have thought upon one for Moria of a sudden too, if it take.

What is't, my dear Invention?

Marry, I will come to her, (and she always wears a muff, if
you be remembered,) and I will tell her, "Madam your whole self
cannot but be perfectly wise; for your hands have wit enough to
keep themselves warm."

Now, before Jove, admirable! [GELAIA LAUGHS.] Look, thy page
takes it too. By Phoebus, my sweet facetious rascal, I could eat
water-gruel with thee a month for this jest, my dear rogue.

O, Hercules 'tis your only dish; above all your potatoes or
oyster-pies in the world.

I have ruminated upon a most rare wish too, and the prophecy
to it; but I'll have some friend to be the prophet; as thus: I do
wish myself one of my mistress's cioppini. Another demands, Why
would he be one of his mistress's cioppini? a third answers,
Because he would make her higher: a fourth shall say, That will
make her proud: and a fifth shall conclude, Then do I prophesy
pride will have a fall;—and he shall give it her.

I will be your prophet. Gods so, it will be most exquisite;
thou art a fine inventious rogue, sirrah.

Nay, and I have posies for rings, too, and riddles, that they
dream not of.

Tut, they'll do that, when they come to sleep on them, time
enough: But were thy devices never in the presence yet, Hedon?

O, no, I disdain that.

'Twere good we went afore then, and brought them acquainted
with the room where they shall act, lest the strangeness of it put
them out of countenance, when they should come forth.


Is that a courtier, too.

Troth, no; he has two essential parts of the courtier, pride
and ignorance; marry, the rest come somewhat after the ordinary
gallant. 'Tis Impudence itself, Anaides; one that speaks all that
comes in his cheeks, and will blush no more than a sackbut. He
lightly occupies the jester's room at the table, and keeps
laughter, Gelaia, a wench in page's attire, following him in place
of a squire, whom he now and then tickles with some strange
ridiculous stuff, utter'd as his land came to him, by chance. He
will censure or discourse of any thing, but as absurdly as you
would wish. His fashion is not to take knowledge of him that is
beneath him in clothes. He never drinks below the salt. He does
naturally admire his wit that wears gold lace, or tissue: stabs
any man that speaks more contemptibly of the scholar than he. He
is a great proficient in all the illiberal sciences, as cheating,
drinking, swaggering, whoring, and such like: never kneels but to
pledge healths, nor prays but for a pipe of pudding-tobacco. He
will blaspheme in his shirt. The oaths which he vomits at one
supper would maintain a town of garrison in good swearing a
twelvemonth. One other genuine quality he has which crowns all
these, and that is this: to a friend in want, he will not depart
with the weight of a soldered groat, lest the world might censure
him prodigal, or report him a gull: marry, to his c*ckatrice or
punquetto, half a dozen taffata gowns or satin kirtles in a pair or
two of months, why, they are nothing.

I commend him, he is one of my clients.



Come, sir. You are now within regard of the presence, and
see, the privacy of this room how sweetly it offers itself to our
retired intendments.—Page, cast a vigilant and enquiring eye
about, that we be not rudely surprised by the approach of some
ruder stranger.

I warrant you, sir. I'll tell you when the wolf enters, fear

O what a mass of benefit shall we possess, in being the
invisible spectators of this strange show now to be acted!

