Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘The Silent Woman’
By Ben Jonson (1572–1637)
Scene: A Room in Morose’s House.  Enter Morose, with a tube in his hand, followed by Mute.

MOROSE—Cannot I yet find out a more compendious method than by this trunk, to save my servants the labor of speech, and mine ears the discords of sounds? Let me see: all discourses but my own afflict me; they seem harsh, impertinent, and irksome. Is it not possible that thou shouldst answer me by signs, and I apprehend thee, fellow? Speak not, though I question you. You have taken the ring off from the street door, as I bade you? Answer me not by speech, but by silence; unless it be otherwise.  [Mute makes a leg.]  Very good. And you have fastened on a thick quilt or flock bed on the outside of the door: that if they knock with their daggers or with brickbats, they can make no noise?—But with your leg, your answer, unless it be otherwise.  [Mute makes a leg.]  Very good. This is not only fit modesty in a servant, but good state and discretion in a master. And you have been with Cutbeard the barber, to have him come to me?  [Mute makes a leg.]  Good. And he will come presently? Answer me not but with your leg, unless it be otherwise: if it be otherwise, shake your head or shrug.  [Mute makes a leg.]  So! Your Italian and Spaniard are wise in these: and it is a frugal and comely gravity. How long will it be ere Cutbeard come? Stay: if an hour, hold up your whole hand; if half an hour, two fingers; if a quarter, one.  [Mute holds up a finger bent.]  Good: half a quarter? ’Tis well. And have you given him a key, to come in without knocking?  [Mute makes a leg.]  Good. And is the lock oiled, and the hinges, to-day?  [Mute makes a leg.]  Good. And the quilting of the stairs nowhere worn out and bare?  [Mute makes a leg.]  Very good. I see, by much doctrine and impulsion it may be effected; stand by. The Turk, in this divine discipline, is admirable, exceeding all the potentates of the earth: still waited on by mutes; and all his commands so executed; yea, even in the war, as I have heard, and in his marches, most of his charges and directions given by signs, and with silence: an exquisite art! and I am heartily ashamed, and angry oftentimes, that the princes of Christendom should suffer a barbarian to transcend them in so high a point of felicity. I will practice it hereafter.  [A horn winded within.]  How now? oh! oh! what villain, what prodigy of mankind is that? Look—  [Exit Mute.  Horn again.]  Oh! cut his throat, cut his throat! what murderer, hell-hound, devil can this be?  1
Re-enter Mute
  Mute—It is a post from the court—
  Morose—Out, rogue! and must thou blow thy horn too?  3
  Mute—Alas, it is a post from the court, sir, that says he must speak with you, pain of death—  4
  Morose—Pain of thy life, be silent!  5
Enter Truewit with a post-horn, and a halter in his hand
  Truewit—By your leave, sir,—I am a stranger here,—is your name Master Morose? is your name Master Morose? Fishes! Pythagoreans all! This is strange. What say you, sir? Nothing? Has Hypocrates been here with his club, among you? Well, sir, I will believe you to be the man at this time; I will venture upon you, sir. Your friends at court commend them to you, sir—
  Morose—Oh men! Oh manners! was there ever such an impudence?  7
  Truewit—And are extremely solicitous for you, sir.  8
  Morose—Whose knave are you?  9
  Truewit—Mine own knave, and your compeer, sir.  10
  Morose—Fetch me my sword—  11
  Truewit—You shall taste the one-half of my dagger if you do, groom; and you the other if you stir, sir. Be patient, I charge you, in the King’s name, and hear me without insurrection. They say you are to marry; to marry! do you mark, sir?  12
  Morose—How then, rude companion?  13
  Truewit—Marry, your friends do wonder, sir, the Thames being so near, wherein you may drown so handsomely; or London bridge at a low fall, with a fine leap, to hurry you down the stream; or such a delicate steeple in the town as Bow, to vault from; or a braver height, as Paul’s; or if you affected to do it nearer home, and a shorter way, an excellent garret window into the street; or a beam in the said garret, with this halter  [shows him the halter]  which they have sent,—and desire that you would sooner commit your grave head to this knot than to the wedlock noose; or take a little sublimate, and go out of the world like a rat; or a fly, as one said, with a straw in your body: any way, rather than follow this goblin Matrimony….  14
