The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vols. VIIX: British
The Braggart Turns Tail
By Ben Jonson (15721637)
From Every Man in his Humour
Captain BOBADILL, WELLBRED, STEPHEN, MATHEW, EDWARD KNOWELL, DOWNRIGHT.
Wel. Well, Captain Bobadill, Master Mathew, pray you know this gentleman here; he is a friend of mine, and one that will deserve your affection. I know not your name, sir (to STEPHEN), but I shall be glad of any occasion to render me more familiar to you.
Step. My name is Master Stephen, sir; I am this gentlemans own cousin, sir; his father is mine uncle, sir. I am somewhat melancholy, but you shall command me, sir, in whatsoever is incident to a gentleman.
Bob. Sir, I must tell you this, I am no general man; but for Master Wellbreds sakeyou may embrace it at what height of favour you pleaseI do communicate with you, and conceive you to be a gentleman of some parts. I love few words.
Mat. Oh, its your only fine humour, sir; your true melancholy breeds your perfect fine wit, sir. I am melancholy myself, divers times, sir, and then do I no more but take pen and paper, presently, and overflow you half a score, or a dozen of sonnets at a sitting.
Bob. Why, at the beleaguering of Strigonium, where, in less than two hours, seven hundred resolute gentlemen, as any were in Europe, lost their lives upon the breach. Ill tell you, gentlemen, it was the first, but the best leaguer, that ever I beheld with these eyes, except the taking in ofwhat do you call it? last year, by the Genoways; but that, of all other, was the most fatal and dangerous exploit that ever I was ranged in since I first bore arms before the face of the enemy, as I am a gentleman and a soldier!
Bob. Observe me judicially, sweet sir. They had planted me three demi-culverins just in the mouth of the breach; now, sir, as we were to give on, their master-gunnera man of no mean skill and mark, you must thinkconfronts me with his linstock, ready to give fire; I, spying his intendment, discharged my petronel in his bosom, and with these single arms, my poor rapier, ran violently upon the Moors that guarded the ordnance, and put them pell-mell to the sword.
Bob. Without any impeach o the earth: you shall perceive, sir. (Shews his rapier.) It is the most fortunate weapon that ever rid on poor gentlemans thigh. Shall I tell you, sir? You talk of Morglay, Excalibur, Durindana; or so; tut! I lend no credit to that is fabled of em. I know the virtue of mine own, and therefore I dare the boldlier maintain it.
Bob. I will tell you, sir. Upon my first coming to the city, after my long travel for knowledge in that mystery only, there came three or four of them to me, at a gentlemans house where it was my chance to be resident at that time, to entreat my presence at their schools; and withal so much importuned me, that I protest to you, as I am a gentleman, I was ashamed of their rude demeanour out of all measure. Well, I told them that to come to a public school, they should pardon me, it was opposite, in diameter, to my humour; but if so be they would give their attendance at my lodging, I protested to do them what right or favour I could, as I was a gentleman, and so forth.
Bob. Alas, soon tried. You shall hear, sir. Within two or three days after, they came; and, by honesty, fair sir, believe me, I graced them exceedingly, showed them some two or three tricks of prevention which have since purchased a credit to admiration. They cannot deny this; and yet now they hate me, and why? Because I am excellent, and for no other vile reason on the earth.
Bob. Nay, for a more instance of their preposterous natures; but note, sir. They have assaulted me some three, four, five, six of them together, as I have walked alone in divers skirts i the town, as Turnbull, Whitechapel, Shoreditch, which were then my quarters; and since, upon the Exchange, at my lodging, and at my ordinary; where I have driven them afore me the whole length of a street, in the open view of all our gallants, pitying to hurt them, believe me. Yet all this lenity will not overcome their spleen; they will be doing with the pismire, raising a hill a man may spurn abroad with his foot at pleasure. By myself, I could have slain them all, but I delight not in murder. I am loath to bear any other than this bastinado for them. Yet I hold it good policy not to go disarmed, for though I be skilful, I may be oppressed with multitudes.
Bob. Indeed, that might be some loss; but who respects it? I will tell you, sir, by the way of private, and under seal: I am a gentleman, and live here obscure, and to myself; but were I known to her Majesty and the lordsobserve meI would undertake, upon this poor head and life, for the public benefit of the state, not only to spare the entire lives of her subjects in general, but to save the one-half, nay, three parts of her yearly charge in holding war, and against what enemy soever. And how would I do it, think you?
Bob. 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 imbroccato, 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 daythats twenty score; twenty score, thats 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 gentlemanlike carcass to perform, provided there be no treason practised upon us, by fair and discreet manhood; that is, civilly by the sword.
E. Know. Aye, like enough; I have heard of many that have been beaten under a planet. Go, get you to a surgeon. Slid! an these be your tricks, your passados, and your montantos, Ill none of them. (Exit BOBADILL.) Oh, manners! that this age should bring forth such creatures, that nature should be at leisure to make them!