— 1.6 —
Fitzdottrel said, “Come, wife, this is the gentleman. No, don’t blush.”
“Why, what do you mean, sir?” Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel said. “Do you still have your reason? Or have you lost your mind?”
“Wife, I don’t know that I have lent it forth to anyone, at least, without a pawn, wife, or that I’ve eaten or drunk the thing lately that should corrupt it,” Fitzdottrel said. “Therefore, gentle wife, obey me. It is thy virtue. Don’t argue with me.”
In this society, a good wife was an obedient wife.
“Aren’t you already enough the talk of feasts and meetings?” Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel asked. “Must you make a new topic for fresh gossip?”
Fitzdottrel said, “Why, careful wedlock — that is, you, my worried wife — if I have a longing to have one more tale told about me, what is that to thee, dear heart? Why should thou resent my delight, or cross it, by being solicitous when it doesn’t concern thee?”
“This does concern me,” Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel said. “Yes, I have a share in this. The scorn will fall as bitterly on me, where both you and me are laughed at.”
“Laughed at, sweet bird?” Fitzdottrel said. “Is that what you have scruples about? Come, come, thou are a nyas.”
A nyas is an unfledged bird. An eyas is an unfledged hawk taken out of the nest for training. These words, however, were sometimes used interchangeably. Young birds are innocent, and when they are taken out of the nest, they cry. Fitzdottrel was saying that his wife was naïve.
Fitzdottrel continued, “Which of your great houses — I will not mean at home, here, but abroad — your families in France, wife, do not send forth something within a seven-years’-time that may be laughed at? I do not say seven months, nor seven weeks, nor seven days, nor seven hours, but seven years, wife. I give them time. Once, within seven years, I think they may do something that may be laughed at, in France — I keep my opinion about this, still.”
His point was that people in great houses — higher-class people — were laughed at; therefore, he was in good company. He was patriotic, however, and so talked about families in France.
He continued, “Therefore, wife, let them who wish to always laugh at me rather than weep for me.
“Here is a cloak that cost fifty pounds, wife, which I can sell for thirty, after I have seen all London in it, and London has seen me in it.”
Engine had said that the cloak was never made for under sixty pounds, but Fitzdottrel was a good judge of clothing and knew its worth.
He continued, “Today, I go to the Blackfriars Playhouse to seeThe Devil is an Ass. I will sit where people can see me, salute all my acquaintance, rise up between the acts, let fall my cloak, show everyone that I am a handsome man and that I have an expensive suit of clothing — that’s the special reason why we go to the theater: to be seen. That is true of all of us who pretend to stand to show displeasure for what is on the stage.”
If a man disliked a certain playwright, that man could attend one of the playwright’s shows, and in between acts stand up with an expression of disgust and ostentatiously leave — it did not matter whether the play was good or bad. Of course, a person could also do that as a way of being the center of attention and displaying his fine clothing.
Fitzdottrel continued, “The ladies ask, who’s that? For they come to see us, love, as we come to see them. Shall I lose all this because of the false fear of being laughed at?”
He said sarcastically, “Yes, certainly!”
He then continued without sarcasm, “Let them laugh, wife. Let me have such another cloak tomorrow, and let them laugh again, wife, and again, and then grow fat with laughing, and then fatter, all my young gallants — and let them bring their friends, too, to laugh at me.
“Shall I forbid them? No, let heaven forbid them. Or let their intelligence forbid them, if intelligence has any kind of control of them.”
Fitzdottrel took her to the side and spoke privately to her: “Come, give me thy ear, wife. That is all I’ll borrow of thee.”
He said to Wittipol, “Set your watch, sir.”
He said privately to his wife, “Thou are to only listen, and not speak a word, dove, to anything he says. I tell you that in precept, and as an order. This is no less than counsel, on your wifehood, wife. Do not speak to him even if he flatters you, or courts you, or flirts with you, as you must expect him to do, or let’s say, if he rails at you — whatever his skills are, wife, I will have thee delude them with a trick, which is thy obstinate silence.
“I know advantages, and I love to hit these meddling young men at their own weapons. He will use eloquence, and your response of silence will neutralize him.”
Fitzdottrel led his wife to a place for her to stand, and he set his watch.
He then said to Wittipol, “Is your watch ready? Here my sail bears, for you.”