  Morose—Good sir, have I ever cozened any friends of yours of their lands? bought their possessions? taken forfeit of their mortgage? begged a reversion from them?… What have I done that may deserve this?…  15
  Truewit—Alas, sir, I am but a messenger: I but tell you what you must hear. It seems your friends are careful after your soul’s health, sir, and would have you know the danger. (But you may do your pleasure for all them; I persuade not, sir.) If, after you are married, your wife do run away with a vaulter, or the Frenchman that walks upon ropes, or him that dances a jig,… why, it is not their fault; they have discharged their consciences, when you know what may happen. Nay, suffer valiantly, sir, for I must tell you all the perils that you are obnoxious to. If she be fair, young, and vegetous, no sweetmeats ever drew more flies; all the yellow doublets and great roses in the town will be there. If foul and crooked, she’ll be with them…. If rich, and that you marry her dowry, not her, she’ll reign in your house as imperious as a widow. If noble, all her kindred will be your tyrants…. If learned, there was never such a parrot; all your patrimony will be too little for the guests that must be invited to hear her speak Latin and Greek…. If precise, you must feast all the silenced brethren once in three days; salute the sisters; entertain the whole family or wood of them; and hear long-winded exercises, singings, and catechizings, which you are not given to, and yet must give for, to please the zealous matron your wife, who for the holy cause will cozen you over and above. You begin to sweat, sir! but this is not half, i’ faith; you may do your pleasure, notwithstanding, as I said before: I come not to persuade you.—[Mute is stealing away.]  Upon my faith, master serving-man, if you do stir, I will beat you.  16
  Morose—Oh, what is my sin! what is my sin!  17
  Truewit—Then, if you love your wife, or rather dote on her, sir,—oh, how she’ll torture you, and take pleasure in your torments!… That friend must not visit you without her license; and him she loves most, she will seem to hate eagerliest, to decline your jealousy;… she must have that rich gown for such a great day; a new one for the next; a richer for the third; be served in silver; have the chamber filled with a succession of grooms, footmen, ushers, and other messengers; besides embroiderers, jewelers, tire-women, sempsters, feathermen, perfumers; whilst she feels not how the land drops away, nor the acres melt; nor foresees the change, when the mercer has your woods for her velvets: never weighs what her pride costs, sir, so she may … be a stateswoman, know all the news, what was done at Salisbury, what at the Bath, what at court, what in progress; or so she may censure poets, and authors, and styles, and compare them,—Daniel with Spenser, Jonson with the t’other youth, and so forth; or be thought cunning in controversies or the very knots of divinity; and have often in her mouth the state of the question; and then skip to the mathematics and demonstration: and answer in religion to one, in state to another, in folly to a third.  18
  Morose—Oh, oh!  19
  Truewit—All this is very true, sir. And then her going in disguise to that conjurer and this cunning woman: where the first question is, How soon you shall die?… What precedence she shall have by her next match? And sets down the answers, and believes them above the Scriptures. Nay, perhaps she’ll study the art.  20
  Morose—Gentle sir, have you done? have you had your pleasure of me? I’ll think of these things.  21
  Truewit—Yes, sir; and then comes reeking home of vapor and sweat, with going afoot, and lies in a month of a new face, all oil and birdlime; and rises in asses’ milk, and is cleansed with a new fucus: God be wi’ you, sir. One thing more, which I had almost forgot:… I’ll be bold to leave this rope with you, sir, for a remembrance.—Farewell, Mute!  [Exit.]  22
  Morose—Come, have me to my chamber; but first shut the door.  [Truewit winds the horn without.]  Oh, shut the door, shut the door! Is he come again?  23

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