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Title: Sejanus: His Fall

Author: Ben Jonson

Release date: March 1, 2004 [eBook #5232]
Most recently updated: March 23, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Amy E Zelmer, Sue Asscher, Robert Prince and David Widger


His Fall

by Ben Jonson

Transcriber’s note: This play is based on events that happened a millennium and a half before Jonson wrote it. Jonson added 247 scholarly footnotes to this play; all were in Latin (except for a scattering of Greek). They have been elided.






The greatest of English dramatists except Shakespeare, the first literary dictator and poet-laureate, a writer of verse, prose, satire, and criticism who most potently of all the men of his time affected the subsequent course of English letters: such was Ben Jonson, and as such his strong personality assumes an interest to us almost unparalleled, at least in his age.

Ben Jonson came of the stock that was centuries after to give to the world Thomas Carlyle; for Jonson’s grandfather was of Annandale, over the Solway, whence he migrated to England. Jonson’s father lost his estate under Queen Mary, “having been cast into prison and forfeited.” He entered the church, but died a month before his illustrious son was born, leaving his widow and child in poverty. Jonson’s birthplace was Westminster, and the time of his birth early in 1573. He was thus nearly ten years Shakespeare’s junior, and less well off, if a trifle better born. But Jonson did not profit even by this slight advantage. His mother married beneath her, a wright or bricklayer, and Jonson was for a time apprenticed to the trade. As a youth he attracted the attention of the famous antiquary, William Camden, then usher at Westminster School, and there the poet laid the solid foundations of his classical learning. Jonson always held Camden in veneration, acknowledging that to him he owed,

“All that I am in arts, all that I know:”

and dedicating his first dramatic success, “Every Man in His Humour,” to him. It is doubtful whether Jonson ever went to either university, though Fuller says that he was “statutably admitted into St. John’s College, Cambridge.” He tells us that he took no degree, but was later “Master of Arts in both the universities, by their favour, not his study.” When a mere youth Jonson enlisted as a soldier trailing his pike in Flanders in the protracted wars of William the Silent against the Spanish. Jonson was a large and raw-boned lad; he became by his own account in time exceedingly bulky. In chat with his friend William Drummond of Hawthornden, Jonson told how “in his service in the Low Countries he had, in the face of both the camps, killed an enemy, and taken ‘opima spolia’ from him;” and how “since his coming to England, being appealed to the fields, he had killed his adversary which had hurt him in the arm and whose sword was ten inches longer than his.” Jonson’s reach may have made up for the lack of his sword; certainly his prowess lost nothing in the telling. Obviously Jonson was brave, combative, and not averse to talking of himself and his doings.

In 1592, Jonson returned from abroad penniless. Soon after he married, almost as early and quite as imprudently as Shakespeare. He told Drummond curtly that “his wife was a shrew, yet honest”; for some years he lived apart from her in the household of Lord Albany. Yet two touching epitaphs among Jonson’s ‘Epigrams’, “On my first daughter,” and “On my first son,” attest the warmth of the poet’s family affections. The daughter died in infancy, the son of the plague; another son grew up to manhood little credit to his father whom he survived. We know nothing beyond this of Jonson’s domestic life.

How soon Jonson drifted into what we now call grandly “the theatrical profession” we do not know. In 1593 Marlowe made his tragic exit from life, and Greene, Shakespeare’s other rival on the popular stage, had preceded Marlowe in an equally miserable death the year before. Shakespeare already had the running to himself. Jonson appears first in the employment of Philip Henslowe, the exploiter of several troupes of players, manager, and father-in-law of the famous actor, Edward Alleyn. From entries in ‘Henslowe’s Diary’, a species of theatrical account book which has been handed down to us, we know that Jonson was connected with the Admiral’s men; for he borrowed £4 of Henslowe, July 28, 1597, paying back 3s. 9d. on the same day on account of his “share” (in what is not altogether clear); while later, on December 3, of the same year, Henslowe advanced 20s. to him “upon a book which he showed the plot unto the company which he promised to deliver unto the company at Christmas next.” In the next August Jonson was in collaboration with Chettle and Porter in a play called “Hot Anger Soon Cold.” All this points to an association with Henslowe of some duration, as no mere tyro would be thus paid in advance upon mere promise. From allusions in Dekker’s play, “Satiromastix,” it appears that Jonson, like Shakespeare, began life as an actor, and that he “ambled in a leather pitch by a play-wagon” taking at one time the part of Hieronimo in Kyd’s famous play, “The Spanish Tragedy.” By the beginning of 1598, Jonson, though still in needy circumstances, had begun to receive recognition. Francis Meres—well known for his “Comparative Discourse of our English Poets with the Greek, Latin, and Italian Poets,” printed in 1598, and for his mention therein of a dozen plays of Shakespeare by title—accords to Ben Jonson a place as one of “our best in tragedy,” a matter of some surprise, as no known tragedy of Jonson from so early a date has come down to us. That Jonson was at work on tragedy, however, is proved by the entries in Henslowe of at least three tragedies, now lost, in which he had a hand. These are “Page of Plymouth,” “King Robert II. of Scotland,” and “Richard Crookback.” But all of these came later, on his return to Henslowe, and range from August 1599 to June 1602.

Returning to the autumn of 1598, an event now happened to sever for a time Jonson’s relations with Henslowe. In a letter to Alleyn, dated September 26 of that year, Henslowe writes: “I have lost one of my company that hurteth me greatly; that is Gabriel [Spencer], for he is slain in Hogsden fields by the hands of Benjamin Jonson, bricklayer.” The last word is perhaps Henslowe’s thrust at Jonson in his displeasure rather than a designation of his actual continuance at his trade up to this time. It is fair to Jonson to remark however, that his adversary appears to have been a notorious fire-eater who had shortly before killed one Feeke in a similar squabble. Duelling was a frequent occurrence of the time among gentlemen and the nobility; it was an imprudent breach of the peace on the part of a player. This duel is the one which Jonson described years after to Drummond, and for it Jonson was duly arraigned at Old Bailey, tried, and convicted. He was sent to prison and such goods and chattels as he had “were forfeited.” It is a thought to give one pause that, but for the ancient law permitting convicted felons to plead, as it was called, the benefit of clergy, Jonson might have been hanged for this deed. The circumstance that the poet could read and write saved him; and he received only a brand of the letter “T,” for Tyburn, on his left thumb. While in jail Jonson became a Roman Catholic; but he returned to the faith of the Church of England a dozen years later.

On his release, in disgrace with Henslowe and his former associates, Jonson offered his services as a playwright to Henslowe’s rivals, the Lord Chamberlain’s company, in which Shakespeare was a prominent shareholder. A tradition of long standing, though not susceptible of proof in a court of law, narrates that Jonson had submitted the manuscript of “Every Man in His Humour” to the Chamberlain’s men and had received from the company a refusal; that Shakespeare called him back, read the play himself, and at once accepted it. Whether this story is true or not, certain it is that “Every Man in His Humour” was accepted by Shakespeare’s company and acted for the first time in 1598, with Shakespeare taking a part. The evidence of this is contained in the list of actors prefixed to the comedy in the folio of Jonson’s works, 1616. But it is a mistake to infer, because Shakespeare’s name stands first in the list of actors and the elder Kno’well first in the ‘dramatis personae’, that Shakespeare took that particular part. The order of a list of Elizabethan players was generally that of their importance or priority as shareholders in the company and seldom if ever corresponded to the list of characters.

“Every Man in His Humour” was an immediate success, and with it Jonson’s reputation as one of the leading dramatists of his time was established once and for all. This could have been by no means Jonson’s earliest comedy, and we have just learned that he was already reputed one of “our best in tragedy.” Indeed, one of Jonson’s extant comedies, “The Case is Altered,” but one never claimed by him or published as his, must certainly have preceded “Every Man in His Humour” on the stage. The former play may be described as a comedy modelled on the Latin plays of Plautus. (It combines, in fact, situations derived from the “Captivi” and the “Aulularia” of that dramatist). But the pretty story of the beggar-maiden, Rachel, and her suitors, Jonson found, not among the classics, but in the ideals of romantic love which Shakespeare had already popularised on the stage. Jonson never again produced so fresh and lovable a feminine personage as Rachel, although in other respects “The Case is Altered” is not a conspicuous play, and, save for the satirising of Antony Munday in the person of Antonio Balladino and Gabriel Harvey as well, is perhaps the least characteristic of the comedies of Jonson.

“Every Man in His Humour,” probably first acted late in the summer of 1598 and at the Curtain, is commonly regarded as an epoch-making play; and this view is not unjustified. As to plot, it tells little more than how an intercepted letter enabled a father to follow his supposedly studious son to London, and there observe his life with the gallants of the time. The real quality of this comedy is in its personages and in the theory upon which they are conceived. Ben Jonson had theories about poetry and the drama, and he was neither chary in talking of them nor in experimenting with them in his plays. This makes Jonson, like Dryden in his time, and Wordsworth much later, an author to reckon with; particularly when we remember that many of Jonson’s notions came for a time definitely to prevail and to modify the whole trend of English poetry. First of all Jonson was a classicist, that is, he believed in restraint and precedent in art in opposition to the prevalent ungoverned and irresponsible Renaissance spirit. Jonson believed that there was a professional way of doing things which might be reached by a study of the best examples, and he found these examples for the most part among the ancients. To confine our attention to the drama, Jonson objected to the amateurishness and haphazard nature of many contemporary plays, and set himself to do something different; and the first and most striking thing that he evolved was his conception and practice of the comedy of humours.

As Jonson has been much misrepresented in this matter, let us quote his own words as to “humour.” A humour, according to Jonson, was a bias of disposition, a warp, so to speak, in character by which

“Some one peculiar quality
Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw
All his affects, his spirits, and his powers,
In their confluctions, all to run one way.”

But continuing, Jonson is careful to add:

“But that a rook by wearing a pied feather,
The cable hat-band, or the three-piled ruff,
A yard of shoe-tie, or the Switzers knot
On his French garters, should affect a humour!
O, it is more than most ridiculous.”

Jonson’s comedy of humours, in a word, conceived of stage personages on the basis of a ruling trait or passion (a notable simplification of actual life be it observed in passing); and, placing these typified traits in juxtaposition in their conflict and contrast, struck the spark of comedy. Downright, as his name indicates, is “a plain squire”; Bobadill’s humour is that of the braggart who is incidentally, and with delightfully comic effect, a coward; Brainworm’s humour is the finding out of things to the end of fooling everybody: of course he is fooled in the end himself. But it was not Jonson’s theories alone that made the success of “Every Man in His Humour.” The play is admirably written and each character is vividly conceived, and with a firm touch based on observation of the men of the London of the day. Jonson was neither in this, his first great comedy (nor in any other play that he wrote), a supine classicist, urging that English drama return to a slavish adherence to classical conditions. He says as to the laws of the old comedy (meaning by “laws,” such matters as the unities of time and place and the use of chorus): “I see not then, but we should enjoy the same licence, or free power to illustrate and heighten our invention as they [the ancients] did; and not be tied to those strict and regular forms which the niceness of a few, who are nothing but form, would thrust upon us.” “Every Man in His Humour” is written in prose, a novel practice which Jonson had of his predecessor in comedy, John Lyly. Even the word “humour” seems to have been employed in the Jonsonian sense by Chapman before Jonson’s use of it. Indeed, the comedy of humours itself is only a heightened variety of the comedy of manners which represents life, viewed at a satirical angle, and is the oldest and most persistent species of comedy in the language. None the less, Jonson’s comedy merited its immediate success and marked out a definite course in which comedy long continued to run. To mention only Shakespeare’s Falstaff and his rout, Bardolph, Pistol, Dame Quickly, and the rest, whether in “Henry IV.” or in “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” all are conceived in the spirit of humours. So are the captains, Welsh, Scotch, and Irish of “Henry V.,” and Malvolio especially later; though Shakespeare never employed the method of humours for an important personage. It was not Jonson’s fault that many of his successors did precisely the thing that he had reprobated, that is, degrade “the humour: into an oddity of speech, an eccentricity of manner, of dress, or cut of beard.” There was an anonymous play called “Every Woman in Her Humour.” Chapman wrote “A Humourous Day’s Mirth,” Day, “Humour Out of Breath,” Fletcher later, “The Humourous Lieutenant,” and Jonson, besides “Every Man Out of His Humour,” returned to the title in closing the cycle of his comedies in “The Magnetic Lady or Humours Reconciled.”

With the performance of “Every Man Out of His Humour” in 1599, by Shakespeare’s company once more at the Globe, we turn a new page in Jonson’s career. Despite his many real virtues, if there is one feature more than any other that distinguishes Jonson, it is his arrogance; and to this may be added his self-righteousness, especially under criticism or satire. “Every Man Out of His Humour” is the first of three “comical satires” which Jonson contributed to what Dekker called the ‘poetomachia’ or war of the theatres as recent critics have named it. This play as a fabric of plot is a very slight affair; but as a satirical picture of the manners of the time, proceeding by means of vivid caricature, couched in witty and brilliant dialogue and sustained by that righteous indignation which must lie at the heart of all true satire—as a realisation, in short, of the classical ideal of comedy—there had been nothing like Jonson’s comedy since the days of Aristophanes. “Every Man in His Humour,” like the two plays that follow it, contains two kinds of attack, the critical or generally satiric, levelled at abuses and corruptions in the abstract; and the personal, in which specific application is made of all this in the lampooning of poets and others, Jonson’s contemporaries. The method of personal attack by actual caricature of a person on the stage is almost as old as the drama. Aristophanes so lampooned Euripides in “The Acharnians” and Socrates in “The Clouds,” to mention no other examples; and in English drama this kind of thing is alluded to again and again. What Jonson really did, was to raise the dramatic lampoon to an art, and make out of a casual burlesque and bit of mimicry a dramatic satire of literary pretensions and permanency. With the arrogant attitude mentioned above and his uncommon eloquence in scorn, vituperation, and invective, it is no wonder that Jonson soon involved himself in literary and even personal quarrels with his fellow-authors. The circumstances of the origin of this ‘poetomachia’ are far from clear, and those who have written on the topic, except of late, have not helped to make them clearer. The origin of the “war” has been referred to satirical references, apparently to Jonson, contained in “The Scourge of Villainy,” a satire in regular form after the manner of the ancients by John Marston, a fellow playwright, subsequent friend and collaborator of Jonson’s. On the other hand, epigrams of Jonson have been discovered (49, 68, and 100) variously charging “playwright” (reasonably identified with Marston) with scurrility, cowardice, and plagiarism; though the dates of the epigrams cannot be ascertained with certainty. Jonson’s own statement of the matter to Drummond runs: “He had many quarrels with Marston, beat him, and took his pistol from him, wrote his ‘Poetaster’ on him; the beginning[s] of them were that Marston represented him on the stage.”[1]

[1] The best account of this whole subject is to be found in the edition of ‘Poetaster’ and ‘Satiromastrix’ by J. H. Penniman in ‘Belles Lettres Series’ shortly to appear. See also his earlier work, ‘The War of the Theatres’, 1892, and the excellent contributions to the subject by H. C. Hart in ‘Notes and Queries’, and in his edition of Jonson, 1906.

Here at least we are on certain ground; and the principals of the quarrel are known. “Histriomastix,” a play revised by Marston in 1598, has been regarded as the one in which Jonson was thus “represented on the stage”; although the personage in question, Chrisogonus, a poet, satirist, and translator, poor but proud, and contemptuous of the common herd, seems rather a complimentary portrait of Jonson than a caricature. As to the personages actually ridiculed in “Every Man Out of His Humour,” Carlo Buffone was formerly thought certainly to be Marston, as he was described as “a public scurrilous, and profane jester,” and elsewhere as the grand scourge or second untruss [that is, satirist], of the time (Joseph Hall being by his own boast the first, and Marston’s work being entitled “The Scourge of Villainy”). Apparently we must now prefer for Carlo a notorious character named Charles Chester, of whom gossipy and inaccurate Aubrey relates that he was “a bold impertinent fellow...a perpetual talker and made a noise like a drum in a room. So one time at a tavern Sir Walter Raleigh beats him and seals up his mouth (that is his upper and nether beard) with hard wax. From him Ben Jonson takes his Carlo Buffone [‘i.e.’, jester] in ‘Every Man in His Humour’ [‘sic’].” Is it conceivable that after all Jonson was ridiculing Marston, and that the point of the satire consisted in an intentional confusion of “the grand scourge or second untruss” with “the scurrilous and profane” Chester?

We have digressed into detail in this particular case to exemplify the difficulties of criticism in its attempts to identify the allusions in these forgotten quarrels. We are on sounder ground of fact in recording other manifestations of Jonson’s enmity. In “The Case is Altered” there is clear ridicule in the character Antonio Balladino of Anthony Munday, pageant-poet of the city, translator of romances and playwright as well. In “Every Man in His Humour” there is certainly a caricature of Samuel Daniel, accepted poet of the court, sonneteer, and companion of men of fashion. These men held recognised positions to which Jonson felt his talents better entitled him; they were hence to him his natural enemies. It seems almost certain that he pursued both in the personages of his satire through “Every Man Out of His Humour,” and “Cynthia’s Revels,” Daniel under the characters Fastidious Brisk and Hedon, Munday as Puntarvolo and Amorphus; but in these last we venture on quagmire once more. Jonson’s literary rivalry of Daniel is traceable again and again, in the entertainments that welcomed King James on his way to London, in the masques at court, and in the pastoral drama. As to Jonson’s personal ambitions with respect to these two men, it is notable that he became, not pageant-poet, but chronologer to the City of London; and that, on the accession of the new king, he came soon to triumph over Daniel as the accepted entertainer of royalty.

“Cynthia’s Revels,” the second “comical satire,” was acted in 1600, and, as a play, is even more lengthy, elaborate, and impossible than “Every Man Out of His Humour.” Here personal satire seems to have absorbed everything, and while much of the caricature is admirable, especially in the detail of witty and trenchantly satirical dialogue, the central idea of a fountain of self-love is not very well carried out, and the persons revert at times to abstractions, the action to allegory. It adds to our wonder that this difficult drama should have been acted by the Children of Queen Elizabeth’s Chapel, among them Nathaniel Field with whom Jonson read Horace and Martial, and whom he taught later how to make plays. Another of these precocious little actors was Salathiel Pavy, who died before he was thirteen, already famed for taking the parts of old men. Him Jonson immortalised in one of the sweetest of his epitaphs. An interesting sidelight is this on the character of this redoubtable and rugged satirist, that he should thus have befriended and tenderly remembered these little theatrical waifs, some of whom (as we know) had been literally kidnapped to be pressed into the service of the theatre and whipped to the conning of their difficult parts. To the caricature of Daniel and Munday in “Cynthia’s Revels” must be added Anaides (impudence), here assuredly Marston, and Asotus (the prodigal), interpreted as Lodge or, more perilously, Raleigh. Crites, like Asper-Macilente in “Every Man Out of His Humour,” is Jonson’s self-complaisant portrait of himself, the just, wholly admirable, and judicious scholar, holding his head high above the pack of the yelping curs of envy and detraction, but careless of their puny attacks on his perfections with only too mindful a neglect.

The third and last of the “comical satires” is “Poetaster,” acted, once more, by the Children of the Chapel in 1601, and Jonson’s only avowed contribution to the fray. According to the author’s own account, this play was written in fifteen weeks on a report that his enemies had entrusted to Dekker the preparation of “Satiromastix, the Untrussing of the Humorous Poet,” a dramatic attack upon himself. In this attempt to forestall his enemies Jonson succeeded, and “Poetaster” was an immediate and deserved success. While hardly more closely knit in structure than its earlier companion pieces, “Poetaster” is planned to lead up to the ludicrous final scene in which, after a device borrowed from the “Lexiphanes” of Lucian, the offending poetaster, Marston-Crispinus, is made to throw up the difficult words with which he had overburdened his stomach as well as overlarded his vocabulary. In the end Crispinus with his fellow, Dekker-Demetrius, is bound over to keep the peace and never thenceforward “malign, traduce, or detract the person or writings of Quintus Horatius Flaccus [Jonson] or any other eminent man transcending you in merit.” One of the most diverting personages in Jonson’s comedy is Captain Tucca. “His peculiarity” has been well described by Ward as “a buoyant blackguardism which recovers itself instantaneously from the most complete exposure, and a picturesqueness of speech like that of a walking dictionary of slang.”

It was this character, Captain Tucca, that Dekker hit upon in his reply, “Satiromastix,” and he amplified him, turning his abusive vocabulary back upon Jonson and adding “An immodesty to his dialogue that did not enter into Jonson’s conception.” It has been held, altogether plausibly, that when Dekker was engaged professionally, so to speak, to write a dramatic reply to Jonson, he was at work on a species of chronicle history, dealing with the story of Walter Terill in the reign of William Rufus. This he hurriedly adapted to include the satirical characters suggested by “Poetaster,” and fashioned to convey the satire of his reply. The absurdity of placing Horace in the court of a Norman king is the result. But Dekker’s play is not without its palpable hits at the arrogance, the literary pride, and self-righteousness of Jonson-Horace, whose “ningle” or pal, the absurd Asinius Bubo, has recently been shown to figure forth, in all likelihood, Jonson’s friend, the poet Drayton. Slight and hastily adapted as is “Satiromastix,” especially in a comparison with the better wrought and more significant satire of “Poetaster,” the town awarded the palm to Dekker, not to Jonson; and Jonson gave over in consequence his practice of “comical satire.” Though Jonson was cited to appear before the Lord Chief Justice to answer certain charges to the effect that he had attacked lawyers and soldiers in “Poetaster,” nothing came of this complaint. It may be suspected that much of this furious clatter and give-and-take was pure playing to the gallery. The town was agog with the strife, and on no less an authority than Shakespeare (“Hamlet,” ii. 2), we learn that the children’s company (acting the plays of Jonson) did “so berattle the common stages...that many, wearing rapiers, are afraid of goose-quills, and dare scarce come thither.”

Several other plays have been thought to bear a greater or less part in the war of the theatres. Among them the most important is a college play, entitled “The Return from Parnassus,” dating 1601-02. In it a much-quoted passage makes Burbage, as a character, declare: “Why here’s our fellow Shakespeare puts them all down; aye and Ben Jonson, too. O that Ben Jonson is a pestilent fellow; he brought up Horace, giving the poets a pill, but our fellow Shakespeare hath given him a purge that made him bewray his credit.” Was Shakespeare then concerned in this war of the stages? And what could have been the nature of this “purge”? Among several suggestions, “Troilus and Cressida” has been thought by some to be the play in which Shakespeare thus “put down” his friend, Jonson. A wiser interpretation finds the “purge” in “Satiromastix,” which, though not written by Shakespeare, was staged by his company, and therefore with his approval and under his direction as one of the leaders of that company.

The last years of the reign of Elizabeth thus saw Jonson recognised as a dramatist second only to Shakespeare, and not second even to him as a dramatic satirist. But Jonson now turned his talents to new fields. Plays on subjects derived from classical story and myth had held the stage from the beginning of the drama, so that Shakespeare was making no new departure when he wrote his “Julius Cæsar” about 1600. Therefore when Jonson staged “Sejanus,” three years later and with Shakespeare’scompany once more, he was only following in the elder dramatist’s footsteps. But Jonson’s idea of a play on classical history, on the one hand, and Shakespeare’s and the elder popular dramatists, on the other, were very different. Heywood some years before had put five straggling plays on the stage in quick succession, all derived from stories in Ovid and dramatised with little taste or discrimination. Shakespeare had a finer conception of form, but even he was contented to take all his ancient history from North’s translation of Plutarch and dramatise his subject without further inquiry. Jonson was a scholar and a classical antiquarian. He reprobated this slipshod amateurishness, and wrote his “Sejanus” like a scholar, reading Tacitus, Suetonius, and other authorities, to be certain of his facts, his setting, and his atmosphere, and somewhat pedantically noting his authorities in the margin when he came to print. “Sejanus” is a tragedy of genuine dramatic power in which is told with discriminating taste the story of the haughty favourite of Tiberius with his tragical overthrow. Our drama presents no truer nor more painstaking representation of ancient Roman life than may be found in Jonson’s “Sejanus” and “Catiline his Conspiracy,” which followed in 1611. A passage in the address of the former play to the reader, in which Jonson refers to a collaboration in an earlier version, has led to the surmise that Shakespeare may have been that “worthier pen.” There is no evidence to determine the matter.

In 1605, we find Jonson in active collaboration with Chapman and Marston in the admirable comedy of London life entitled “Eastward Hoe.” In the previous year, Marston had dedicated his “Malcontent,” in terms of fervid admiration, to Jonson; so that the wounds of the war of the theatres must have been long since healed. Between Jonson and Chapman there was the kinship of similar scholarly ideals. The two continued friends throughout life. “Eastward Hoe” achieved the extraordinary popularity represented in a demand for three issues in one year. But this was not due entirely to the merits of the play. In its earliest version a passage which an irritable courtier conceived to be derogatory to his nation, the Scots, sent both Chapman and Jonson to jail; but the matter was soon patched up, for by this time Jonson had influence at court.

With the accession of King James, Jonson began his long and successful career as a writer of masques. He wrote more masques than all his competitors together, and they are of an extraordinary variety and poetic excellence. Jonson did not invent the masque; for such premeditated devices to set and frame, so to speak, a court ball had been known and practised in varying degrees of elaboration long before his time. But Jonson gave dramatic value to the masque, especially in his invention of the antimasque, a comedy or farcical element of relief, entrusted to professional players or dancers. He enhanced, as well, the beauty and dignity of those portions of the masque in which noble lords and ladies took their parts to create, by their gorgeous costumes and artistic grouping and evolutions, a sumptuous show. On the mechanical and scenic side Jonson had an inventive and ingenious partner in Inigo Jones, the royal architect, who more than any one man raised the standard of stage representation in the England of his day. Jonson continued active in the service of the court in the writing of masques and other entertainments far into the reign of King Charles; but, towards the end, a quarrel with Jones embittered his life, and the two testy old men appear to have become not only a constant irritation to each other, but intolerable bores at court. In “Hymenaei,” “The Masque of Queens,” “Love Freed from Ignorance,” “Lovers made Men,” “Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue,” and many more will be found Jonson’s aptitude, his taste, his poetry and inventiveness in these by-forms of the drama; while in “The Masque of Christmas,” and “The Gipsies Metamorphosed” especially, is discoverable that power ofbroad comedy which, at court as well as in the city, was not the least element of Jonson’s contemporary popularity.

But Jonson had by no means given up the popular stage when he turned to the amusement of King James. In 1605 “Volpone” was produced, “The Silent Woman” in 1609, “The Alchemist” in the following year. These comedies, with “Bartholomew Fair,” 1614, represent Jonson at his height, and for constructive cleverness, character successfully conceived in the manner of caricature, wit and brilliancy of dialogue, they stand alone in English drama. “Volpone, or the Fox,” is, in a sense, a transition play from the dramatic satires of the war of the theatres to the purer comedy represented in the plays named above. Its subject is a struggle of wit applied to chicanery; for among its ‘dramatis personae’, from the villainous Fox himself, his rascally servant Mosca, Voltore (the vulture), Corbaccio and Corvino (the big and the little raven), to Sir Politic Would-be and the rest, there is scarcely a virtuous character in the play. Question has been raised as to whether a story so forbidding can be considered a comedy, for, although the plot ends in the discomfiture and imprisonment of the most vicious, it involves no moral catastrophe. But Jonson was on sound historical ground, for “Volpone” is conceived far more logically on the lines of the ancients’ theory of comedy than was ever the romantic drama of Shakespeare, however repulsive we may find a philosophy of life that facilely divides the world into the rogues and their dupes, and, identifying brains with roguery and innocence with folly, admires the former while inconsistently punishing them.

“The Silent Woman” is a gigantic farce of the most ingenious construction. The whole comedy hinges on a huge joke, played by a heartless nephew on his misanthropic uncle, who is induced to take to himself a wife, young, fair, and warranted silent, but who, in the end, turns out neither silent nor a woman at all. In “The Alchemist,” again, we have the utmost cleverness in construction, the whole fabric building climax on climax, witty, ingenious, and so plausibly presented that we forget its departures from the possibilities of life. In “The Alchemist” Jonson represented, none the less to the life, certain sharpers of the metropolis, revelling in their shrewdness and rascality and in the variety of the stupidity and wickedness of their victims. We may object to the fact that the only person in the play possessed of a scruple of honesty is discomfited, and that the greatest scoundrel of all is approved in the end and rewarded. The comedy is so admirably written and contrived, the personages stand out with such lifelike distinctness in their several kinds, and the whole is animated with such verve and resourcefulness that “The Alchemist” is a new marvel every time it is read. Lastly of this group comes the tremendous comedy, “Bartholomew Fair,” less clear cut, less definite, and less structurally worthy of praise than its three predecessors, but full of the keenest and cleverest of satire and inventive to a degree beyond any English comedy save some other of Jonson’s own. It is in “Bartholomew Fair” that we are presented to the immortal caricature of the Puritan, Zeal-in-the-Land Busy, and the Littlewits that group about him, and it is in this extraordinary comedy that the humour of Jonson, always open to this danger, loosens into the Rabelaisian mode that so delighted King James in “The Gipsies Metamorphosed.” Another comedy of less merit is “The Devil is an Ass,” acted in 1616. It was the failure of this play that caused Jonson to give over writing for the public stage for a period of nearly ten years.

“Volpone” was laid as to scene in Venice. Whether because of the success of “Eastward Hoe” or for other reasons, the other three comedies declare in the words of the prologue to “The Alchemist”:

“Our scene is London, ’cause we would make known
No country’s mirth is better than our own.”

Indeed Jonson went further when he came to revise his plays for collected publication in his folio of 1616, he transferred the scene of “Every Man in His Humour” from Florence to London also, converting Signior Lorenzo di Pazzi to Old Kno’well, Prospero to Master Welborn, and Hesperida to Dame Kitely “dwelling i’ the Old Jewry.”

In his comedies of London life, despite his trend towards caricature, Jonson has shown himself a genuine realist, drawing from the life about him with an experience and insight rare in any generation. A happy comparison has been suggested between Ben Jonson and Charles Dickens. Both were men of the people, lowly born and hardly bred. Each knew the London of his time as few men knew it; and each represented it intimately and in elaborate detail. Both men were at heart moralists, seeking the truth by the exaggerated methods of humour and caricature; perverse, even wrong-headed at times, but possessed of a true pathos and largeness of heart, and when all has been said—though the Elizabethan ran to satire, the Victorian to sentimentality—leaving the world better for the art that they practised in it.

In 1616, the year of the death of Shakespeare, Jonson collected his plays, his poetry, and his masques for publication in a collective edition. This was an unusual thing at the time and had been attempted by no dramatist before Jonson. This volume published, in a carefully revised text, all the plays thus far mentioned, excepting “The Case is Altered,” which Jonson did not acknowledge, “Bartholomew Fair,” and “The Devil is an Ass,” which was written too late. It included likewise a book of some hundred and thirty odd ‘Epigrams’, in which form of brief and pungent writing Jonson was an acknowledged master; “The Forest,” a smaller collection of lyric and occasional verse and some ten ‘Masques’ and ‘Entertainments’. In this same year Jonson was made poet laureate with a pension of one hundred marks a year. This, with his fees and returns from several noblemen, and the small earnings of his plays must have formed the bulk of his income. The poet appears to have done certain literary hack-work for others, as, for example, parts of the Punic Wars contributed to Raleigh’s ‘History of the World’. We know from a story, little to the credit of either, that Jonson accompanied Raleigh’s son abroad in the capacity of a tutor. In 1618 Jonson was granted the reversion of the office of Master of the Revels, a post for which he was peculiarly fitted; but he did not live to enjoy its perquisites. Jonson was honoured with degrees by both universities, though when and under what circumstances is not known. It has been said that he narrowly escaped the honour of knighthood, which the satirists of the day averred King James was wont to lavish with an indiscriminate hand. Worse men were made knights in his day than worthy Ben Jonson.

