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acquaintance but to watch and control it, and accordingly determines to follow his son to London. Brainworm, who has already told young Knowell that the letter had been intercepted, determines to stop this journey, and disguises himself as a soldier, meaning to frighten old Knowell back. He meets, however, young Knowell and Stephen first and explains his project; then he meets his master, who expatiates on the idleness of discharged soldiers and offers him employ. He thus enters his own master's service under an assumed character. Meanwhile young Knowell goes with Wellbred and the two gulls to the house of Kitely, a merchant who has married Wellbred's sister, and young Knowell falls in love with Bridget, Kitely's sister. In order that they may have time to escape together and get married, Wellbred plays on the jealousy of Kitely and his wife. He rouses Dame Kitely's suspicions of a certain house; she at once goes there; Wellbred sends Kitely after her. But as it happens Brainworm, in order to keep old Knowell out of the way, has sent him to seek his son at the same house, so that when Kitely arrives he finds Knowell and his wife at the door together. There is violent quarrel and the personages go before Justice Clement, an eccentric and genial magistrate, who at once shows up the trick that has been played. But at the same time the other characters all arrive before the magistrate. Bobadil has beaten his landlord, Cob; Downright has beaten Bobadil; and Cob and Bobadil each take out warrants, which are furnished by Brainworm, who has made the justice's clerk drunk and borrowed his clothes, and, later on, those of a constable. The result of all these complications is a scene of general reconciliation when young Knowell arrives with Bridget, whom he has married in the meantime. However the interest lies not in the plot but in the dialogue and characters. Justice Clement, probably sketched from some well-known city magistrate, is excellent. Brainworm is a witty knave; Cob, the water-carrier, is amusing, somewhat in the vein of Launcelot Gobbo; and Bobadil is worthy to have been accepted as the type of blustering cowardice. He suggests a plan to relieve her majesty of the expense of an army:

Why thus, sir. I would select nineteen more, to myself, throughout the land; gentlemen they should be of good spirit, strong and able constitution; I would choose them by an instinct, a character that I have: and I would teach these nineteen the special rules, as your punto, your reverso, your stoccata, your imbroccata, your passada, your montanto; till they could all play very near, or altogether as well as myself.

This done, say the enemy were forty thousand strong, we twenty would come into the field the tenth of March, or thereabouts; and we would challenge twenty of the enemy; they could not in their honour refuse us. Well, we would kill them; challenge twenty more, kill them; twenty more, kill them; twenty more, kill them too; and thus would we kill every man his twenty a day, that's twenty score; twenty score, that's two hundred two hundred a day, five days a thousand; forty thousand; forty times five, five times forty, two hundred days kills them all up by computation. And this will I venture my poor gentleman-like carcase to perform, provided there be no treason practised upon us, by fair and discreet manhood; that is, civilly by the sword.1

It is immediately afterwards that Downright disarms and beats him.

The play contains several allusions to the newly introduced habit of taking tobacco, to which, it has been remarked, there is no reference in Shakespeare. Bobadil declares it to be "the most sovereign and precious weed that ever the earth tendered to the use of man"; Cob, on the other hand, thinks it "good for nothing but to choke a man and fill him with smoke and embers".

Most of the play is in prose, but several speeches in fine verse are allotted to Old Knowell. It has been compared to a Dutch painting, so exact and at the same time so effective are the minutest details. Hallam characterizes it as "a clear and unerring description of human character". It kept the stage until the eighteenth century.

The central idea of Volpone, or the Fox, "Volpone, was a favourite one in Latin comedy.

or the Fox" (1605).

Volpone, a rich childless magnifico of Venice, has for several years increased his wealth by playing on the cupidity of his acquaintances. Pretending to be struck with mortal sickness, he attracts frequent visits from them, each, in the hope of being named his heir, bringing rich gifts, which Volpone gloatingly adds to his hoard. The opening scene of the play introduces in succession three such visitors, Voltore (vulture), Corbaccio (raven), and Corvino (crow), who find Volpone apparently at the point of death, and are each led by Mosca, his cunning parasite, to believe themselves the rich man's

(M 407)

1 Act iv. sc. 5.


heir. By the wiles of Mosca, partly encouraged by Volpone, these men are led into a course of infamous treachery and wrong. In the end, Volpone is hoist with his own petard. To enjoy the spectacle of his would-be-heirs' disappointment he gives out that he is dead, and allows it to be assumed that Mosca is his heir. But Mosca takes advantage of his temporary position to trick his master; and, to secure himself, Volpone has to confess his own deceit. In the final scene Volpone, Mosca, and the three false friends are sentenced by the Venetian senate to various severe and well-deserved punishments. A secondary interest is provided by Sir Politick Would-be, an English traveller, with his ludicrous projects for enriching himself and benefiting the state, and his wife, who is such an incessant chatterer that she is the only visitor whom Volpone hates to see. The play (almost entirely in verse) is lively, and in parts amusing; but only one of the characters, Corvino's ill-used wife Celia, wins any sympathy; most of the others are revolting. The whole tone of the play is one of satire rather than pure comedy.

the Silent Woman"

The most popular of Jonson's plays is Epicone, or the Silent Woman, which is entirely in prose. Coleridge "Epicone, or described it as the most entertaining of Jonson's comedies, and Dryden, in his Defence of Dramatic Poesy,' says that he prefers it before all other plays, chiefly because of its admirable construction, and its strict adherence to the unity of time.


