David Bruce: Ben Jonson’s VOLPONE: A Retelling — Act 3, Scene 3

— 3.3 —

In a room in Volpone’s house stood Volpone, Nano the dwarf, Androgyno the hermaphrodite, and Castrone the eunuch.

Volpone said, “Mosca has stayed away for a long time, I think. Bring forth your skills in entertainment, and help to make the wretched time sweet. I am bored; entertain me.”

Volpone had sent Mosca to persuade Corvino to allow his wife to sleep with him. Volpone did not know about Mosca’s conversation with Bonario.

Nano the dwarf, Androgyno the hermaphrodite, and Castrone the eunuch performed a skit in which they competed to be Volpone’s favorite. In doing so, they were mocking the greedy legacy-hunters: Voltore, Corbaccio, and Corvino.

Nano the dwarf recited:

Dwarf, fool, and eunuch, well met here we be.

A question it were now, whether [which] of us three,

“Being all the known delicates [acknowledged darlings/favorites] of a rich man,

In pleasing him, claim the precedency can?”

Castrone the eunuch recited:

I claim for myself.”

Androgyno the hermaphrodite, who was the professional Fool of the group, recited:

And so does the Fool.”

Nano the dwarf recited:

It is foolish indeed. Let me set you both to school [instruct you both].

“First for your dwarf, he’s little and witty,

“And everything, as it is little, is pretty [the littler it is, the prettier it is];

“Else why do men say to a creature of my shape,

“So [As] soon as they see him, ‘It’s a pretty little ape’?

“And why a pretty ‘ape,’ but for pleasing imitation

“Of greater men’s actions, in a ridiculous fashion?”

Some dwarves made a living by imitating and mocking VIPs.

Nano the dwarf continued:

Besides, this feat [dainty] body of mine does not crave

“Half the meat, drink, and cloth, one of your bulks [large bodies] will have.”

Nano the dwarf now began to talk about Androgyno the hermaphrodite, who was the professional Fool of the group:

“Admit [that] your Fool’s face be [is] the mother of laughter,

“Yet, [as] for his brain, it must always come after [be less important]:

“And though that [a funny face that causes laughter] do feed him, it is a pitiful case,

His body is beholding [beholden] to such a bad face.

Knocking sounded at the door.

“Who’s there?” Volpone said.

He then said, “I must go to my couch and appear to be ill.”

He then said to Androgyno the hermaphrodite and Castrone the eunuch, “Leave!”

Androgyno the hermaphrodite and Castrone the eunuch exited.

Volpone then said, “Go and look, Nano. See who it is. But give me my caps, first.”

Nano the dwarf handed him his two caps.

Volpone then said to him, “Go and enquire who it is.”

Nano the dwarf exited.

Volpone prayed to the god of love, “Now, may Cupid let the knocker be Mosca, and may Cupid let Mosca come with good news!”

The good news would be that Volpone could sleep with Corvino’s wife.

Nano the dwarf returned and said, “It is the beauteous madam —”

“Lady Would-be? Is it she?” Volpone asked.

Lady Would-be was not beauteous, but that was how she required people to announce her presence.

“The same,” Nano the dwarf replied.

“Now torment has come to me!” Volpone said.

He did not want to talk to her, but he had earlier told Mosca to tell her squire to tell her to come back later and visit him.

He said, “Escort her in because she will enter my room or dwell forever in the outer room. Bring her in quickly. The quicker she is here, the quicker she will leave.”

Nano the dwarf exited.

Volpone lay on the sleeping couch and said, “I wish that this hardship — her visit — were over. This is one Hell, and I fear a second Hell, too — I fear that my loathing this woman, Lady Would-be, will quite expel my appetite for the other woman, Celia. I wish that the tedious Lady Would-be were now taking her leave. Lord, what I am about to suffer threatens me!”

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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