From 1616 to the close of the reign of King James, Jonson produced nothing for the stage. But he “prosecuted” what he calls “his wonted studies” with such assiduity that he became in reality, as by report, one of the most learned men of his time. Jonson’s theory of authorship involved a wide acquaintance with books and “an ability,” as he put it, “to convert the substance or riches of another poet to his own use.” Accordingly Jonson read not only the Greek and Latin classics down to the lesser writers, but he acquainted himself especially with the Latin writings of his learned contemporaries, their prose as well as their poetry, their antiquities and curious lore as well as their more solid learning. Though a poor man, Jonson was an indefatigable collector of books. He told Drummond that “the Earl of Pembroke sent him £20 every first day of the new year to buy new books.” Unhappily, in 1623, his library was destroyed by fire, an accident serio-comically described in his witty poem, “An Execration upon Vulcan.” Yet even now a book turns up from time to time in which is inscribed, in fair large Italian lettering, the name, Ben Jonson. With respect to Jonson’s use of his material, Dryden said memorably of him: “[He] was not only a professed imitator of Horace, but a learned plagiary of all the others; you track him everywhere in their snow. ... But he has done his robberies so openly that one sees he fears not to be taxed by any law. He invades authors like a monarch, and what would be theft in other poets is only victory in him.” And yet it is but fair to say that Jonson prided himself, and justly, on his originality. In “Catiline,” he not only uses Sallust’s account of the conspiracy, but he models some of the speeches of Cicero on the Roman orator’s actual words. In “Poetaster,” he lifts a whole satire out of Horace and dramatises it effectively for his purposes. The sophist Libanius suggests the situation of “The Silent Woman”; a Latin comedy of Giordano Bruno, “Il Candelaio,” the relation of the dupes and the sharpers in “The Alchemist,” the “Mostellaria” of Plautus, its admirable opening scene. But Jonson commonly bettered his sources, and putting the stamp of his sovereignty on whatever bullion he borrowed made it thenceforward to all time current and his own.

The lyric and especially the occasional poetry of Jonson has a peculiar merit. His theory demanded design and the perfection of literary finish. He was furthest from the rhapsodist and the careless singer of an idle day; and he believed that Apollo could only be worthily served in singing robes and laurel crowned. And yet many of Jonson’s lyrics will live as long as the language. Who does not know “Queen and huntress, chaste and fair.” “Drink to me only with thine eyes,” or “Still to be neat, still to be dressed”? Beautiful in form, deft and graceful in expression, with not a word too much or one that bears not its part in the total effect, there is yet about the lyrics of Jonson a certain stiffness and formality, a suspicion that they were not quite spontaneous and unbidden, but that they were carved, so to speak, with disproportionate labour by a potent man of letters whose habitual thought is on greater things. It is for these reasons that Jonson is even better in the epigram and in occasional verse where rhetorical finish and pointed wit less interfere with the spontaneity and emotion which we usually associate with lyrical poetry. There are no such epitaphs as Ben Jonson’s, witness the charming ones on his own children, on Salathiel Pavy, the child-actor, and many more; and this even though the rigid law of mine and thine must now restore to William Browne of Tavistock the famous lines beginning: “Underneath this sable hearse.” Jonson is unsurpassed, too, in the difficult poetry of compliment, seldom falling into fulsome praise and disproportionate similtude, yet showing again and again a generous appreciation of worth in others, a discriminating taste and a generous personal regard. There was no man in England of his rank so well known and universally beloved as Ben Jonson. The list of his friends, of those to whom he had written verses, and those who had written verses to him, includes the name of every man of prominence in the England of King James. And the tone of many of these productions discloses an affectionate familiarity that speaks for the amiable personality and sound worth of the laureate. In 1619, growing unwieldy through inactivity, Jonson hit upon the heroic remedy of a journey afoot to Scotland. On his way thither and back he was hospitably received at the houses of many friends and by those to whom his friends had recommended him. When he arrived in Edinburgh, the burgesses met to grant him the freedom of the city, and Drummond, foremost of Scottish poets, was proud to entertain him for weeks as his guest at Hawthornden. Some of the noblest of Jonson’s poems were inspired by friendship. Such is the fine “Ode to the memory of Sir Lucius Cary and Sir Henry Moryson,” and that admirable piece of critical insight and filial affection, prefixed to the first Shakespeare folio, “To the memory of my beloved master, William Shakespeare, and what he hath left us.” to mention only these. Nor can the earlier “Epode,” beginning “Not to know vice at all,” be matchedin stately gravity and gnomic wisdom in its own wise and stately age.

But if Jonson had deserted the stage after the publication of his folio and up to the end of the reign of King James, he was far from inactive; for year after year his inexhaustible inventiveness continued to contribute to the masquing and entertainment at court. In “The Golden Age Restored,” Pallas turns from the Iron Age with its attendant evils into statues which sink out of sight; in “Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue,” Atlas figures represented as an old man, his shoulders covered with snow, and Comus, “the god of cheer or the belly,” is one of the characters, a circumstance which an imaginative boy of ten, named John Milton, was not to forget. “Pan’s Anniversary,” late in the reign of James, proclaimed that Jonson had not yet forgotten how to write exquisite lyrics, and “The Gipsies Metamorphosed” displayed the old drollery and broad humorous stroke still unimpaired and unmatchable. These, too, and the earlier years of Charles were the days of the Apollo Room of the Devil Tavern where Jonson presided, the absolute monarch of English literary Bohemia. We hear of a room blazoned about with Jonson’s own judicious ‘Leges Convivales’ in letters of gold, of a company made up of the choicest spirits of the time, devotedly attached to their veteran dictator, his reminiscences, opinions, affections, and enmities. And we hear, too, of valorous potations; but in the words of Herrick addressed to his master, Jonson, at the Devil Tavern, as at the Dog, the Triple Tun, and at the Mermaid,

“We such clusters had
As made us nobly wild, not mad,
And yet each verse of thine
Outdid the meat, outdid the frolic wine.”

But the patronage of the court failed in the days of King Charles, though Jonson was not without royal favours; and the old poet returned to the stage, producing, between 1625 and 1633, “The Staple of News,” “The New Inn,” “The Magnetic Lady,” and “The Tale of a Tub,” the last doubtless revised from a much earlier comedy. None of these plays met with any marked success, although the scathing generalisation of Dryden that designated them “Jonson’s dotages” is unfair to their genuine merits. Thus the idea of an office for the gathering, proper dressing, and promulgation of news (wild flight of the fancy in its time) was an excellent subject for satire on the existing absurdities among the newsmongers; although as much can hardly be said for “The Magnetic Lady,” who, in her bounty, draws to her personages of differing humours to reconcile them in the end according to the alternative title, or “Humours Reconciled.” These last plays of the old dramatist revert to caricature and the hard lines of allegory; the moralist is more than ever present, the satire degenerates into personal lampoon, especially of his sometime friend, Inigo Jones, who appears unworthily to have used his influence at court against the broken-down old poet. And now disease claimed Jonson, and he was bedridden for months. He had succeeded Middleton in 1628 as Chronologer to the City of London, but lost the post for not fulfilling its duties. King Charles befriended him, and even commissioned him to write still for the entertainment of the court; and he was not without the sustaining hand of noble patrons and devoted friends among the younger poets who were proud to be “sealed of the tribe of Ben.”

Jonson died, August 6, 1637, and a second folio of his works, which he had been some time gathering, was printed in 1640, bearing in its various parts dates ranging from 1630 to 1642. It included all the plays mentioned in the foregoing paragraphs, excepting “The Case is Altered;” the masques, some fifteen, that date between 1617 and 1630; another collection of lyrics and occasional poetry called “Underwoods, including some further entertainments; a translation of “Horace’s Art of Poetry” (also published in a vicesimo quarto in 1640), and certain fragments and ingatherings which the poet would hardly have included himself. These last comprise the fragment (less than seventy lines) of a tragedy called “Mortimer his Fall,” and three acts of a pastoral drama of much beauty and poetic spirit, “The Sad Shepherd.” There is also the exceedingly interesting ‘English Grammar’ “made by Ben Jonson for the benefit of all strangers out of his observation of the English language now spoken and in use,” in Latin and English; and ‘Timber, or discoveries’ “made upon men and matter as they have flowed out of his daily reading, or had their reflux to his peculiar notion of the times.” The ‘Discoveries’, as it is usually called, is a commonplace book such as many literary men have kept, in which their reading was chronicled, passages that took their fancy translated or transcribed, and their passing opinions noted. Many passage of Jonson’s ‘Discoveries’ are literal translations from the authors he chanced to be reading, with the reference, noted or not, as the accident of the moment prescribed. At times he follows the line of Macchiavelli’s argument as to the nature and conduct of princes; at others he clarifies his own conception of poetry and poets by recourse to Aristotle. He finds a choice paragraph on eloquence in Seneca the elder and applies it to his own recollection of Bacon’s power as an orator; and another on facile and ready genius, and translates it, adapting it to his recollection of his fellow-playwright, Shakespeare. To call such passages—which Jonson never intended for publication—plagiarism, is to obscure the significance of words. To disparage his memory by citing them is a preposterous use of scholarship. Jonson’s prose, both in his dramas, in the descriptive comments of his masques, and in the ‘Discoveries’, is characterised by clarity and vigorous directness, nor is it wanting in a fine sense of form or in the subtler graces of diction.

When Jonson died there was a project for a handsome monument to his memory. But the Civil War was at hand, and the project failed. A memorial, not insufficient, was carved on the stone covering his grave in one of the aisles of Westminster Abbey:

“O rare Ben Jonson.”




Every Man in his Humour, 4to, 1601;
The Case is Altered, 4to, 1609;
Every Man out of his Humour, 4to, 1600;
Cynthia’s Revels, 4to, 1601;
Poetaster, 4to, 1602;
Sejanus, 4to, 1605;
Eastward Ho (with Chapman and Marston), 4to, 1605;
Volpone, 4to, 1607;
Epicoene, or the Silent Woman, 4to, 1609 (?), fol., 1616;
The Alchemist, 4to, 1612;
Catiline, his Conspiracy, 4to, 1611;
Bartholomew Fayre, 4to, 1614 (?), fol., 1631;
The Divell is an Asse, fol., 1631;
The Staple of Newes, fol., 1631;
The New Sun, 8vo, 1631, fol., 1692;
The Magnetic Lady, or Humours Reconcild, fol., 1640;
A Tale of a Tub, fol., 1640;
The Sad Shepherd, or a Tale of Robin Hood, fol., 1641;
Mortimer his Fall (fragment), fol., 1640.

To Jonson have also been attributed additions to Kyd’s Jeronymo, and collaboration in The Widow with Fletcher and Middleton, and in the Bloody Brother with Fletcher.


Epigrams, The Forrest, Underwoods, published in fols., 1616, 1640;
Selections: Execration against Vulcan, and Epigrams, 1640;
G. Hor. Flaccus his art of Poetry, Englished by Ben Jonson, 1640;
Leges Convivialis, fol., 1692.
Other minor poems first appeared in Gifford’s edition of Works.


Timber, or Discoveries made upon Men and Matter, fol., 1641;
The English Grammar, made by Ben Jonson for the benefit of Strangers, fol., 1640.

Masques and Entertainments were published in the early folios.


Fol., 1616, vol. 2, 1640 (1631-41);
fol., 1692, 1716-19, 1729;
edited by P. Whalley, 7 vols., 1756;
by Gifford (with Memoir), 9 vols., 1816, 1846;
re-edited by F. Cunningham, 3 vols., 1871;
in 9 vols., 1875;
by Barry Cornwall (with Memoir), 1838;
by B. Nicholson (Mermaid Series), with Introduction by C. H. Herford, 1893, etc.;
Nine Plays, 1904; ed. H. C. Hart (Standard Library), 1906, etc;
Plays and Poems, with Introduction by H. Morley (Universal Library), 1885;
Plays (7) and Poems (Newnes), 1905;
Poems, with Memoir by H. Bennett (Carlton Classics), 1907;
Masques and Entertainments, ed. by H. Morley, 1890.


J. A. Symonds, with Biographical and Critical Essay, (Canterbury Poets), 1886;
Grosart, Brave Translunary Things, 1895;
Arber, Jonson Anthology, 1901;
Underwoods, Cambridge University Press, 1905;
Lyrics (Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher), the Chap Books, No. 4, 1906;
Songs (from Plays, Masques, etc.), with earliest known setting, Eragny Press, 1906.


See Memoirs affixed to Works;
J. A. Symonds (English Worthies), 1886;
Notes of Ben Jonson Conversations with Drummond of Hawthornden; Shakespeare Society, 1842; ed. with Introduction and Notes by P. Sidney, 1906;
Swinburne, A Study of Ben Jonson, 1889.



MY LORD,—If ever any ruin were so great as to survive, I think this be one I send you, The Fall of Sejanus. It is a poem, that, if I well remember, in your lordship’s sight, suffered no less violence from our people here, than the subject of it did from the rage of the people of Rome; but with a different fate, as, I hope, merit: for this hath outlived their malice, and begot itself a greater favour than he lost, the love of good men. Amongst whom, if I make your lordship the first it thanks, it is not without a just, confession of the bond your benefits have, and ever shall hold upon me,

Your lordship’s most faithful honourer.


The following and voluntary labours of my friends, prefixed to my book, have relieved me in much whereat, without them, I should necessarily have touched. Now I will only use three or four short and needful notes, and so rest.

First, if it be objected, that what I publish is no true poem, in the strict laws of time, I confess it: as also in the want of a proper chorus; whose habit and moods are such and so difficult, as not any, whom I have seen, since the ancients, no, not they who have most presently affected laws, have yet come in the way of. Nor is it needful, or almost possible in these our times, and to such auditors as commonly things are presented, to observe the old state and splendour of dramatic poems, with preservation of any popular delight. But of this I shall take more seasonable cause to speak, in my observations upon Horace his Art of Poetry, which, with the text translated, I intend shortly to publish. In the mean time, if in truth of argument, dignity of persons, gravity and height of elocution, fulness and frequency of sentence, I have discharged the other offices of a tragic writer, let not the absence of these forms be imputed to me, wherein I shall give you occasion hereafter, and without my boast, to think I could better prescribe, than omit the due use for want of a convenient knowledge.

The next is, lest in some nice nostril the quotations might savour affected, I do let you know, that I abhor nothing more; and I have only done it to shew my integrity in the story, and save myself in those common torturers that bring all wit to the rack; whose noses are ever like swine, spoiling and rooting up the Muses’ gardens; and their whole bodies like moles, as blindly working under earth, to cast any, the least, hills upon virtue. Whereas they are in Latin, and the work in English, it was presupposed none but the learned would take the pains to confer them: the authors themselves being all in the learned tongues, save one, with whose English side I have had little to do. To which it may be required, since I have quoted the page, to name what editions I followed: Tacit. Lips. in quarto, Antwerp, edit. 1600; Dio. folio, Hen. Steph. 1592. For the rest, as Sueton, Seneca, etc., the chapter doth sufficiently direct, or the edition is not varied.

Lastly, I would inform you, that this book, in all numbers, is not the same with that which was acted on the public stage; wherein a second: pen had good share: in place of which, I have rather chosen to put weaker, and no doubt, less pleasing, of mine own, than to defraud so happy a genius of his right by my loathed usurpation.

Fare you well, and if you read farther of me, and like, I shall not be afraid of it, though you praise me out.

Neque enim mihi cornea fibra est.

But that I should plant my felicity in your general saying, good, or well, etc., were a weakness which the better sort of you might worthily contemn, if not absolutely hate me for.

and no such,

Palma negata macrum, donata reducit opimum.


AELIUS SEJANUS, son to Seius Strabo, a gentleman of Rome, and born at Vulsinium; after his long service in court, first under Augustus; afterward, Tiberius; grew into that favour with the latter, and won him by those arts, as there wanted nothing but the name to make him a co-partner of the empire. Which greatness of his, Drusus, the emperor’s son, not brooking; after many smothered dislikes, it one day breaking out, the prince struck him publicly on the face. To revenge which disgrace, Livia, the wife of Drusus (being before corrupted by him to her dishonour, and the discovery of her husband’s counsels) Sejanus practiseth with, together with her physician called Eudemus, and one Lygdus an eunuch, to poison Drusus. This their inhuman act having successful and unsuspected passage, it emboldeneth Sejanus to further and more insolent projects, even the ambition of the empire; where finding the lets he must encounter to be many and hard, in respect of the issue of Germanicus, who were next in hope for the succession, he deviseth to make Tiberius’ self his means, and instils into his ears many doubts and suspicions, both against the princes, and their mother Agrippina; which Cæsar jealously hearkening to, as covetously consenteth to their ruin, and their friends. In this time, the better to mature and strengthen his design, Sejanus labours to marry Livia, and worketh with all his ingine, to remove Tiberius from the knowledge of public business, with allurements of a quiet and retired life; the latter of which, Tiberius, out of a proneness to lust, and a desire to hide those unnatural pleasures which he could not so publicly practise, embraceth: the former enkindleth his fears, and there gives him first cause of doubt or suspect towards Sejanus: against whom he raiseth in private a new instrument, one Sertorius Macro, and by him underworketh, discovers the other’s counsels, his means, his ends, sounds the affections of the senators, divides, distracts them: at last, when Sejanus least looketh, and is most secure with pretext of doing him an unwonted honour in the senate, he trains him from his guards, and with a long doubtful letter, one day hath him suspected, accused, condemned, and torn in pieces by the rage of the people.



Servi etc.




SCENE I.—A State Room in the Palace.

Enter Sabinus and Silius, followed by Latiaris.

Hail, Caius Silius!

Titius Sabinus, hail! You’re rarely met in court.

Therefore, well met.

’Tis true: indeed, this place is not our sphere.

No, Silius, we are no good inginers.
We want their fine arts, and their thriving use
Should make us graced, or favour’d of the times:
We have no shift of faces, no cleft tongues,
No soft and glutinous bodies, that can stick,
Like snails on painted walls; or, on our breasts,
Creep up, to fall from that proud height, to which
We did by slavery, not by service climb.
We are no guilty men, and then no great;
We have no place in court, office in state,
That we can say, we owe unto our crimes:
We burn with no black secrets, which can make
Us dear to the pale authors; or live fear’d
Of their still waking jealousies, to raise
Ourselves a fortune, by subverting theirs.
We stand not in the lines, that do advance
To that so courted point.

Enter Satrius and Natta, at a distance.

But yonder lean
A pair that do.

[salutes Latiaris.] Good cousin Latiaris.—

Satrius Secundus, and Pinnarius Natta,
The great Sejanus’ clients: there be two,
Know more than honest counsels; whose close breasts,
Were they ripp’d up to light, it would be found
A poor and idle sin, to which their trunks
Had not been made fit organs. These can lie,
Flatter, and swear, forswear, deprave, inform,
Smile, and betray; make guilty men; then beg
The forfeit lives, to get their livings; cut
Men’s throats with whisperings; sell to gaping suitors
The empty smoke, that flies about the palace;
Laugh when their patron laughs; sweat when he sweats;
Be hot and cold with him; change every mood,
Habit, and garb, as often as he varies;
Observe him, as his watch observes his clock;
And, true, as turquoise in the dear lord’s ring,
Look well or ill with him: ready to praise
His lordship, if he spit, or but p—— fair,
Have an indifferent stool, or break wind well;
Nothing can ’scape their catch.

Alas! these things
Deserve no note, conferr’d with other vile
And filthier flatteries, that corrupt the times;
When, not alone our gentries chief are fain
To make their safety from such sordid acts;
But all our consuls, and no little part
Of such as have been prætors, yea, the most
Of senators, that else not use their voices,
Start up in public senate and there strive
Who shall propound most abject things, and base.
So much, as oft Tiberius hath been heard,
Leaving the court, to cry, O race of men;
Prepared for servitude!—which shew’d that he.
Who least the public liberty could like,
As lothly brook’d their flat servility.

Well, all is worthy of us, were it more,
Who with our riots, pride, and civil hate,
Have so provok’d the justice of the gods:
We, that, within these fourscore years, were born
Free, equal lords of the triumphed world,
And knew no masters, but affections;
To which betraying first our liberties,
We since became the slaves to one man’s lusts;
And now to many: every minist’ring spy
That will accuse and swear, is lord of you,
Of me, of all our fortunes and our lives.
Our looks are call’d to question, and our words,
How innocent soever, are made crimes;
We shall not shortly dare to tell our dreams,
Or think, but ’twill be treason. Sab. Tyrants’ arts
Are to give flatterers grace; accusers, power;
That those may seem to kill whom they devour.

Enter Cordus and Arruntius.

Now, good Cremutius Cordus.

[salutes Sabinus] Hail to your lordship!

[whispers Latiaris.] Who’s that salutes your cousin?

’Tis one Cordus,
A gentleman of Rome: one that has writ
Annals of late, they say, and very well.

Annals! of what times?

I think of Pompey’s,
And Caius Cæsar’s; and so down to these.

How stands he affected to the present state!
Is he or Drusian, or Germanic,
Or ours, or neutral?

I know him not so far.

Those times are somewhat queasy to be touch’d.
Have you or seen, or heard part of his work?

Not I; he means they shall be public shortly.

O, Cordus do you call him?


[Exeunt Natta and Satrius.]

But these our times
Are not the same, Arruntius.

Times! the men,
The men are not the same: ’tis we are base,
Poor, and degenerate from the exalted strain
Of our great fathers. Where is now the soul
Of god-like Cato? he, that durst be good,
When Cæsar durst be evil; and had power,
As not to live his slave, to die his master?
Or where’s the constant Brutus, that being proof
Against all charm of benefits, did strike
So brave a blow into the monster’s heart
That sought unkindly to captive his country?
O, they are fled the light! Those mighty spirits
Lie raked up with their ashes in their urns,
And not a spark of their eternal fire
Glows in a present bosom. All’s but blaze,
Flashes and smoke, wherewith we labour so,
There’s nothing Roman in us; nothing good,
Gallant, or great: ’tis true that Cordus says,
“Brave Cassius was the last of all that race.”

Drusus passes over the stage, attended by Haterius, etc.

Stand by! lord Drusus.

The emperor’s son! give place.

I like the prince well.

A riotous youth;
There’s little hope of him.

That fault his age
Will, as it grows, correct. Methinks he bears
Himself each day more nobly than other;
And wins no less on men’s affections,
Than doth his father lose. Believe me,
I love him; And chiefly for opposing to Sejanus.

And I, for gracing his young kinsmen so,
The sons of prince Germanicus: it shews
A gallant clearness in him, a straight mind,
That envies not, in them, their father’s name.

His name was, while he lived, above all envy;
And, being dead, without it. O, that man!
If there were seeds of the old virtue left,
They lived in him.

He had the fruits, Arruntius,
More than the seeds: Sabinus, and myself
Had means to know him within; and can report him.
We were his followers, he would call us friends;
He was a man most like to virtue; in all,
And every action, nearer to the gods,
Than men, in nature; of a body as fair
As was his mind; and no less reverend
In face, than fame: he could so use his state,
Tempering his greatness with his gravity,
As it avoided all self-love in him,
And spite in others. What his funerals lack’d
In images and pomp, they had supplied
With honourable sorrow, soldiers’ sadness,
A kind of silent mourning, such, as men,
Who know no tears, but from their captives, use
To shew in so great losses.

I thought once,
Considering their forms, age, manner of deaths,
The nearness of the places where they fell,
To have parallel’d him with great Alexander:
For both were of best feature, of high race,
Year’d but to thirty, and, in foreign lands,
By their own people alike made away.

I know not, for his death, how you might wrest it:
But, for his life, it did as much disdain
Comparison, with that voluptuous, rash,
Giddy, and drunken Macedon’s, as mine
Doth with my bondman’s. All the good in him,
His valour and his fortune, he made his;
But he had other touches of late Romans,
That more did speak him: Pompey’s dignity,
The innocence of Cato, Cæsar’s spirit,
Wise Brutus’ temperance; and every virtue,
Which, parted unto others, gave them name,
Flow’d mix’d in him. He was the soul of goodness;
And all our praises of him are like streams
Drawn from a spring, that still rise full, and leave
The part remaining greatest.

I am sure
He was too great for us, and that they knew
Who did remove him hence.

When men grow fast
Honour’d and loved. there is a trick in state,
Which jealous princes never fail to use,
How to decline that growth, with fair pretext,
And honourable colours of employment,
Either by embassy, the war, or such,
To shift them forth into another air,
Where they may purge and lessen; so was he:
And had his seconds there, sent by Tiberius,
And his more subtile dam, to discontent him;
To breed and cherish mutinies; detract
His greatest actions; give audacious check
To his commands; and work to put him out
In open act of treason. All which snares
When his wise cares prevented, a fine poison
Was thought on, to mature their practices.

Enter Sejanus talking to Terentius, followed by Satrius, Natta, etc.

Here comes Sejanus.

Now observe the stoops,
The bendings, and the falls.

Most creeping base!

[to Natta.] I note them well: no more. Say you?

My lord,
There is a gentleman of Rome would buy-

How call you him you talk’d with?

Please your lordship,
It is Eudemus, the physician
to Livia, Drusus’ wife.

On with your suit. Would buy, you said-

A tribune’s place, my lord.

What will he give?

Fifty sestertia.

Livia’s physician, say you, is that fellow?

It is, my lord: Your lordship’s answer.

To what?

The place, my lord. ’Tis for a gentleman
Your lordship will well like of, when you see him;
And one, that you may make yours, by the grant.

Well, let him bring his money, and his name.

Thank your lordship. He shall, my lord.

Come hither.
Know you this same Eudemus? is he learn’d?

Reputed so, my lord, and of deep practice.

Bring him in, to me, in the gallery;
And take you cause to leave us there together:
I would confer with him, about a grief—

[Exeunt Sejanus, Satrius, Terentius, etc.]

So! yet another? yet? O desperate state
Of grovelling honour! seest thou this, O sun,
And do we see thee after? Methinks, day
Should lose his light, when men do lose their shames,
And for the empty circumstance of life,
Betray their cause of living.

Nothing so.
Sejanus can repair, if Jove should ruin.
He is now the court god; and well applied
With sacrifice of knees, of crooks, and cringes;
He will do more than all the house of heaven
Can, for a thousand hecatombs. ’Tis he
Makes us our day, or night; hell, and elysium
Are in his look: we talk of Rhadamanth,
Furies, and firebrands; but it is his frown
That is all these; where, on the adverse part,
His smile is more, than e’er yet poets feign’d
Of bliss, and shades, nectar—

A serving boy!
I knew him, at Caius’ trencher, when for hire
He prostituted his abused body
To that great gormond, fat Apicius;
And was the noted pathic of the time.

And, now, the second face of the whole world!
The partner of the empire, hath his image
Rear’d equal with Tiberius, born in ensigns;
Commands, disposes every dignity,
Centurions, tribunes, heads of provinces,
Praetors and consuls; all that heretofore
Rome’s general suffrage gave, is now his sale.
The gain, or rather spoil of all the earth,
One, and his house, receives.

He hath of late
Made him a strength too, strangely, by reducing
All the prætorian bands into one camp,
Which he commands: pretending that the soldiers,
By living loose and scatter’d, fell to riot;
And that if any sudden enterprise
Should be attempted, their united strength
Would be far more than sever’d; and their life
More strict, if from the city more removed.

Where, now, he builds what kind of forts he please,
Is heard to court the soldier by his name,
Woos, feasts the chiefest men of action,
Whose wants, not loves, compel them to be his.
And though he ne’er were liberal by kind,
Yet to his own dark ends, he’s most profuse,
Lavish, and letting fly, he cares not what
To his ambition.

Yet, hath he ambition?
Is there that step in state can make him higher,
Or more, or anything he is, but less?

Nothing but emperor.

The name Tiberius,
I hope, will keep, howe’er he hath foregone
The dignity and power.

Sure, while he lives.

And dead, it comes to Drusus.
Should he fail, To the brave issue of Germanicus;
And they are three: too many-ha? for him
To have a plot upon!

I do not know
The heart of his designs; but, sure, their face
Looks farther than the present.

By the gods,
If I could guess he had but such a thought,
My sword should cleave him down from head to heart,
But I would find it out: and with my hand
I’d hurl his panting brain about the air
In mites, as small as atomi, to undo
The knotted bed-

You are observ’d, Arruntius.

[turns to Natta, Terentius, etc.]
Death! I dare tell him so; and all his spies:
You, sir, I would, do you look? and you.


SCENE II.—(The former scene continued.)
A Gallery discovered opening into the state Room.

Enter Satrius with Eudemus.

Here he will instant be: let’s walk a turn;
You’re in a muse, Eudemus.

Not I, sir.
I wonder he should mark me out so! well,
Jove and Apollo form it for the best. [Aside.

Your fortune’s made unto you now, Eudemus,
If you can but lay bold upon the means;
Do but observe his humour, and—believe it—
He is the noblest Roman, where he takes—

Enter Sejanus.

Here comes his lordship.

Now, good Satrius.

This is the gentleman, my lord.

Is this?
Give me your hand—we must be more acquainted.
Report, sir, hath spoke out your art and learning:
And I am glad I have so needful cause,
However in itself painful and hard,
To make me known to so great virtue.—Look,
Who is that, Satrius?

[Exit Satrius.]

I have a grief, sir,
That will desire your help. Your name’s Eudemus!



It is, my lord.

I hear you are
Physician to Livia, the princess.

I minister unto her, my good lord.

You minister to a royal lady, then.

She is, my lord, and fair.

That’s understood
Of all her sex, who are or would be so;
And those that would be, physic soon can make them:
For those that are, their beauties fear no colours.

Your lordship is conceited.

Sir, you know it,
And can, if need be, read a learned lecture
On this, and other secrets. Pray you, tell me,
What more of ladies besides Livia,
Have you your patients?

Many, my good lord.
The great Augusta, Urgulania,
Mutilia Prisca, and Plancina; divers—

And all these tell you the particulars
Of every several grief? how first it grew,
And then increased; what action caused that;
What passion that: and answer to each point
That you will put them?

Else, my lord, we know not
How to prescribe the remedies.

Go to,
you are a subtile nation, you physicians!
And grown the only cabinets in court,
To ladies’ privacies. Faith, which of these
Is the most pleasant lady in her physic?
Come, you are modest now.

’Tis fit, my lord.

Why, sir, I do not ask you of their urines,
Whose smell’s most violet, or whose siege is best,
Or who makes hardest faces on her stool?
Which lady sleeps with her own face a nights?
Which puts her teeth off, with her clothes, in court?
Or, which her hair, which her complexion,
And, in which box she puts it; These were questions,
That might, perhaps, have put your gravity
To some defence of blush. But, I enquired,
Which was the wittiest, merriest, wantonnest?
Harmless intergatories, but conceits.—
Methinks Augusta should be most perverse,
And froward in her fit.

She’s so, my lord.

I knew it: and Mutilia the most jocund.

’Tis very true, my lord.

And why would you
Conceal this from me, now? Come, what is Livia?
I know she’s quick and quaintly spirited,
And will have strange thoughts, when she is at leisure:
She tells them all to you.

My noblest lord,
He breathes not in the empire, or on earth.
Whom I would be ambitious to serve
In any act, that may preserve mine honour,
Before your lordship.

Sir, you can lose no honour,
By trusting aught to me. The coarsest act
Done to my service, I can so requite,
As all the world shall style it honourable:
Your idle, virtuous definitions,
Keep honour poor, and are as scorn’d as vain:
Those deeds breathe honour that do suck in gain.

But, good my lord, if I should thus betray
The counsels of my patient, and a lady’s
Of her high place and worth; what might your lordship,
Who presently are to trust me with your own,
Judge of my faith?

