Westward Ho – Act One, Scene One

Return to Dramatis Personæ

Enter MISTRESS BIRDLIME and Tailor.

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
Stay, tailor, this is the house. Pray thee, look not the gown be ruffled; as for the jewels and precious stones, I know not where to find them ready presently. She that wears this gown, if she will receive it, is Master Justiniano’s wife, the Italian merchant. My good old lord and master, that hath been a tilter this twenty year, hath sent it. Mum, tailor; you are a kind of bawd. Tailor, if the gentlewoman’s husband should chance to be in the way now, you shall tell him that I keep a hothouse in Gunpowder-alley, near Crutched Friars, and that I have brought home his wife’s foul linen; and to colour my knavery the better, I have here three or four kinds of complexion, which I will make show of to sell unto her. The young gentlewoman hath a good city wit, I can tell you. She hath read in the Italian Courtier that it is a special ornament to gentlewomen to have skill in painting.

TAILOR
Is my lord acquainted with her?

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
Oh, ay.

TAILOR
Faith, Mistress Birdlime, I do not comment my lord’s choice so well. Now methinks he were better to set up a dairy and to keep half a score of lusty, wholesome, honest, country wenches.

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
Honest country wenches! In what hundred shall a man find two of that simple virtue?

TAILOR
Or to love some lady. There were equality and coherence.

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
Tailor, you talk like an ass. I tell thee there is equality enough between a lady and a city dame, if their hair be but a colour. Name you any one thing that your citizen’s wife comes short of to your lady. They have as pure linen, as choice painting, love green geese in spring, mallard and teal in the fall, and woodcock in the winter. Your citizen’s wife learns nothing but fopperies of your lady, but your lady or justice-a-peace madam carries high wit from the city, namely, to receive all and pay all; to awe their husbands, to check their husbands, to control their husbands; nay, they have the trick on’t to be sick for a new gown, or a carcanet, or a diamond, or so; and I wis this is better wit than to learn how to wear a Scotch farthingale; nay, more—

Enter Prentice.

Here comes one of the servants. You remember, tailor, that I am deaf. Observe that.

TAILOR
Ay, thou art in that like one of our young gulls, that will not understand any wrong is done him, because he dares not answer it.

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
By your leave, bachelor, is the gentlewoman, your mistress, stirring?

PRENTICE Yes, she is moving.

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
What says he?

TAILOR
She is up.

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
Where’s the gentleman, your master, pray you?

PRENTICE
Where many women desire to have their husbands, abroad.

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
I am very thick of hearing.

PRENTICE
Why, abroad. You smell of the bawd.

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
I pray you tell her here’s an old gentlewoman would speak with her.

PRENTICE
So.                                                                                                                                   [Exit.

TAILOR
What, will you be deaf to the gentlewoman when she comes, too?

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
Oh, no; she’s acquainted well enough with my knavery. She comes.

Enter MISTRESS JUSTINIANO.

How do you, sweet lady?

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
Lady!

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
By God’s me, I hope to call you a lady ere you die. What, mistress, do you sleep well at nights?

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
Sleep! Ay, as quickly as a client having great business with lawyers.

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
Come, I am to come about the old suit. My good lord and master hath sent you a velvet gown here. Do you like the colour? Three-pile, a pretty fantastical trimming! I would God you would say it, by my troth. I dreamed last night you looked so prettily, so sweetly, methought so like the wisest lady of them all, in a velvet gown.

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
What’s the forepart?

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
A very pretty stuff. I know not the name of your forepart, but ‘tis of a hair colour.

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
That it was my hard fortune, being so well brought up, having so great a portion to my marriage, to match so unluckily! Why, my husband and his whole credit is not worth my apparel. Well, I shall undergo a strange report in leaving my husband.

