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66 C.

And makes the colour of his flesh like lead.

C. 'Tis good.
M. His pulse beats slow, and dull.

Good symptoms still.
M. And from his brain-

I conceive you; good.
M. Flows a cold sweat, with a continual rheum,
Forth the resolved corners of his eyes.

C. Is't possible? Yet I am better, ha!
How does he, with the swimming of his head ?

M. O, sir, 'tis past the scotomy; he now
Hath lost his feeling, and hath left to snort:
You hardly can perceive him, that he breathes.

C. Excellent, excellent ! sure I shall outlast him :

This makes me young again, a score of years.” 1 If you would be his heir, says Mosca, the moment is favorable; but you must not let yourself be forestalled. Voltore has been here, and presented him with this piece of plate:

See, Mosca, look,
Here, I have brought a bag of bright chequines,
Will quite weigh down his plate.

M. Now, would I counsel you, make home with speed; *
There, frame a will; whereto you shall inscribe
My master your sole heir.

This plot
Did I think on before.

M. And you so certain to survive him-

M. Being so lusty a man-

'Tis true. And the old man hobbles away, not hearing the insults and ridicule thrown at him, he is so deaf.

When he is gone the merchant Corvino arrives, bringing an orient pearl and a splendid diamond:

Corvino. Am I his heir ?

Mosca. Sir, I am sworn, I may not show the will
Till he be dead; but here has been Corbaccio,
Here has been Voltore, here were others too,
I cannot number ’em, they were so many;
All gaping here for legacies: but I,
Taking the vantage of his naming you,
Signior Corvino, Signior Corvino, took
Paper, and pen, and ink, and there I asked him,


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Whom he would have his heir ? Corvino. Who
Should be executor ? Corvino. And,
To any question he was silent to,
I still interpreted the nods he made,
Through weakness, for consent: and sent home th’ others,
Nothing bequeath'd them, but to cry and curse.

Cor. O my dear Mosca! ... Has he children ?

M. Bastards,
Some dozen, or more, that he begot on beggars,
Gypsies, and Jews, and black-moors, when he was drunk.

Speak out:

be louder yet.
Faith, I could stifle him rarely with a pillow,
As well as any woman that should keep him.

C. Do as you will; but I'll begone.'


Corvino presently departs; for the passions of the time have all the beauty of frankness. And Volponc, casting aside his sick man's garb, cries :

“My divine Mosca !
Thou hast to-day out gone thyself. Prepare
Me music, dances, banquets, all delights ;
The Turk is not more sensual in his pleasures,

Than will Volpone.” 2 On this invitation, Mosca draws a most voluptuous portrait of Corvino's wife, Celia. Smitten with a sudden desire Volpone dresses himself as a mountebank, and goes singing under her windows with all the sprightliness of a quack; for he is naturally a comedian, like a true Italian, of the same family as Scaramouch, as good an actor in the public square as in his house. Having once seen Celia, he resolves to obtain her at any price:

“Mosca, take my keys,
Gold, plate, and jewels, all's at thy devotion;
Employ them how thou wilt; nay, coin me too:

So thou, in this, but crown my longings, Mosca." 3 Mosca then tells Corvino that some quack's oil has cured his master, and that they are looking for a "young woman, lusty and full of juice;" to complete the cure:

“Have you no kinswoman? Odso—Think, think, think, think, think, think, think, sir. One o' the doctors offer'd there his daughter.

Corvino. How !

2 Ibid.

1 Volpone, i. 5. VOL. I.

3 Ibid. ii. 2.


Mosca. Yes, signior Lupo, the physician.
C. His daughter!

And a virgin, sir.

Covetous wretch.” 1

Though unreasonably jealous, Corvino is gradually induced to offer his wife. He has given too much already, and would not lose his advantage. He is like a half-ruined gamester, who with a shaking hand throws on the green cloth the remainder of his fortune. He brings the poor sweet woman, weeping and resisting: Excited by his own hidden pangs, he becomes furious :

“Be damn'd!
Heart, I will drag thee hence, home, by the hair ;
Cry thee a strumpet through the streets ; rip up
Thy mouth unto thine ears; and slit thy nose;
Like a raw rochet !-Do not tempt me; come,
Yield, I am loth-Death! I will buy some slave
Whom I will kill, and bind thee to him, alive;
And at my window hang you forth, devising
Some monstrous crime, which I, in capital letters,
Will eat into thy flesh with aquafortis,
And burning corsives, on this stubborn breast.
Now, by the blood thou hast incensed, I'll do it!