Only the best I swear.
Say now that I should utter you my grief,
And with it the true cause; that it were love,
And love to Livia; you should tell her this:
Should she suspect your faith; I would you could
Tell me as much from her; see if my brain
Could be turn’d jealous.

Happily, my lord,
I could in time tell you as much and more;
So I might safely promise but the first
To her from you.

As safely, my Eudemus,
I now dare call thee so, as I have put
The secret into thee.

My lord—

Protest not,
Thy looks are vows to me; use only speed,
And but affect her with Sejanus’ love,
Thou art a man, made to make consuls. Go.

My lord, I’ll promise you a private meeting
This day together.

Canst thou?


The place?

My gardens, whither I shall fetch your lordship

Let me adore my Æsculapius.
Why, this indeed is physic! and outspeaks
The knowledge of cheap drugs, or any use
Can be made out of it! more comforting
Than all your opiates, juleps, apozems,
Magistral syrups, or—Be gone, my friend,
Not barely styled, but created so;
Expect things greater than thy largest hopes,
To overtake thee: Fortune shall be taught
To know how ill she hath deserv’d thus long,
To come behind thy wishes. Go, and speed.

[Exit Eudemus.]

Ambition makes more trusty slaves than need.
These fellows, by the favour of their art,
Have still the means to tempt; oft-times the power.
If Livia will be now corrupted, then
Thou hast the way, Sejanus, to work out
His secrets, who, thou know’st, endures thee not,
Her husband, Drusus: and to work against them.
Prosper it, Pallas, thou that better’st wit;
For Venus hath the smallest share in it.

Enter Tiberius and Drusus, attended.

[to Haterius, who kneels to him.]
We not endure these flatteries; let him stand;
Our empire, ensigns, axes, rods and state
Take not away our human nature from us:
Look up on us, and fall before the gods.

How like a god speaks Cæsar!

There, observe!
He can endure that second, that’s no flattery.
O, what is it, proud slime will not believe
Of his own worth, to hear it equal praised
Thus with the gods!

He did not hear it, sir.

He did not! Tut, he must not, we think meanly.
’Tis your most courtly known confederacy,
To have your private parasite redeem,
What he, in public, subtilely will lose,
To making him a name.

Right mighty lord—

[Gives him letters.]

We must make up our ears ’gainst these assaults
Of charming tongues; we pray you use no more
These contumelies to us; style not us
Or lord, or mighty, who profess ourself
The servant of the senate, and are proud
T’ enjoy them our good, just, and favouring lords.

Rarely dissembled!

Prince-like to the life.

When power that may command, so much descends,
Their bondage, whom it stoops to, it intends.

Whence are these letters?

From the senate.


[Latiaris. gives him letters.]

Whence these?

From thence too.

Are they sitting now?

They stay thy answer, Cæsar.

If this man
Had but a mind allied unto his words,
How blest a fate were it to us, and Rome!
We could not think that state for which to change,
Although the aim were our old liberty:
The ghosts of those that fell for that, would grieve
Their bodies lived not, now, again to serve.
Men are deceived, who think there can be thrall
Beneath a virtuous prince: Wish’d liberty
Ne’er lovelier looks, than under such a crown.
But, when his grace is merely but lip-good.
And that, no longer than he airs himself
Abroad in public, there, to seem to shun
The strokes and stripes of flatterers, which within
Are lechery unto him, and so feed
His brutish sense with their afflicting sound,
As, dead to virtue, he permits himself
Be carried like a pitcher by the ears,
To every act of vice: this is the case
Deserves our fear, and doth presage the nigh
And close approach of blood and tyranny.
Flattery is midwife unto prince’s rage:
And nothing sooner doth help forth a tyrant,
Than that and whisperers’ grace, who have the time,
The place, the power, to make all men offenders.

He should be told this; and be bid dissemble
With fools and blind men: we that know the evil,
Should hunt the palace-rats or give them bane;
Fright hence these worse than ravens, that devour T
he quick, where they but prey upon the dead:
He shall be told it.

Stay, Arruntius,
We must abide our opportunity;
And practise what is fit, as what is needful.
It is not safe t’ enforce a sovereign’s ear:
Princes hear well, if they at all will hear.

Ha, say you so? well! In the mean time, Jove,
(Say not, but I do call upon thee now,)

’Tis well pray’d.

[having read the letters.]
Return the lords this voice,—
We are their creature,
And it is fit a good and honest prince,
Whom they, out of their bounty, have instructed
With so dilate and absolute a power,
Should owe the office of it to their service.
And good of all and every citizen.
Nor shall it e’er repent us to have wish’d
The senate just, and favouring lords unto us,
Since their free loves do yield no less defence
To a prince’s state, than his own innocence.
Say then, there can be nothing in their thought
Shall want to please us, that hath pleased them;
Our suffrage rather shall prevent than stay
Behind their wills: ’tis empire to obey,
Where such, so great, so grave, so good determine.
Yet, for the suit of Spain, to erect a temple
In honour of our mother and our self,
We must, with pardon of the senate, not
Assent thereto. Their lordships may object
Our not denying the same late request
Unto the Asian cities: we desire
That our defence for suffering that be known
In these brief reasons, with our after purpose.
Since deified Augustus hindered not
A temple to be built at Pergamum,
In honour of himself and sacred Rome;
We, that have all his deeds and words observed
Ever, in place of laws, the rather follow’d
That pleasing precedent, because with ours,
The senate’s reverence, also, there was join’d.
But as, t’ have once received it, may deserve
The gain of pardon; so, to be adored
With the continued style, and note of gods,
Through all the provinces, were wild ambition.
And no less pride: yea, even Augustus’ name
Would early vanish, should it be profaned
With such promiscuous flatteries. For our part,
We here protest it, and are covetous
Posterity should know it. we are mortal;
And can but deeds of men: ’twere glory enough,
Could we be truly a prince. And, they shall add
Abounding grace unto our memory,
That shall report us worthy our forefathers,
Careful of your affairs, constant in dangers,
And not afraid of any private frown
For public good. These things shall be to us
Temples and statues, reared in your minds,
The fairest, and most during imagery:
For those of stone or brass, if they become
Odious in judgment of posterity,
Are more contemn’d as dying sepulchres,
Than ta’en for living monuments. We then
Make here our suit, alike to gods and men;
The one, until the period of our race,
To inspire us with a free and quiet mind,
Discerning both divine and human laws;
The other, to vouchsafe us after death,
An honourable mention, and fair praise,
To accompany our actions and our name:
The rest of greatness princes may command,
And, therefore, may neglect; only, a long,
A lasting, high, and happy memory
They should, without being satisfied, pursue:
Contempt of fame begets contempt of virtue.


Most divine!

The oracles are ceased,
That only Cæsar, with their tongue, might speak.

Let me be gone: most felt and open this!


What! to hear more cunning and fine words,
With their sound flatter’d ere their sense be meant?

Their choice of Antium, there to place the gift
Vow’d to the goddess for our mother’s health,
We will the senate know, we fairly like:
As also of their grant to Lepidus,
For his repairing the AEmilian place,
And restoration of those monuments:
Their grace too in confining of Silanus
To the other isle Cithera, at the suit
Of his religious sister, much commends
Their policy, so temper’d with their mercy.
But for the honours which they have decreed
To our Sejanus, to advance his statue
In Pompey’s theatre, (whose ruining fire
His vigilance and labour kept restrain’d
In that one loss,) they have therein out-gone
Their own great wisdoms, by their skilful choice,
And placing of their bounties on a man,
Whose merit more adorns the dignity,
Than that can him; and gives a benefit,
In taking, greater than it can receive.
Blush not, Sejanus, thou great aid of Rome,
Associate of our labours, our chief helper;
Let us not force thy simple modesty
With offering at thy praise, for more we cannot,
Since there’s no voice can take it.
No man here Receive our speeches as hyperboles:
For we are far from flattering our friend,
Let envy know, as from the need to flatter.
Nor let them ask the causes of our praise:
Princes have still their grounds rear’d with themselves,
Above the poor low flats of common men;
And who will search the reasons of their acts,
Must stand on equal bases. Lead, away:
Our loves unto the senate.

[Exeunt Tiberius, Sejanus, Natta, Haterius, Latiaris, Officers, etc.]



Great Pompey’s theatre was never ruin’d
Till now, that proud Sejanus hath a statue
Rear’d on his ashes.

Place the shame of soldiers,
Above the best of generals? crack the world,
And bruise the name of Romans into dust,
Ere we behold it!

Check your passion; Lord Drusus tarries.

Is my father mad,
Weary of life, and rule, lords? thus to heave
An idol up with praise! make him his mate,
His rival in the empire!

O, good prince.

Allow him statues, titles, honours, such
As he himself refuseth!

Brave, brave Drusus!

The first ascents to sovereignty are hard;
But, entered once, there never wants or means,
Or ministers, to help the aspirer on.

True, gallant Drusus.

We must shortly pray
To Modesty, that he will rest contented—

Ay, where he is, and not write emperor.

Re-enter Sejanus, Satrius, Latiaris, Clients, etc.

There is your bill, and yours; bring you your man.
[To Satrius.]
I have moved for you, too, Latiaris.

Is your vast greatness grown so blindly bold,
That you will over us?

Why then give way.

Give way, Colossus! do you lift? advance you?
Take that!

[Strikes him.]

Good! brave! excellent, brave prince!

Nay, come, approach.

[Draws his sword.]

What, stand you off? at gaze?
It looks too full of death for thy cold spirits.
Avoid mine eye, dull camel, or my sword
Shall make thy bravery fitter for a grave,
Than for a triumph. I’ll advance a statue
O’ your own bulk; but ’t shall be on the cross;
Where I will nail your pride at breadth and length,
And crack those sinews, which are yet but stretch’d
With your swoln fortune’s rage.

A noble prince!

A Castor, a Castor, a Castor, a Castor!

[Exeunt all but Sejanus.]

He that, with such wrong moved, can bear it through
With patience, and an even mind, knows how
To turn it back. Wrath cover’d carries fate:
Revenge is lost, if I profess my hate.
What was my practice late, I’ll now pursue,
As my fell justice: this hath styled it new.



SCENE I.—The Garden of EUDEMUS.

Enter Sejanus, Livia and Eudemus.

Physician, thou art worthy of a province.
For the great favours done unto our loves;
And, but that greatest Livia bears a part
In the requital of thy services,
I should alone despair of aught, like means,
To give them worthy satisfaction.

Eudemus, I will see it, shall receive
A fit and full reward for his large merit.—
But for this potion we intend to Drusus,
No more our husband now, whom shall we choose
As the most apt and able instrument,
To minister it to him?

I say, Lygdus.

Lygdus? what’s he?

An eunuch Drusus loves.

Ay, and his cup-bearer.

Name not a second.
If Drusus love him, and he have that place,
We cannot think a fitter.

True, my lord.
For free access and trust are two main aids.

Skilful physician!

But he must be wrought
To the undertaking, with some labour’d art.

Is he ambitious?


Or covetous?


Yet, gold is a good general charm.

What is he, then?

Faith, only wanton, light.

How! is he young and fair?

A delicate youth.

Send him to me, I’ll work him.—Royal lady,
Though I have loved you long, and with that height
Of zeal and duty, like the fire, which more
It mounts it trembles, thinking nought could add
Unto the fervour which your eye had kindled;
Yet, now I see your wisdom, judgment, strength,
Quickness, and will, to apprehend the means
To your own good and greatness, I protest
Myself through rarified, and turn’d all flame
In your affection: such a spirit as yours,
Was not created for the idle second
To a poor flash, as Drusus; but to shine
Bright as the moon among the lesser lights,
And share the sov’reignty of all the world.
Then Livia triumphs in her proper sphere,
When she and her Sejanus shall divide
The name of Cæsar, and Augusta’ s star
Be dimm’d with glory of a brighter beam:
When Agrippina’s fires are quite extinct,
And the scarce-soon Tiberius borrows all
His little light from us, whose folded arms
Shall make one perfect orb.

[Knocking within.]

Who’s that! Eudemus, Look.

[Exit Eudemus.]

’Tis not Drusus, lady, do not fear.

Not I, my lord: my fear and love of him
Left me at once.

Illustrious lady, stay—

[within.] I’ll tell his lordship.

Re-enter Eudemus.

Who is it, Eudemus?

One of your lordship’s servants brings you word
The emperor hath sent for you.

O! where is he?
With your fair leave, dear princess, I’ll but ask
A question and return.


Fortunate princess!
How are you blest in the fruition
Of this unequall’d man, the soul of Rome,
The empire’s life, and voice of Cæsar’s world!

So blessed, my Eudemus, as to know
The bliss I have, with what I ought to owe
The means that wrought it. How do I look to-day?

Excellent clear, believe it. This same fucus
Was well laid on.

Methinks ’tis here not white.

Lend me your scarlet, lady. ’Tis the sun,
Hath giv’n some little taint unto the ceruse;
You should have used of the white oil I gave you.
Sejanus, for your love! his very name
Commandeth above Cupid or his shafts—

[Paints her cheeks.]

Nay, now you’ve made it worse.

I’ll help it straight—
And but pronounced, is a sufficient charm
Against all rumour; and of absolute power
To satisfy for any lady’s honour.

What do you now, Eudemus?

Make a light fucus,
To touch you o’er withal.—Honour’d Sejanus!
What act, though ne’er so strange and insolent,
But that addition will at least bear out,
If’t do not expiate?

Here, good physician.

I like this study to preserve the love
Of such a man, that comes not every hour
To greet the world.-’Tis now well, lady, you should
Use of the dentifrice I prescribed you too,
To clear your teeth, and the prepared pomatum,
To smooth the skin:—A lady cannot be
Too curious of her form, that still would hold
The heart of such a person, made her captive,
As you have his: who, to endear him more
In your clear eye, hath put away his wife,
The trouble of his bed, and your delights,
Fair Apicata, and made spacious room
To your new pleasures.

Have not we return’d
That with our hate to Drusus, and discovery
Of all his counsels?

Yes, and wisely, lady.
The ages that succeed, and stand far off
To gaze at your high prudence, shall admire,
And reckon it an act without your sex:
It hath that rare appearance. Some will think
Your fortune could not yield a deeper sound,
Than mix’d with Drusus; but, when they shall hear
That, and the thunder of Sejanus meet,
Sejanus, whose high name doth strike the stars,
And rings about the concave; great Sejanus,
Whose glories, style, and titles are himself,
The often iterating of Sejanus:
They then will lose their thoughts, and be ashamed
To take acquaintance of them.

Re-enter Sejanus.

I must make
A rude departure, lady: Cæsar sends
With all his haste both of command and prayer.
Be resolute in our plot; you have my soul,
As certain yours as it is my body’s.
And, wise physician, so prepare the poison,
As you may lay the subtile operation
Upon some natural disease of his:
Your eunuch send to me. I kiss your hands,
Glory of ladies, and commend my love
To your best faith and memory.

My lord,
I shall but change your words. Farewell.
Yet, this Remember for your heed, he loves you not;
You know what I have told you: his designs
Are full of grudge and danger; we must use
More than a common speed.

Excellent lady,
How you do fire my blood!

Well, you must go?
The thoughts be best, are least set forth to shew.

[Exit Sejanus.]

When will you take some physic, lady?

I shall, Eudemus: but let Drusus’ drug
Be first prepared.

Were Lygdus made, that’s done;
I have it ready. And to-morrow morning
I’ll send you a perfume, first to resolve
And procure sweat, and then prepare a bath
To cleanse and clear the cutis; against when
I’ll have an excellent new fucus made,
Resistive ’gainst the sun, the rain, or wind,
Which you shall lay on with a breath, or oil,
As you best like, and last some fourteen hours.
This change came timely, lady, for your health,
And the restoring your complexion,
Which Drusus’ choler had almost burnt up!
Wherein your fortune hath prescribed you better
Than art could do.

Thanks, good physician,
I’ll use my fortune, you shall see, with reverence.
Is my coach ready?

It attends your highness.


SCENE II.—An Apartment in the Palace.

Enter Sejanus.

If this be not revenge, when I have done
And made it perfect, let Egyptian slaves,
Parthians, and bare-foot Hebrews brand my face,
And print my body full of injuries.
Thou lost thyself, child Drusus, when thou thoughtst
Thou couldst outskip my vengeance; or outstand
The power I had to crush thee into air.
Thy follies now shall taste what kind of man
They have provoked, and this thy father’s house
Crack in the flame of my incensed rage,
Whose fury shall admit no shame or mean.—
Adultery! it is the lightest ill
I will commit A race of wicked acts
Shall flow out of my anger, and o’erspread
The world’s wide face, which no posterity
Shall e’er approve, nor yet keep silent: things
That for their cunning, close, and cruel mark,
Thy father would wish his: and shall, perhaps,
Carry the empty name, but we the prize.
On, then, my soul, and start not in thy course;
Though heaven drop sulphur, and hell belch out fire,
Laugh at the idle terrors; tell proud Jove,
Between his power and thine there is no odds:
’Twas only fear first in the world made gods!

Enter Tiberius, attended.

Is yet Sejanus come?

He’s here, dread Cæsar.

Let all depart that chamber, and the next.

[Exeunt Attendants.]

Sit down, my comfort. When the master prince
Of all the world, Sejanus, saith he fears,
Is it not fatal?

Yes, to those are fear’d.

And not to him?

Not, if he wisely turn
That part of fate he holdeth, first on them.

That nature, blood, and laws of kind forbid.

Do policy and state forbid it?


The rest of poor respects, then, let go by;
State is enough to make the act just, them guilty.

Long hate pursues such acts.

Whom hatred frights,
Let him not dream of sovereignty.

Are rites
Of faith, love, piety, to be trod down,
Forgotten, and made vain?

All for a crown.
The prince who shames a tyrant’s name to bear,
Shall never dare do any thing, but fear;
All the command of sceptres quite doth perish,
If it begin religious thoughts to cherish:
Whole empires fall, sway’d by those nice respects;
It is the license of dark deeds protects
Ev’n states most hated, when no laws resist
The sword. but that it acteth what it list.

Yet so, we may do all things cruelly,
Not safely.

Yes, and do them thoroughly.

Knows yet Sejanus whom we point at?

Or else my thought, my sense, or both do err:
’Tis Agrippina.

She, and her proud race.

Proud! dangerous, Cæsar: for in them apace
The father’s spirit shoots up. Germanicus
Lives in their looks, their gait, their form, t’ upbraid us
With his close death, if not revenge the same.

The act’s not known.

Not proved: but whispering Fame
Knowledge and proof doth to the jealous give,
Who, than to fail, would their own thought believe.
It is not safe, the children draw long breath,
That are provoked by a parent’s death.

It is as dangerous to make them hence,
If nothing but their birth be their offence.

Stay, till they strike at Cæsar; then their crime
Will be enough; but late and out of time For him to punish.

Do they purpose it?

You know, sir, thunder speaks not till it hit.
Be not secure; none swiftlier are opprest,
Than they whom confidence betrays to rest.
Let not your daring make your danger such:
All power is to be fear’d, where ’tis too much.
The youths are of themselves hot, violent,
Full of great thought; and that male-spirited dame,
Their mother, slacks no means to put them on,
By large allowance, popular presentings,
Increase of train and state, suing for titles;
Hath them commended with like prayers, like vows,
To the same gods, with Cæsar: days and nights
She spends in banquets and ambitious feasts
For the nobility; where Caius Silius,
Titius Sabinus, old Arruntius,
Asinius Gallus, Furnius, Regulus,
And others of that discontented list,
Are the prime guests. There, and to these, she tells
Whose niece she was, whose daughter, and whose wife.
And then must they compare her with Augusta,
Ay, and prefer her too; commend her form,
Extol her fruitfulness; at which a shower
Falls for the memory of Germanicus,
Which they blow over straight with windy praise,
And puffing hopes of her aspiring sons;
Who, with these hourly ticklings, grow so pleased,
And wantonly conceited of themselves,
As now, they stick not to believe they’re such
As these do give them out; and would be thought
More than competitors, immediate heirs.
Whilst to their thirst of rule, they win the rout
(That’s still the friend of novelty) with hope
Of future freedom, which on every change
That greedily, though emptily expects.
Cæsar, ’tis age in all things breeds neglects,
And princes that will keep old dignity
Must not admit too youthful heirs stand by;
Not their own issue; but so darkly set
As shadows are in picture, to give height
And lustre to themselves.

We will command
Their rank thoughts down, and with a stricter hand
Than we have yet put forth; their trains must bate,
Their titles, feasts, and factions.

Or your state.
But how, sir, will you work!

Confine them.

They are too great, and that too faint a blow
To give them now; it would have serv’d at first,
When with the weakest touch their knot had burst.
But, now, your care must be, not to detect
The smallest cord, or line of your suspect;
For such, who know the weight of prince’s fear,
Will, when they find themselves discover’d, rear
Their forces, like seen snakes, that else would lie
Roll’d in their circles, close: nought is more high,
Daring, or desperate, than offenders found;
Where guilt is, rage and courage both abound.
The course must be, to let them still swell up,
Riot, and surfeit on blind fortune’s cup;
Give them more place, more dignities, more style,
Call them to court, to senate; in the while,
Take from their strength some one or twain, or more,
Of the main factors, (it will fright the store,)
And, by some by-occasion. Thus, with slight
You shall disarm them first; and they, in night
Of their ambition, not perceive the train,
Till in the engine they are caught and slain.

We would not kill, if we knew how to save;
Yet, than a throne, ’tis cheaper give a grave.
Is there no way to bind them by deserts?

Sir, wolves do change their hair, but not their hearts.
While thus your thought unto a mean is tied,
You neither dare enough, nor do provide.
All modesty is fond: and chiefly where
The subject is no less compell’d to bear,
Than praise his sovereign’s acts.

We can no longer
Keep on our mask to thee, our dear Sejanus;
Thy thoughts are ours, in all, and we but proved
Their voice, in our designs, which by assenting
Hath more confirm’d us, than if heart’ning Jove
Had, from his hundred statues, bid us strike,
And at the stroke click’d all his marble thumbs.
But who shall first be struck?

First Caius Silius;
He is the most of mark, and most of danger:
In power and reputation equal strong,
Having commanded an imperial army
Seven years together, vanquish’d Sacrovir
In Germany, and thence obtain’d to wear
The ornaments triumphal. His steep fall,
By how much it doth give the weightier crack,
Will send more wounding terror to the rest,
Command them stand aloof, and give more way
To our surprising of the principal.

But what, Sabinus?

Let him grow a while,
His fate is not yet ripe: we must not pluck
At all together, lest we catch ourselves.
And there’s Arruntius too, he only talks.
But Sosia, Silius’ wife, would be wound in
Now, for she hath a fury in her breast,
More than hell ever knew; and would be sent
Thither in time. Then is there one Cremutius
Cordus, a writing fellow, they have got
To gather notes of the precedent times,
And make them into Annals; a most tart
And bitter spirit, I hear; who, under colour
Of praising those, doth tax the present state,
Censures the men, the actions, leaves no trick,
No practice unexamined, parallels
The times, the governments; a profest champion
For the old liberty-

A perishing wretch!
As if there were that chaos bred in things,
That laws and liberty would not rather choose
To be quite broken, and ta’en hence by us,
Than have the stain to be preserved by such.
Have we the means to make these guilty first?

Trust that to me: let Cæsar, by his power
But cause a formal meeting of the senate,
I will have matter and accusers ready.

But how? let us consult.

We shall misspend
The time of action. Counsels are unfit
In business, where all rest is more pernicious
Than rashness can be. Acts of this close kind
Thrive more by execution than advice.
There is no lingering in that work begun,
Which cannot praised be, until through done.

Our edicts shall forthwith command a court.
While I can live, I will prevent earth’s fury:
Ἐμοῦ θανόντος γαῖα μιχθήτω πυρι.


Enter Julius Posthumus.

My lord Sejanus—

Julius Posthumus!
Come with my wish! What news from Agrippina’s?

Faith, none. They all lock up themselves a’ late,
Or talk in character; I have not seen
A company so changed. Except they had
Intelligence by augury of our practice.—

When were you there?

Last night.

And what guests found you?

Sabinus, Silius, the old list, Arruntius, Furmus, and Gallus.

Would not these talk?

And yet we offer’d choice of argument. Satrius was with me.

Well: ’tis guilt enough
Their often meeting. You forgot to extol
The hospitable lady?

No; that trick
Was well put home, and had succeeded too,
But that Sabinus cough’d a caution out;
For she began to swell.

And may she burst!
Julius, I would have you go instantly
Unto the palace of the great Augusta,
And, by your kindest friend, get swift access;
Acquaint her with these meetings: tell the words
You brought me the other day, of Silius,
Add somewhat to them. Make her understand
The danger of Sabinus, and the times,
Out of his closeness. Give Arruntius’ words
Of malice against Cæsar; so, to Gallus:
But, above all, to Agrippina. Say,
As you may truly, that her infinite pride,
Propt with the hopes of her too fruitful womb,
With popular studies gapes for sovereignty,
And threatens Cæsar. Pray Augusta then,
That for her own, great Cæsar’s, and the public
safety, she be pleased to urge these dangers.
Cæsar is too secure, he must be told,
And best he’ll take it from a mother’s tongue.
Alas! what is’t for us to sound, to explore,
To watch, oppose, plot, practise, or prevent,
If he, for whom it is so strongly labour’d,
Shall, out of greatness and free spirit, be
Supinely negligent? our city’s now
Divided as in time o’ the civil war,
And men forbear not to declare themselves
Of Agrippina’s party. Every day
The faction multiplies; and will do more,
If not resisted: you can best enlarge it,
As you find audience. Noble Posthumus,
Commend me to your Prisca: and pray her,
She will solicit this great business,
To earnest and most present execution,
With all her utmost credit with Augusta.

I shall not fail in my instructions.


This second, from his mother, will well urge
Our late design, and spur on Cæsar’s rage;
Which else might grow remiss. The way to put
A prince in blood, is to present the shapes
Of dangers, greater than they are, like late,
Or early shadows; and, sometimes, to feign
Where there are none, only to make him fear?
His fear will make him cruel: and once enter’d,
He doth not easily learn to stop, or spare
Where he may doubt. This have I made my rule,
To thrust Tiberius into tyranny,
And make him toil, to turn aside those blocks,
Which I alone could not remove with safety,
Drusus once gone, Germanicus’ three sons
Would clog my way; whose guards have too much faith
To be corrupted: and their mother known
Of too, too unreproved a chastity,
To be attempted, as light Livia was.
Work then, my art, on Cæsar’s fears, as they
On those they fear ’till all my lets be clear’d,
And he in ruins of his house, and hate
Of all his subjects, bury his own state;
When with my peace and safety, I will rise,
By making him the public sacrifice.



Enter Satrius and Natta.

They’re grown exceeding circumspect, and wary.

They have us in the wind: and yet Arruntius
Cannot contain himself.

Tut, he’s not yet
Look’d after; there are others more desired
That are more silent.

Here he comes. Away.


Enter Sabinus, Arruntius and Cordus.

How is it, that these beagles haunt the house
Of Agrippina?

O, they hunt, they hunt!
There is some game here lodged, which they must rouse,
To make the great ones sport.

Did you observe
How they inveigh’d ’gainst Cæsar?

Ay, baits, baits,
For us to bite at: would I have my flesh
Torn by the public hook, these qualified hangmen
Should be my company.

Here comes another.

Domitius Afer passes over the stage.

Ay, there’s a man, Afer the orator!
One that hath phrases, figures, and fine flowers,
To strew his rhetoric with, and doth make haste,
To get him note, or name, by any offer
Where blood or gain be objects; steeps his words,
When he would kill, in artificial tears:
The crocodile of Tyber! him I love,
That man is mine; he hath my heart and voice
When I would curse! he, he.

Contemn the slaves,
Their present lives will be their future graves.


SCENE IV.—Another Apartment in the same.

Enter Silius, Agrippina, Nero and Sosia.

May’t please your highness not forget yourself;
I dare not, with my manners, to attempt
Your trouble farther.

Farewell, noble Silius!

Most royal princess.

Sosia stays with us?

She is your servant, and doth owe your grace
An honest, but unprofitable love.

How can that be, when there’s no gain but virtue’s?

You take the moral, not the politic sense.
I meant, as she is bold, and free of speech,
Earnest to utter what her zealous thought
Travails withal, in honour of your house;
Which act, as it is simply born in her,
Partakes of love and honesty; but may,
By the over-often, and unseason’d use,
Turn to your loss and danger: for your state
Is waited on by envies, as by eyes;
And every second guest your tables take
Is a fee’d spy, to observe who goes, who comes;
What conference you have, with whom, where, when.
What the discourse is, what the looks, the thoughts
Of every person there, they do extract,
And make into a substance.

Hear me, Silius.
Were all Tiberius’ body stuck with eyes,
And every wall and hanging in my house
Transparent, AS this lawn I wear, or air;
Yea, had Sejanus both his ears as long
As to my inmost closet, I would hate
To whisper any thought, or change an act,
To be made Juno’s rival. Virtue’s forces
Shew ever noblest in conspicuous courses.

’Tis great, and bravely spoken, like the spirit
Of Agrippina: yet, your highness knows,
There is nor loss nor shame in providence;
Few can, what all should do, beware enough.
You may perceive with what officious face,
Satrius, and Natta, Afer, and the rest.
Visit your house, of late, to enquire the secrets;
And with what bold and privileged art, they rail
Against Augusta, yea, and at Tiberius;
Tell tricks of Livia, and Sejanus; all
To excite, and call your indignation on,
That they might hear it at more liberty.

You’re too suspicious, Silius.

Pray the gods,
I be so, Agrippina; but I fear
Some subtle practice. They that durst to strike
At so exampless, and unblamed a life,
As that of the renowned Germanicus,
Will not sit down with that exploit alone:
He threatens many that hath injured one.

’Twere best rip forth their tongues, sear out their eyes.
When next they come.

A fit reward for spies.

Enter Drusus junior.

Hear you the rumour?


Drusus is dying.


That’s strange!

You were with him yesternight.

One met Eudemus the physician,
Sent for, but now; who thinks he cannot live.

Thinks! if it be arrived at that, he knows,
Or none.

’Tis quick! what should be his disease?

Poison, poison-

How, Silius!

What’s that?

Nay, nothing. There was late a certain blow
Given o’ the face.

Ay, to Sejanus.


And what of that?

I’m glad I gave it not.

But there is somewhat else?

Yes, private meetings,
With a great lady [sir], at a physician’s,
And a wife turn’d away.


Toys, mere toys:
What wisdom’s now in th’ streets, in the common mouth?

Fears, whisperings, tumults, noise,
I know not what: They say the Senate sit.

I’ll thither straight;
And see what’s in the forge.

Good Silius do; Sosia and I will in.

Haste you, my lords, I
To visit the sick prince; tender your loves,
And sorrows to the people. This Sejanus,
Trust my divining soul, hath plots on all:
No tree, that stops his prospect, but must fall.



SCENE I.—The Senate-House

Enter Præcones, Lictores, Sejanus, Varro, Latiaris, Cotta and Afer.

’Tis only you must urge against him, Varro;
Nor I nor Cæsar may appear therein,
Except in your defence, who are the consul;
And, under colour of late enmity
Between your father and his, may better do it,
As free from all suspicion of a practice.
Here be your notes, what points to touch at; read:
Be cunning in them. Afer has them too.

But is he summon’d?

No. It was debated
By Cæsar, and concluded as most fit
To take him unprepared.

And prosecute
All under name of treason.

I conceive.

Enter Sabinus, Gallus, Lepidus and Arruntius.

Drusus being dead, Cæsar will not be here.

What should the business of this senate be?

That can my subtle whisperers tell you: we
That are the good-dull-noble lookers on,
Are only call’d to keep the marble warm.
What should we do with those deep mysteries,
Proper to these fine heads? let them alone.
Our ignorance may, perchance, help us be saved
From whips and furies.

See, see, see their action!

