The Sorrows of Young Werewolf (eyeteeth) wrote,
The Sorrows of Young Werewolf
eyeteeth

Thou look'st like Antichrist in that lewd hat

Well, I finished The Alchemist, and I liked it so much that I hankered for more Ben Jonson and went back and read Volpone again. This week I bought another volume, so that I have Every Man in His Humour, Sejanus, and Bartholomew Fair to get through, and that ought to be enough Ben Jonson for anyone, at least for a few weeks. I love his vicious sense of humor, the fatuousness and/or depravity of his characters, and the sheer absurd intricacy of the double- and triple- and quadruple-crossing they get up to. Someone is always putting something over on someone else, and it's hilarious, but at the same time Jonson is very seriously asking if it's possible to know what is real.

At one point in Volpone, a character named Sir Politic Would-be is telling his young friend Peregrine about his various "projects," with which he intends to make a fortune. Peregrine thinks Sir Pol is an idiot, and later tricks him into dressing up as a tortoise and crawling around on the floor, but at the moment he is very polite because he thinks the "projects" are funny:

SIR POL:            My first is
Concerning tinder-boxes. You must know
No family is here without its box.
Now, sir, it being so portable a thing,
Put case that you or I were ill affected
Unto the state; sir, with it in our pockets,
Might not I go into the Arsenale?
Or you? Come out again? And none the wiser?

PEREGRINE: Except yourself, sir.

SIR POL:                        Go to, then. I, therefore,
Advértise to the state how fit it were,
That none but such as were known patriots,
Sound lovers of their country, should be suffered
T'enjoy them in their houses; And even those,
Sealed at some office, and at such a bigness
As might not lurk in pockets.

PEREGRINE:                   Admirable!


Later in the conversation, Sir Pol lets Peregrine read his diary:

PEREGRINE: Pray you, let's see, sir. What is here?  [Reads.]  "Notandum,
A rat hath gnawn my spur leathers; notwithstanding,
I put on new and did go forth; but first,
I threw three beans over the threshold.  Item,
I went and bought two toothpicks, whereof one
I burst immediately in a discourse
With a Dutch merchant 'bout ragion' del stato.
From him I went and paid a moccenigo,
For piercing my silk stockings; by the way,
I cheapened sprats, and at St Mark's, I urined."
Faith, these are politic notes!

SIR POL:                       Sir, I do slip
No action of my life, thus, but I quote it.


I have the Revels Plays version of Volpone, which tells me in detail stuff like what ragion' del stato was and what it means to cheapen sprats, but that's not really important. What's important is that the only thing missing from Sir Pol's diary is "Current Mood: sleepy."
Tags: ben jonson
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