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
Tush, if you respect your credit, never think of that, for beauty covets rich apparel, choice diet, excellent physic. No German clock not mathematical engine whatsoever, requires so much reparation as a woman’s face; and what means hath your husband to allow sweet Doctor Glister-pipe his pension? I have heard that you have threescore smocks, that cost three pounds a smock. Will these smocks ever hold out with your husband? No, your linen and your apparel must turn over a new leaf, I can tell you.

TAILOR
Oh, admirable bawd! Oh, excellent Birdlime!

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
I have heard he loved you before you were married, entirely. What of that? I ever have found it most true in mine own experience, that they which are most violent dotards before their marriage are most voluntary cuckolds after. Many are honest, either because they have no means, or because they have not opportunity to be dishonest; and this Italian, your husband’s countryman, hold it impossible any of their ladies should be excellent witty, and not make the uttermost use of their beauty. Will you be a fool then?

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
Thou dost persuade me to ill, very well.

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
You are nice and peevish. How long will you hold out, think you? Not so long as Ostend.

Enter JUSTINIANO, the Merchant.

Passion of me! Your husband! Remember that I am deaf, and that I come to sell you complexion. Truly, mistress, I will deal very reasonably with you.

JUSTINIANO
What are you, say ye?

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
Ay, forsooth.

JUSTINIANO
What, my most happy wife?

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
Why your jealousy?

JUSTINIANO
Jealous! In faith, I do not fear to lose
That I have lost already. What are you?

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
Please, your good worship, I am a poor gentlewoman that cast away myself upon an unthrifty captain that lives now in Ireland. I am fain to pick out a poor living with selling complexion to keep the frailty, as they say, honest.

JUSTINIANO
What’s he? Complexion too? You are a bawd.

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
I thank your good worship for it.

JUSTINIANO
Do not I know these tricks?
That which thou makst a colour for thy sin,
Hath been thy first undoing. Painting, painting.

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
I have of all sorts, forsooth. Here is the burned power of a hog’s jawbone, to be laid with the oil of white poppy, an excellent fucus to kill morphew, weed out freckles, and a most excellent groundword for painting. Here is ginimony likewise burned and pulverized, to be mingled with the juice of lemons, sublimate mercury, and two spoonfuls of the flower of brimstone, a most excellent receipt to cure the flushing in the face.

JUSTINIANO
Do you hear, if you have any business to despatch with that deaf goodness there, pray you take leave, opportunity, that which most of you long for—though you never be with child—opportunity. I’ll find some idle business in the meantime. I will, I will in truth, you shall not need fear me; or you may speak French. God b’wi’you.
Being certain thou art false, sleep, sleep my brain,
For doubt was only that which fed my pain.                                                           [Exit.

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
You see what a hell I live in. I am resolved to leave him.

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
Oh, the most fortunate gentlewoman that will be so wise and so provident! The caroch shall come.

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
At what hour

MISTRESS BIRDLIME
Just when women and vintners are a-conjuring, at midnight. Oh, the entertainment my lord will make you—sweet wines, lusty diet, perfumed linen, soft beds! Oh, most fortunate gentlewoman!

[Exeunt MISTRESS BIRDLIME and Tailor.

Enter JUSTINIANO.

JUSTINIANO
Have you done? Have you dispatch’d? ‘Tis well. And, in troth, what was the motion?

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
Motion! What motion?

JUSTINIANO
Motion! Why, like the motion in law that stays for a day of hearing, yours for a night of hearing. Come, let’s not have April in your eyes, I pray you; it shows a wanton month follows your weeping. Love a woman for her tears! Let a man love oysters for their water; for women, though they should weep liquor enough to serve a dyer or a brewer, yet they may be as stale as wenches that travel every second tide between Gravesend and Billingsgate.

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
This madness shows very well.