Ay, now their heads do travail, now they work;
Their faces run like shittles; they are weaving
Some curious cobweb to catch flies.

They take their places.

What, so low!

O yes,
They must be seen to flatter Cæsar’s grief,
Though but in sitting.

Bid us silence.


Fathers conscript, may this our present meeting,
Turn fair, and fortunate to the common-wealth!

Enter Silius and other Senators.

See, Silius enters.

Hail, grave fathers!

Silius, forbear thy place.


Silius, stand forth,
The consul hath to charge thee.

Room for Cæsar.

Is he come too! nay then expect a trick.

Silius accused! sure he will answer nobly.

Enter Tiberius, attended.

We stand amazed, fathers, to behold
This general dejection. Wherefore sit
Rome’s consuls thus dissolved, as they had lost
All the remembrance both of style and place
It not becomes. No woes are of fit weight,
To make the honour of the empire stoop:
Though I, in my peculiar self, may meet
Just reprehension, that so suddenly,
And, in so fresh a grief, would greet the senate,
When private tongues, of kinsmen and allies,
Inspired with comforts, lothly are endured,
The face of men not seen, and scarce the day,
To thousands that communicate our loss.
Nor can I argue these of weakness; since
They take but natural ways; yet I must seek
For stronger aids, and those fair helps draw out
From warm embraces of the common-wealth.
Our mother, great Augusta, ’s struck with time,
Our self imprest with aged characters,
Drusus is gone, his children young and babes;
Our aims must now reflect on those that may
Give timely succour to these present ills,
And are our only glad-surviving hopes,
The noble issue of Germanicus,
Nero and Drusus: might it please the consul
Honour them in, they both attend without.
I would present them to the senate’s care,
And raise those suns of joy that should drink up
These floods of sorrow in your drowned eyes.

By Jove, I am not Œdipus enough
To understand this Sphynx.

The princes come.

Enter Nero and Drusus junior.

Approach you, noble Nero, noble Drusus.
These princes, fathers, when their parent died,
I gave unto their uncle, with this prayer,
That though he had proper issue of his own,
He would no less bring up, and foster these,
Than that self-blood; and by that act confirm
Their worths to him, and to posterity.
Drusus ta’en hence, I turn my prayers to you,
And ’fore our country, and our gods, beseech
You take, and rule Augustus’ nephew’s sons,
Sprung of the noblest ancestors; and so
Accomplish both my duty, and your own,
Nero, and Drusus, these shall be to you
In place of parents, these your fathers, these;
And not unfitly: for you are so born,
As all your good, or ill’s the common-wealth’s.
Receive them, you strong guardians; and blest gods,
Make all their actions answer to their bloods:
Let their great titles find increase by them,
Not they by titles. Set them as in place,
So in example, above all the Romans:
And may they know no rivals but themselves.
Let Fortune give them nothing; but attend
Upon their virtue: and that still come forth
Greater than hope, and better than their fame.
Relieve me, fathers, with your general voice.

May all the gods consent to Cæsar’s wish,
And add to any honours that may crown
The hopeful issue of Germanicus!

We thank you, reverend fathers, in their right.

If this were true now! but the space, the space
Between the breast and lips—Tiberius’ heart
Lies a thought further than another man’s. [Aside.]

My comforts are so flowing in my joys,
As, in them, all my streams of grief are lost,
No less than are land-waters in the sea,
Or showers in rivers; though their cause was such,
As might have sprinkled ev’n the gods with tears:
Yet, since the greater doth embrace the less,
We covetously obey.

Well acted, Cæsar. [Aside.]

And now I am the happy witness made
Of your so much desired affections
To this great issue, I could wish, the
Fates Would here set peaceful period to my days;
However to my labours, I entreat,
And beg it of this senate, some fit ease.

Laugh, fathers, laugh: have you no spleens about you?

The burden is too heavy I sustain
On my unwilling shoulders; and I pray
It may be taken off, and reconferred
Upon the consuls, or some other Roman,
More able, and more worthy.

Laugh on still. [Aside.]

Why this doth render all the rest suspected!

It poisons all.

O, do you taste it then?

It takes away my faith to any thing,
He shall hereafter speak.

Ay, to pray that,
Which would be to his head as hot as thunder,
’Gainst which he wears that charm should but the court
Receive him at his word.


For myself
I know my weakness, and so little covet,
Like some gone past, the weight that will oppress me,
As my ambition is the counter-point.

Finely maintained; good still!

But Rome, whose blood,
Whose nerves, whose life, whose very frame relies
On Cæsar’s strength, no less than heaven on Atlas,
Cannot admit it but with general ruin.

Ah! are you there to bring him off? [Aside.]

Let Cæsar
No more then urge a point so contrary
To Cæsar’s greatness, the grieved senate’s vows,
Or Rome’s necessity.

He comes about—

More nimbly than Vertumnus.

For the publick,
I may be drawn to shew I can neglect
All private aims, though I affect my rest;
But if the senate still command me serve,
I must be glad to practise my obedience.

You must and will, sir. We do know it. [Aside.]

Live long and happy, great and royal Cæsar;
The gods preserve thee and thy modesty,
Thy wisdom and thy innocence

Where is’t?
The prayer is made before the subject. [Aside.]

His meekness, Jove; his piety, his care,
His bounty—

And his subtility, I’ll put in:
Yet he’ll keep that himself, without the gods.
All prayers are vain for him. [Aside.]

We will not hold
Your patience, fathers, with long answer; but
Shall still contend to be what you desire,
And work to satisfy so great a hope.
Proceed to your affairs.

Now, Silius, guard thee;
The curtain’s drawing. Afer advanceth. [Aside.]


Cite Caius Silius.

Caius Silius!


The triumph that thou hadst in Germany
For thy late victory on Sacrovir,
Thou hast enjoy’d so freely, Caius Silius,
As no man it envied thee; nor would Cæsar,
Or Rome admit, that thou wert then defrauded
Of any honours thy deserts could claim,
In the fair service of the common-wealth:
But now, if, after all their loves and graces,
(Thy actions, and their courses being discover’d)
It shall appear to Cæsar and this senate,
Thou hast defiled those glories with thy crimes—


Patience, Silius.

Tell thy mule of patience;
I am a Roman. What are my crimes? proclaim them.
Am I too rich, too honest for the times?
Have I or treasure, jewels, land, or houses
That some informer gapes for? is my strength
Too much to be admitted, or my knowledge?
These now are crimes.

Nay, Silius, if the name
Of crime so touch thee, with what impotence
Wilt thou endure the matter to be search’d?

I tell thee, Afer, with more scorn than fear:
Employ your mercenary tongue and art.
Where’s my accuser?


Varro, the consul!
Is he thrust in? [Aside.]

’Tis I accuse thee, Silius.
Against the majesty of Rome, and Cæsar,
I do pronounce thee here a guilty cause,
First of beginning and occasioning,
Next, drawing out the war in Gallia,
For which thou late triumph’st; dissembling long
That Sacrovir to be an enemy,
Only to make thy entertainment more.
Whilst thou, and thy wife Sosia, poll’d the province:
Wherein, with sordid, base desire of gain,
Thou hast discredited thy actions’ worth,
And been a traitor to the state.

Thou liest.

I thank thee, Silius, speak so still and often.

If I not prove it, Cæsar, but unjustly
Have call’d him into trial; here I bind
Myself to suffer, what I claim against him;
And yield to have what I have spoke, confirm’d
By judgment of the court, and all good men.

Cæsar, I crave to have my cause deferr’d,
Till this man’s consulship be out.

We cannot,
Nor may we grant it.

Why? shall he design
My day of trial? Is he my accuser,
And must he be my judge?

It hath been usual,
And is a right that custom hath allow’d
The magistrate, to call forth private men;
And to appoint their day: which privilege
We may not in the consul see infringed,
By whose deep watches, and industrious care
It is so labour’d, as the common-wealth
Receive no loss, by any oblique course.

Cæsar, thy fraud is worse than violence.

Silius, mistake us not, we dare not use
The credit of the consul to thy wrong;
But only to preserve his place and power,
So far as it concerns the dignity
And honour of the state.

Believe him, Silius.

Why, so he may, Arruntius.

I say so.
And he may choose too.

By the Capitol,
And all our gods, but that the dear republic,
Our sacred laws, and just authority
Are interess’d therein, I should be silent.

Please Cæsar to give way unto his trial,
He shall have justice.

Nay, I shall have law;
Shall I not, Afer? speak.

Would you have more?

No, my well-spoken man, I would no more;
Nor less: might I enjoy it natural,.
Not taught to speak unto your present ends,
Free from thine, his, and all your unkind handling,
Furious enforcing, most unjust presuming,
Malicious, and manifold applying,
Foul wresting, and impossible construction.

He raves, he raves.

Thou durst not tell me so,
Hadst thou not Cæsar’s warrant. I can see
Whose power condemns me.

This betrays his spirit:
This doth enough declare him what he is.

What am I? speak.

An enemy to the state.

Because I am an enemy to thee,
And such corrupted ministers o’ the state,
That here art made a present instrument
To gratify it with thine own disgrace.

This, to the consul, is most insolent,
And impious.

Ay, take part. Reveal yourselves,
Alas! I scent not your confederacies,
Your plots, and combinations! I not know
Minion Sejanus hates me: and that all,
This boast of law, and law, is but a form,
A net of Vulcan’s filing, a mere ingine,
To take that life by a pretext of justice,
Which you pursue in malice! I want brain,
Or nostril to persuade me, that your ends,
And purposes are made to what they are,
Before my answer! O, you equal gods,
Whose justice not a world of wolf-turn’d men
Shall make me to accuse, howe’er provoked;
Have I for this so oft engaged myself?
Stood in the heat and fervour of a fight,
When Phœbus sooner hath forsook the day
Than I the field, against the blue-eyed Gauls,
And crisped Germans? when our Roman eagles
Have fann’d the fire, with their labouring wings,
And no blow dealt, that left not death behind it?
When I have charged, alone, into the troops
Of curl’d Sicambrians, routed them, and came
Not off, with backward ensigns of a slave;
But forward marks, wounds on my breast and face,
Were meant to thee, O Cæsar, and thy Rome?
And have I this return! did I, for this,
Perform so noble and so brave defeat
On Sacrovir! O Jove, let it become me
To boast my deeds, when he whom they concern,
Shall thus forget them.

Silius, Silius,
These are the common customs of thy blood,
When it is high with wine, as now with rage:
This well agrees with that intemperate vaunt,
Thou lately mad’st at Agrippina’s table,
That, when all other of the troops were prone
To fall into rebellion, only thine
Remain’d in their obedience. Thou wert he
That saved the empire, which had then been lost
Had but thy legions, there, rebell’d, or mutined;
Thy virtue met, and fronted every peril.
Thou gav’st to Cæsar, and to Rome their surety;
Their name, their strength, their spirit, and their state,
Their being was a donative from thee.

Well worded, and most like an orator.

Is this true, Silius?

Save thy question, Cæsar;
Thy spy of famous credit hath affirm’d it.

Excellent Roman!

He doth answer stoutly.

If this be so, there needs no farther cause
Of crime against him.

What can more impeach
The royal dignity and state of Cæsar,
Than to be urged with a benefit He cannot pay?

In this, all Ceesar’s fortune
Is made unequal to the courtesy.

His means are clean destroyed that should requite.

Nothing is great enough for Silius’ merit.

Gallus on that side too! [Aside.]

Come, do not hunt,
And labour so about for circumstance,
To make him guilty whom you have foredoom’d:
Take shorter ways, I’ll meet your purposes.
The words were mine, and more I now will say:
Since I have done thee that great service, Cæsar,
Thou still hast fear’d me; and in place of grace,
Return’d me hatred: so soon all best turns,
With doubtful princes, turn deep injuries
In estimation, when they greater rise
Than can be answer’d. Benefits, with you,
Are of no longer pleasure, than you can
With ease restore them; that transcended once,
Your studies are not how to thank, but kill.
It is your nature, to have all men slaves
To you, but you acknowledging to none.
The means that make your greatness, must not come
In mention of it; if it do, it takes
So much away, you think: and that which help’d,
Shall soonest perish, if it stand in eye,
Where it may front, or but upbraid the high.

Suffer him speak no more.

Note but his spirit.

This shews him in the rest.

Let him be censured.

He hath spoke enough to prove him Cæsar’s foe.

His thoughts look through his words.

A censure.

Stay, most officious senate, I shall straight
Delude thy fury. Silius hath not placed
His guards within him, against fortune’s spite,
So weakly, but he can escape your gripe
That are but hands of fortune: she herself,
When virtue doth oppose, must lose her threats!
All that can happen in humanity,
The frown of Cæsar, proud Sejanus’ hatred,
Base Varro’s spleen, and Afer’s bloodying tongue,
The senate’s servile flattery, and these
Muster’d to kill, I’m fortified against;
And can look down upon: they are beneath me.
It is not life whereof I stand enamour’d;
Nor shall my end make me accuse my fate.
The coward and the valiant man must fall,
Only the cause and manner how, discerns them:
Which then are gladdest, when they cost us dearest.
Romans, if any here be in this senate,
Would know to mock Tiberius’ tyranny,
Look upon Silius, and so learn to die.

[Stabs himself.]

O desperate act!

An honourable hand!

Look, is he dead?

’Twas nobly struck, and home.

My thought did prompt him to it. Farewell. Silius.
Be famous ever for thy great example.

We are not pleased in this sad accident,
That thus hath stalled, and abused our mercy,
Intended to preserve thee, noble Roman,
And to prevent thy hopes.

Excellent wolf!
Now he is full he howls. [Aside.]

Cæsar doth wrong
His dignity and safety thus to mourn
The deserv’d end of so profest a traitor,
And doth, by this his lenity, instruct
Others as factious to the like offence.

The confiscation merely of his state
Had been enough.

O, that was gaped for then? [Aside.]

Remove the body.

Let citation Go out for Sosia.

Let her be proscribed:
And for the goods, I think it fit that half
Go to the treasure, half unto the children.

With leave of Cæsar, I would think that fourth,
The which the law doth cast on the informers,
Should be enough; the rest go to the children.
Wherein the prince shall shew humanity,
And bounty; not to force them by their want,
Which in their parents’ trespass they deserv’d,
To take ill courses.

It shall please us.

Out of necessity. This Lepidus
Is grave and honest, and I have observed
A moderation still in all his censures.

And bending to the better—Stay, who’s this?

Enter Satrius and Natta, with Cremutius Cordus guarded.

Cremutius Cordus! What! is he brought in?

More blood into the banquet! Noble Cordus,
I wish thee good: be as thy writings, free,
And honest.

What is he?

For the Annals, Cæsar.

Cremutius Cordus!


Satrius Secundus,
Pinnarius Natta, you are his accusers.

Two of Sejanus’ blood-hounds, whom he breeds
With human flesh, to bay at citizens.

Stand forth before the senate, and confront him.

I do accuse thee here, Cremutius Cordus,
To be a man factious and dangerous,
A sower of sedition in the state,
A turbulent and discontented spirit,
Which I will prove from thine own writings, here,
The Annals thou hast publish’d; where thou bit’st
The present age, and with a viper’s tooth,
Being a member of it, dar’st that ill
Which never yet degenerous bastard did
Upon his parent.

To this, I subscribe;
And, forth a world of more particulars,
Instance in only one: comparing men,
And times, thou praisest Brutus, and affirm’st
That Cassius was the last of all the Romans.

How! what are we then?

What is Cæsar? nothing?

My lords, this strikes at every Roman’s private,
In whom reigns gentry, and estate of spirit,
To have a Brutus brought in parallel,
A parricide, an enemy of his country,
Rank’d, and preferr’d to any real worth
That Rome now holds. This is most strangely invective,
Most full of spite, and insolent upbraiding.
Nor is’t the time alone is here disprised,
But the whole man of time, yea, Cæsar’s self
Brought in disvalue; and he aimed at most,
By oblique glance of his licentious pen.
Cæsar, if Cassius were the last of Romans,
Thou hast no name.

Let’s hear him answer. Silence!

So innocent I am of fact, my lords,
As but my words are argued: yet those words
Not reaching either prince or prince’s parent:
The which your law of treason comprehends.
Brutus and Cassius I am charged to have praised;
Whose deeds, when many more, besides myself,
Have writ, not one hath mention’d without honour.
Great Titus Livius, great for eloquence,
And faith amongst us, in his history,
With so great praises Pompey did extol,
As oft Augustus call’d him a Pompeian:
Yet this not hurt their friendship. In his book
He often names Scipio, Afranius,
Yea, the same Cassius, and this Brutus too,
As worthiest men; not thieves and parricides,
Which notes upon their fames are now imposed.
Asinius Pollio’s writings quite throughout
Give them a noble memory; so Messala
Renown’d his general Cassius: yet both these
Lived with Augustus, full of wealth and honours,
To Cicero’s book, where Cato was heav’d up
Equal with Heaven, what else did Cæsar answer,
Being then dictator, but with a penn’d oration,
As if before the judges? Do but see
Antonius’ letters; read but Brutus’ pleadings:
What vile reproach they hold against Augustus,
False, I confess, but with much bitterness.
The epigrams of Bibaculus and Catullus
Are read, full stuft with spite of both the Cæsars;
Yet deified Julius, and no less Augustus,
Both bore them, and contemn’d them: I not know,
Promptly to speak it, whether done with more
Temper, or wisdom; for such obloquies
If they despised be, they die supprest;
But if with rage acknowledg’d, they are confest.
The Greeks I slip, whose license not alone,
But also lust did scape unpunished:
Or where some one, by chance, exception took,
He words with words revenged. But, in my work,
What could be aim’d more free, or farther off
From the time’s scandal, than to write of those,
Whom death from grace or hatred had exempted?
Did I, with Brutus and with Cassius,
Arm’d, and possess’d of the Philippi fields,
Incense the people in the civil cause,
With dangerous speeches? Or do they, being slain
Seventy years since, as by their images,
Which not the conqueror hath defaced, appears,
Retain that guilty memory with writers?
Posterity pays every man his honour;
Nor shall there want, though I condemned am,
That will not only Cassius well approve,
And of great Brutus’ honour mindful be,
But that will also mention make of me.

Freely and nobly spoken!

With good temper;
I like him, that he is not moved with passion.

He puts them to their whisper.

Take him hence;
We shall determine of him at next sitting.

[Exeunt Officers with Cordus.]

Mean time, give order, that his books be burnt,
To the aediles.

You have well advised.

It fits not such licentious things should live
T’upbraid the age.

If the age were good, they might.

Let them be burnt.

All sought, and burnt to-day.

The court is up; lictors, resume the fasces.

[Exeunt all but Arruntius, Sabinus and Lepidus.]

Let them be burnt! O, how ridiculous
Appears the senate’s brainless diligence,
Who think they can, with present power, extinguish
The memory of all succeeding times!

’Tis true; when, contrary, the punishment
Of wit, doth make the authority increase.
Nor do they aught, that use this cruelty
Of interdiction, and this rage of burning,
But purchase to themselves rebuke and shame,
And to the writers an eternal name.

It is an argument the times are sore,
When virtue cannot safely be advanced;
Nor vice reproved.

Ay, noble Lepidus;
Augustus well foresaw what we should suffer
Under Tiberius, when he did pronounce
The Roman race most wretched, that should live
Between so slow jaws, and so long a bruising.


SCENE II.—A Room in the Palace.

Enter Tiberius and Sejanus.

This business hath succeeded well, Sejanus,
And quite removed all jealousy of practice
’Gainst Agrippina, and our nephews. Now,
We must bethink us how to plant our ingine,
For th’ other pair, Sabinus and Arruntius,
And Gallus too: howe’er he flatter us,
His heart we know.

Give it some respite, Cæsar.
Time shall mature, and bring to perfect crown,
What we, with so good vultures have begun:
Sabinus shall be next.

Rather Arruntius.

By any means, preserve him. His frank tongue
Being let the reins, would take away all thought
Of malice, in your course against the rest:
We must keep him to stalk with.

Dearest head,
To thy most fortunate design I yield it.

Sir,—I have been so long train’d up in grace,
First with your father, great Augustus; since,
With your most happy bounties so familiar
As I not sooner would commit my hopes
Or wishes to the gods. than to your ears.
Nor have I ever, yet, been covetous
Of over-bright and dazzling honour; rather
To watch and travail in great Cæsar’s safety,
With the most common soldier.

’Tis confest.

The only gain, and which I count most fair
Of all my fortunes, is, that mighty Cæsar
Has thought me worthy his alliance. Hence
Begin my hopes.


I have heard, Augustus,
In the bestowing of his daughter, thought
But even of gentlemen of Rome: if so,—
I know not how to hope so great a favour—
But if a husband should be sought for Livia,
And I he had in mind, as Cæsar’s friend,
I would but use the glory of the kindred:
It should not make me slothful, or less caring
For Cæsar’s state: it were enough to me
It did confirm, and strengthen my weak house,
Against the now unequal opposition
Of Agrippina; and for dear regard
Unto my children, this I wish: myself
Have no ambition farther than to end
My days in service of so dear a master.

We cannot but commend thy piety,
Most loved Sejanus, in acknowledging
Those bounties; which we, faintly, such remember—
But to thy suit. The rest of mortal men,
In all their drifts and counsels, pursue profit;
Princes alone are of a different sort,
Directing their main actions still to fame:
We therefore will take time to think and answer.
For Livia she can best, herself, resolve
If she will marry, after Drusus, or
Continue in the family; besides,
She hath a mother, and a grandam yet,
Whose nearer counsels she may guide her by:
But I will simply deal. That enmity
Thou fear’st in Agrippina, would burn more,
If Livia’s marriage should, as ’twere in parts,
Divide the imperial house; an emulation
Between the women might break forth; and discord
Ruin the sons and nephews on both hands.
What if it cause some present difference?
Thou art not safe, Sejanus, if thou prove it.
Canst thou believe, that Livia, first the wife
To Caius Cæsar, then my Drusus, now
Will be contented to grow old with thee,
Born but a private gentleman of Rome,
And raise thee with her loss, if not her shame?
Or say that I should wish it, canst thou think
The senate, or the people (who have seen
Her brother, father, and our ancestors,
In highest place of empire) will endure it!
The state thou hold’st already, is in talk;
Men murmur at thy greatness; and the noble!
Stick not, in public, to upbraid thy climbing
Above our father’s favours, or thy scale:
And dare accuse me, from their hate to thee.
Be wise, dear friend. We would not hide these things,
For friendship’s dear respect: Nor will we stand
Adverse to thine, or Livia’s designments.
What we have purposed to thee, in our thought,
And with what near degrees of love to bind thee,
And make thee equal to us; for the present,
We will forbear to speak. Only thus much
Believe, our loved Sejanus, we not know
That height in blood or honour, which thy virtue
And mind to us, may not aspire with merit.
And this we’ll publish on all watch’d occasion
The senate or the people shall present.

I am restored, and to my sense again,
Which I had lost in this so blinding suit.
Cæsar hath taught me better to refuse,
Than I knew how to ask. How pleaseth Cæsar
T’ embrace my late advice for leaving Rome!

We are resolved.

Here are some motives more,

[Gives him a paper.]

Which I have thought on since, may more confirm.

Careful Sejanus! we will straight peruse them:
Go forward in our main design, and prosper.


If those but take, I shall. Dull, heavy Cæsar!
Wouldst thou tell me, thy favours were made crimes,
And that my fortunes were esteem’d thy faults,
That thou for me wert hated, and not think
I would with winged haste prevent that change,
When thou might’st win all to thyself again,
By forfeiture of me! Did those fond words
Fly swifter from thy lips, than this my brain,
This sparkling forge, created me an armour
T’ encounter chance and thee? Well, read my charms,
And may they lay that hold upon thy senses,
As thou hadst snuft up hemlock, or ta’en down
The juice of poppy and of mandrakes. Sleep,
Voluptuous Cæsar, and security
Seize on thy stupid powers, and leave them dead
To public cares; awake but to thy lusts,
The strength of which makes thy libidinous soul
Itch to leave Rome! and I have thrust it on;
With blaming of the city business,
The multitude of suits, the confluence
Of suitors; then their importunacies,
The manifold distractions he must suffer,
Besides ill-rumours, envies, and reproaches,
All which a quiet and retired life,
Larded with ease and pleasure, did avoid:
And yet for any weighty and great affair,
The fittest place to give the soundest counsels.
By this I shall remove him both from thought
And knowledge of his own most dear affairs;
Draw all dispatches through my private hands;
Know his designments, and pursue mine own;
Make mine own strengths by giving suits and places.
Conferring dignities and offices;
And these that hate me now, wanting access
To him, will make their envy none, or less:
For when they see me arbiter of all,
They must observe; or else, with Cæsar fall.


SCENE III.—Another Room in the same.

Enter Tiberius.

To marry Livia! will no less, Sejanus,
Content thy aim? no lower object? well!
Thou know’st how thou art wrought into our trust;
Woven in our design; and think’st we must
Now use thee, whatsoe’er thy projects are:
’Tis true. But yet with caution and fit care.
And, now we better think—who’s there within?

Enter an Officer.


To leave our journey off, were sin
’Gainst our decreed delights; and would appear
Doubt; or, what less becomes a prince, low fear.
Yet doubt hath law, and fears have their excuse.
Where princes’ states plead necessary use;
As ours doth now: more in Sejanus’ pride,
Than all fell Agrippina’s hates beside.
Those are the dreadful enemies we raise
With favours, and make dangerous with praise;
The injured by us may have will alike,
But ’tis the favourite hath the power to strike;
And fury ever boils more high and strong,
Heat with ambition, than revenge of wrong.
’Tis then a part of supreme skill, to grace
No man too much; but hold a certain space
Between the ascender’s rise, and thine own flat,
Lest, when all rounds be reach’d, his aim be that.
’Tis thought. [Aside.]
Is Macro in the palace? see:
If not, go seek him, to come to us.—

[Exit Officer.]

He must be the organ we must work by now;
Though none less apt for trust: need doth allow
What choice would not. I have heard that aconite,
Being timely taken, hath a healing might
Against the scorpion’s stroke: the proof we’ll give:
That, while two poisons wrestle, we may live.
He hath a spirit too working to be used
But to the encounter of his like; excused
Are wiser sov’reigns then, that raise one ill
Against another, and both safely kill:
The prince that feeds great natures, they will slay him;
Who nourisheth a lion must obey him.—

Re-enter Officer with Macro.

Macro, we sent for you.

I heard so, Cæsar.

Leave us awhile.—

[Exit Officer.]

When you shall know. good Macro,
The causes of our sending, and the ends,
You will then hearken nearer; and be pleas’d
You stand so high both in our choice and trust.

The humblest place in Cæsar’s choice or trust,
May make glad Macro proud; without ambition.
Save to do Cæsar service.

Leave your courtings.
We are in purpose, Macro, to depart
The city for a time, and see Campania;
Not for our pleasures, but to dedicate
A pair of temples, one to Jupiter
At Capua; th’ other at Nola, to Augustus:
In which great work, perhaps our stay will be
Beyond our will produced...Now since we are
Not ignorant what danger may be born
Out of our shortest absence in a state
So subject unto envy, and embroil’d
With hate and faction; we have thought on thee,
Amongst a field of Romans, worthiest Macro,
To be our eye and ear: to keep strict watch
On Agrippina, Nero, Drusus; ay,
And on Sejanus: not that we distrust
His loyalty, or do repent one grace
Of all that heap we have conferred on him;
For that were to disparage our election,
And call that judgment now in doubt, which then
Seem’d as unquestion’d as an oracle-
But, greatness hath his cankers. Worms and moths
Breed out of too much humour, in the things
Which after they consume, transferring quite
The substance of their makers into themselves.
Macro is sharp, and apprehends: besides,
I know him subtle, close, wise, and well-read
In man, and his large nature; he hath studied
Affections, passions, knows their springs, their ends,
Which way, and whether they will work: ’tis proof
Enough of his great merit, that we trust him.
Then to a point, because our conference
Cannot be long without suspicion—
Here, Macro, we assign thee, both to spy,
Inform, and chastise; think, and use thy means,
Thy ministers, what, where, on whom thou wilt;
Explore, plot, practise: all thou dost in this
Shall be, as if the Senate, or the laws
Had given it privilege, and thou thence styled
The saviour both of Cæsar and of Rome.
We will not take thy answer but in act:
Whereto, as thou proceed’st, we hope to hear
By trusted messengers. If’t be inquired,
Wherefore we call’d you, say you have in charge
To see our chariots ready, and our horse.—
Be still our loved and, shortly, honour’d Macro.


I will not ask, why Cæsar bids do this;
But joy that he bids me. It is the bliss
Of courts to be employ’d, no matter how;
A prince’s power makes all his actions virtue.
We, whom he works by, are dumb instruments,
To do, but not inquire: his great intents
Are to be served, not search’d. Yet, as that bow
Is most in hand, whose owner best doth know
To affect his aims; so let that statesman hope
Most use, most price, can hit his prince’s scope.
Nor must he look at what, or whom to strike,
But loose at all; each mark must be alike.
Were it to plot against the fame, the life
Of one, with whom I twinn’d; remove a wife
From my warm side, as loved as is the air;
Practise sway each parent; draw mine heir
In compass, though but one; work all my kin
To swift perdition; leave no untrain’d engine,
For friendship, or for innocence; nay, make
The gods all guilty; I would undertake
This, being imposed me, both with gain and ease:
The way to rise is to obey and please.
He that will thrive in state, he must neglect
The trodden paths that truth and right respect;
And prove new, wilder ways: for virtue there
Is not that narrow thing, she is elsewhere;
Men’s fortune there is virtue; reason their will;
Their license, law; and their observance, skill.
Occasion is their foil; conscience, their stain;
Profit their lustre; and what else is, vain.
If then it be the lust of Cæsar’s power,
To have raised Sejanus up, and in an hour
O’erturn him, tumbling down, from height of all;
We are his ready engine: and his fall
May be our rise. It is no uncouth thing
To see fresh buildings from old ruins spring.



SCENE I.—An Apartment in AGRIPPINA’S House.

Enter Gallus and Agrippina.

You must have patience, royal Agrippina.

I must have vengeance, first; and that were nectar
Unto my famish’d spirits. O, my fortune,
Let it be sudden thou prepar’st against me;
Strike all my powers of understanding blind.
And ignorant of destiny to come!
Let me not fear that cannot hope.

Dear princess,
These tyrannies on yourself, are worse than Cæsar’s.

Is this the happiness of being born great?
Still to be aim’d at? still to be suspected?
To live the subject of all jealousies?
At least the colour made, if not the ground
To every painted danger? who would not
Choose once to fall, than thus to hang for ever?

You might be safe if you would—

What, my Gallus!
Be lewd Sejanus’ strumpet, or the bawd
To Cæsar’s lusts, he now is gone to practise?
Not these are safe, where nothing is. Yourself,
While thus you stand but by me, are not safe.
Was Silius safe? or the good Sosia safe?
Or was my niece, dear Claudia Pulchra, safe,
Or innocent Furnius? they that latest have
(By being made guilty) added reputation
To Afer’s eloquence? O, foolish friends,
Could not so fresh example warn your loves,
But you must buy my favours with that loss
Unto yourselves; and when you might perceive
That Cæsar’s cause of raging must forsake him,
Before his will! Away, good Gallus, leave me.
Here to be seen, is danger; to speak, treason:
To do me least observance, is call’d faction.
You are unhappy in me, and I in all.
Where are my sons, Nero and Drusus? We
Are they be shot at; let us fall apart;
Not in our ruins, sepulchre our friends.
Or shall we do some action like offence,
To mock their studies that would make us faulty,
And frustrate practice by preventing it?
The danger’s like: for what they can contrive,
They will make good. No innocence is safe,
When power contests: nor can they trespass more,
Whose only being was all crime before.

Enter Nero, Drusus and Caligula.

You hear Sejanus is come back from Cæsar?

No. How? disgraced?