He said to his wife, “Tack toward him, sweet pinnace.”
Women were often figuratively called pinnaces, which were small sailing boats; however, other meanings of “pinnace” included “prostitute” and the sexual meaning of “mistress.”
In a way, Fitzdottrel was prostituting his wife for a cloak.
Fitzdottrel asked Wittipol, “Where’s your watch?”
Wittipol answered, “I’ll set it, sir, with yours.”
They were synchronizing their watches so they could agree when fifteen minutes had ended.
Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel said to herself, “I must obey my husband.”
Noticing how sad she looked, Manly thought, Her modesty seems to suffer with her beauty, and so, as if his folly were away, it were worth pity.
He meant this: Because her modesty seemed to suffer with her beauty, she was worthy of pity. And if Fitzdottrel were not capable of such folly, he would be worthy of pity.
Or, possibly, he meant this: Because her modesty seemed to suffer with her beauty, then if Fitzdottrel were not capable of such folly, her modesty and her beauty — that is, she herself — would be worthy of pity. If this is what he meant, he was blaming her for marrying a fool.
Or, possibly, he meant this: Because her modesty seemed to suffer with her beauty, then if Fitzdottrel were not capable of such folly and therefore was not deserving of punishment by being made an ass of, it would be good to pity her and not continue with this situation.
Fitzdottrel compared his watch with Wittipol’s watch and said, “Now thou are right; begin, sir. But first, let me repeat the contract briefly.
“I am, sir, to freely enjoy this cloak I am wearing, as your gift, upon the condition that you may as freely speak here to my spouse your quarter of an hour, always keeping the measured distance of your yard, or more, away from my said spouse, and in my sight and hearing.”
In this society, one meaning of “yard” was “penis.”
He then asked Wittipol, “This is your covenant — your agreement — with me?
“Yes, but you’ll allow for this time we spent just now?” Wittipol asked.
Fitzdottrel had spent a few seconds going over their covenant.
“Let’s set our watches back that much time,” Fitzdottrel said.
Changing his mind, Wittipol said, “I think I shall not need the extra time.”
“Well, begin, sir,” Fitzdottrel said. “There is your boundary, sir. Do not go beyond that rush-mat.”
“If you interrupt me, sir, I shall discloak you,” Wittipol said.
He then began speaking to Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel:
“The time I have purchased, lady, is but short, and therefore, if I employ it thriftily, I hope I stand the nearer to my pardon. I am not here to tell you that you are fair, or lovely, or how well you dress yourself, lady; I’ll save myself that eloquence of your mirror,which can speak these things better to you than I. And it is a knowledge wherein fools may be as wise as a court parliament.”
During medieval times, a court of ladies would rule on questions of courtly love.
Wittipol continued, “Nor do I come with any prejudice — preconceived idea — or doubt that you should, to the realization of your own worth, need least revelation. She’s a simple woman who does not know her good — whoever knows her ill — and in every respect.”
A proverb stated, “Any woman is simple-minded who fails to know what’s best for her.”
Wittipol continued, “That you are the wife to so much blighted flesh as scarcely has soul,instead of salt, to keep it sweet, I think will need no witnesses to prove.”
The soul keeps the body alive and preserves it from rotting, just as salt preserves the flesh of animals for eating. Fitzdottrel’s covetousness showed that he had little soul.
Wittipol continued, “The cold sheets that you lie in, with the watching candle that sees how, dull to any thaw of beauty, bits and pieces of time, and quarter nights, half nights, and whole nights, sometimes, the devil-given elfin — malignant — squire your husband leaves you, quitting here his proper circle for a much worse one in the walks of Lincoln’s Inn, under the elms, to expect the fiend in vain there, will confess for you. All of these things are evidence of how your husband regards you.”
Wittipol was pointing out that Fitzdottrel neglected her: his wife. He left her circle — her vagina — in order to go to the walks of Lincoln’s Inn to see a conjuror’s circle in the vain hope of seeing the Devil.
“I looked for this nonsense,” Fitzdottrel said. “I expected you to say such things.”
Wittipol continued, “And what a daughter of darkness he makes you, locked up away from all society you wish to visit or object you wish to see.
