A monologue from the play by Ben Jonson

NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Epicene (1605).

TRUEWIT: I’ll tell you, sir, the monstrous hazards you shall run with a wife–for your friends are careful after your soul’s health and would have you know the danger; but you may do your pleasure for all of them. If, after you are married, your wife do run away with a vaulter, or the Frenchman that walks upon ropes, or him that dances the jig, or a fencer for his skill at his weapon, why, it is not their fault; they have discharged their consciences, when you know what may happen. If she be fair, young, and vegetous, no sweetmeats ever drew more flies; all the yellow doublets and great roses i’ the town will be there. If foul and crooked, she’ll be with them, and buy those doublets and roses, sir. If rich, and you marry her dowry, not her, she’ll reign in your house as imperious as a widow. If noble, all her kindred will be your tyrants. If fruitful, as proud as May and humorous as April; she must have her doctors, her midwives, her nurses, her longings every hour, though it be for the dearest morsel of man. If learned, there was never such a parrot; all your patrimony will be too little for the guests that must be invited to hear her speak Latin and Greek; and you must lie with her in those languages too, if you will please her. You begin to sweat, sir–but this is not half, i’ faith! You may do your pleasure, notwithstanding, as I said before, but if you love your wife, or rather, dote on her, sir, O how she’ll torture you, and take pleasure i’ your torments! You shall lie with her, but it must always be for this jewel, or that pearl–every half-hour’s pleasure must be bought anew, and with the same pain and charge you wooed her at first. Then you must keep what servants she please, what company she will; that friend must not visit you without her licence; and him she loves most, she will seem to hate eagerliest, to decline your jealousy; or feign to be jealous of you first, and for that cause go live with her friend, or cousin at the College, that can instruct her in all the mysteries of writing letters, corrupting servants, taming spies; where she must have that rich gown for such a great day, a new one for the next, a richer for the third; be served in silver; have the chamber filled with a succession of grooms, footmen, ushers, and other messengers, besides embroiderers, jewellers, tire-women, sempsters, feather-men, perfumers; be a stateswoman, know all the news, what was done at Salisbury, what at the Bath, what at court, what in progress; and then her going in disguise to that conjurer, where the first question is how soon you shall die? next, if her present servant love her? next, what precedence she shall have by her next match? and sets down the answers, and believes ’em above the scriptures. Nay, perhaps she’ll study the art. Yes, sir, and then come reeking home of vapour and sweat … God be w’ you, sir. One thine more, which I had almost forgot. This too, with whom you are to marry, may have made a conveyance of her virginity aforehand, as your wise widows do of their states, before they marry, in trust to some friend, sir. Who can tell? Or if she have not done it yet, she may do, upon the wedding day, or the night before, and antedate you cuckold. The like has been heard of in nature. ‘Tis no devised, impossible thing, sir. God be w’ you. I’ll be bold to leave this rope with you, sir, for a remembrance. [He produces a noose.] Farewell!

Read the play here

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