A monologue from the play by Ben Jonson

  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Volpone (1605).
  • CORVINO: Death of mine honour, with the city's fool!
    A juggling, tooth-drawing, prating mountebank!
    And at a public window! where, whilst he,
    With his strained action, and his dole of faces,
    To his drug-lecture draws your itching ears,
    A crew of old, unmarried, noted lechers
    Stood leering up like satyrs; and you smile
    Most graciously, and fan your favours forth,
    To give your hot spectators satisfaction!
    What, was your mountebank their call? their whistle?
    Or were y' enamoured on his copper rings?
    His saffron jewel with the toad-stone in't?
    Or his embroidered suit, with the cope-stitch,
    Made of a hearse-cloth? or his old tilt-feather?
    Or his starched beard? Well, you shall have him, yes!
    He shall come home, and minister unto you
    The fricace of the mother. Or, let me see,
    I think you'd rather mount; would you not mount?
    Why, if you'll mount, you may; yes, truly, you may!
    And so you may be seen, down to th' foot.
    Get you a cittern, Lady Vanity,
    And be a dealer with the virtuous man;
    Make one. I'll but protest myself a cuckold,
    And save your dowry. I'm a Dutchman, I!
    For if you thought me an Italian,
    You would be damned ere you did this, you whore!
    Thou'dst tremble to imagine that the murder
    Of father, mother, brother, all thy race,
    Should follow, as the subject of my justice!
    I should strike this steel into thee, with as many stabs
    As thou wert gazed upon with goatish eyes!
    You were an actor, with your handkerchief,
    Which he most sweetly kissed in the receipt,
    And might, no doubt, return it with a letter,
    And 'point the place where you might meet--your sister's,
    Your mother's, or your aunt's might serve the turn.
    And therefore mark me: thy restraint before
    Was liberty To what I now decree.
    First, I will have this bawdy light damned up;
    And till't be done, some two or three yards off,
    I'll chalk a line, o'er which if thou but chance
    To set thy desp'rate foot, more hell, more horror,
    More wild remorseless rage shall seize on thee,
    Than on a conjuror that had heedless left
    His circle's safety ere his devil was laid.
    Then, here's a lock which I will hang upon thee;
    And, now I think on't, I will keep thee backwards;
    Thy lodging shall be backwards, thy walks backwards,
    Thy prospect all be backwards, and no pleasure,
    That thou shalt know, but backwards. Nay, since you force
    My honest nature, know it is your own
    Being too open, makes me use you thus;
    Since you will not contain your subtle nostrils
    In a sweet room, but they must snuff the air
    Of rank and sweaty passengers!