“Your eye is not allowed to look upon a face under a conjurer’s — or under some mold, aka top of a head, hollow and lean like his — except but by such great means as I now make to allow you to see my face.”
Wittipol meant that Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel was allowed to look at no male faces except those under a conjuror’s mold or crown (both words mean “top of head”) or the face that was under her husband’s mold or crown, which was hollow (due to lacking a brain) and lean (the human brain is mostly made of fat: almost 60 percent).
He continued, “Your own too acutely felt sufferings, without the extraordinary aids of spells or spirits, may assure you, lady.”
Assure her of what? Wittipol was hoping that her acutely felt sufferings would assure her that she ought to spend time with him.
“As for my part, I protest against all such practice. I work by no false arts, medicines, or charms to be said forward and backward.”
Fitzdottrel said, “No, I object —”
“Sir, I shall ease you of the burden of that cloak,” Wittipol said.
He made a motion as if he were going to take the cloak from him.
Fitzdottrel said, “I am mum.”
Wittipol said to Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel, “Nor have I designs, lady, upon you more than this: to tell you how Love, Beauty’s good angel, he who waits upon her at all occasions, and no less than Fortune helps the adventurous, in me makes that proffer which never fair one was so fond to lose who could but reach a hand forth to her freedom.
“On the first sight I loved you; since which time, though I have travelled, I have been in travail more for this second blessing of your eyes that now I’ve purchased than for all aims else.
“Think about it, lady. Let your mind be as active as is your beauty; view your object well. Examine both my fashion and my years.
“Things that are like are soon familiar; and Nature joys still in equality.”
Wittipol was referring to two proverbs: “Like will to like” and “Marry your equal.” He did not think that Fitzdottrel was Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel’s equal, and he did think that he himself and Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel were alike.
He continued, “Let not the sign of the husband frighten you, lady, but before your spring is gone, enjoy it. Flowers, though fair, are often but of one morning. Think, all beauty does not last until the autumn.”
He was referring to this proverb: “Beauty does fade like a flower.” And, of course, he was advising her to seize the day: Carpe diem.
Wittipol continued, “You grow old while I tell you this. And such as cannot use the present are not wise. If Love and Fortune will take care of us, why should our will be wanting? This is all. What do you answer, lady?”
Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel stood mute.
Her husband thought, Now the entertainment comes. Let him continue to wait, wait, wait, while the watch goes, and the time runs.
Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel made a motion as if she would speak, and her husband thought, Wife!He shook his head at her.
“What!” Wittipol said. “You don’t speak any word? No, and so then I taste a trick in it. Worthy lady, I cannot be so false to my own thoughts of your presumed goodness to conceive this as your rudeness, which I see is imposed. Yet since your cautelous — crafty, wily — jailer here stands by you, and you’re denied the liberty of the house, let me take warrant, lady, from your silence — which always is interpreted as consent — to make your answer for you, which shall be to as good purpose as I can imagine, and what I think you’d speak.”
Since Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel would not speak, he would speak in her behalf.
He moved Manly, his friend, in front of him.
Fitzdottrel objected, “No, no, no, no!”
Manly was beyond the rush-mat and close to Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel.
“I shall resume, sir,” Wittipol said to Fitzdottrel.
He moved Manly back behind the rush-mat.
“Sir, what do you mean?” Manly asked Wittipol. “What are you doing?”
Wittipol said to Fitzdottrel, “One interruption more, sir, and you go into your hose and doublet, and nothing saves you. You will get no cloak.”
Because Manley was now behind the rush-mat and at least a yard’s distance from Fitzdottrel’s wife, Fitzdottrel ought not to object.
Wittipol then said to Fitzdottrel, “And therefore listen. This is for your wife.”
Manly would represent Wittipol, and Wittipol would represent Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel and speak for her: He was going to speak the words that he wished she would say to him.
Not quite sure what was going on, Manly said to Wittipol, “You must play fair, sir.”
Wittipol said to Manly, “Stand for me, good friend. Represent me as I represent Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel and speak for her.”
Wittipol then pretended to be Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel and spoke the words that he wished that she would say to him:
“Truly, sir, what you have uttered about my unequal and so sordid match here, with all the circumstances of my bondage, is more than true.
“I have a husband, and a two-legged one, but he is such a moonling — a lunatic and an idiot — as no wit of man or roses can redeem from being an ass.”