Plant yourself there, sir; and observe me. You shall now, as
well be the ocular, as the ear-witness, how clearly I can refel
that paradox, or rather pseudodox, of those, which hold the face to
be the index of the mind, which, I assure you, is not so in any
politic creature: for instance; I will now give you the particular
and distinct face of every your most noted species of persons, as
your merchant, your scholar, your soldier, your lawyer, courtier,
etc., and each of these so truly, as you would swear, but that your
eye shall see the variation of the lineament, it were my most
proper and genuine aspect. First, for your merchant, or city-face,
'tis thus; a dull, plodding-face, still looking in a direct line,
forward: there is no great matter in this face. Then have you
your student's, or academic face; which is here an honest, simple,
and methodical face; but somewhat more spread then the for Mer. The third is your soldier's face, a menacing and astounding face, that looks broad and big: the grace of his face consisteth much in a
beard. The anti-face to this, is your lawyer's face, a contracted,
subtile, and intricate face, full of quirks and turnings, a
labyrinthean face, now angularly, now circularly, every way
aspected. Next is your statist's face, a serious, solemn, and
supercilious face, full of formal and square gravity; the eye, for
the most part, deeply and artificially shadow'd; there is great
judgment required in the making of this face. But now, to come to
your face of faces, or courtier's face; 'tis of three sorts,
according to our subdivision of a courtier, elementary, practic,
and theoric. Your courtier theoric, is he that hath arrived to his
farthest, and doth now know the court rather by speculation than
practice; and this is his face: a fastidious and oblique face; that
looks as it went with a vice, and were screw'd thus. Your courtier
practic, is he that is yet in his path, his course, his way, and
hath not touch'd the punctilio or point of his hopes; his face is
here: a most promising, open, smooth, and overflowing face, that
seems as it would run and pour itself into you: somewhat a
northerly face. Your courtier elementary, is one but newly
enter'd, or as it were in the alphabet, or ut-re-mi-fa-sol-la of
courtship. Note well this face, for it is this you must practise.

I'll practise them all, if you please, sir.

Ay, hereafter you may: and it will not be altogether an
ungrateful study. For, let your soul be assured of this, in any
rank or profession whatever, the more general or major part of
opinion goes with the face and simply respects nothing else.
Therefore, if that can be made exactly, curiously, exquisitely,
thoroughly, it is enough: but for the present you shall only apply
yourself to this face of the elementary courtier, a light,
revelling, and protesting face, now blushing, now smiling, which
you may help much with a wanton wagging of your head, thus, (a
feather will teach you,) or with kissing your finger that hath the
ruby, or playing with some string of your band, which is a most
quaint kind of melancholy besides: or, if among ladies, laughing
loud, and crying up your own wit, though perhaps borrow'd, it is
not amiss. Where is your page? call for your casting-bottle, and
place your mirror in your hat, as I told you; so! Come, look not
pale, observe me, set your face, and enter.

O, for some excellent painter, to have taken the copy of all
these faces! [ASIDE.]


Fie! I premonish you of that: in the court, boy, lacquey, or

Master, lupus in—O, 'tis Prosaites.


Sirrah, prepare my casting-bottle; I think I must be
enforced to purchase me another page; you see how at hand Cos waits


So will he too in time.

What's he Mercury?

A notable smelt. One that hath newly entertain'd the beggar
to follow him, but cannot get him to wait near enough. 'Tis
Asotus, the heir of Philargyrus; but first I'll give ye the other's
character, which may make his the clearer. He that is with him is
Amorphus, a traveller, one so made out of the mixture of shreds of
forms, that himself is truly deform'd. He walks most commonly with a clove or pick-tooth in his mouth, he is the very mint of
compliment, all his behaviours are printed, his face is another
volume of essays, and his beard is an Aristarchus. He speaks all
cream skimm'd, and more affected than a dozen waiting women. He is his own promoter in every place. The wife of the ordinary gives him his diet to maintain her table in discourse; which, indeed, is a mere tyranny over her other guests, for he will usurp all the
talk: ten constables are not so tedious. He is no great shifter;
once a year his apparel is ready to revolt. He doth use much to
arbitrate quarrels, and fights himself, exceeding well, out at a
window. He will lie cheaper than any beggar, and louder than most
clocks; for which he is right properly accommodated to the
Whetstone, his page. The other gallant is his zany, and doth most
of these tricks after him; sweats to imitate him in every thing to
a hair, except a beard, which is not yet extant. He doth learn to
make strange sauces, to eat anchovies, maccaroni, bovoli, fagioli,
and caviare, because he loves them; speaks as he speaks, looks,
walks, goes so in clothes and fashion: is in all as if he were
moulded of him. Marry, before they met, he had other very pretty
sufficiencies, which yet he retains some light impression of; as
frequenting a dancing school, and grievously torturing strangers
with inquisition after his grace in his galliard. He buys a fresh
acquaintance at any rate. His eyes and his raiment confer much
together as he goes in the street. He treads nicely like the
fellow that walks upon ropes, especially the first Sunday of his
silk stockings; and when he is most neat and new, you shall strip
him with commendations.

Here comes another. [CRITES PASSES OVER THE STAGE.]