More graced now than ever.

By what mischance?

A fortune like enough
Once to be bad.

But turn’d too good to both.

What was’t?

Tiberius sitting at his meat,
In a farm-house they call Spelunca, sited
By the sea-side, among the Fundane hills,
Within a natural cave; part of the grot,
About the entry, fen, and overwhelm’d
Some of the waiters; others ran away:
Only Sejanus with his knees, hands, face,
O’erhanging Cæsar, did oppose himself
To the remaining ruins, and was found
In that so labouring posture by the soldiers
That came to succour him. With which adventure,
He hath so fix’d himself in Cæsar’s trust,
As thunder cannot move him, and is come
With all the height of Cæsar’s praise to Rome.

And power, to turn those ruins all on us;
And bury whole posterities beneath them.
Nero, and Drusus, and Caligula,
Your places are the next, and therefore most
In their offence. Think on your birth and blood.
Awake your spirits, meet their violence;
’Tis princely when a tyrant doth oppose,
And is a fortune sent to exercise
Your virtue, as the wind doth try strong trees,
Who by vexation grow more sound and firm.
After your father’s fall, and uncle’s fate,
What can you hope, but all the change of stroke
That force or sleight can give? then stand upright;
And though you do not act, yet suffer nobly:
Be worthy of my womb, and take strong cheer;
What we do know will come, we should not fear.


SCENE II.—The Street.

Enter Macro.

Return’d so soon! renew’d in trust and grace!
Is Cæsar then so weak, or hath the place
But wrought this alteration with the air;
And he, on next remove, will all repair?
Macro, thou art engaged: and what before
Was public; now, must be thy private, more.
The weal of Cæsar, fitness did imply;
But thine own fate confers necessity
On thy employment; and the thoughts born nearest
Unto ourselves, move swiftest still, and dearest.
If he recover, thou art lost; yea, all
The weight of preparation to his fall
Will turn on thee, and crush thee: therefore strike
Before he settle, to prevent the like
Upon thyself. He doth his vantage know,
That makes it home, and gives the foremost blow.



Enter Latiaris, Rufus and Opsius.

It is a service lord Sejanus will
See well requited, and accept of nobly.
Here place yourself between the roof and ceiling;
And when I bring him to his words of danger,
Reveal yourselves, and take him.

Is he come?

I’ll now go fetch him.


With good speed.—I long
To merit from the state in such an action.

I hope, it will obtain the consulship
For one of us...

We cannot think of less,
To bring in one so dangerous as Sabinus.

He was follower of Germanicus,
And still is an observer of his wife
And children, though they be declined in grace
A daily visitant, keeps them company
In private and in public, and is noted
To be the only client of the house:
Pray Jove, he will be free to Latiaris.

He’s allied to him, and doth trust him well.

And he’ll requite his trust!

To do an office
So grateful to the state, I know no man
But would strain nearer bands, than kindred—

I hear them come.

Shift to our holes with silence.

[They retire.]

Re-enter Latiaris and Sabinus.

It is a noble constancy you shew
To this afflicted house; that not like others,
The friends of season, you do follow fortune,
And, in the winter of their fate, forsake
The place whose glories warm’d you. You are just,
And worthy such a princely patron’s love,
As was the world’s renown’d Germanicus:
Whose ample merit when I call to thought,
And see his wife and issue, objects made
To so much envy, jealousy, and hate;
It makes me ready to accuse the gods
Of negligence, as men of tyranny.

They must be patient, so must we.

O Jove,
What will become of us or of the times,
When, to be high or noble, are made crimes,
When land and treasure are most dangerous faults!

Nay, when our table, yea our bed, assaults
Our peace and safety? when our writings are,
By any envious instruments, that dare
Apply them to the guilty, made to speak
What they will have to fit their tyrannous wreak?
When ignorance is scarcely innocence;
And knowledge made a capital offence!
When not so much, but the bare empty shade
Of liberty is raft us; and we made
The prey to greedy vultures and vile spies,
That first transfix us with their murdering eyes.

Methinks the genius of the Roman race
Should not be so extinct, but that bright flame
Of liberty might be revived again,
(Which no good man but. with his life should lose)
And we not sit like spent and patient fools,
Still puffing in the dark at one poor coal,
Held on by hope till the last spark is out.
The cause is public, and the honour, name,
The immortality of every soul,
That is not bastard or a slave in Rome,
Therein concern’d: whereto, if men would change
The wearied arm, and for the weighty shield
So long sustain’d, employ the facile sword,
We might soon have assurance of our vows.
This ass’s fortitude doth tire us all:
It must be active valour must redeem
Our loss, or none. The rock and our hard steel
Should meet to enforce those glorious fires again,
Whose splendour cheer’d the world, and heat gave life,
No less than doth the sun’s.

’Twere better stay
In lasting darkness, and despair of day.
No ill should force the subject undertake
Against the sovereign, more than hell should make
The gods do wrong. A good man should and must
Sit rather down with loss, than rise unjust.
Though, when the Romans first did yield themselves
To one man’s power, they did not mean their lives,
Their fortunes and their liberties, should be
His absolute spoil, as purchased by the sword.

Why we are worse, if to be slaves, and bond
To Cæsar’s slave be such, the proud Sejanus!
He that is all, does all, gives Cæsar leave
To hide his ulcerous and anointed face,
With his bald crown at Rhodes, while he here stalks
Upon the heads of Romans, and their princes,
Familiarly to empire.

Now you touch
A point indeed, wherein he shews his art,
As well as power.

And villainy in both.
Do you observe where Livia lodges? how
Drusus came dead? what men have been cut off?

Yes, those are things removed: I nearer look’d
Into his later practice, where he stands
Declared a master in his mystery.
First, ere Tiberius went, he wrought his fear
To think that Agrippina sought his death.
Then put those doubts in her; sent her oft word.
Under the show of friendship, to beware
Of Cæsar, for he laid to poison her:
Drave them to frowns, to mutual jealousies,
Which, now, in visible hatred are burst out.
Since, he hath had his hired instruments
To work on Nero, and to heave him up;
To tell him Cæsar’s old, that all the people,
Yea, all the army have their eyes on him;
That both do long to have him undertake
Something of worth, to give the world a hope;
Bids him to court their grace: the easy youth
Perhaps gives ear, which straight he writes to Cæsar;
And with this comment: See yon dangerous boy;
Note but the practice of the mother, there;
She’s tying him for purposes at hand,
With men of sword. Here’s Cæsar put in fright
’Gainst son and mother. Yet, he leaves not thus.
The second brother, Drusus, a fierce nature,
And fitter for his snares, because ambitious
And full of envy, him he clasps and hugs,
Poisons with praise, tells him what hearts he wears,
How bright he stands in popular expectance;
That Rome doth suffer with him in the wrong
His mother does him, by preferring Nero:
Thus sets he them asunder, each ’gainst other,
Projects the course that serves him to condemn,
Keeps in opinion of a friend to all,
And all drives on to ruin.

Cæsar sleeps,
And nods at this.

Would he might ever sleep,
Bogg’d in his filthy lusts!

Opsius and Rufus rush in.

Treason to Cæsar!

Lay hands upon the traitor, Latiaris,
Or take the name thyself.

I am for Cæsar.

Am I then catch’d?

How think you, sir? you are.

Spies of this head, so white, so full of years!
Well, my most reverend monsters, you may live
To see yourselves thus snared.

Away with him!

Hale him away.

To be a spy for traitors,
Is honourable vigilance.

You do well,
My most officious instruments of state;
Men of all uses: drag me hence, away.
The year is well begun, and I fall fit
To be an offering to Sejanus. Go!

Cover him with his garments, hide his face.

It shall not need. Forbear your rude assault.
The fault’s not shameful, villainy makes a fault.


SCENE IV.—The Street before AGRIPPINA’S House.

Enter Macro and Caligula.

Sir, but observe how thick your dangers meet
In his clear drifts! your mother and your brothers,
Now cited to the senate; their friend Gallus,
Feasted to-day by Cæsar, since committed!
Sabinus here we met, hurried to fetters:
The senators all strook with fear and silence,
Save those whose hopes depend not on good means,
But force their private prey from public spoil.
And you must know, if here you stay, your state
Is sure to be the subject of his hate,
As now the object.

What would you advise me?

To go for Capreae presently; and there
Give up yourself entirely to your uncle.
Tell Cæsar (since your mother is accused
To fly for succours to Augustus’ statue,
And to the army with your brethren) you
Have rather chose to place your aids in him,
Than live suspected; or in hourly fear
To be thrust out, by bold Sejanus’ plots:
Which, you shall confidently urge to be
Most full of peril to the state, and Cæsar,
As being laid to his peculiar ends,
And not to be let run with common safety.
All which, upon the second, I’ll make plain,
So both shall love and trust with Cæsar gain.

Away then, let’s prepare us for our journey.


SCENE V.—Another part of the Street.

Enter Arruntius.

Still dost thou suffer, heaven! will no flame,
No heat of sin, make thy just wrath to boil
In thy distemper’d bosom, and o’erflow
The pitchy blazes of impiety,
Kindled beneath thy throne! Still canst thou sleep,
Patient, while vice doth make an antick face
At thy dread power, and blow dust and smoke
Into thy nostrils! Jove! will nothing wake thee?
Must vile Sejanus pull thee by the beard,
Ere thou wilt open thy black-lidded eye,
And look him dead? Well! snore on, dreaming gods,
And let this last of that proud giant-race
Heave mountain upon mountain, ’gainst your state—
Be good unto me, Fortune and you powers,
Whom I, expostulating, have profaned;
I see what’s equal with a prodigy,
A great, a noble Roman, and an honest,
Live an old man!—

Enter Lepidus.

O Marcus Lepidus,
When is our turn to bleed? Thyself and I,
Without our boast, are almost all the few
Left to be honest in these impious times.

What we are left to be, we will be, Lucius;
Though tyranny did stare as wide as death,
To fright us from it.

’T hath so on Sabinus.

I saw him now drawn from the Gemonies,
And, what increased the direness of the fact,
His faithful dog, upbraiding all us Romans,
Never forsook the corps, but, seeing it thrown
Into the stream, leap’d in, and drown’d with it.

O act, to be envied him of us men!
We are the next the hook lays hold on, Marcus:
What are thy arts, good patriot, teach them me,
That have preserved thy hairs to this white dye,
And kept so reverend and so dear a head
Safe on his comely shoulders?

Arts, Arruntius!
None, but the plain and passive fortitude,
To suffer and be silent; never stretch
These arms against the torrent; live at home,
With my own thoughts, and innocence about me,
Not tempting the wolves’ jaws: these are my arts.

I would begin to study ’em, if I thought
They would secure me. May I pray to Jove
In secret and be safe? ay, or aloud,
With open wishes, so I do not mention
Tiberius or Sejanus? yes, I must,
If I speak out. ’Tis hard that. May I think,
And not be rack’d? What danger is’t to dream,
Talk in one’s sleep, or cough? Who knows the law?
May I shake my head without a comment? say
It rains, or it holds up, and not be thrown
Upon the Gemonies? These now are things,
Whereon men’s fortune, yea, their faith depends.
Nothing hath privilege ’gainst the violent ear.
No place, no day, no hour, we see, is free,
Not our religious and most sacred times,
From some one kind of cruelty: all matter
Nay, all occasion pleaseth. Madmen’s rage,
The idleness of drunkards, women’s nothing,
Jester’s simplicity, all, all is good
That can be catcht at...Nor is now the event
Of any person, or for any crime,
To be expected; for ’tis always one:
Death, with some little difference of place,
Or time—What’s this? Prince Nero, guarded!

Enter Laco and Nero with Guards.

On, lictors, keep your way. My lords, forbear.
On pain of Cæsar’s wrath, no man attempt
Speech with the prisoner.

Noble friends, be safe;
To lose yourselves for words, were as vain hazard,
As unto me small comfort: fare you well.
Would all Rome’s sufferings in my fate did dwell!

Lictors, away.

Where goes he, Laco?

He’s banish’d into Pontia by the senate.

Do I see, hear, and feel? May I trust sense,
Or doth my phant’sie form it?

Where’s his brother?

Drusus is prisoner in the palace.

I smell it now: ’tis rank. Where’s Agrippina?

The princess is confined to Pandataria.

Bolts, Vulcan; bolts for Jove! Phœbus, thy bow;
Stern Mars, thy sword: and, blue-ey’d maid, thy spear;
Thy club, Alcides: all the armoury
Of heaven is too little!—Ha!—to guard
The gods, I meant. Fine, rare dispatch I this same
Was swiftly born! Confined, imprison’d, banish’d?
Most tripartite! the cause, sir?


The complement of all accusings! that
Will hit, when all else fails.

This turn is strange!
But yesterday the people would not hear,
Far less objected, but cried Cæsar’s letters
Were false and forged; that all these plots were malice;
And that the ruin of the prince’s house
Was practised ’gainst his knowledge. Where are now
Their voices, now, that they behold his heirs
Lock’d up, disgraced, led into exile?

Drown’d in their bellies. Wild Sejanus’ breath
Hath, like a whirlwind, scatter’d that poor dust,
With this rude blast—We’ll talk no treason, sir,
[Turns to Laco and the rest.]
If that be it you stand for. Fare you well.
We have no need of horse-leeches. Good spy,
Now you are spied, be gone.

[Exeunt Laco, Nero and Guards.]

I fear you wrong him:
He has the voice to be an honest Roman.

And trusted to this office! Lepidus,
I’d sooner trust Greek Sinon, than a man
Our state employs. He’s gone: and being gone,
I dare tell you, whom I dare better trust,
That our night-eyed Tiberius doth not see
His minion’s drifts; or, if he do, he’s not
So arrant subtile, as we fools do take him;
To breed a mungrel up, in his own house,
With his own blood, and, if the good gods please,
At his own throat, flesh him, to take a leap.
I do not beg it, heaven; but if the fates
Grant it these eyes, they must not wink.

They must
Not see it, Lucius.

Who should let them?

And duty: with the thought he is our prince.

He is our monster: forfeited to vice
So far, as no rack’d virtue can redeem him.
His loathed person fouler than all crimes:
An emperor, only in his lusts. Retired,
From all regard of his own fame, or Rome’s,
Into an obscure island; where he lives
Acting his tragedies with a comic face,
Amidst his rout of Chaldees: spending hours,
Days, weeks, and months, in the unkind abuse
Of grave astrology, to the bane of men,
Casting the scope of men’s nativities,
And having found aught worthy in their fortune,
Kill, or precipitate them in the sea,
And boast, he can mock fate. Nay, muse not: these
Are far from ends of evil, scarce degrees.
He hath his slaughter-house at Capreae;
Where he doth study murder, as an art;
And they are dearest in his grace, that can
Devise the deepest tortures. Thither, too,
He hath his boys, and beauteous girls ta’en up
Out of our noblest houses, the best form’d,
Best nurtured, and most modest; what’s their good,
Serves to provoke his bad. Some are allured,
Some threaten’d; others, by their friends detained,
Are ravish’d hence, like captives, and, in sight
Of their most grieved parents, dealt away
Unto his spintries, sellaries, and slaves,
Masters of strange and new commented lusts,
For which wise nature hath not left a name.
To this (what most strikes us, and bleeding Rome)
He is, with all his craft, become the ward
To his own vassal, a stale catamite:
Whom he, upon our low and suffering necks,
Hath raised from excrement to side the gods,
And have his proper sacrifice in Rome:
Which Jove beholds, and yet will sooner rive
A senseless oak with thunder than his trunk!—

Re-enter Laco with Pomponius and Minutius.

These letters make men doubtful what t’ expect,
Whether his coming, or his death.

Troth, both:
And which comes soonest, thank the gods for.

Their talk is Cæsar; I would hear all voices.

[ Arruntius and Lepidus stand aside.]

One day, he’s well; and will return to Rome;
The next day, sick; and knows not when to hope it.

True; and to-day, one of Sejanus’ friends
Honour’d by special writ; and on the morrow
Another punish’d—

By more special writ.

This man receives his praises of Sejanus,
A second but slight mention, a third none,
A fourth rebukes: and thus he leaves the senate
Divided and suspended, all uncertain.

These forked tricks, I understand them not:
Would he would tell us whom he loves or hates,
That we might follow, without fear or doubt.

Good Heliotrope! Is this your honest man?
Let him be yours so still; he is my knave.

I cannot tell, Sejanus still goes on,
And mounts, we see; new statues are advanced,
Fresh leaves of titles, large inscriptions read,
His fortune sworn by, himself new gone out
Cæsar’s colleague in the fifth consulship;
More altars smoke to him than all the gods:
What would we more?

That the dear smoke would choke him,
That would I more.

Peace, good Arruntius.

But there are letters come, they say, ev’n now,
Which do forbid that last.

Do you hear so?


By Castor, that’s the worst.

By Pollux, best.

I did not like the sign, when Regulus,
Whom all we know no friend unto Sejanus,
Did, by Tiberius’ so precise command,
Succeed a fellow in the consulship:
It boded somewhat.

Not a mote. His partner,
Fulcinius Trio, is his own, and sure.—
Here comes Terentius.

Enter Terentius.

He can give us more.
[They whisper with Terentius.]

I’ll ne’er believe, but Cæsar hath some scent
Of bold Sejanus’ footing. These cross points
Of varying letters, and opposing consuls,
Mingling his honours and his punishments,
Feigning now ill, now well, raising Sejanus,
And then depressing him, as now of late
In all reports we have it, cannot be
Empty of practice: ’tis Tiberius’ art.
For having found his favourite grown too great,
And with his greatness strong; that all the soldiers
Are, with their leaders, made a his devotion;
That almost all the senate are his creatures,
Or hold on him their main dependencies,
Either for benefit, or hope, or fear;
And that himself hath lost much of his own,
By parting unto him; and, by th’ increase
Of his rank lusts and rages, quite disarm’d
Himself of love, or other public means,
To dare an open contestation;
His subtilty hath chose this doubling line,
To hold him even in: not so to fear him,
As wholly put him out, and yet give check
Unto his farther boldness. In mean time,
By his employments, makes him odious
Unto the staggering rout, whose aid, in fine,
He hopes to use, as sure, who, when they sway.
Bear down, o’erturn all objects in their way.

You may be a Lynceus, Lepidus: yet I
See no such cause, but that a politic tyrant,
Who can so well disguise it, should have ta’en
A nearer way: feign’d honest, and come home
To cut his throat, by law.

Ay, but his fear
Would ne’er be mask’d, allbe his vices were.

His lordship then is still in grace?

Assure you,
Never in more, either of grace or power.

The gods are wise and just.

The fiends they are,
To suffer thee belie ’em.

I have here
His last and present letters, where he writes him,
The partner of his cares, and his Sejanus.—

But is that true? it is prohibited
To sacrifice unto him?

Some such thing
Cæsar makes scruple of, but forbids it not;
No more than to himself: says he could wish
It were forborn to all.

Is it no other?

No other, on my trust. For your more surety,
Here is that letter too.

How easily
Do wretched men believe, what they would have!
Looks this like plot?

Noble Arruntius, stay.

He names him here without his titles.


Yes, and come off your notable fool. I will

No other than Sejanus.

That’s but haste
In him that writes: here he gives large amends.

And with his own hand written?



Believe it, gentlemen, Sejanus’ breast
Never received more full contentments in,
Than at this present.

Takes he well the escape
Of young Caligula, with Macro?

At the first air it somewhat troubled him.

Observe you?

Nothing; riddles. Till I see
Sejanus struck, no sound thereof strikes me.

[Exeunt Arruntius and Lepidus.]

I like it not. I muse he would not attempt
Somewhat against him in the consulship,
Seeing the people ’gin to favour him.

He doth repent it now; but he has employ’d
Pagonianus after him: and he holds
That correspondence there, with all that are
Near about Cæsar, as no thought can pass
Without his knowledge, thence in act to front him.

I gratulate the news.

But how comes Macro
So in trust and favour with Caligula?

O, sir, he has a wife; and the young prince
An appetite: he can look up, and spy
Flies in the roof, when there are fleas i’ the bed;
And hath a learned nose to assure his sleeps.
Who to be favour’d of the rising sun,
Would not lend little of his waning moon?
It is the saf’st ambition. Noble Terentius!

The night grows fast upon us. At your service.



SCENE I.—An Apartment in SEJANUS’ House.

Enter Sejanus.

Swell, swell, my joys; and faint not to declare
Yourselves as ample as your causes are.
I did not live till now; this my first hour;
Wherein I see my thoughts reach’d by my power.
But this, and gripe my wishes. Great and high,
The world knows only two, that’s Rome and I.
My roof receives me not; ’tis air I tread;
And, at each step, I feel my advanced head
Knock out a star in heaven! rear’d to this height,
All my desires seem modest, poor, and slight,
That did before sound impudent: ’tis place,
Not blood, discerns the noble and the base.
Is there not something more than to be Cæsar?
Must we rest there? it irks t’ have come so far,
To be so near a stay. Caligula,
Would thou stood’st stiff, and many in our way!
Winds lose their strength, when they do empty fly,
Unmet of woods or buildings; great fires die,
That want their matter to withstand them: so,
It is our grief, and will be our loss, to know
Our power shall want opposites; unless
The gods, by mixing in the cause, would bless
Our fortune with their conquest. That were worth
Sejanus’ strife; durst fates but bring it forth.

Enter Terentius.

Safety to great Sejanus!

Now, Terentius?

Hears not my lord the wonder?

Speak it, no.

I meet it violent in the people’s mouths,
Who run in routs to Pompey’s theatre,
To view your statue, which, they say, sends forth
A smoke, as from a furnace, black and dreadful.

Some traitor hath put fire in: you, go see,
And let the head be taken off, to look
What ’tis.

[Exit Terentius.]

Some slave hath practised an imposture,
To stir the people.—How now! why return you?

Re-enter Terentius with Satrius and Natta.

The head, my lord, already is ta’en off,
I saw it; and, at opening, there leapt out
A great and monstrous serpent.

Monstrous! why?
Had it a beard, and horns? no heart? a tongue
Forked as flattery? look’d it of the hue,
To such as live in great men’s bosoms? was
The spirit of it Macro’s?

May it please
The most divine Sejanus, in my days,
(And by his sacred fortune, I affirm it,)
I have not seen a more extended, grown,
Foul, spotted, venomous, ugly—

O, the fates!
What a wild muster’s here of attributes,
T’ express a worm, a snake!

But how that should
Come there, my lord!

What, and you too, Terentius!
I think you mean to make ’t a prodigy
In your reporting.

Can the wise Sejanus
Think heaven hath meant it less!

O, superstition!
Why, then the falling of our bed, that brake
This morning, burden’d with the populous weight,
Of our expecting clients, to salute us;
Or running of the cat betwixt our legs,
As we set forth unto the Capitol,
Were prodigies.

I think them ominous;
And would they had not happened! As, to-day,
The fate of some your servants: who, declining
Their way, not able, for the throng, to follow,
Slipt down the Gemonies, and brake their necks!
Besides, in taking your last augury,
No prosperous bird appear’d; but croaking ravens
Flagg’d up and down, and from the sacrifice
Flew to the prison, where they sat all night,
Beating the air with their obstreperous beaks!
I dare not counsel, but I could entreat,
That great Sejanus would attempt the gods
Once more with sacrifice.

What excellent fools
Religion makes of men! Believes Terentius,
If these were dangers, as I shame to think them,
The gods could change the certain course of fate!
Or, if they could they would, now in a moment,
For a beeve’s fat, or less, be bribed to invert
Those long decrees? Then think the gods, like flies,
Are to be taken with the steam of flesh,
Or blood, diffused about their altars: think
Their power as cheap as I esteem it small.—
Of all the throng that fill th’ Olympian hall,
And, without pity, lade poor Atlas’ back,
I know not that one deity, but Fortune,
To whom I would throw up, in begging smoke,
One grain of incense; or whose ear I’d buy
With thus much oil. Her I, indeed, adore;
And keep her grateful image in my house,
Sometime belonging to a Roman king.
But now call’d mine, as by the better style:
To her I care not, if, for satisfying
Your scrupulous phant’sies, I go offer. Bid
Our priest prepare us honey, milk, and poppy,
His masculine odours, and night-vestments: say,
Our rites are instant; which perform’d, you’ll see
How vain, and worthy laughter, your fears be.


SCENE II.—Another Room in the same.

Enter Cotta and Pomponius.

Pomponius, whither in such speed?

I go
To give my lord Sejanus notice—


Of Macro.

Is he come?

Enter’d but now
The house of Regulus

The opposite consul!

Some half hour since.

And by night too! Stay, sir;
I’ll bear you company.

Along then—



Enter Macro, Regulus and Attendant.

Tis Cæsar’s will to have a frequent senate;
And therefore must your edict lay deep mulct
On such as shall be absent.

So it doth.
Bear it my fellow consul to adscribe.

And tell him it must early be proclaim’d:
The place Apollo’s temple.

[Exit Attendant.]

That’s remember’d.

And at what hour!


You do forget
To send one for the provost of the watch.

I have not: here he comes.

Enter Laco.

Gracinus Laco,
You are a friend most welcome: by and by,
I’ll speak with you.—You must procure this list
Of the prætorian cohorts, with the names
Of the centurions, and their tribunes.


I bring you letters, and a health from Cæsar—

Sir, both come well.

And hear you? with your note,
Which are the eminent men, and most of action.

That shall be done you too.

Most worthy Laco,
Cæsar salutes you.—

[Exit Regulus.]

Consul! death and furies!
Gone now!—The argument will please you, sir.
Ho! Regulus! The anger of the gods
Follow your diligent legs, and overtake ’em,
In likeness of the gout!—

Re-enter Regulus.

O, my good lord,
We lack’d you present; I would pray you send
Another to Fulcinius Trio, straight,
To tell him you will come, and speak with him:
The matter we’ll devise, to stay him there,
While I with Laco do survey the watch.

[Exit Regulus.]

What are your strengths, Gracinus?

Seven cohorts.

You see what Cæsar writes; and—Gone again!
H’ has sure a vein of mercury in his feet.—
Know you what store of the prætorian soldiers
Sejanus holds about him, for his guard?

I cannot the just number; but, I think,
Three centuries.

Three! good.

At most not four.

And who be those centurions?

That the consul
Can best deliver you.

When he’s away!
Spite on his nimble industry—Gracinus,
You find what place you hold. there, in the trust
Of royal Cæsar?

Ay, and I am—

The honours there proposed are but beginnings
Of his great favours.

They are more—

I heard him
When he did study what to add.

My life,
And all I hold—

You were his own first choice:
Which doth confirm as much as you can speak;
And will, if we succeed, make more—Your guards
Are seven cohorts, you say?


Those we must
Hold still in readiness and undischarged.

I understand so much. But how it can—

Be done without suspicion, you’ll object?

Re-enter Regulus.

What’s that?

The keeping of the watch in arms,
When morning comes.

The senate shall be met, and set
So early in the temple, as all mark
Of that shall be avoided.

If we need,
We have commission to possess the palace,
Enlarge prince Drusus, and make him our chief.

That secret would have burnt his reverend mouth,
Had he not spit it out now: by the gods,
You carry things too—Let me borrow a man
Or two, to bear these—That of freeing Drusus,
Cæsar projected as the last and utmost;
Not else to be remember’d.

Enter Servants.

Here are servants.

These to Arruntius, these to Lepidus;
This bear to Cotta, this to Latiaris.
If they demand you of me, say I have ta’en
Fresh horse, and am departed.

[Exeunt Servants.]

You, my lord,
To your colleague, and be you sure to hold him
With long narration of the new fresh favours,
Meant to Sejanus, his great patron; I,
With trusted Laco, here, are for the guards:
Then to divide. For, night hath many eyes,
Whereof, though most do sleep, yet some are spies.


SCENE IV.—A Sacellum (or Chapel) in SEJANUS’S House.

Enter Præcones, Flamen, Tubicines, Tibicines, Ministri, Sejanus, Terentius, Satrius, Natta, etc.

Be all profane far hence; fly, fly far off:
Be absent far; far hence be all profane!

[Tubicines and Tibicines sound while the Flamen washeth.]

We have been faulty, but repent us now,
And bring pure hands, pure vestments, and pure minds.

Pure vessels.

And pure offerings.

Garlands pure.

Bestow your garlands: and, with reverence, place
The vervin on the altar.

Favour your tongues.

[While they sound again, the Flamen takes of the honey with his finger, and tastes, then ministers to all the rest; so of the milk, in an earthen vessel, he deals about; which done, he sprinkleth upon the altar, milk; then imposeth the honey, and kindleth his gums, and after censing about the altar, placeth his censer thereon, into which they put several branches of poppy, and the music ceasing, proceeds.]

Great mother Fortune, queen of human state,
Redress of action, arbitress of fate,
To whom all sway, all power, all empire bows,
Be present; and propitious to our vows!

Favour it with your tongues.

Be present and propitious to our vows!

Accept our offering and be pleased, great goddess.

See, see, the image stirs!

And turns away!

Fortune averts her face.

Avert, you gods,
The prodigy. Still! still, some pious rite
We have neglected. Yet, heaven be appeased,
And be all tokens false and void, that speak
Thy present wrath!

Be thou dumb, scrupulous priest:
And gather up thyself, with these thy wares
Which I, in spite of thy blind mistress, or
Thy juggling mystery, religion, throw
Thus scorned on the earth.

[Overturns the statue and the altar.]

Nay, hold thy look
Averted till I woo thee turn again
And thou shalt stand to all posterity,
The eternal game and laughter, with thy neck
Writh’d to thy tail, like a ridiculous cat.
Avoid these fumes, these superstitious lights,
And all these cozening ceremonies: you,
Your pure and spiced conscience!

[Exeunt all but Sejanus, Terentius, Satrius and Natta.]

I, the slave
And mock of fools, scorn on my worthy head!
That have been titled and adored a god,
Yea, sacrificed unto, myself, in Rome,
No less than Jove: and I be brought to do
A peevish giglot, rites! perhaps the thought
And shame of that, made fortune turn her face,
Knowing herself the lesser deity,
And but my servant.-Bashful queen, if so,
Sejanus thanks thy modesty.—Who’s that?

Enter Pomponius and Minutius.

His fortune suffers, till he hears my news:
I have waited here too long. Macro, my lord—

Speak lower and withdraw.

[Takes him aside.]

Are these things true?

Thousands are gazing at it in the streets.

What’s that?

Minutius tells us here, my lord,
That a new head being set upon your statue,
A rope is since found wreath’d about it! and,
But now a fiery meteor in the form
Of a great ball was seen to roll along
The troubled air, where yet it hangs unperfect,
The amazing wonder of the multitude!

No more. That Macro’s come, is more than all!

Is Macro come?

I saw him.

Where? with whom?

With Regulus.


My lord.

Send for the tribunes, we will straight have up
More of the soldiers for our guard. [Exit Terentius.] Minutius,
We pray you go for Cotta, Latiaris,
Trio, the consul, or what senators
You know are sure, and ours. [Exit Minutius.] You, my good Natta,
For Laco, provost of the watch. [Exit Natta.] Now, Satrius,
The time of proof comes on; arm all our servants,
And without tumult. [Exit Satrius.] You, Pomponius,
Hold some good correspondence with the consul:
Attempt him, noble friend. [Exit Pomponius.] These things begin
To look like dangers, now, worthy my fates.
Fortune, I see thy worst: let doubtful states,
And things uncertain, hang upon thy will:
Me surest death shall render certain still.
Yet, why is now my thought turn’d toward death,
Whom fates have let go on, so far in breath,
Uncheck’d or unreproved? I that did help
To fell the lofty cedar of the world,
Germanicus; that at one stroke cut down
Drusus, that upright elm; wither’d his vine;
Laid Silius and Sabinus, two strong oaks,
Flat on the earth; besides those other shrubs,
Cordus and Sosia, Claudia Pulchra,
Furnius and Gallus, which I have grubb’d up;
And since, have set my axe so strong and deep
Into the root of spreading Agrippina;
Lopt off and scatter’d her proud branches,
Nero. Drusus; and Caius too, although re-planted.
If you will, Destinies, that after all,
I faint now ere I touch my period,
You are but cruel; and I already have done
Things great enough. All Rome hath been my slave;
The senate sate an idle looker on,
And witness of my power; when I have blush’d
More to command than it to suffer: all
The fathers have sate ready and prepared.
To give me empire, temples, or their throats.
When I would ask ’em; and what crowns the top,
Rome, senate, people, all the world have seen
Jove, but my equal; Cæsar, but my second.
’Tis then your malice, Fates, who, but your own,
Envy and fear to have any power long known.