In the Metamorphosesof Apuleius, a work that is sometimes called The Golden Ass, a man named Lucius is transformed into an ass. He recovers his human form by eating roses.
Wittipol continued speaking the words that he wished Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel would say to him:
“He’s grown too much the story told by men’s mouths to escape his lading, aka burden. Should I make it my study, and plan all ways, and indeed even call mankind to help to take his burden off — why, this one act of his, to let his wife out to be courted, and at a price, proclaims his asinine nature so loudly as I am weary of my title — my legal right as his wife — to him.
“But sir, you seem a gentleman of virtue no less than of good birth, and one who in every way looks as he were of too good quality to entrap a credulous woman, or betray her.
“Since you have paid thus dearly, sir, for a visit, and made such venture on your wit and charge — the cloak — merely to see me, or at most to speak to me, I would be too stupid, or — what’s worse — too much of an ingrate if I were not to return your venture.
“Think but how I may with safety do it; I shall trust my love and honor to you, and I shall presume you’ll always husband and protect both my love and honor against this husband — who, if we chance to change his liberal ears to other ensigns, and with labor make a new beast of him, as he shall deserve, cannot complain he is unkindly dealt with.”
By committing adultery with Wittipol, she would change her husband’s ass’ ears to the horns of a cuckold. (Men with unfaithful wives were said to have invisible horns growing out of their forehead.)
Wittipol continued speaking the words he wished Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel would say to him:
“This day he is to go to a new play, sir, from whence no fear, no, nor authority, scarcely the King’s command, sir, will restrain him, now that you have fitted him with a garment he can wear while sitting on the stage, for the mere name’s sake, were there nothing else.”
The name of the play was The Devil is an Ass. Fitzdottrel would certainly want to see a play about devils; in addition, Wittipol had made an ass of the “devil” named Fitzdottrel by successfully tempting him with a cloak.
Wittipol continued speaking the words he wished Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel would say to him:
“And many more such journeys he will make, which, if they now or any time hereafter offer us opportunity, you hear, sir, me who’ll be as glad and eager to embrace, meet, and enjoy it as cheerfully as you.”
Wittipol now resumed his own voice and moved beside Manly and said to Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel, “I humbly thank you, lady.”
“Keep your ground, sir,” Fitzdottrel said.
He did not need to say that. Wittipol was still a yard away from Fitzdottrel’s wife.
“Will you be lightened by the removal of a cloak?” Wittipol said to Fitzdottrel.
Fitzdottrel said, “I am mum.”
Wittipol said to Mrs. Frances Fitzdottrel, “And except that I am, by the solemn contract, thus to take my leave of you at this so envious distance, I would have taught our lips before this to seal the happy mixture made of our souls. But we must both now yield to the necessity of our parting.
“Yet do not doubt, lady, that I can kiss, and touch, and laugh, and whisper, and do those crowning courtships, too, for which day and the public have allowed no name — but now my bargain binds me and I must leave.
“It would be a rude injury to importune you any more, or urge a noble nature to what of its own bounty it already is prone to; otherwise, I would speak. But, lady, I love so well as I will hope you’ll do so, too.”
Wittipol then said to Fitzdottrel, “I have finished, sir.”
“Well, then, have I won?” Fitzdottrel asked.
Had he won the cloak? And had he won the contest for his wife?
“Sir,” Wittipol said, “and I may win, too.”
Fitzdottrel had won the cloak, but Wittipol hoped to win the wife.
Fitzdottrel said, sarcastically, “Oh, yes! No doubt of it. I’ll take care to order that my wife shall hang forth signs at the window to tell you when I am absent. Or I’ll keep three or four footmen ready always whose job shall be to run and fetch you when my wife longs to see you, sir. I’ll go and ordera gilt luxurious coach for her and you to take the air in — yes, you two shall ride into Hyde Park and thence into Blackfriars so you can visit the painters, where you may see pictures, and note the most good-looking limbs, and how to make them.”
The paintings would be of lovers. Wittipol and Fitzdottrel’s wife could study the paintings so that they could imitate the positions of the lovers.
Fitzdottrel continued, “Or what do you say to a middling gossip — a female go-between or panderer — to bring you together at her lodging under pretext of teaching my wife some rare recipe for making almond milk? Ha? It shall be a part of my care for my wife.