Celia. Sir, what you please, you may, I am your martyr.

Corvino. Be not thus obstinate, I have not deserv'd it:
Think who it is intreats you. Prithee, sweet ;-
Good faith thou shalt have jewels, gowns, attires,
What thou wilt think, and ask. Do but go kiss him,
Or touch him, but. For my sake.—At my suit. —
This once.—No! not! I shall remember this.
Will you disgrace me thus ? Do you thirst my undoing?

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Mosca turned a moment before, to Volpone:

Signior Corvino ... hearing of the consultation had
So lately, for your health, is come to offer,
Or rather, sir, to prostitute. —

Thanks, sweet Mosca.
Mosca. Freely, unask'd, or unintreated.


i Volpone, ii. 2. ? Volpone, iii. 5. We pray the reader to pardon us for Ben Jonson's broadness. If I omit it, I cannot depict the sixteenth century.

Grant the same indulgence to the historian as to the anatomist.

Mosca. As the true fervent instance of his love,
His own most fair and proper wife; the beauty
Only of price in Venice.-

'Tis well urg'd.” 1 Where can we see such blows launched and driven hard, full in face, by the violent hand of satire ? Celia is alone with Volpone, who, throwing off his feigned sickness, comes upon her,

as fresh, as hot, as high, and in as jovial plight,” as on the galadays of the Republic, when he acted the part of the lovely Antinous. In his transport he sings a love song; his voluptuousness culminates in poetry; for poetry was then in Italy the blossom of vice. He spreads before her pearls, diamonds, carbuncles. He is in raptures at the sight of the treasures, which he displays and sparkles before her eyes:

"Take these,
And wear, and lose them : yet remains an ear-ring
To purchase them again, and this whole state.
A gem but worth a private patrimony,
Is nothing: we will eat such at a meal,
The heads of parrots, tongues of nightingales,
The brains of peacocks, and of estriches,
Shall be our food,

Conscience? 'Tis the beggar's virtue.
Thy baths shall be the juice of July flowers,


and of violets,
The milk of unicorns, and panthers' breath
Gather'd in bags, and mixt with Cretan wines.
Our drink shall be prepared gold and amber;
Which we will take, until my roof whirl round
With the vertigo: and my dwarf shall dance,
My eunuch sing, my fool make up the antic,
Whilst we, in changed shapes, act Ovid's tales,
Thou, like Europa now, and I like Jove,
Then I like Mars, and thou like Erycine;
So, of the rest, till we have quite run through,

And wearied all the fables of the gods.” 2 We recognize Venice in this splendor of debauchery–Venice, the throne of Aretinus, the country of Tintoretto and Giorgione. Volpone seizes Celia: “Yield, or I'll force thee!” But suddenly Bonario, disinherited son of Corbaccio, whom Mosca had concealed there with another design, enters violently, delivers her, wounds Mosca, and accuses Volpone before the tribunal, of imposture and rape.

Spirit of

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The three rascals who aim at being his heirs, work together to save Volpone. Corbaccio disavows his son, and accuses him of parricide. Corvino declares his wife an adulteress, the shameless mistress of Bonario. Never on the stage was seen such energy of lying, such open villainy. The husband, who knows his wife to be innocent, is the most eager :

“This woman (please your fatherhoods) is a whore,
Of most hot exercise, more than a partrich,
Upon record.

Ist Advocate. No more.
Corvino. Neighs like a jennet.
Notary. Preserve the honour of the court.

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, thorough the horn,
That make the story perfect.

3d Adv. His grief hath made him frantic. (Celia swoons.)
C. Rare! Prettily feign'd! again !”1

They have Volpone brought in, like a dying man; manufacture false“ testimony,” to which Voltore gives weight with his advocate's tongue, with words worth a sequin apiece. They throw Celia and Bonario into prison, and Volpone is saved.

This public imposture is for him only another comedy, a pleasant pastime, and a masterpiece.

Mosca. To gull the court.

Volpone. And quite divert the torrent
Upon the innocent.
M. You are not taken with it enough, methinks.

V. 0, more than if I had enjoy'd the wench ? " % To conclude, he writes a will in Mosca’s favor, has his death reported, hides behind a curtain, and enjoys the looks of the wouldbe heirs. They had just saved him from being thrown into prison, which makes the fun all the better; the wickedness will be all the greater and more exquisite. “Torture 'em rarely," Volpone says to Mosca. The latter spreads the will on the table, and reads the inventory aloud. “Turkey carpets nine. Two cabinets, one of ebony, the other mother-of-pearl

. A perfum'd box, made of

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