SCENE V.—A Room in the same.

Enter Terentius and Tribunes.

Stay here: I’ll give his lordship, you are come.

Enter Minutius with Cotta and Latiaris.

Marcus Terentius, pray you tell my lord
Here’s Cotta, and Latiaris.

Sir, I shall.


My letter is the very same with yours;
Only requires me to be present there,
And give my voice to strengthen his design.

Names he not what it is?

No, nor to you.

’Tis strange and singular doubtful!

So it is.
It may be all is left to lord Sejanus.

Enter Natta and Gracinus Laco.

Gentlemen, where’s my lord?

We wait him here.

The provost Laco! what’s the news?

My lord—

Enter Sejanus.

Now, my right dear, noble, and trusted friends,
How much I am a captive to your kindness!
Most worthy Cotta, Latiaris, Laco,
Your valiant hand; and, gentlemen, your loves.
I wish I could divide myself unto you;
Or that it lay within our narrow powers,
To satisfy for so enlarged bounty.
Gracinus, we must pray you, hold your guards
Unquit when morning comes. Saw you the consul?

Trio will presently be here, my lord.

They are but giving order for the edict,
To warn the senate.

How! the senate?

This morning in Apollo’s temple.

Are charged by letter to be there, my lord.

By letter! pray you, let’s see.

Knows not his lordship?

It seems so!

A senate warn’d! Without my knowledge!
And on this sudden! Senators by letters
Required to be there! who brought these?


Mine enemy! and when?

This midnight.

With every other circumstance, doth give
It hath some strain of engine in’t!—How now?

Enter Satrius.

My lord, Sertorius Macro is without,
Alone, and prays t’ have private conference
In business of high nature with your lordship,
He says to me, and which regards you much.

Let him come here.

Better, my lord, Withdraw:
You will betray what store and strength of friends
Are now about you; which he comes to spy.

Is he not arm’d?

We’ll search him.

No; but take,
And lead him to some room, where you conceal’d
May keep a guard upon us. [Exit Satrius.] Noble Laco,
You are our trust; and till our own cohorts
Can be brought up, your strengths must be our guard.
Now, good Minutius, honour’d Latiaris,

[He salutes them humbly.]

Most worthy and my most unwearied friends:
I return instantly.


Most worthy lord.

His lordship is turn’d instant kind, methinks;
I have not observed it in him, heretofore.

’Tis true, and it becomes him nobly.

Am wrapt withal.

By Mars, he has my lives,
Were they a million, for this only grace.

Ay, and to name a man!

As he did me!

And me!

Who would not spend his life and fortunes,
To purchase but the look of such a lord?

He that would nor be lord’s fool, nor the world’s. [Aside.]

SCENE VI.—Another Room in the same.

Enter Sejanus, Macro and Satrius.

Macro! most welcome, a most coveted friend!
Let me enjoy my longings. When arrived you?

About the noon of night.

Satrius, give leave.

[Exit Satrius.]

I have been, since I came, with both the consuls,
On a particular design from Cæsar.

How fares it with our great and royal master?

Right plentifully well; as, with a prince,
That still holds out the great proportion
Of his large favours, where his judgment hath
Made once divine election: like the god
That wants not, nor is wearied to bestow
Where merit meets his bounty, as it doth
In you, already the most happy, and ere
The sun shall climb the south, most high Sejanus.
Let not my lord be amused. For, to this end
Was I by Cæsar sent for to the isle,
With special caution to conceal my journey;
And, thence, had my dispatch as privately
Again to Rome; charged to come here by night;
And only to the consuls make narration
Of his great purpose; that the benefit
Might come more full, and striking, by how much
It was less look’d for, or aspired by you,
Or least informed to the common thought.

What may be this? part of myself, dear Macro,
If good, speak out; and share with your Sejanus.

If bad, I should for ever loath myself
To be the messenger to so good a lord.
I do exceed my instructions to acquaint
Your lordship with thus much; but ’tis my venture
On your retentive wisdom: and because
I would no jealous scruple should molest
Or rack your peace of thought. For I assure
My noble lord, no senator yet knows
The business meant: though all by several letters
Are warned to be there, and give their voices,
Only to add unto the state and grace
Of what is purposed.

You take pleasure, Macro,
Like a coy wench, in torturing your lover.
What can be worth this suffering?

That which follows,
The tribunitial dignity and power:
Both which Sejanus is to have this day
Conferr’d upon him, and by public senate.

Fortune be mine again! thou hast satisfied
For thy suspected loyalty. [Aside.]

My lord,
I have no longer time, the day approacheth,
And I must back to Cæsar.

Where’s Caligula?

That I forgot to tell your lordship. Why,
He lingers yonder about Capreae,
Disgraced; Tiberius hath not seen him yet:
He needs would thrust himself to go with me,
Against my wish or will; but I have quitted
His forward trouble, with as tardy note
As my neglect or silence could afford him.
Your lordship cannot now command me aught,
Because I take no knowledge that I saw you;
But I shall boast to live to serve your lordship:
And so take leave.

Honest and worthy Macro;
Your love and friendship.

[Exit Macro.]

—Who’s there? Satrius,
Attend my honourable friend forth.—O!
How vain and vile a passion is this fear,
What base uncomely things it makes men do!
Suspect their noblest friends, as I did this,
Flatter poor enemies, entreat their servants,
Stoop, court, and catch at the benevolence
Of creatures, unto whom, within this hour,
I would not have vouchsafed a quarter-look,
Or piece of face! By you that fools call gods,
Hang all the sky with your prodigious signs,
Fill earth with monsters, drop the scorpion down,
Out of the zodiac, or the fiercer lion,
Shake off the loosen’d globe from her long hinge,
Roll all the world in darkness, and let loose
The enraged winds to turn up groves and towns!
When I do fear again, let me be struck
With forked fire, and unpitied die:
Who fears, is worthy of calamity.


SCENE VII.—Another Room in the same.

Enter Terentius, Minutius, Laco, Cotta, Latiaris and Pomponius; Regulus, Trio and others, on different sides.

Is not my lord here?

Sir, he will be straight.

What news, Fulcinius Trio?

Good, good tidings;
But keep it to yourself. My lord Sejanus
Is to receive this day in open senate
The tribunitial dignity.

Is’t true?

No words, not to your thought: but, sir, believe it.

What says the consul?

Speak it not again:
He tells me, that to-day my lord Sejanus—

I must entreat you, Cotta, on your honour
Not to reveal it.

On my life, sir.


Is to receive the tribunitial power.
But, as you are an honourable man,
Let me conjure you not to utter it;
For it is trusted to me with that bond.

I am Harpocrates.

Can you assure it?

The consul told it me, but keep it close.

Lord Latiaris, what’s the news?

I’ll tell you;
But you must swear to keep it secret.

Enter Sejanus.

I knew the Fates had on their distaff left
More of our thread, than so.

Hail, great Sejanus!

Hail, the most honour’d!


High Sejanus!

Do you bring prodigies too?

May all presage
Turn to those fair effects, whereof we bring
Your lordship news.

May’t please my lord withdraw.

Yes:—I will speak with you anon. [To some that stand by.]

My lord,
What is your pleasure for the tribunes?

Let them be thank’d and sent away.

My lord—

Will’t please your lordship to command me-

You are troublesome.

The mood is changed.

Not speak,
Nor look!

Ay, he is wise, will make him friends
Of such who never love, but for their ends.


SCENE VIII.—A Space before the Temple of Apollo.

Enter Arruntius and Lepidus, divers Senators passing by them.

Ay, go, make haste; take heed you be not last
To tender your All Hail in the wide hall
Of huge Sejanus: run a lictor’s pace:
Stay, not to put your robes on; but away,
With the pale troubled ensigns of great friendship
Stamp’d in your face! Now, Marcus Lepidus,
You still believe your former augury!
Sejanus must go downward! You perceive
His wane approaching fast!

Believe me, Lucius, I wonder at this rising.

Ay, and that we
Must give our suffrage to it. You will say,
It is to make his fall more steep and grievous:
It may be so. But think it, they that can
With idle wishes ’say to bring back time:
In cases desperate, all hope is crime.
See, see! what troops of his officious friends
Flock to salute my lord, and start before
My great proud lord! to get a lord-like nod!
Attend my lord unto the senate-house!
Bring back my lord! like servile ushers, make
Way for my lord! proclaim his idol lordship,
More than ten criers, or six noise of trumpets!
Make legs, kiss hands, and take a scatter’d hair
From my lord’s eminent shoulder!

Sanquinius and Haterius pass over the stage.

See, Sanquinius
With his slow belly, and his dropsy! look,
What toiling haste he makes! yet here’s another
Retarded with the gout, will be afore him.
Get thee Liburnian porters, thou gross fool,
To bear thy obsequious fatness, like thy peers.
They are met! the gout returns, and his great carriage.

Lictors, Regulus, Trio, Sejanus, Satrius, and many other Senators pass over the stage.

Give way, make place, room for the consul!

Hail, great Sejanus!

Hail, my honour’d lord!

We shall be mark’d anon, for our not Hail.

That is already done.

It is a note
Of upstart greatness, to observe and watch
For these poor trifles, which the noble mind
Neglects and scorns.

Ay, and they think themselves
Deeply dishonour’d where they are omitted,
As if they were necessities that help’d
To the perfection of their dignities;
And hate the men that but refrain them.

There is a farther cause of hate. Their breasts
Are guilty, that we know their obscure springs,
And base beginnings; thence the anger grows.
On. Follow.

SCENE IX.—Another part of the same.

Enter Macro and Laco.

When all are enter’d, shut the temple doors;
And bring your guards up to the gate.

I will.

If you shall hear commotion in the senate,
Present yourself: and charge on any man
Shall offer to come forth.

I am instructed.


SCENE X.—The Temple of Apollo.

Enter Haterius, Trio, Sanquinius, Cotta, Regulus, Sejanus, Pomponius, Latiaris, Lepidus, Arruntius, and divers other Senators; Præcones, and Lictors.

How well, his lordship looks to-day!

As if
He had been born, or made for this hour’s state.

Your fellow consul’s come about, methinks?

Ay, he is wise.

Sejanus trusts him well.

Sejanus is a noble, bounteous lord.

He is so, and most valiant.

And most wise.

He’s every thing.

Worthy of all, and more
Than bounty can bestow.

This dignity
Will make him worthy.

Above Cæsar.

Cæsar is but the rector of an isle,
He of the empire.

Now he will have power
More to reward than ever.

Let us look
We be not slack in giving him our voices.

Not I.

Nor I.

The readier we seem
To propagate his honours, will more bind
His thoughts to ours.

I think right with your lordship;
It is the way to have us hold our places.

Ay, and get more.

More office and more titles.

I will not lose the part I hope to share I
n these his fortunes, for my patrimony.

See, how Arruntius sits, and Lepidus!

Let them alone, they will be mark’d anon.

I’ll do with others.

So will I.

And I.
Men grow not in the state, but as they are planted
Warm in his favours.

Noble Sejanus!

Honour’d Sejanus!

Worthy and great Sejanus!

Gods! how the sponges open and take in,
And shut again! look, look! is not he blest
That gets a seat in eye-reach of him? more,
That comes in ear, or tongue-reach? O but most,
Can claw his subtle elbow, or with a buz
Fly-blow his ears?

Proclaim the senate’s peace,
And give last summons by the edict.

In name of Cæsar, and the senate, silence!

Memmius Regulus, and Fulcinius Trio, consuls, these present kalends of June, with the first light, shall hold a senate, in the temple of Apollo Palatine: all that are fathers, and are registered fathers that have right of entering the senate, we warn or command you be frequently present, take knowledge the business is the commonwealth’s: whosoever is absent, his fine or mulct will be taken, his excuse will not be taken.

Note who are absent, and record their names.

Fathers conscript, may what I am to utter
Turn good and happy for the commonwealth!
And thou, Apollo, in whose holy house
We here have met, inspire us all with truth,
And liberty of censure to our thought!
The majesty of great Tiberius Cæsar
Propounds to this grave senate, the bestowing
Upon the man he loves, honour’d Sejanus,
The tribunitial dignity and power:
Here are his letters, signed with his signet.
What pleaseth now the fathers to be done?

Read, read them, open, publicly read them.

Cæsar hath honour’d his own greatness much
In thinking of this act.

It was a thought
Happy, and worthy Cæsar.

And the lord
As worthy it, on whom it is directed!

Most worthy!

Rome did never boast the virtue
That could give envy bounds, but his: Sejanus—

Honour’d and noble!

Good and great Sejanus!

O, most tame slavery, and fierce flattery!


TIBERIUS CÆSAR to the Senate, greeting.

If you, conscript fathers, with your children, be in health, it is abundantly well: we with our friends here are so. The care of the commonwealth, howsoever we are removed in person, cannot be absent to our thought; although, oftentimes, even to princes most present, the truth of their own affairs is hid, than which, nothing falls out more miserable to a state, or makes the art of governing more difficult. But since it hath been our easeful happiness to enjoy both the aids and industry of so vigilant a senate, we profess to have been the more indulgent to our pleasures, not as being careless of our office, but rather secure of the necessity. Neither do these common rumours of many, and infamous libels published against our retirement, at all afflict us; being born more out of men’s ignorance than their malice: and will, neglected, find their own grave quickly, whereas, too sensibly acknowledged, it would make their obloquy ours. Nor do we desire their authors, though found, be censured, since in a free state, as ours, all men ought to enjoy both their minds and tongues free.

The lapwing, the lapwing!

Yet in things which shall worthily and more near concern the majesty of a prince, we shall fear to be so unnaturally cruel to our own fame, as to neglect them. True it is, conscript fathers, that we have raised Sejanus from obscure, and almost unknown gentry,

How, how!

to the highest and most conspicuous point of greatness, and, we hope, deservingly, yet not without danger: it being a most bold hazard in that sovereign, who, by his particular love to one, dares adventure the hatred of all his other subjects.

This touches; the blood turns.

But we affy in your loves and understandings, and do no way suspect the merit of our Sejanus, to make our favours offensive to any.

O! good, good.

Though we could have wished his zeal had run a calmer course against Agrippina and our nephews, howsoever the openness of their actions declared them delinquents, and, that he would have remembered, no innocence is so safe, but it rejoiceth to stand in the sight of mercy: the use of which in us, he hath so quite taken away, towards them, by his loyal fury, as now our clemency would be thought but wearied cruelty, if we should offer to exercise it.

I thank him; there I look’d for’t. A good fox!

Some there be that would interpret this his public severity to be particular ambition, and that, under a pretext of service to us, he doth but remove his own lets: alleging the strengths he hath made to himself, by the prætorian soldiers, by his faction in court and senate, by the offices he holds himself, and confers on others, his popularity and dependents, his urging and almost driving us to this our unwilling retirement, and, lastly, his aspiring to be our son-in-law.

This is strange!

I shall anon believe your vultures, Marcus.

Your wisdoms, conscript fathers, are able to examine, and censure these suggestions. But, were they left to our absolving voice, we durst pronounce them, as we think them, most malicious.

O, he has restored all; list!

Yet are they offered to be averred, and on the lives of the informers. What we should say, or rather what we should not say, lords of the senate, if this be true, our gods and goddesses confound us if we know! Only we must think, we have placed our benefits ill; and conclude, that in our choice, either we were wanting to the gods, or the gods to us.

[The Senators shift their places.]

The place grows hot; they shift.

We have not been covetous, honourable fathers, to change, neither is it now any new lust that alters our affection, or old loathing: but those needful jealousies of state, that warn wiser princes hourly to provide their safety, and do teach them how learned a thing it is to beware of the humblest enemy; much more of those great ones, whom their own employed favours have made fit for their fears.


Sit farther.

Let’s remove-

Gods! how the leaves drop off, this little wind!

We therefore desire, that the offices he holds be first seized by the senate, and himself suspended from all exercise of place or power—


[thrusting by.] By your leave.

Come, porpoise; where’s Haterius?
His gout keeps him most miserably constant;
Your dancing shews a tempest.

Read no more.

Lords of the senate, hold your seats: read on.

These letters they are forged.

A guard! sit still.

Enter Laco with the Guards.

Here’s change!

Bid silence, and read forward.


and himself suspended from all exercise of place or power, but till due and mature trial be made of his innocency, which yet we can faintly apprehend the necessity to doubt. If, conscript fathers, to your more searching wisdoms, there shall appear farther cause—or of farther proceeding, either to seizure of lands, goods, or more—it is not our power that shall limit your authority, or our favour that must corrupt your justice: either were dishonourable in you, and both uncharitable to ourself. We would willingly be present with your counsels in this business, but the danger of so potent a faction, if it should prove so, forbids our attempting it: except one of the consuls would be entreated for our safety, to undertake the guard of us home; then we should most readily adventure. In the mean time, it shall not be fit for us to importune so judicious a senate, who know how much they hurt the innocent, that spare the guilty; and how grateful a sacrifice to the gods is the life of an ingrateful person, We reflect not, in this, on Sejanus, (notwithstanding, if you keep an eye upon him-and there is Latiaris, a senator, and Pinnarius Natta, two of his most trusted ministers, and so professed, whom we desire not to have apprehended,) but as the necessity of the cause exacts it.

A guard on Latiaris!

O, the spy,
The reverend spy is caught! who pities him?
Reward, sir, for your service: now, you have done
Your property, you see what use is made!

[Exeunt Latiaris and Natta, guarded.]

Hang up the instrument.

Give leave.

Stand, stand!
He comes upon his death, that doth advance
An inch toward my point.

Have we no friends here?

Where now are all the hails and acclamations?

Enter Macro.

Hail to the consuls, and this noble senate!

Is Macro here?
O, thou art lost, Sejanus! [Aside.]

Sit still, and unaffrighted, reverend fathers:
Macro, by Cæsar’s grace, the new-made provost,
And now possest of the prætorian bands,
An honour late belong’d to that proud man,
Bids you be safe: and to your constant doom
Of his deservings, offers you the surety
Of all the soldiers, tribunes, and centurions,
Received in our command.

Sejanus, Sejanus, Stand forth, Sejanus!

Am I call’d?

Ay, thou,
Thou insolent monster, art bid stand.

Why, Macro.
It hath been otherwise between you and I;
This court, that knows us both, hath seen a difference,
And can, if it be pleased to speak, confirm
Whose insolence is most.

Come down, Typhoeus.
If mine be most, lo! thus I make it more;
Kick up thy heels in air, tear off thy robe,
Play with thy beard and nostrils. Thus ’tis fit
(And no man take compassion of thy state)
To use th’ ingrateful viper, tread his brains
Into the earth.


If I could lose
All my humanity now, ’twere well to torture
So meriting a traitor.-Wherefore, fathers,
Sit you amazed and silent; and not censure
This wretch, who, in the hour he first rebell’d
’Gainst Cæsar’s bounty, did condemn himself?
Phlegra, the field where all the sons of earth
Muster’d against the gods, did ne’er acknowledge
So proud and huge a monster.

Take him hence;
And all the gods guard Cæsar!

Take him hence.


To the dungeon with him.

He deserves it.

Crown all our doors with bays.

And let an ox,
With gilded horns and garlands, straight be led
Unto the Capitol—

And sacrificed
To Jove, for Cæsar’s safety.

All our gods
Be present still to Cæsar!





Juno, Mercury,
All guard him!

Forth, thou prodigy of men!

[Exit Sejanus, guarded.]

Let all the traitor’s titles be defaced.

His images and statues be pull’d down.

His chariot-wheels be broken.

And the legs
Of the poor horses, that deseryed nought,
Let them be broken too!

[Exeunt Lictors, Præcones, Macro, Regulus, Trio, Haterius and Sanquinius: manent Lepidus, Arruntius and a few Senators.]

O violent change,
And whirl of men’s affections!

Like, as both
Their bulks and souls were bound on Fortune’s wheel,
And must act only with her motion.

Who would depend upon the popular air,
Or voice of men, that have to-day beheld
That which, if all the gods had fore-declared,
Would not have been believed, Sejanus’ fall?
He, that this morn rose proudly, as the sun,
And, breaking through a mist of clients’ breath,
Came on, as gazed at and admired as he,
When superstitious Moors salute his light!
That had our servile nobles waiting him
As common grooms; and hanging on his look,
No less than human life on destiny!
That had men’s knees as frequent as the gods;
And sacrifices more than Rome had altars:
And this man fall! fall? ay, without a look
That durst appear his friend, or lend so much
Of vain relief, to his changed state, as pity!

They that before, like gnats, play’d in his beams,
And throng’d to circumscribe him, now not seen
Nor deign to hold a common seat with him!
Others, that waited him unto the senate,
Now inhumanely ravish him to prison,
Whom, but this morn, they follow’d as their lord!
Guard through the streets, bound like a fugitive,
Instead of wreaths give fetters, strokes for stoops,
Blind shames for honours, and black taunts for titles!
Who would trust slippery chance?

They that would make
Themselves her spoil; and foolishly forget,
When she doth flatter, that she comes to prey.
Fortune, thou hadst no deity, if men
Had wisdom: we have placed thee so high,
By fond belief in thy felicity.
[Shout within.] The gods guard Cæsar!
All the gods guard Cæsar!

Re-enter Macro, Regulus and divers Senators.

Now, great Sejanus, you that awed the state,
And sought to bring the nobles to your whip;
That would be Cæsar’s tutor, and dispose
Of dignities and offices! that had
The public head still bare to your designs,
And made the general voice to echo yours!
That look’d for salutations twelve score off,
And would have pyramids, yea temples, rear’d
To your huge greatness; now you lie as flat,
As was your pride advanced!

Thanks to the gods!

And praise to Macro, that hath saved Rome!
Liberty, liberty, liberty! Lead on,
And praise to Macro, that hath saved Rome!

[Exeunt all but Arruntius and Lepidus.]

I prophesy, out of the senate’s flattery,
That this new fellow, Macro, will become
A greater prodigy in Rome, than he
That now is fallen.

Enter Terentius.

O you, whose minds are good,
And have not forced all mankind from your breasts;
That yet have so much stock of virtue left,
To pity guilty states, when they are wretched:
Lend your soft ears to hear, and eyes to weep,
Deeds done by men, beyond the acts of furies.
The eager multitude (who never yet
Knew why to love or hate, but only pleased
T’ express their rage of power) no sooner heard
The murmur of Sejanus in decline,
But with that speed and heat of appetite,
With which they greedily devour the way
To some great sports, or a new theatre,
They fill’d the Capitol, and Pompey’s Cirque,
Where, like so many mastiffs, biting stones,
As if his statues now were sensitive
Of their wild fury; first, they tear them down;
Then fastening ropes, drag them along the streets,
Crying in scorn, This, this was that rich head
Was crown’d with garlands, and with odours, this
That was in Rome so reverenced! Now
The furnace and the bellows shall to work,
The great Sejanus crack, and piece by piece
Drop in the founder’s pit.

O popular rage!

The whilst the senate at the temple of Concord
Make haste to meet again, and thronging cry,
Let us condemn him, tread him down in water,
While he doth lie upon the bank; away!
While some more tardy, cry unto their bearers,
He will be censured ere we come; run, knaves,
And use that furious diligence, for fear
Their bondmen should inform against their slackness,
And bring their quaking flesh unto the hook:
The rout they follow with confused voice,
Crying, they’re glad, say, they could ne’er abide him,
Enquire what man he was, what kind of face,
What beard he had, what nose, what lips?
Protest They ever did presage he’d come to this;
They never thought him wise, nor valiant; ask
After his garments, when he dies, what death;
And not a beast of all the herd demands,
What was his crime, or who were his accusers,
Under what proof or testimony he fell?
There came, says one, a huge long-worded letter
From Capreae against him. Did there so?
O, they are satisfied; no more.

They follow Fortune, and hate men condemn’d,
Guilty or not.

But had Sejanus thrived
In his design, and prosperously opprest
The old Tiberius; then, in that same minute,
These very rascals, that now rage like furies,
Would have proclaim’d Sejanus emperor.

But what hath follow’d?

Sentence by the senate,
To lose his head; which was no sooner off,
But that and the unfortunate trunk were seized
By the rude multitude; who not content
With what the forward justice of the state.
Officiously had done, with violent rage
Have rent it limb from limb. A thousand heads,
A thousand hands, ten thousand tongues and voices,
Employ’d at once in several acts of malice!
Old men not staid with age, virgins with shame,
Late wives with loss of husbands, mothers of children,
Losing all grief in joy of his sad fall,
Run quite transported with their cruelty!
These mounting at his head, these at his face,
These digging out his eyes, those with his brains
Sprinkling themselves, their houses and their friends;
Others are met, have ravish’d thence an arm,
And deal small pieces of the flesh for favours;
These with a thigh, this hath cut off his hands,
And this his feet; these fingers and these toes;
That hath his liver, he his heart: there wants
Nothing but room for wrath, and place for hatred!
What cannot oft be done, is now o’erdone.
The whole, and all of what was great Sejanus,
And, next to Cæsar, did possess the World,
Now torn and scatter’d, as he needs no grave;
Each little dust covers a little part:
So lies he no where, and yet often buried!

Enter Nuntius.

More of Sejanus?


What can be added?
We know him dead.

Then there begin your pity.
There is enough behind to melt ev’n Rome,
And Cæsar into tears; since never slave
Could yet so highly offend, but tyranny,
In torturing him, would make him worth lamenting.—
A son and daughter to the dead Sejanus,
(Of whom there is not now so much remaining
As would give fast’ning to the hangman’s hook,)
Have they drawn forth for farther sacrifice;
Whose tenderness of knowledge, unripe years,
And childish silly innocence was such,
As scarce would lend them feeling of their danger:
The girl so simple, as she often ask’d
“Where they would lead her? for what cause they dragg’d her?”
Cried, “She would do no more:” that she could take
“Warning with beating.” And because our laws
Admit no virgin immature to die,
The wittily and strangely cruel Macro
Deliver’d her to be deflower’d and spoil’d,
By the rude lust of the licentious hangman,
Then to be strangled with her harmless brother.

O, act most worthy hell, and lasting night,
To hide it from the world!

Their bodies thrown
Into the Gemonies, (I know not how,
Or by what accident return’d.) the mother,
The expulsed Apicata, finds them there;
Whom when she saw lie spread on the degrees,
After a world of fury on herself,
Tearing her hair, defacing of her face,
Beating her breasts and womb, kneeling amaz’d,
Crying to heaven, then to them; at last,
Her drowned voice gat up above her woes,
And with such black and bitter execrations,
As might affright the gods, and force the sun
Run backward to the east; nay, make the old
Deformed chaos rise again, to o’erwhelm
Them, us, and all the world, she fills the air,
Upbraids the heavens with their partial dooms,
Defies their tyrannous powers, and demands,
What she, and those poor innocents have transgress’d,
That they must suffer such a share in vengeance,
Whilst Livia, Lygdus, and Eudemus live,
Who, as she says, and firmly vows to prove it
To Cæsar and the senate, poison’d Drusus?

Confederates with her husband!


Strange act!

And strangely open’d: what says now my monster,
The multitude? they reel now, do they not?

Their gall is gone, and now they ’gin to weep
The mischief they have done.

I thank ’em, rogues.

Part are so stupid, or so flexible,
As they believe him innocent; all grieve:
And some whose hands yet reek with his warm blood,
And gripe the part which they did tear of him,
Wish him collected and created new.

How Fortune plies her sports, when she begins
To practise them! pursues, continues, adds,
Confounds with varying her impassion’d moods!

Dost thou hope, Fortune, to redeem thy crimes,
To make amend for thy ill-placed favours,
With these strange punishments? Forbear, you things
That stand upon the pinnacles of state,
To boast your slippery height; when you do fall,
You pash yourselves in pieces, ne’er to rise;
And he that lends you pity, is not wise.

Let this example move the insolent man,
Not to grow proud and careless of the gods.
It is an odious wisdom to blaspheme,
Much more to slighten, or deny their powers:
For, whom the morning saw so great and high,
Thus low and little, fore the even doth lie.



ABATE, cast down, subdue.

ABHORRING, repugnant (to), at variance.

ABJECT, base, degraded thing, outcast.

ABRASE, smooth, blank.

ABSOLUTE(LY), faultless(ly).

ABSTRACTED, abstract, abstruse.

ABUSE, deceive, insult, dishonour, make ill use of.

ACATER, caterer.

ACATES, cates.

ACCEPTIVE, willing, ready to accept, receive.

ACCOMMODATE, fit, befitting. (The word was a fashionable one and used on all occasions. See “Henry IV.,” pt. 2, iii. 4).

ACCOST, draw near, approach.

ACKNOWN, confessedly acquainted with.

ACME, full maturity.

ADALANTADO, lord deputy or governor of a Spanish province.

ADJECTION, addition.

ADMIRATION, astonishment.

ADMIRE, wonder, wonder at.

ADROP, philosopher’s stone, or substance from which obtained.

ADSCRIVE, subscribe.

ADULTERATE, spurious, counterfeit.

ADVANCE, lift.

ADVERTISE, inform, give intelligence.

ADVERTISED, “be—,” be it known to you.

ADVERTISEMENT, intelligence.

ADVISE, consider, bethink oneself, deliberate.

ADVISED, informed, aware; “are you—?” have you found that out?

AFFECT, love, like; aim at; move.

AFFECTED, disposed; beloved.

AFFECTIONATE, obstinate; prejudiced.

AFFECTS, affections.

AFFRONT, “give the—,” face.

AFFY, have confidence in; betroth.

AFTER, after the manner of.

AGAIN, AGAINST, in anticipation of.

AGGRAVATE, increase, magnify, enlarge upon.

AGNOMINATION. See Paranomasie.

AIERY, nest, brood.

AIM, guess.

ALL HID, children’s cry at hide-and-seek.

ALL-TO, completely, entirely (“all-to-be-laden”).

ALLOWANCE, approbation, recognition.

ALMA-CANTARAS (astronomy), parallels of altitude.

ALMAIN, name of a dance.

ALMUTEN, planet of chief influence in the horoscope.

ALONE, unequalled, without peer.

ALUDELS, subliming pots.

AMAZED, confused, perplexed.

AMBER, AMBRE, ambergris.

AMBREE, MARY, a woman noted for her valour at the siege of Ghent, 1458.

AMES-ACE, lowest throw at dice.

AMPHIBOLIES, ambiguities.

AMUSED, bewildered, amazed.

AN, if.

ANATOMY, skeleton, or dissected body.

ANDIRONS, fire-dogs.

ANGEL, gold coin worth 10 shillings, stamped with the figure of the archangel Michael.

ANNESH CLEARE, spring known as Agnes le Clare.

ANSWER, return hit in fencing.

ANTIC, ANTIQUE, clown, buffoon.

ANTIC, like a buffoon.

ANTIPERISTASIS, an opposition which enhances the quality it opposes.

APOZEM, decoction.

APPERIL, peril.


APPLY, attach.

APPREHEND, take into custody.

APPREHENSIVE, quick of perception; able to perceive and appreciate.

APPROVE, prove, confirm.

APT, suit, adapt; train, prepare; dispose, incline.

APT(LY), suitable(y), opportune(ly).

APTITUDE, suitableness.

ARBOR, “make the—,” cut up the game (Gifford).

ARCHES, Court of Arches.