“Good sir, may God be with you. I have kept the contract, and the cloak is mine.”
“Why, much good may it do you, sir,” Wittipol said. “It may turn out that you have bought it at a high price, although I have not sold it.”
“A pretty riddle!” Fitzdottrel said. “Fare you well, good sir.”
Fitzdottrel turned his wife around so that she was not facing Wittipol as he said to her,“Wife, turn your face this way.”
He then said, “Look at me, and think you’ve had a wicked dream, wife, and forget it.”
Manly said, “This is the strangest puppet show I ever saw.”
He had witnessed a strange performance.
Wittipol and Manly exited.
Fitzdottrel said, “Now, wife, does this fair cloak sit the worse upon me for my great sufferings, or your little patience? Does it? Do they laugh, do you think?”
His wife replied, “Why, sir, and you might see them laughing. What they think about you may be soon known by paying attention to the words of the young gentleman’s speech.”
“Young gentleman?” Fitzdottrel said. “By God’s death! You are in love with him, are you? Couldn’t he be called ‘the gentleman,’ without the ‘young’? Go up to your room again.”
“My cage, you were best to call it!” she replied.
“Yes, sing there,” Fitzdottrel said. “You’d prefer to be makingblanc-manger with him at your mother’s! I know you.”
Blanc-manger is a dish made mainly of white ingredients, including fowl. Semen is white or whitish-gray, and Fitzdottrel was saying that his wife would prefer to be creating semen with Wittipol. In this society, the word “fowl” often meant “whore.”
He ordered his wife, “Go get you up to your room.”
His wife exited.
— 1.7 —
Pug the devil entered the room.
Fitzdottrel said, “How are you now! What do you say, Devil?”
“Here is a man named Engine, sir, who desires to speak with you,” Pug said.
“I thought he would bring some news about a broker!” Fitzdottrel said. “Well, let him come in, good Devil — or fetch him.”
Pug exited, and Engine entered the room.
Fitzdottrel said, “Oh, my fine Engine! What’s the affair? More cheaters?”
“No sir,” Engine said. “The wit, the brain, the great projector I told you of, has newly come to town.”
“Where is he, Engine?”
“I have brought him with me— he’s outside,” Engine said. “I brought him here even before he had time to pull off his boots, sir, but even so he was followed by people interested in conducting business with him.”
“You say that he is a projector, but what is a projector?” Fitzdottrel said. “I would like to understand that.”
Engine answered, “Why, a projector is a man, sir, who projects ways to enrich men, or to make them great, by petitions, by marriages, by undertakings, according as he sees they fancy it.”
People could petition the King for a monopoly to make a product or perform a service.
“Can’t he at all conjure?” Fitzdottrel said.
“I think he can, sir — to tell you the truth — but you know that recently the government has taken such note of conjurors, and compelled them to enter such great bonds, that the conjurors dare not practice their art,” Engine said.
“That is true,” Fitzdottrel said, “and I lie fallow for it all the while!”
In 1615, King James I had ordered the Lord Mayor of London to enforce more rigorously the laws restraining conjurors.
“Oh, sir!” Engine said. “You’ll grow the richer for the rest — the lying fallow — you are taking now.”
“I hope I shall,” Fitzdottrel said. “But Engine, you talk somewhat too much about my courses of action. My cloak-customer could tell me strange particulars.”
The cloak-customer — Wittipol — knew about Fitzdottrel’s dealings with conjurors, and Fitzdottrel believed that Engine must have told him about those dealings.
“By my means?” Engine asked.
“How else could he know about my courses of action?” Fitzdottrel said.
“You do not know, sir, what he has, and by what arts,” Engine said. “He is a moneyed man, sir, and he is as greatly involved with your almanac-men as you are!”
“Almanac-men” were men who created almanacs that contained weather predictions and medical lore. They were often astrologers.
“That gallant?” Fitzdottrel asked.
Uncomfortable, Engine changed the subject.
“You make the other man wait too long here,” Engine said, “and he is extremely punctual.”
“Is he a gallant?” Fitzdottrel asked.
“Sir, you shall see,” Engine said. “He’s in his riding suit, as he comes now from Court. But hear him speak. Minister matter to him, and then tell me whether he is a gallant.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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