Ay, but one of another strain, Cupid; This fellow weighs

His name, Hermes?

Crites. A creature of a most perfect and divine temper: one,
in whom the humours and elements are peaceably met, without
emulation of precedency; he is neither too fantastically
melancholy, too slowly phlegmatic, too lightly sanguine, or too
rashly choleric; but in all so composed and ordered; as it is clear
Nature went about some full work, she did more than make a man when she made him. His discourse is like his behaviour, uncommon, but not unpleasing; he is prodigal of neither. He strives rather to be that which men call judicious, than to be thought so; and is so truly learned, that he affects not to shew it. He will think and speak his thought both freely; but as distant from depraving another man's merit, as proclaiming his own. For his valour, 'tis such, that he dares as little to offer any injury, as receive one. In sum, he hath a most ingenuous and sweet spirit, a sharp and season'd wit, a straight judgment and a strong mind. Fortune
could never break him, nor make him less. He counts it his
pleasure to despise pleasures, and is more delighted with good
deeds than goods. It is a competency to him that he can be
virtuous. He doth neither covet nor fear; he hath too much reason
to do either; and that commends all things to him.

Not better than Mercury commends him.

O, Cupid, 'tis beyond my deity to give him his due praises:
I could leave my place in heaven to live among mortals, so I were
sure to be no other than he.

'Slight, I believe he is your minion, you seem to be so
ravish'd with him.

He's one I would not have a wry thought darted against,

No, but a straight shaft in his bosom I'll promise him, if I
am Cytherea's son.

Shall we go, Cupid?

Stay, and see the ladies now: they'll come presently. I'll
help to paint them.

What lay colour upon colour! that affords but an ill blazon.

Here comes metal to help it, the lady Argurion.


Money, money.

The same. A nymph of a most wandering and giddy disposition,
humorous as the air, she'll run from gallant to gallant, as they
sit at primero in the presence, most strangely, and seldom stays
with any. She spreads as she goes. To-day you shall have her look
as clear and fresh as the morning, and to-morrow as melancholic as midnight. She takes special pleasure in a close obscure lodging,
and for that cause visits the city so often, where she has many
secret true concealing favourites. When she comes abroad she's
more loose and scattering than dust, and will fly from place to
place, as she were wrapped with a whirlwind. Your young student,
for the most part, she affects not, only salutes him, and away: a
poet, nor a philosopher, she is hardly brought to take any notice
of; no, though he be some part of an alchemist. She loves a player
well, and a lawyer infinitely; but your fool above all. She can do
much in court for the obtaining of any suit whatsoever, no door
but flies open to her, her presence is above a charm. The worst in
her is want of keeping state, and too much descending into inferior
and base offices; she's for any coarse employment you will put upon her, as to be your procurer, or pander.

Peace, Cupid, here comes more work for you, another character
or two.


Stay sweet Philautia; I'll but change my fan, and go

Now, in very good serious, ladies, I will have this order
revers'd, the presence must be better maintain'd from you: a
quarter past eleven, and ne'er a nymph in prospective! Beshrew my
hand, there must be a reform'd discipline. Is that your new ruff,
sweet lady-bird? By my troth, 'tis most intricately rare.

Good Jove, what reverend gentlewoman in years might this be?

'Tis madam Moria, guardian of the nymphs; one that is not now
to be persuaded of her wit; she will think herself wise against all
the judgments that come. A lady made all of voice and air, talks
any thing of any thing. She is like one of your ignorant poetasters
of the time, who, when they have got acquainted with a strange
word, never rest till they have wrung it in, though it loosen the
whole fabric of their sense.

That was pretty and sharply noted, Cupid.

She will tell you, Philosophy was a fine reveller, when she
was young, and a gallant, and that then, though she say it, she was
thought to be the dame Dido and Helen of the court: as also, what
a sweet dog she had this time four years, and how it was called
Fortune; and that, if the Fates had not cut his thread, he had been
a dog to have given entertainment to any gallant in this kingdom;
and unless she had whelp'd it herself, she could not have loved a
thing better in this world.

O, I prithee no more; I am full of her.

Yes, I must needs tell you she composes a sack-posset well;
and would court a young page sweetly, but that her breath is
against it.

Now, her breath or something more strong protect me from her!
The other, the other, Cupid.