Morose is an old man, to whom all noise, except his own talking, is offensive. He wears woollen coverings to his ears, pads his doors, allows no brazier or armourer to live in his parish, resides in a narrow street where no coaches or carts can come, and compels his servants to answer him in dumb-show. This peculiarity naturally exposes him to some ridicule, and, believing that his nephew and heir, Sir Dauphine Eugenie, is the instigator of tricks played to annoy him, he disinherits him, and announces his intention to marry. But he is fastidious in choosing a wife. "He has employed a fellow this half-year all over England to hearken him out a dumb woman." He has found none, but at the opening of the play has heard of

1 See page 216.

a woman "who is exceedingly soft-spoken, thrifty of her speech; that spends but six words a day". To this lady, Epicone, he is introduced by Cutbeard, his barber, the only man whose voice he can endure. Charmed with Epicone's low sweet tone, he marries her, but finds to his dismay, immediately after the marriage, that the lady can talk most glibly, and moreover, at once adopts domineering ways, compelling the servants to speak out, and not shrinking from contradicting and crossing her husband. To make matters worse, the house is invaded by a troop of chattering friends, who come with music to celebrate the bridal. The noise is unbearable, and Morose, in desperation, makes to the top of the house, and takes refuge on a cross-beam of the roof. Drawn down again by disturbances between two ridiculous and cowardly knights, Sir John Daw, a pretender to learning, and Sir Amorous La-Foole, "of the La-Fooles of London, as ancient a family as any is in Europe", Morose is in the depths of despair, when his nephew Sir Dauphine promises to relieve him of all his troubles if he will only sign a paper restoring the nephew to the heirship and allowing him £500 a year during the uncle's lifetime. Morose readily consents, whereupon Sir Dauphine takes a wig and other articles off Epicone, and reveals her as a boy! The poor old man, humiliated by the discovery of the trick played upon him, goes off without a word.

The Alchemist is a comedy of more serious interest. It is in blank verse, and was written to expose The “Alchemimpostors.

ist" (1610).

Face, lest in charge of his master, Lovewit's, house, has permitted the alchemist, Subtle, to establish his laboratory there. Subtle professes to have the secret of the philosopher's stone, and with the aid of his confederates, Face and Dol, drives a brisk trade in turning baser metals into gold. They are visited by various persons, who demand the exercise of Subtle's magic for their benefit. Dapper, a lawyer's clerk, asks for a familiar spirit

To rifle with at horses, and win cups.

The tobacconist, Abel Drugger,1 on the other hand, is "an honest fellow", who lets his customers have

1 This was a favourite part of Garrick, the great 18th-century actor.

good tobacco, and does not

Sophisticate it with sack-lees or oil,

Nor washes it in muscadel and grains,
Nor buries it in gravel underground,

But keeps it in fine lily-pots, that, open'd,

Smell like conserve of roses, or French beans.

Drugger merely seeks to know, "by necromancy", how best to arrange his new shop,

Which way I should make my door,

And where my shelves; and which should be for boxes,
And which for pots.

The interest culminates in the visit of Sir Epicure Mammon, to whom Subtle promises the "stone" itself-his "great work". Sir Epicure cares only for wealth, and hopes, by aid of Subtle's discovery, to command every sort of luxury.

I will have all my beds blown up; not stuff'd;

Down is too hard.

He will eat his soup with

spoons of amber,

Headed with diamond and carbuncle.

His shirts are to be

of taffeta-sarsnet, soft and light As cobwebs.

Subtle is of course unable to perform. any of the wonders he professes, but he promises everything to everybody, and gets money out of them all. His deceptions are discovered by Pertinax Surly. Lovewit returns unexpectedly, and Face coolly betrays his confederates and dupes.

Some of Jonson's finest poetry is to be found in the Masques,1 of which he wrote a large number. The great Jonson's architect, Inigo Jones (1572-1652), contrived Masques". the scenery and many ingenious mechanical devices, and famous musicians contributed the music. In

Masques were poetical plays accompanied with music and dancing, specially designed to display elaborate scenery and fine dresses. They were usually composed for great court festivities especially at Christmas and New Year, and to celebrate a wedding or a birthday.

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