JUSTINIANO
Why, look you, I am wondrous merry. Can any man discern from my face that I am a cuckold? I have known many suspected for men of this misfortune, when they have walked through the streets, wear their hats o’er their eyebrows, like politic penthouses, which commonly make the shop of a mercer or a linen-draper as dark as a room in Bedlam; his cloak shrouding his face , as if he were a Neapolitan that had lost his beard in April; and if he walk through the street, or any other narrow road—as ‘tis rare to meet a cuckold—he ducks at the penthouses, like an ancient that dares not flourish at the oath-taking of the pretor for fear of the signposts. Wife, wife, do I any of these? Come, what news from his lordship? Has not his lordship’s virtue once gone against the hair, and coveted corners?

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
Sir, by my soul, I will be plain with you.

JUSTINIANO
Except the forehead, dear wife, except the forehead.

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
The gentleman you spake of hath often solicited my love, and has received from me most chaste denials.

JUSTINIANO
Ay, ay, provoking resistance; ‘tis as if you came to buy wares in the city, bid money for’t, your mercer, or goldsmith says, “Truly, I cannot take it:” let’s his customers pass his stall, next, nay, perhaps two or three, but if he is not prone to return of himself, he calls him back, and takes his money. So do you, my dear wife. Oh, the policy of women and tradesmen! They’ll bite at anything.

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
What would you have me do? All your plate, and most part of your jewels, are at pawn. Besides, I hear you have made over all your estate to men in town here. What would you have me do? Would you have me turn common sinner, or sell my apparel to my waistcoat and become a laundress?

JUSTINIANO
No, laundress, dear wife, though your credit would go far with gentlemen for taking up of linen. No laundress.

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
Come, come, I will speak as my misfortune prompts me. Jealousy hath undone many a citizen; it hath undone you and me. You married me from the service of an honourable lady, and you know what matches I might have had. What would you have me do? I would I had never seen your eyes, your eyes!

JUSTINIANO
Very good, very good.

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
Your prodigality, your dicing, your riding abroad, your consorting yourself with noblemen, your building a summer-house, hath undone us, hath undone us. What would you have me do?

JUSTINIANO
Anything. I have sold my house, and the wares in’t. I am going for Stoad next week. What will you do now, wife?

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
Have you indeed?

JUSTINIANO
Ay, by this light, all’s one. I have done as some citizens at thirty, and most heirs at three-and-twenty, made all away. Why do you not ask me now what you should do?

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
I have no counsel in your voyage, neither shall you have any in mine.

JUSTINIANO
To his lordship, will you not, wife?

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
Even whither my misfortune leads me.

JUSTINIANO
Go. No longer will I make my care thy prison.

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
Oh, my fate! Well, sir, you shall answer for this sin which you force me to. Fare you well. Let not the world condemn me if I seek for my own maintenance.

JUSTINIANO
So, so.

MISTRESS JUSTINIANO
Do not send me any letters. Do not seek any reconcilement. By this light, I’ll receive none. If you will send me my apparel, so, if not, choose. I hope we shall ne’er meet more.                                                                                                          [Exit.

JUSTINIANO
So farewell the acquaintance of all the mad devils that haunt jealousy! Why should a man be such an ass to play the antic for his wife’s appetite? Imagine that I, or any other great man, have on a velvet nightcap, and put case that this nightcap be too little for my ears or forehead, can any man tell me where my nightcap wrings me, except I be such an ass to proclaim it? Well, I do play the fool with my misfortune very handsomely. I am glad that I am certain of my wife’s dishonesty, for a secret strumpet is like mines prepared to ruin goodly buildings. Farewell, my care. I have told my wife I am going for Stoad. That’s not my course, for I am resolve to take some shape upon me, and to live disguised here in the city. They say for one cuckold to know his friend is in the like headache, and to give him counsel, is as if there were two partners, the one to be arrested, the other to bail him. My estate is made over to my friends, that do verily believe I do mean to leave England. Have amongst you, city dames, you that are indeed the fittest and most proper persons for a comedy; nor let the world lay any imputation upon my disguise, for court, city, and country are merely as masks one from the other, envied of some, laughed at of others—and so to my comical business.                                                        [Exit.

Proceed to the next scene

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