ARCHIE, Archibald Armstrong, jester to James I. and Charles I.

ARGAILE, argol, crust or sediment in wine casks.

ARGENT-VIVE, quicksilver.

ARGUMENT, plot of a drama; theme, subject; matter in question; token, proof.

ARRIDE, please.

ARSEDINE, mixture of copper and zinc, used as an imitation of gold-leaf.

ARTHUR, PRINCE, reference to an archery show by a society who assumed arms, etc., of Arthur’s knights.

ARTICLE, item.


ASCENSION, evaporation, distillation.

ASPIRE, try to reach, obtain, long for.

ASSALTO (Italian), assault.

ASSAY, draw a knife along the belly of the deer, a ceremony of the hunting-field.

ASSOIL, solve.

ASSURE, secure possession or reversion of.

ATHANOR, a digesting furnace, calculated to keep up a constant heat.

ATONE, reconcile.

ATTACH, attack, seize.

AUDACIOUS, having spirit and confidence.

AUTHENTIC(AL), of authority, authorised, trustworthy, genuine.

AVISEMENT, reflection, consideration.

AVOID, begone! get rid of.

AWAY WITH, endure.

AZOCH, Mercurius Philosophorum.

BABION, baboon.

BABY, doll.

BACK-SIDE, back premises.

BAFFLE, treat with contempt.

BAGATINE, Italian coin, worth about the third of a farthing.

BAIARD, horse of magic powers known to old romance.

BALDRICK, belt worn across the breast to support bugle, etc.

BALE (of dice), pair.

BALK, overlook, pass by, avoid.

BALLACE, ballast.

BALLOO, game at ball.

BALNEUM (BAIN MARIE), a vessel for holding hot water in which other vessels are stood for heating.

BANBURY, “brother of—,” Puritan.

BANDOG, dog tied or chained up.

BANE, woe, ruin.

BANQUET, a light repast; dessert.

BARB, to clip gold.

BARBEL, fresh-water fish.

BARE, meer; bareheaded; it was “a particular mark of state and grandeur for the coachman to be uncovered” (Gifford).

BARLEY-BREAK, game somewhat similar to base.

BASE, game of prisoner’s base.

BASES, richly embroidered skirt reaching to the knees, or lower.

BASILISK, fabulous reptile, believed to slay with its eye.

BASKET, used for the broken provision collected for prisoners.

BASON, basons, etc., were beaten by the attendant mob when bad characters were “carted.”

BATE, be reduced; abate, reduce.

BATOON, baton, stick.

BATTEN, feed, grow fat.

BAWSON, badger.

BEADSMAN, prayer-man, one engaged to pray for another.

BEAGLE, small hound; fig. spy.

BEAR IN HAND, keep in suspense, deceive with false hopes.

BEARWARD, bear leader.

BEDPHERE. See Phere.

BEDSTAFF, (?) wooden pin in the side of the bedstead for supporting the bedclothes (Johnson); one of the sticks or “laths”; a stick used in making a bed.

BEETLE, heavy mallet.

BEG, “I’d—him,” the custody of minors and idiots was begged for; likewise property fallen forfeit to the Crown (“your house had been begged”).

BELL-MAN, night watchman.

BENJAMIN, an aromatic gum.

BERLINA, pillory.

BESCUMBER, defile.

BESLAVE, beslabber.

BESOGNO, beggar.

BESPAWLE, bespatter.

BETHLEHEM GABOR, Transylvanian hero, proclaimed King of Hungary.

BEVER, drinking.

BEVIS, SIR, knight of romance whose horse was equally celebrated.

BEWRAY, reveal, make known.

BEZANT, heraldic term: small gold circle.

BEZOAR’S STONE, a remedy known by this name was a supposed antidote to poison.

BID-STAND, highwayman.

BIGGIN, cap, similar to that worn by the Beguines; nightcap.

BILIVE (belive), with haste.

BILK, nothing, empty talk.

BILL, kind of pike.

BILLET, wood cut for fuel, stick.

BIRDING, thieving.

BLACK SANCTUS, burlesque hymn, any unholy riot.

BLANK, originally a small French coin.

BLANK, white.

BLANKET, toss in a blanket.

BLAZE, outburst of violence.

BLAZE, (her.) blazon; publish abroad.

BLAZON, armorial bearings; fig. all that pertains to good birth and breeding.

BLIN, “withouten—,” without ceasing.

BLOW, puff up.

BLUE, colour of servants’ livery, hence “—order,” “—waiters.”

BLUSHET, blushing one.

BOB, jest, taunt.

BOB, beat, thump.

BODGE, measure.

BODKIN, dagger, or other short, pointed weapon; long pin with which the women fastened up their hair.

BOLT, roll (of material).

BOLT, dislodge, rout out; sift (boulting-tub).

BOLT’S-HEAD, long, straight-necked vessel for distillation.

BOMBARD SLOPS, padded, puffed-out breeches.

BONA ROBA, “good, wholesome, plum-cheeked wench” (Johnson)—not always used in compliment.

BONNY-CLABBER, sour butter-milk.

BOOKHOLDER, prompter.

BOOT, “to—,” into the bargain; “no—,” of no avail.

BORACHIO, bottle made of skin.

BORDELLO, brothel.

BORNE IT, conducted, carried it through.

BOTTLE (of hay), bundle, truss.

BOTTOM, skein or ball of thread; vessel.

BOURD, jest.

BOVOLI, snails or cockles dressed in the Italian manner (Gifford).

BOW-POT, flower vase or pot.

BOYS, “terrible—,” “angry—,” roystering young bucks. (See Nares).


BRACH, bitch.

BRADAMANTE, a heroine in “Orlando Furioso.”

BRADLEY, ARTHUR OF, a lively character commemorated in ballads.

BRAKE, frame for confining a horse’s feet while being shod, or strong curb or bridle; trap.

BRANCHED, with “detached sleeve ornaments, projecting from the shoulders of the gown” (Gifford).

BRANDISH, flourish of weapon.

BRASH, brace.

BRAVE, bravado, braggart speech.

BRAVE (adv.), gaily, finely (apparelled).

BRAVERIES, gallants.

BRAVERY, extravagant gaiety of apparel.

BRAVO, bravado, swaggerer.

BRAZEN-HEAD, speaking head made by Roger Bacon.

BREATHE, pause for relaxation; exercise.

BREATH UPON, speak dispraisingly of.

BREND, burn.

BRIDE-ALE, wedding feast.

BRIEF, abstract; (mus.) breve.

BRISK, smartly dressed.

BRIZE, breese, gadfly.

BROAD-SEAL, state seal.

BROCK, badger (term of contempt).

BROKE, transact business as a broker.

BROOK, endure, put up with.

BROUGHTON, HUGH, an English divine and Hebrew scholar.

BRUIT, rumour.

BUCK, wash.

BUCKLE, bend.

BUFF, leather made of buffalo skin, used for military and serjeants’ coats, etc.

BUFO, black tincture.

BUGLE, long-shaped bead.

BULLED, (?) bolled, swelled.

BULLIONS, trunk hose.

BULLY, term of familiar endearment.

BUNGY, Friar Bungay, who had a familiar in the shape of a dog.

BURDEN, refrain, chorus.

BURGONET, closely-fitting helmet with visor.

BURGULLION, braggadocio.

BURN, mark wooden measures (“—ing of cans”).

BURROUGH, pledge, security.

BUSKIN, half-boot, foot gear reaching high up the leg.

BUTT-SHAFT, barbless arrow for shooting at butts.

BUTTER, NATHANIEL (“Staple of News”), a compiler of general news. (See Cunningham).

BUTTERY-HATCH, half-door shutting off the buttery, where provisions and liquors were stored.

BUY, “he bought me,” formerly the guardianship of wards could be bought.

BUZ, exclamation to enjoin silence.

BUZZARD, simpleton.

BY AND BY, at once.

BY(E), “on the __,” incidentally, as of minor or secondary importance; at the side.

BY-CHOP, by-blow, bastard.

CADUCEUS, Mercury’s wand.

CALIVER, light kind of musket.

CALLET, woman of ill repute.

CALLOT, coif worn on the wigs of our judges or serjeants-at-law (Gifford).

CALVERED, crimped, or sliced and pickled. (See Nares).

CAMOUCCIO, wretch, knave.

CAMUSED, flat.

CAN, knows.

CANDLE-RENT, rent from house property.

CANDLE-WASTER, one who studies late.

CANTER, sturdy beggar.

CAP OF MAINTENCE, an insignia of dignity, a cap of state borne before kings at their coronation; also an heraldic term.

CAPABLE, able to comprehend, fit to receive instruction, impression.

CAPANEUS, one of the “Seven against Thebes.”

CARACT, carat, unit of weight for precious stones, etc.; value, worth.

CARANZA, Spanish author of a book on duelling.

CARCANET, jewelled ornament for the neck.

CARE, take care; object.

CAROSH, coach, carriage.

CARPET, table-cover.

CARRIAGE, bearing, behaviour.

CARWHITCHET, quip, pun.

CASAMATE, casemate, fortress.

CASE, a pair.

CASE, “in—,” in condition.

CASSOCK, soldier’s loose overcoat.

CAST, flight of hawks, couple.

CAST, throw dice; vomit; forecast, calculate.

CAST, cashiered.

CASTING-GLASS, bottle for sprinkling perfume.

CASTRIL, kestrel, falcon.

CAT, structure used in sieges.

CATAMITE, old form of “ganymede.”

CATASTROPHE, conclusion.

CATCHPOLE, sheriff’s officer.

CATES, dainties, provisions.

CATSO, rogue, cheat.

CAUTELOUS, crafty, artful.

CENSURE, criticism; sentence.

CENSURE, criticise; pass sentence, doom.

CERUSE, cosmetic containing white lead.

CESS, assess.

CHANGE, “hunt—,” follow a fresh scent.

CHAPMAN, retail dealer.

CHARACTER, handwriting.

CHARGE, expense.

CHARM, subdue with magic, lay a spell on, silence.

CHARMING, exercising magic power.

CHARTEL, challenge.

CHEAP, bargain, market.

CHEAR, CHEER, comfort, encouragement; food, entertainment.

CHECK AT, aim reproof at.

CHEQUIN, gold Italian coin.

CHEVRIL, from kidskin, which is elastic and pliable.

CHIAUS, Turkish envoy; used for a cheat, swindler.

CHILDERMASS DAY, Innocents’ Day.

CHOKE-BAIL, action which does not allow of bail.


CHRYSOSPERM, ways of producing gold.

CIBATION, adding fresh substances to supply the waste of evaporation.

CIMICI, bugs.

CINOPER, cinnabar.

CIOPPINI, chopine, lady’s high shoe.

CIRCLING BOY, “a species of roarer; one who in some way drew a man into a snare, to cheat or rob him” (Nares).

CIRCUMSTANCE, circumlocution, beating about the bush; ceremony, everything pertaining to a certain condition; detail, particular.

CITRONISE, turn citron colour.

CITTERN, kind of guitar.

CITY-WIRES, woman of fashion, who made use of wires for hair and dress.

CIVIL, legal.

CLAP, clack, chatter.

CLAPPER-DUDGEON, downright beggar.

CLAPS HIS DISH, a clap, or clack, dish (dish with a movable lid) was carried by beggars and lepers to show that the vessel was empty, and to give sound of their approach.

CLARIDIANA, heroine of an old romance.

CLARISSIMO, Venetian noble.

CLEM, starve.

CLICKET, latch.

CLIM O’ THE CLOUGHS, etc., wordy heroes of romance.

CLIMATE, country.

CLOSE, secret, private; secretive.

CLOSENESS, secrecy.

CLOTH, arras, hangings.

CLOUT, mark shot at, bull’s eye.

CLOWN, countryman, clodhopper.

COACH-LEAVES, folding blinds.

COALS, “bear no—,” submit to no affront.

COAT-ARMOUR, coat of arms.

COAT-CARD, court-card.

COB-HERRING, HERRING-COB, a young herring.

COB-SWAN, male swan.

COCK-A-HOOP, denoting unstinted jollity; thought to be derived from turning on the tap that all might drink to the full of the flowing liquor.

COCKATRICE, reptile supposed to be produced from a cock’s egg and to kill by its eye—used as a term of reproach for a woman.

COCK-BRAINED, giddy, wild.

COCKER, pamper.

COCKSCOMB, fool’s cap.

COCKSTONE, stone said to be found in a cock’s gizzard, and to possess particular virtues.

CODLING, softening by boiling.

COFFIN, raised crust of a pie.

COG, cheat, wheedle.

COIL, turmoil, confusion, ado.

COKELY, master of a puppet-show (Whalley).

COKES, fool, gull.

COLD-CONCEITED, having cold opinion of, coldly affected towards.

COLE-HARBOUR, a retreat for people of all sorts.

COLLECTION, composure; deduction.

COLLOP, small slice, piece of flesh.

COLLY, blacken.

COLOUR, pretext.

COLOURS, “fear no—,” no enemy (quibble).

COLSTAFF, cowlstaff, pole for carrying a cowl=tub.

COME ABOUT, charge, turn round.

COMFORTABLE BREAD, spiced gingerbread.

COMING, forward, ready to respond, complaisant.

COMMENT, commentary; “sometime it is taken for a lie or fayned tale” (Bullokar, 1616).

COMMODITY, “current for—,” allusion to practice of money-lenders, who forced the borrower to take part of the loan in the shape of worthless goods on which the latter had to make money if he could.


COMPASS, “in—,” within the range, sphere.

COMPLEMENT, completion, completement; anything required for the perfecting or carrying out of a person or affair; accomplishment.

COMPLEXION, natural disposition, constitution.

COMPLIMENT, See Complement.

COMPLIMENTARIES, masters of accomplishments.

COMPOSITION, constitution; agreement, contract.

COMPOSURE, composition.

COMPTER, COUNTER, debtors’ prison.

CONCEALMENT, a certain amount of church property had been retained at the dissolution of the monasteries; Elizabeth sent commissioners to search it out, and the courtiers begged for it.

CONCEIT, idea, fancy, witty invention, conception, opinion.

CONCEIT, apprehend.

CONCEITED, fancifully, ingeniously devised or conceived; possessed of intelligence, witty, ingenious (hence well conceited, etc.); disposed to joke; of opinion, possessed of an idea.

CONCEIVE, understand.

CONCENT, harmony, agreement.

CONCLUDE, infer, prove.

CONCOCT, assimilate, digest.

CONDEN’T, probably conducted.

CONDUCT, escort, conductor.


CONFECT, sweetmeat.

CONFER, compare.

CONGIES, bows.

CONNIVE, give a look, wink, of secret intelligence.

CONSORT, company, concert.

CONSTANCY, fidelity, ardour, persistence.

CONSTANT, confirmed, persistent, faithful.

CONSTANTLY, firmly, persistently.

CONTEND, strive.

CONTINENT, holding together.

CONTROL (the point), bear or beat down.

CONVENT, assembly, meeting.

CONVERT, turn (oneself).

CONVEY, transmit from one to another.

CONVINCE, evince, prove; overcome, overpower; convict.

COP, head, top; tuft on head of birds; “a cop” may have reference to one or other meaning; Gifford and others interpret as “conical, terminating in a point.”

COPE-MAN, chapman.

COPESMATE, companion.

COPY (Lat. copia), abundance, copiousness.

CORN (“powder—”), grain.

COROLLARY, finishing part or touch.

CORSIVE, corrosive.

CORTINE, curtain, (arch.) wall between two towers, etc.

CORYAT, famous for his travels, published as “Coryat’s Crudities.”

COSSET, pet lamb, pet.

COSTARD, head.

COSTARD-MONGER, apple-seller, coster-monger.

COSTS, ribs.

COTE, hut.

COTHURNAL, from “cothurnus,” a particular boot worn by actors in Greek tragedy.

COTQUEAN, hussy.

COUNSEL, secret.

COUNTENANCE, means necessary for support; credit, standing.

COUNTER. See Compter.

COUNTER, pieces of metal or ivory for calculating at play.

COUNTER, “hunt—,” follow scent in reverse direction.

COUNTERFEIT, false coin.

COUNTERPANE, one part or counterpart of a deed or indenture.

COUNTERPOINT, opposite, contrary point.

COURT-DISH, a kind of drinking-cup (Halliwell); N.E.D. quotes from Bp. Goodman’s “Court of James I.”: “The king...caused his carver to cut him out a court-dish, that is, something of every dish, which he sent him as part of his reversion,” but this does not sound like short allowance or small receptacle.

COURT-DOR, fool.

COURTEAU, curtal, small horse with docked tail.

COURTSHIP, courtliness.

COVETISE, avarice.

COWSHARD, cow dung.

COXCOMB, fool’s cap, fool.

COY, shrink; disdain.

COYSTREL, low varlet.

COZEN, cheat.

CRACK, lively young rogue, wag.

CRACK, crack up, boast; come to grief.

CRAMBE, game of crambo, in which the players find rhymes for a given word.

CRANCH, craunch.

CRANION, spider-like; also fairy appellation for a fly (Gifford, who refers to lines in Drayton’s “Nimphidia”).

CRIMP, game at cards.

CRINCLE, draw back, turn aside.

CRISPED, with curled or waved hair.

CROP, gather, reap.

CROPSHIRE, a kind of herring. (See N.E.D.)

CROSS, any piece of money, many coins being stamped with a cross.

CROSS AND PILE, heads and tails.

CROSSLET, crucible.

CROWD, fiddle.

CRUDITIES, undigested matter.

CRUMP, curl up.

CRUSADO, Portuguese gold coin, marked with a cross.

CRY (“he that cried Italian”), “speak in a musical cadence,” intone, or declaim (?); cry up.

CUCKING-STOOL, used for the ducking of scolds, etc.

CUCURBITE, a gourd-shaped vessel used for distillation.

CUERPO, “in—,” in undress.

CULLICE, broth.

CULLION, base fellow, coward.

CULLISEN, badge worn on their arm by servants.

CULVERIN, kind of cannon.

CUNNING, skill.

CUNNING, skilful.

CUNNING-MAN, fortune-teller.

CURE, care for.

CURIOUS(LY), scrupulous, particular; elaborate, elegant(ly), dainty(ly) (hence “in curious”).

CURST, shrewish, mischievous.

CURTAL, dog with docked tail, of inferior sort.

CUSTARD, “quaking—,” “—politic,” reference to a large custard which formed part of a city feast and afforded huge entertainment, for the fool jumped into it, and other like tricks were played. (See “All’s Well, etc.” ii. 5, 40.)

CUTWORK, embroidery, open-work.

CYPRES (CYPRUS) (quibble), cypress (or cyprus) being a transparent material, and when black used for mourning.

DAGGER (“—frumety”), name of tavern.

DARGISON, apparently some person known in ballad or tale.

DAUPHIN MY BOY, refrain of old comic song.

DAW, daunt.

DEAD LIFT, desperate emergency.

DEAR, applied to that which in any way touches us nearly.

DECLINE, turn off from; turn away, aside.

DEFALK, deduct, abate.

DEFEND, forbid.

DEGENEROUS, degenerate.

DEGREES, steps.

DELATE, accuse.

DEMI-CULVERIN, cannon carrying a ball of about ten pounds.

DENIER, the smallest possible coin, being the twelfth part of a sou.

DEPART, part with.

DEPENDANCE, ground of quarrel in duello language.

DESERT, reward.


DESPERATE, rash, reckless.

DETECT, allow to be detected, betray, inform against.

DETERMINE, terminate.

DETRACT, draw back, refuse.

DEVICE, masque, show; a thing moved by wires, etc., puppet.

DEVISE, exact in every particular.

DEVISED, invented.

DIAPASM, powdered aromatic herbs, made into balls of perfumed paste. (See Pomander.)

DIBBLE, (?) moustache (N.E.D.); (?) dagger (Cunningham).

DIFFUSED, disordered, scattered, irregular.

DIGHT, dressed.

DILDO, refrain of popular songs; vague term of low meaning.

DIMBLE, dingle, ravine.

DIMENSUM, stated allowance.

DISBASE, debase.

DISCERN, distinguish, show a difference between.

DISCHARGE, settle for.

DISCIPLINE, reformation; ecclesiastical system.

DISCLAIM, renounce all part in.

DISCOURSE, process of reasoning, reasoning faculty.

DISCOURTSHIP, discourtesy.

DISCOVER, betray, reveal; display.

DISFAVOUR, disfigure.

DISPARAGEMENT, legal term applied to the unfitness in any way of a marriage arranged for in the case of wards.

DISPENSE WITH, grant dispensation for.

DISPLAY, extend.

DIS’PLE, discipline, teach by the whip.

DISPOSED, inclined to merriment.

DISPOSURE, disposal.

DISPRISE, depreciate.

DISPUNCT, not punctilious.


DISSOLVED, enervated by grief.

DISTANCE, (?) proper measure.

DISTASTE, offence, cause of offence.

DISTASTE, render distasteful.

DISTEMPERED, upset, out of humour.

DIVISION (mus.), variation, modulation.

DOG-BOLT, term of contempt.

DOLE, given in dole, charity.

DOLE OF FACES, distribution of grimaces.

DOOM, verdict, sentence.

DOP, dip, low bow.

DOR, beetle, buzzing insect, drone, idler.

DOR, (?) buzz; “give the—,” make a fool of.

DOSSER, pannier, basket.

DOTES, endowments, qualities.

DOTTEREL, plover; gull, fool.

DOUBLE, behave deceitfully.

DOXY, wench, mistress.

DRACHM, Greek silver coin.

DRESS, groom, curry.

DRESSING, coiffure.

DRIFT, intention.

DRYFOOT, track by mere scent of foot.

DUCKING, punishment for minor offences.

DUILL, grieve.

DUMPS, melancholy, originally a mournful melody.

DURINDANA, Orlando’s sword.

DWINDLE, shrink away, be overawed.

EAN, yean, bring forth young.

EASINESS, readiness.

EBOLITION, ebullition.

EDGE, sword.

EECH, eke.

EGREGIOUS, eminently excellent.

EKE, also, moreover.

E-LA, highest note in the scale.

EGGS ON THE SPIT, important business on hand.

ELF-LOCK, tangled hair, supposed to be the work of elves.

EMMET, ant.

ENGAGE, involve.

ENGHLE. See Ingle.

ENGHLE, cajole; fondle.

ENGIN(E), device, contrivance; agent; ingenuity, wit.

ENGINER, engineer, deviser, plotter.

ENGINOUS, crafty, full of devices; witty, ingenious.

ENGROSS, monopolise.

ENS, an existing thing, a substance.

ENSIGNS, tokens, wounds.

ENSURE, assure.

ENTERTAIN, take into service.

ENTREAT, plead.

ENTREATY, entertainment.

ENTRY, place where a deer has lately passed.

ENVOY, denouement, conclusion.

ENVY, spite, calumny, dislike, odium.

EPHEMERIDES, calendars.

EQUAL, just, impartial.

ERECTION, elevation in esteem.

ERINGO, candied root of the sea-holly, formerly used as a sweetmeat and aphrodisiac.

ERRANT, arrant.

ESSENTIATE, become assimilated.


ESTRICH, ostrich.

ETHNIC, heathen.

EURIPUS, flux and reflux.

EVEN, just equable.

EVENT, fate, issue.

EVENT(ED), issue(d).

EVERT, overturn.

EXACUATE, sharpen.

EXAMPLESS, without example or parallel.

EXCALIBUR, King Arthur’s sword.

EXEMPLIFY, make an example of.

EXEMPT, separate, exclude.

EXEQUIES, obsequies.

EXHALE, drag out.

EXHIBITION, allowance for keep, pocket-money.

EXORBITANT, exceeding limits of propriety or law, inordinate.

EXORNATION, ornament.

EXPECT, wait.

EXPIATE, terminate.

EXPLICATE, explain, unfold.

EXTEMPORAL, extempore, unpremeditated.

EXTRACTION, essence.

EXTRAORDINARY, employed for a special or temporary purpose.

EXTRUDE, expel.

EYE, “in—,” in view.

EYEBRIGHT, (?) a malt liquor in which the herb of this name was infused, or a person who sold the same (Gifford).

EYE-TINGE, least shade or gleam.

FACE, appearance.

FACES ABOUT, military word of command.

FACINOROUS, extremely wicked.

FACKINGS, faith.

FACT, deed, act, crime.

FACTIOUS, seditious, belonging to a party, given to party feeling.

FAECES, dregs.

FAGIOLI, French beans.

FAIN, forced, necessitated.

FAITHFUL, believing.

FALL, ruff or band turned back on the shoulders; or, veil.

FALSIFY, feign (fencing term).

FAME, report.

FAMILIAR, attendant spirit.

FANTASTICAL, capricious, whimsical.

FARCE, stuff.

FAR-FET. See Fet.

FARTHINGAL, hooped petticoat.

FAUCET, tapster.

FAULT, lack; loss, break in line of scent; “for—,” in default of.

FAUTOR, partisan.

FAYLES, old table game similar to backgammon.

FEAR(ED), affright(ed).

FEAT, activity, operation; deed, action.

FEAT, elegant, trim.

FEE, “in—” by feudal obligation.

FEIZE, beat, belabour.

FELLOW, term of contempt.

FENNEL, emblem of flattery.

FERE, companion, fellow.

FERN-SEED, supposed to have power of rendering invisible.

FET, fetched.

FETCH, trick.

FEUTERER (Fr. vautrier), dog-keeper.

FEWMETS, dung.

FICO, fig.

FIGGUM, (?) jugglery.

FIGMENT, fiction, invention.

FIRK, frisk, move suddenly, or in jerks; “—up,” stir up, rouse; “firks mad,” suddenly behaves like a madman.

FIT, pay one out, punish.

FITNESS, readiness.

FITTON (FITTEN), lie, invention.

FIVE-AND-FIFTY, “highest number to stand on at primero” (Gifford).

FLAG, to fly low and waveringly.

FLAGON CHAIN, for hanging a smelling-bottle (Fr. flacon) round the neck (?). (See N.E.D.).

FLAP-DRAGON, game similar to snap-dragon.

FLASKET, some kind of basket.

FLAW, sudden gust or squall of wind.

FLAWN, custard.

FLEA, catch fleas.

FLEER, sneer, laugh derisively.

FLESH, feed a hawk or dog with flesh to incite it to the chase; initiate in blood-shed; satiate.


FLIGHT, light arrow.


FLOUT, mock, speak and act contemptuously.

FLOWERS, pulverised substance.

FLY, familiar spirit.

FOIL, weapon used in fencing; that which sets anything off to advantage.

FOIST, cut-purse, sharper.

FOND(LY), foolish(ly).

FOOT-CLOTH, housings of ornamental cloth which hung down on either side a horse to the ground.

FOOTING, foothold; footstep; dancing.

FOPPERY, foolery.

FOR, “—failing,” for fear of failing.

FORBEAR, bear with; abstain from.

FORCE, “hunt at—,” run the game down with dogs.

FOREHEAD, modesty; face, assurance, effrontery.

FORESLOW, delay.

FORESPEAK, bewitch; foretell.

FORETOP, front lock of hair which fashion required to be worn upright.

FORGED, fabricated.

FORM, state formally.

FORMAL, shapely; normal; conventional.

FORTHCOMING, produced when required.

FOUNDER, disable with over-riding.

FOURM, form, lair.

FOX, sword.

FRAIL, rush basket in which figs or raisins were packed.

FRAMPULL, peevish, sour-tempered.

FRAPLER, blusterer, wrangler.

FRAYING, “a stag is said to fray his head when he rubs it against a tree to...cause the outward coat of the new horns to fall off” (Gifford).

FREIGHT (of the gazetti), burden (of the newspapers).


FRICACE, rubbing.

FRICATRICE, woman of low character.

FRIPPERY, old clothes shop.

FROCK, smock-frock.

FROLICS, (?) humorous verses circulated at a feast (N.E.D.); couplets wrapped round sweetmeats (Cunningham).

FRONTLESS, shameless.

FROTED, rubbed.

FRUMETY, hulled wheat boiled in milk and spiced.

FRUMP, flout, sneer.

FUCUS, dye.

FUGEAND, (?) figent: fidgety, restless (N.E.D.).

FULLAM, false dice.

FULMART, polecat.

FULSOME, foul, offensive.

FURIBUND, raging, furious.

GALLEY-FOIST, city-barge, used on Lord Mayor’s Day, when he was sworn into his office at Westminster (Whalley).

GALLIARD, lively dance in triple time.

GAPE, be eager after.

GARAGANTUA, Rabelais’ giant.

GARB, sheaf (Fr. gerbe); manner, fashion, behaviour.

GARD, guard, trimming, gold or silver lace, or other ornament.

GARDED, faced or trimmed.


GAVEL-KIND, name of a land-tenure existing chiefly in Kent; from 16th century often used to denote custom of dividing a deceased man’s property equally among his sons (N.E.D.).

GAZETTE, small Venetian coin worth about three-farthings.

GEANCE, jaunt, errand.

GEAR (GEER), stuff, matter, affair.

GELID, frozen.

GEMONIES, steps from which the bodies of criminals were thrown into the river.

GENERAL, free, affable.

GENIUS, attendant spirit.

GENTRY, gentlemen; manners characteristic of gentry, good breeding.

GIB-CAT, tom-cat.

GIGANTOMACHIZE, start a giants’ war.

GIGLOT, wanton.

GIMBLET, gimlet.

GING, gang.

GLASS (“taking in of shadows, etc.”), crystal or beryl.

GLEEK, card game played by three; party of three, trio; side glance.

GLICK (GLEEK), jest, gibe.

GLIDDER, glaze.

GLORIOUSLY, of vain glory.

GODWIT, bird of the snipe family.

GOLD-END-MAN, a buyer of broken gold and silver.

GOLL, hand.

GONFALIONIER, standard-bearer, chief magistrate, etc.

GOOD, sound in credit.

GOOD-YEAR, good luck.

GOOSE-TURD, colour of. (See Turd).

GORCROW, carrion crow.

GORGET, neck armour.

GOSSIP, godfather.

GOWKED, from “gowk,” to stand staring and gaping like a fool.

GRANNAM, grandam.

GRASS, (?) grease, fat.

GRATEFUL, agreeable, welcome.

GRATIFY, give thanks to.

GRATITUDE, gratuity.

GRATULATE, welcome, congratulate.

GRAVITY, dignity.

GRAY, badger.

GRICE, cub.

GRIEF, grievance.

GRIPE, vulture, griffin.

GRIPE’S EGG, vessel in shape of.

GROAT, fourpence.

GROGRAN, coarse stuff made of silk and mohair, or of coarse silk.

GROOM-PORTER, officer in the royal household.

GROPE, handle, probe.

GROUND, pit (hence “grounded judgments”).

GUARD, caution, heed.

GUARDANT, heraldic term: turning the head only.

GUILDER, Dutch coin worth about 4d.

GULES, gullet, throat; heraldic term for red.

GULL, simpleton, dupe.

GUST, taste.

HAB NAB, by, on, chance.

HABERGEON, coat of mail.

HAGGARD, wild female hawk; hence coy, wild.

HALBERD, combination of lance and battle-axe.

HALL, “a—!” a cry to clear the room for the dancers.

HANDSEL, first money taken.

HANGER, loop or strap on a sword-belt from which the sword was suspended.

HAP, fortune, luck.

HAPPILY, haply.

HAPPINESS, appropriateness, fitness.

HAPPY, rich.

HARBOUR, track, trace (an animal) to its shelter.

HARD-FAVOURED, harsh-featured.

HARPOCRATES, Horus the child, son of Osiris, figured with a finger pointing to his mouth, indicative of silence.

HARRINGTON, a patent was granted to Lord H. for the coinage of tokens (q.v.).

HARROT, herald.

HARRY NICHOLAS, founder of a community called the “Family of Love.”

HAY, net for catching rabbits, etc.

HAY! (Ital. hai!), you have it (a fencing term).

HAY IN HIS HORN, ill-tempered person.

