A MAD WORLD, MY MASTERS – Monologue (Mother)

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A monologue from the play by Thomas Middleton

NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from A Mad World, My Masters. Thomas Middleton. London: Walter Burre, 1608.


Hold thee there, girl.
Every part of the world shoots up daily into more subtlety; the very spider weaves her cauls with more art and cunning to entrap the fly.
The shallow ploughman can distinguish now
‘Twixt simple truth and a dissembling brow;
Your base mechanic fellow can spy out
A weakness in a lord, and learns to flout.
How does’t behove us then that live by slight,
To have our wits wound up to their stretch’d height!
Fifteen times, thou knowest I have sold thy maidenhead
To make up a dowry for thy marriage, and yet
There’s maidenhead enough for old Sir Bounteous still:
He’ll be all his lifetime about it yet,
And be as far to seek when he has done.
The sums that I have told upon thy pillow!
I shall once see those golden days again:
Though fifteen, all thy maidenheads are not gone.
Th’Italian is not serv’d yet, nor the French:
The British men come for a dozen at once,
They engross all the market: tut, my girl,
‘Tis nothing but a politic conveyance,
A sincere carriage, a religious eyebrow,
That throws their charms over the worldling’s senses;
And when thou spiest a fool that truly pities
The false springs of thine eyes,
And honourably doats upon thy love,
If he be rich, set him by for a husband.
Be wisely temper’d, and learn this, my wench,
Who gets th’ opinion for a virtuous name
May sin at pleasure, and ne’er think of shame.

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