O, that's my lady and mistress, madam Philautia. She admires
not herself for any one particularity, but for all: she is fair,
and she knows it; she has a pretty light wit too, and she knows it;
she can dance, and she knows that too; play at shuttle-c*ck, and
that too: no quality she has, but she shall take a very particular
knowledge of, and most lady-like commend it to you. You shall have her at any time read you the history of herself, and very subtilely run over another lady's sufficiencies to come to her own. She has a good superficial judgment in painting; and would seem to have so in poetry. A most complete lady in the opinion of some three beside herself.

Faith, how liked you my quip to Hedon, about the garter?
Was't not witty?

Exceeding witty and integrate: you did so aggravate the jest

And did I not dance movingly the last night?

Movingly! out of measure, in troth, sweet charge.

A happy commendation, to dance out of measure!

Save only you wanted the swim in the turn: O! when I was at

Nay, that's mine own from any nymph in the court, I'm sure
on't; therefore you mistake me in that, guardian: both the swim and
the trip are properly mine; every body will affirm it that has any
judgment in dancing, I assure you.

Come now, Philautia, I am for you; shall we go?

Ay, good Phantaste: What! have you changed your head-tire?

Yes, faith; the other was so near the common, it had no
extraordinary grace; besides, I had worn it almost a day, in good

I'll be sworn, this is most excellent for the device, and
rare; 'tis after the Italian print we look'd on t'other night.

'Tis so: by this fan, I cannot abide any thing that savours
the poor over-worn cut, that has any kindred with it; I must have
variety, I: this mixing in fashion, I hate it worse than to burn
juniper in my chamber, I protest.

And yet we cannot have a new peculiar court-tire, but these
retainers will have it; these suburb Sunday-waiters; these
courtiers for high days; I know not what I should call 'em—

O, ay, they do most pitifully imitate; but I have a tire a
coming, i'faith, shall—

In good certain, madam, it makes you look most heavenly; but,
lay your hand on your heart, you never skinn'd a new beauty more
prosperously in your life, nor more metaphysically: look good lady,
sweet lady, look.

'Tis very clear and well, believe me. But if you had seen
mine yesterday, when 'twas young, you would have—Who's your
doctor, Phantaste?

Nay, that's counsel, Philautia; you shall pardon me: yet I'll
assure you he's the most dainty, sweet, absolute, rare man of the
whole college. O! his very looks, his discourse, his behaviour, all
he does is physic, I protest.

For heaven's sake, his name, good dear Phantaste?

No, no, no, no, no, no, believe me, not for a million of
heavens: I will not make him cheap. Fie—


There is a nymph too of a most curious and elaborate strain,
light, all motion, an ubiquitary, she is every where, Phantaste—

Her very name speaks her, let her pass. But are these,
Cupid, the stars of Cynthia's court? Do these nymphs attend upon

They are in her court, Mercury, but not as stars; these never
come in the presence of Cynthia. The nymphs that make her train
are the divine Arete, Time, Phronesis, Thauma, and others of that
high sort. These are privately brought in by Moria in this
licentious time, against her knowledge; and, like so many meteors,
will vanish when she appears.


Come follow me, my wags, and say, as I say,
There's no riches but in rags, hey day, hey day:
You that profess this art, come away, come away,
And help to bear a part. Hey day, hey day, etc.


What, those that were our fellow pages but now, so soon
preferr'd to be yeomen of the bottles! The mystery, the mystery,
good wags?

Some diet-drink they have the guard of.

No, sir, we are going in quest of a strange fountain, lately
found out.

By whom?

My master or the great discoverer, Amorphus.

Thou hast well entitled him, Cos, for he will discover all he

Ay, and a little more too, when the spirit is upon him.

O, the good travelling gentleman yonder has caused such a
drought in the presence, with reporting the wonders of this new
water, that all the ladies and gallants lie languishing upon the
rushes, like so many pounded cattle in the midst of harvest,
sighing one to another, and gasping, as if each of them expected a
c*ck from the fountain to be brought into his mouth; and without
we return quickly, they are all, as a youth would say, no better
then a few trouts cast ashore, or a dish of eels in a sand-bag.

Well then, you were best dispatch, and have a care of them.
Come, Cupid, thou and I'll go peruse this dry wonder.


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