A monologue from the play by Ben Jonson
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Volpone (1605).
VOLPONE: Why droops my Celia?
Thou hast, in place of a base husband, found
A worthy lover; use thy fortune well,
With secrecy and pleasure. See, behold
What thou art queen of, not in expectation–
As I feed others–but possessed and crowned.
See, here, a rope of pearl, and each more orient
Than that the brave Egyptian queen caroused–
Dissolve and drink ’em. See, a carbuncle,
May put out both the eyes of our Saint Mark;
A diamond would have bought Lollia Paulina,
When she came in like starlight, hid with jewels
That were the spoils of provinces–take these
And wear, and lose ’em; yet remains an earring
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, tongue of nightingales,
The brains of peacocks, and of estriches,
Shall be our food; and, could we get the phoenix,
Though nature lost her kind, she were our dish.
If thou hast wisdom, hear me, Celia.
Thy baths shall be the juice of gillyflowers,
Spirit of roses, and of violets,
The milk of unicorns, and panthers’ breath
Gathered in bags, and mixed 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.
Then will I have thee in more modern forms,
Attired like some sprightly dame of France,
Brave Tuscan lady, or proud Spanish beauty;
Sometimes unto the Persian Sophy’s wife,
Or the Grand Signior’s mistress; and for change,
To one of our most artful courtesans,
Or some quick Negro, or cold Russian.
And I will meet thee in as many shapes;
Where we may so transfuse our wand’ring souls
Out at our lips, and score up sums of pleasures,
“That the curious shall not know
How to tell them as they flow;
And the envious, when they find
What their number is, be pined.”