HAZARD, game at dice; that which is staked.

HEAD, “first—,” young deer with antlers first sprouting; fig. a newly-ennobled man.

HEADBOROUGH, constable.

HEARKEN AFTER, inquire; “hearken out,” find, search out.

HEARTEN, encourage.

HEAVEN AND HELL (“Alchemist”), names of taverns.

HECTIC, fever.

HEDGE IN, include.

HELM, upper part of a retort.

HER’NSEW, hernshaw, heron.

HIERONIMO (JERONIMO), hero of Kyd’s “Spanish Tragedy.”

HOBBY, nag.

HOBBY-HORSE, imitation horse of some light material, fastened round the waist of the morrice-dancer, who imitated the movements of a skittish horse.


HOIDEN, hoyden, formerly applied to both sexes (ancient term for leveret? Gifford).

HOLLAND, name of two famous chemists.

HONE AND HONERO, wailing expressions of lament or discontent.

HOOD-WINK’D, blindfolded.

HORARY, hourly.

HORN-MAD, stark mad (quibble).

HORN-THUMB, cut-purses were in the habit of wearing a horn shield on the thumb.

HORSE-BREAD-EATING, horses were often fed on coarse bread.

HORSE-COURSER, horse-dealer.

HOSPITAL, Christ’s Hospital.

HOWLEGLAS, Eulenspiegel, the hero of a popular German tale which relates his buffooneries and knavish tricks.

HUFF, hectoring, arrogance.

HUFF IT, swagger.

HUISHER (Fr. huissier), usher.

HUM, beer and spirits mixed together.

HUMANITIAN, humanist, scholar.

HUMOROUS, capricious, moody, out of humour; moist.

HUMOUR, a word used in and out of season in the time of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, and ridiculed by both.

HUMOURS, manners.

HUMPHREY, DUKE, those who were dinnerless spent the dinner-hour in a part of St. Paul’s where stood a monument said to be that of the duke’s; hence “dine with Duke Humphrey,” to go hungry.

HURTLESS, harmless.

IDLE, useless, unprofitable.

ILL-AFFECTED, ill-disposed.

ILL-HABITED, unhealthy.

ILLUSTRATE, illuminate.

IMBIBITION, saturation, steeping.

IMBROCATA, fencing term: a thrust in tierce.

IMPAIR, impairment.

IMPART, give money.

IMPARTER, any one ready to be cheated and to part with his money.

IMPEACH, damage.

IMPERTINENCIES, irrelevancies.

IMPERTINENT(LY), irrelevant(ly), without reason or purpose.

IMPOSITION, duty imposed by.

IMPOTENTLY, beyond power of control.

IMPRESS, money in advance.

IMPULSION, incitement.

IN AND IN, a game played by two or three persons with four dice.

INCENSE, incite, stir up.

INCERATION, act of covering with wax; or reducing a substance to softness of wax.

INCH, “to their—es,” according to their stature, capabilities.

INCH-PIN, sweet-bread.

INCONVENIENCE, inconsistency, absurdity.

INCONY, delicate, rare (used as a term of affection).

INCUBEE, incubus.

INCUBUS, evil spirit that oppresses us in sleep, nightmare.

INCURIOUS, unfastidious, uncritical.

INDENT, enter into engagement.

INDIFFERENT, tolerable, passable.

INDIGESTED, shapeless, chaotic.

INDUCE, introduce.

INDUE, supply.

INEXORABLE, relentless.

INFANTED, born, produced.

INFLAME, augment charge.

INGENIOUS, used indiscriminantly for ingenuous; intelligent, talented.

INGENUITY, ingenuousness.

INGENUOUS, generous.

INGINE. See Engin.

INGINER, engineer. (See Enginer).

INGLE, OR ENGHLE, bosom friend, intimate, minion.

INHABITABLE, uninhabitable.

INJURY, insult, affront.

IN-MATE, resident, indwelling.

INNATE, natural.

INNOCENT, simpleton.

INQUEST, jury, or other official body of inquiry.


INSTANT, immediate.

INSTRUMENT, legal document.

INSURE, assure.

INTEGRATE, complete, perfect.

INTELLIGENCE, secret information, news.

INTEND, note carefully, attend, give ear to, be occupied with.

INTENDMENT, intention.

INTENT, intention, wish.

INTENTION, concentration of attention or gaze.

INTENTIVE, attentive.

INTERESSED, implicated.

INTRUDE, bring in forcibly or without leave.

INVINCIBLY, invisibly.

INWARD, intimate.

IRPE (uncertain), “a fantastic grimace, or contortion of the body: (Gifford).”

JACK, Jack o’ the clock, automaton figure that strikes the hour; Jack-a-lent, puppet thrown at in Lent.

JACK, key of a virginal.

JACOB’S STAFF, an instrument for taking altitudes and distances.

JADE, befool.

JEALOUSY, JEALOUS, suspicion, suspicious.

JERKING, lashing.

JEW’S TRUMP, Jew’s harp.

JIG, merry ballad or tune; a fanciful dialogue or light comic act introduced at the end or during an interlude of a play.

JOINED (JOINT)-STOOL, folding stool.

JOLL, jowl.

JOLTHEAD, blockhead.

JUMP, agree, tally.

JUST YEAR, no one was capable of the consulship until he was forty-three.

KELL, cocoon.

KELLY, an alchemist.

KEMB, comb.

KEMIA, vessel for distillation.

KIBE, chap, sore.

KILDERKIN, small barrel.

KILL, kiln.

KIND, nature; species; “do one’s—,” act according to one’s nature.

KIRTLE, woman’s gown of jacket and petticoat.

KISS OR DRINK AFORE ME, “this is a familiar expression, employed when what the speaker is just about to say is anticipated by another” (Gifford).

KIT, fiddle.

KNACK, snap, click.

KNIPPER-DOLING, a well-known Anabaptist.

KNITTING CUP, marriage cup.

KNOCKING, striking, weighty.

KNOT, company, band; a sandpiper or robin snipe (Tringa canutus); flower-bed laid out in fanciful design.

KURSINED, KYRSIN, christened.

LABOURED, wrought with labour and care.

LADE, load(ed).

LADING, load.

LAID, plotted.

LANCE-KNIGHT (Lanzknecht), a German mercenary foot-soldier.

LAP, fold.

LAR, household god.

LARD, garnish.

LARGE, abundant.

LARUM, alarum, call to arms.

LATTICE, tavern windows were furnished with lattices of various colours.

LAUNDER, to wash gold in aqua regia, so as imperceptibly to extract some of it.

LAVE, ladle, bale.

LAW, “give—,” give a start (term of chase).

LAXATIVE, loose.

LAY ABOARD, run alongside generally with intent to board.

LEAGUER, siege, or camp of besieging army.

LEASING, lying.

LEAVE, leave off, desist.

LEER, leering or “empty, hence, perhaps, leer horse, a horse without a rider; leer is an adjective meaning uncontrolled, hence ‘leer drunkards’” (Halliwell); according to Nares, a leer (empty) horse meant also a led horse; leeward, left.

LEESE, lose.

LEGS, “make—,” do obeisance.

LEIGER, resident representative.

LEIGERITY, legerdemain.

LEMMA, subject proposed, or title of the epigram.

LENTER, slower.

LET, hinder.

LET, hindrance.

LEVEL COIL, a rough which one hunted another from his seat. Hence used for any noisy riot (Halliwell).

LEWD, ignorant.

LEYSTALLS, receptacles of filth.

LIBERAL, ample.

LIEGER, ledger, register.

LIFT(ING), steal(ing); theft.

LIGHT, alight.

LIGHTLY, commonly, usually, often.

LIKE, please.

LIKELY, agreeable, pleasing.

LIME-HOUND, leash-, blood-hound.

LIMMER, vile, worthless.

LIN, leave off.

Line, “by—,” by rule.

LINSTOCK, staff to stick in the ground, with forked head to hold a lighted match for firing cannon.

LIQUID, clear.

LIST, listen, hark; like, please.

LIVERY, legal term, delivery of the possession, etc.

LOGGET, small log, stick.

LOOSE, solution; upshot, issue; release of an arrow.

LOSE, give over, desist from; waste.

LOUTING, bowing, cringing.

LUCULENT, bright of beauty.

LUDGATHIANS, dealers on Ludgate Hill.

LURCH, rob, cheat.

LUTE, to close a vessel with some kind of cement.

MACK, unmeaning expletive.

MADGE-HOWLET or OWL, barn-owl.

MAIM, hurt, injury.

MAIN, chief concern (used as a quibble on heraldic term for “hand”).

MAINPRISE, becoming surety for a prisoner so as to procure his release.

MAINTENANCE, giving aid, or abetting.

MAKE, mate.

MAKE, MADE, acquaint with business, prepare(d), instruct(ed).

MALLANDERS, disease of horses.

MALT HORSE, dray horse.

MAMMET, puppet.

MAMMOTHREPT, spoiled child.

MANAGE, control (term used for breaking-in horses); handling, administration.

MANGO, slave-dealer.

MANGONISE, polish up for sale.

MANIPLES, bundles, handfuls.

MANKIND, masculine, like a virago.

MANKIND, humanity.

MAPLE FACE, spotted face (N.E.D.).

MARCHPANE, a confection of almonds, sugar, etc.

MARK, “fly to the—,” “generally said of a goshawk when, having ‘put in’ a covey of partridges, she takes stand, marking the spot where they disappeared from view until the falconer arrives to put them out to her” (Harting, Bibl. Accip. Gloss. 226).

MARLE, marvel.

MARROW-BONE MAN, one often on his knees for prayer.

MARRY! exclamation derived from the Virgin’s name.

MARRY GIP, “probably originated from By Mary Gipcy” = St. Mary of Egypt, (N.E.D.).

MARTAGAN, Turk’s cap lily.

MARYHINCHCO, stringhalt.

MASORETH, Masora, correct form of the scriptural text according to Hebrew tradition.

MASS, abb. for master.

MAUND, beg.

MAUTHER, girl, maid.

MEAN, moderation.

MEASURE, dance, more especially a stately one.

MEAT, “carry—in one’s mouth,” be a source of money or entertainment.

MEATH, metheglin.

MECHANICAL, belonging to mechanics, mean, vulgar.

MEDITERRANEO, middle aisle of St. Paul’s, a general resort for business and amusement.

MEET WITH, even with.

MELICOTTON, a late kind of peach.

MENSTRUE, solvent.

MERCAT, market.

MERD, excrement.

MERE, undiluted; absolute, unmitigated.

MESS, party of four.

METHEGLIN, fermented liquor, of which one ingredient was honey.

METOPOSCOPY, study of physiognomy.

MIDDLING GOSSIP, go-between.

MIGNIARD, dainty, delicate.

MILE-END, training-ground of the city.

MINE-MEN, sappers.

MINION, form of cannon.

MINSITIVE, (?) mincing, affected (N.E.D.).

MISCELLANY MADAM, “a female trader in miscellaneous articles; a dealer in trinkets or ornaments of various kinds, such as kept shops in the New Exchange” (Nares).

MISCELLINE, mixed grain; medley.

MISCONCEIT, misconception.

MISPRISE, MISPRISION, mistake, misunderstanding.

MISTAKE AWAY, carry away as if by mistake.

MITHRIDATE, an antidote against poison.

MOCCINIGO, small Venetian coin, worth about ninepence.

MODERN, in the mode; ordinary, commonplace.

MOMENT, force or influence of value.

MONTANTO, upward stroke.

MONTH’S MIND, violent desire.

MOORISH, like a moor or waste.

MORGLAY, sword of Bevis of Southampton.

MORRICE-DANCE, dance on May Day, etc., in which certain personages were represented.


MORT-MAL, old sore, gangrene.

MOSCADINO, confection flavoured with musk.

MOTHER, Hysterica passio.

MOTION, proposal, request; puppet, puppet-show; “one of the small figures on the face of a large clock which was moved by the vibration of the pendulum” (Whalley).

MOTION, suggest, propose.

MOTLEY, parti-coloured dress of a fool; hence used to signify pertaining to, or like, a fool.

MOTTE, motto.

MOURNIVAL, set of four aces or court cards in a hand; a quartette.

MOW, setord hay or sheaves of grain.

MUCH! expressive of irony and incredulity.

MUCKINDER, handkerchief.

MULE, “born to ride on—,” judges or serjeants-at-law formerly rode on mules when going in state to Westminster (Whally).

MULLETS, small pincers.

MUM-CHANCE, game of chance, played in silence.

MUN, must.

MUREY, dark crimson red.


MUSE, wonder.

MUSICAL, in harmony.

MUSS, mouse; scramble.

MYROBOLANE, foreign conserve, “a dried plum, brought from the Indies.”

MYSTERY, art, trade, profession.

NAIL, “to the—” (ad unguem), to perfection, to the very utmost.

NATIVE, natural.

NEAT, cattle.

NEAT, smartly apparelled; unmixed; dainty.

NEATLY, neatly finished.

NEATNESS, elegance.

NEIS, nose, scent.

NEUF (NEAF, NEIF), fist.

NEUFT, newt.

NIAISE, foolish, inexperienced person.

NICE, fastidious, trivial, finical, scrupulous.

NICENESS, fastidiousness.

NICK, exact amount; right moment; “set in the—,” meaning uncertain.

NICE, suit, fit; hit, seize the right moment, etc., exactly hit on, hit off.

NOBLE, gold coin worth 6s. 8d.

NOCENT, harmful.

NIL, not will.

NOISE, company of musicians.

NOMENTACK, an Indian chief from Virginia.

NONES, nonce.

NOTABLE, egregious.

NOTE, sign, token.

NOUGHT, “be—,” go to the devil, be hanged, etc.

NOWT-HEAD, blockhead.

NUMBER, rhythm.

NUPSON, oaf, simpleton.

OADE, woad.

OBARNI, preparation of mead.

OBJECT, oppose; expose; interpose.

OBLATRANT, barking, railing.

OBNOXIOUS, liable, exposed; offensive.

OBSERVANCE, homage, devoted service.

OBSERVANT, attentive, obsequious.

OBSERVE, show deference, respect.

OBSERVER, one who shows deference, or waits upon another.

OBSTANCY, legal phrase, “juridical opposition.”

OBSTREPEROUS, clamorous, vociferous.

OBSTUPEFACT, stupefied.

ODLING, (?) “must have some relation to tricking and cheating” (Nares).

OMINOUS, deadly, fatal.

ONCE, at once; for good and all; used also for additional emphasis.

ONLY, pre-eminent, special.

OPEN, make public; expound.

OPPILATION, obstruction.

OPPONE, oppose.

OPPOSITE, antagonist.

OPPRESS, suppress.

ORIGINOUS, native.

ORT, remnant, scrap.

OUT, “to be—,” to have forgotten one’s part; not at one with each other.

OUTCRY, sale by auction.

OUTRECUIDANCE, arrogance, presumption.

OUTSPEAK, speak more than.

OVERPARTED, given too difficult a part to play.

OWLSPIEGEL. See Howleglass.

OYEZ! (O YES!), hear ye! call of the public crier when about to make a proclamation.

PACKING PENNY, “give a—,” dismiss, send packing.

PAD, highway.

PAD-HORSE, road-horse.

PAINED (PANED) SLOPS, full breeches made of strips of different colour and material.

PAINFUL, diligent, painstaking.

PAINT, blush.

PALINODE, ode of recantation.

PALL, weaken, dim, make stale.

PALM, triumph.

PAN, skirt of dress or coat.

PANNEL, pad, or rough kind of saddle.

PANNIER-ALLY, inhabited by tripe-sellers.

PANNIER-MAN, hawker; a man employed about the inns of court to bring in provisions, set the table, etc.

PANTOFLE, indoor shoe, slipper.

PARAMENTOS, fine trappings.

PARANOMASIE, a play upon words.

PARANTORY, (?) peremptory.

PARCEL, particle, fragment (used contemptuously); article.

PARCEL, part, partly.

PARCEL-POET, poetaster.

PARERGA, subordinate matters.

PARGET, to paint or plaster the face.

PARLE, parley.

PARLOUS, clever, shrewd.

PART, apportion.

PARTAKE, participate in.

PARTED, endowed, talented.

PARTICULAR, individual person.

PARTIZAN, kind of halberd.

PARTRICH, partridge.

PARTS, qualities, endowments.

PASH, dash, smash.

PASS, care, trouble oneself.

PASSADO, fencing term: a thrust.

PASSAGE, game at dice.

PASSINGLY, exceedingly.

PASSION, effect caused by external agency.

PASSION, “in—,” in so melancholy a tone, so pathetically.

PATOUN, (?) Fr. Paton, pellet of dough; perhaps the “moulding of the tobacco...for the pipe” (Gifford); (?) variant of Petun, South American name of tobacco.

PATRICO, the recorder, priest, orator of strolling beggars or gipsies.

PATTEN, shoe with wooden sole; “go—,” keep step with, accompany.

PAUCA VERBA, few words.

PAVIN, a stately dance.

PEACE, “with my master’s—,” by leave, favour.

PECULIAR, individual, single.

PEDANT, teacher of the languages.

PEEL, baker’s shovel.

PEEP, speak in a small or shrill voice.

PEEVISH(LY), foolish(ly), capricious(ly); childish(ly).

PELICAN, a retort fitted with tube or tubes, for continuous distillation.

PENCIL, small tuft of hair.

PERDUE, soldier accustomed to hazardous service.

PEREMPTORY, resolute, bold; imperious; thorough, utter, absolute(ly).

PERIMETER, circumference of a figure.

PERIOD, limit, end.

PERK, perk up.

PERPETUANA, “this seems to be that glossy kind of stuff now called everlasting, and anciently worn by serjeants and other city officers” (Gifford).

PERSPECTIVE, a view, scene or scenery; an optical device which gave a distortion to the picture unless seen from a particular point; a relief, modelled to produce an optical illusion.

PERSPICIL, optic glass.

PERSTRINGE, criticise, censure.

PERSUADE, inculcate, commend.

PERSWAY, mitigate.

PERTINACY, pertinacity.

PESTLING, pounding, pulverising, like a pestle.

PETASUS, broad-brimmed hat or winged cap worn by Mercury.

PETITIONARY, supplicatory.

PETRONEL, a kind of carbine or light gun carried by horsemen.

PETULANT, pert, insolent.

PHERE. See Fere.

PHLEGMA, watery distilled liquor (old chem. “water”).

PHRENETIC, madman.

PICARDIL, stiff upright collar fastened on to the coat (Whalley).

PICT-HATCH, disreputable quarter of London.

PIECE, person, used for woman or girl; a gold coin worth in Jonson’s time 20s. or 22s.

PIECES OF EIGHT, Spanish coin: piastre equal to eight reals.

PIED, variegated.

PIE-POUDRES (Fr. pied-poudreux, dusty-foot), court held at fairs to administer justice to itinerant vendors and buyers.

PILCHER, term of contempt; one who wore a buff or leather jerkin, as did the serjeants of the counter; a pilferer.

PILED, pilled, peeled, bald.

PILL’D, polled, fleeced.

PIMLICO, “sometimes spoken of as a person—perhaps master of a house famous for a particular ale” (Gifford).

PINE, afflict, distress.

PINK, stab with a weapon; pierce or cut in scallops for ornament.

PINNACE, a go-between in infamous sense.


PISTOLET, gold coin, worth about 6s.

PITCH, height of a bird of prey’s flight.

PLAGUE, punishment, torment.

PLAIN, lament.

PLAIN SONG, simple melody.

PLAISE, plaice.

PLANET, “struck with a—,” planets were supposed to have powers of blasting or exercising secret influences.

PLAUSIBLE, pleasing.

PLAUSIBLY, approvingly.

PLOT, plan.

PLY, apply oneself to.

POESIE, posy, motto inside a ring.

POINT IN HIS DEVICE, exact in every particular.

POINTS, tagged laces or cords for fastening the breeches to the doublet.

POINT-TRUSSER, one who trussed (tied) his master’s points (q.v.).

POISE, weigh, balance.

POKING-STICK, stick used for setting the plaits of ruffs.

POLITIC, politician.

POLITIC, judicious, prudent, political.

POLITICIAN, plotter, intriguer.

POLL, strip, plunder, gain by extortion.

POMANDER, ball of perfume, worn or hung about the person to prevent infection, or for foppery.

POMMADO, vaulting on a horse without the aid of stirrups.

PONTIC, sour.

POPULAR, vulgar, of the populace.

POPULOUS, numerous.

PORT, gate; print of a deer’s foot.

PORT, transport.

PORTAGUE, Portuguese gold coin, worth over 3 or 4 pounds.

PORTCULLIS, “—of coin,” some old coins have a portcullis stamped on their reverse (Whalley).

PORTENT, marvel, prodigy; sinister omen.

PORTENTOUS, prophesying evil, threatening.

PORTER, references appear “to allude to Parsons, the king’s porter, who was...near seven feet high” (Whalley).

POSSESS, inform, acquaint.

POST AND PAIR, a game at cards.

POSY, motto. (See Poesie).

POTCH, poach.

POULT-FOOT, club-foot.

POUNCE, claw, talon.

PRACTICE, intrigue, concerted plot.

PRACTISE, plot, conspire.

PRAGMATIC, an expert, agent.

PRAGMATIC, officious, conceited, meddling.

PRECEDENT, record of proceedings.

PRECEPT, warrant, summons.

PRECISIAN(ISM), Puritan(ism), preciseness.

PREFER, recommend.

PRESENCE, presence chamber.

PRESENT(LY), immediate(ly), without delay; at the present time; actually.

PRESS, force into service.

PREST, ready.

PRETEND, assert, allege.

PREVENT, anticipate.

PRICE, worth, excellence.

PRICK, point, dot used in the writing of Hebrew and other languages.

PRICK, prick out, mark off, select; trace, track; “—away,” make off with speed.

PRIMERO, game of cards.

PRINCOX, pert boy.

PRINT, “in—,” to the letter, exactly.


PRIVATE, private interests.

PRIVATE, privy, intimate.

PROCLIVE, prone to.

PRODIGIOUS, monstrous, unnatural.

PRODIGY, monster.

PRODUCED, prolonged.

PROFESS, pretend.

PROJECTION, the throwing of the “powder of projection” into the crucible to turn the melted metal into gold or silver.

PROLATE, pronounce drawlingly.

PROPER, of good appearance, handsome; own, particular.

PROPERTIES, stage necessaries.

PROPERTY, duty; tool.

PRORUMPED, burst out.

PROTEST, vow, proclaim (an affected word of that time); formally declare non-payment, etc., of bill of exchange; fig. failure of personal credit, etc.

PROVANT, soldier’s allowance—hence, of common make.

PROVIDE, foresee.

PROVIDENCE, foresight, prudence.

PUBLICATION, making a thing public of common property (N.E.D.).

PUCKFIST, puff-ball; insipid, insignificant, boasting fellow.

PUFF-WING, shoulder puff.

PUISNE, judge of inferior rank, a junior.


PUMP, shoe.

PUNGENT, piercing.

PUNTO, point, hit.

PURCEPT, precept, warrant.

PURE, fine, capital, excellent.

PURELY, perfectly, utterly.

PURL, pleat or fold of a ruff.

PURSE-NET, net of which the mouth is drawn together with a string.

PURSUIVANT, state messenger who summoned the persecuted seminaries; warrant officer.

PURSY, PURSINESS, shortwinded(ness).

PUT, make a push, exert yourself (N.E.D.).

PUT OFF, excuse, shift.

PUT ON, incite, encourage; proceed with, take in hand, try.


QUAINT, elegant, elaborated, ingenious, clever.

QUAR, quarry.

QUARRIED, seized, or fed upon, as prey.

QUEAN, hussy, jade.

QUEASY, hazardous, delicate.

QUELL, kill, destroy.

QUEST, request; inquiry.

QUESTION, decision by force of arms.

QUESTMAN, one appointed to make official inquiry.

QUIB, QUIBLIN, quibble, quip.

QUICK, the living.

QUIDDIT, quiddity, legal subtlety.

QUIRK, clever turn or trick.

QUIT, requite, repay; acquit, absolve; rid; forsake, leave.

QUITTER-BONE, disease of horses.

QUODLING, codling.

QUOIT, throw like a quoit, chuck.

QUOTE, take note, observe, write down.

RACK, neck of mutton or pork (Halliwell).

RAKE UP, cover over.

RAMP, rear, as a lion, etc.

RAPT, carry away.

RAPT, enraptured.

RASCAL, young or inferior deer.

RASH, strike with a glancing oblique blow, as a boar with its tusk.

RATSEY, GOMALIEL, a famous highwayman.

RAVEN, devour.

REACH, understand.

REAL, regal.

REBATU, ruff, turned-down collar.

RECTOR, RECTRESS, director, governor.

REDARGUE, confute.

REDUCE, bring back.

REED, rede, counsel, advice.

REEL, run riot.

REFEL, refute.

REFORMADOES, disgraced or disbanded soldiers.

REGIMENT, government.


REGULAR (“Tale of a Tub”), regular noun (quibble) (N.E.D.).

RELIGION, “make—of,” make a point of, scruple of.

RELISH, savour.

REMNANT, scrap of quotation.

REMORA, species of fish.

RENDER, depict, exhibit, show.

REPAIR, reinstate.

REPETITION, recital, narration.


RESIANT, resident.

RESIDENCE, sediment.

RESOLUTION, judgment, decision.

RESOLVE, inform; assure; prepare, make up one’s mind; dissolve; come to a decision, be convinced; relax, set at ease.

RESPECTIVE, worthy of respect; regardful, discriminative.

RESPECTIVELY, with reverence.

RESPECTLESS, regardless.

RESPIRE, exhale; inhale.

RESPONSIBLE, correspondent.

REST, musket-rest.

REST, “set up one’s—,” venture one’s all, one’s last stake (from game of primero).

REST, arrest.

RESTIVE, RESTY, dull, inactive.

RETCHLESS(NESS), reckless(ness).

RETIRE, cause to retire.

RETRICATO, fencing term.

RETRIEVE, rediscovery of game once sprung.

RETURNS, ventures sent abroad, for the safe return of which so much money is received.

REVERBERATE, dissolve or blend by reflected heat.

REVERSE, REVERSO, back-handed thrust, etc., in fencing.

REVISE, reconsider a sentence.

RHEUM, spleen, caprice.

RIBIBE, abusive term for an old woman.

RID, destroy, do away with.

RIFLING, raffling, dicing.

RING, “cracked within the—,” coins so cracked were unfit for currency.

RISSE, risen, rose.

RIVELLED, wrinkled.

ROARER, swaggerer.

ROCHET, fish of the gurnet kind.

ROCK, distaff.

RODOMONTADO, braggadocio.

ROGUE, vagrant, vagabond.

RONDEL, “a round mark in the score of a public-house” (Nares); roundel.

ROOK, sharper; fool, dupe.

ROSAKER, similar to ratsbane.

ROSA-SOLIS, a spiced spirituous liquor.

ROSES, rosettes.

ROUND, “gentlemen of the—,” officers of inferior rank.

ROUND TRUNKS, trunk hose, short loose breeches reaching almost or quite to the knees.

ROUSE, carouse, bumper.

ROVER, arrow used for shooting at a random mark at uncertain distance.

ROWLY-POWLY, roly-poly.

RUDE, RUDENESS, unpolished, rough(ness), coarse(ness).

RUFFLE, flaunt, swagger.

RUG, coarse frieze.

RUG-GOWNS, gown made of rug.

RUSH, reference to rushes with which the floors were then strewn.

RUSHER, one who strewed the floor with rushes.

RUSSET, homespun cloth of neutral or reddish-brown colour.

SACK, loose, flowing gown.

SADLY, seriously, with gravity.

SAD(NESS), sober, serious(ness).

SAFFI, bailiffs.

ST. THOMAS A WATERINGS, place in Surrey where criminals were executed.

SAKER, small piece of ordnance.

SALT, leap.

SALT, lascivious.

SAMPSUCHINE, sweet marjoram.

SARABAND, a slow dance.

SATURNALS, began December 17.

SAUCINESS, presumption, insolence.

SAUCY, bold, impudent, wanton.

SAUNA (Lat.), a gesture of contempt.

SAVOUR, perceive; gratify, please; to partake of the nature.

SAY, sample.

SAY, assay, try.

SCALD, word of contempt, implying dirt and disease.

SCALLION, shalot, small onion.

SCANDERBAG, “name which the Turks (in allusion to Alexander the Great) gave to the brave Castriot, chief of Albania, with whom they had continual wars. His romantic life had just been translated” (Gifford).

SCAPE, escape.

SCARAB, beetle.

SCARTOCCIO, fold of paper, cover, cartouch, cartridge.

SCONCE, head.

SCOPE, aim.

SCOT AND LOT, tax, contribution (formerly a parish assessment).

SCOTOMY, dizziness in the head.

SCOUR, purge.

SCOURSE, deal, swap.

SCRATCHES, disease of horses.

SCROYLE, mean, rascally fellow.

SCRUPLE, doubt.

SEAL, put hand to the giving up of property or rights.

SEALED, stamped as genuine.

SEAM-RENT, ragged.

SEAMING LACES, insertion or edging.

SEAR UP, close by searing, burning.

SEARCED, sifted.

SECRETARY, able to keep a secret.

SECULAR, worldly, ordinary, commonplace.

SECURE, confident.

SEELIE, happy, blest.

SEISIN, legal term: possession.

SELLARY, lewd person.

SEMBLABLY, similarly.

SEMINARY, a Romish priest educated in a foreign seminary.

SENSELESS, insensible, without sense or feeling.

SENSIBLY, perceptibly.

SENSIVE, sensitive.

SENSUAL, pertaining to the physical or material.

SERENE, harmful dew of evening.

SERICON, red tincture.

SERVANT, lover.

SERVICES, doughty deeds of arms.

SESTERCE, Roman copper coin.

SET, stake, wager.

SET UP, drill.

SETS, deep plaits of the ruff.

SEWER, officer who served up the feast, and brought water for the hands of the guests.

SHAPE, a suit by way of disguise.

SHIFT, fraud, dodge.

SHIFTER, cheat.

SHITTLE, shuttle; “shittle-cock,” shuttlecock.

SHOT, tavern reckoning.

SHOT-CLOG, one only tolerated because he paid the shot (reckoning) for the rest.

SHOT-FREE, scot-free, not having to pay.

SHOVE-GROAT, low kind of gambling amusement, perhaps somewhat of the nature of pitch and toss.

SHOT-SHARKS, drawers.

SHREWD, mischievous, malicious, curst.

SHREWDLY, keenly, in a high degree.

SHRIVE, sheriff; posts were set up before his door for proclamations, or to indicate his residence.

SHROVING, Shrovetide, season of merriment.

SIGILLA, seal, mark.

SILENCED BRETHERN, MINISTERS, those of the Church or Nonconformists who had been silenced, deprived, etc.

SILLY, simple, harmless.

SIMPLE, silly, witless; plain, true.

SIMPLES, herbs.

SINGLE, term of chase, signifying when the hunted stag is separated from the herd, or forced to break covert.

SINGLE, weak, silly.

SINGLE-MONEY, small change.

SINGULAR, unique, supreme.

SI-QUIS, bill, advertisement.

SKELDRING, getting money under false pretences; swindling.

SKILL, “it—s not,” matters not.

SKINK(ER), pour, draw(er), tapster.

SKIRT, tail.

SLEEK, smooth.

SLICE, fire shovel or pan (dial.).

SLICK, sleek, smooth.

’SLID, ’SLIGHT, ’SPRECIOUS, irreverent oaths.

SLIGHT, sleight, cunning, cleverness; trick.

SLIP, counterfeit coin, bastard.

SLIPPERY, polished and shining.

SLOPS, large loose breeches.

SLOT, print of a stag’s foot.

SLUR, put a slur on; cheat (by sliding a die in some way).

SMELT, gull, simpleton.

SNORLE, “perhaps snarl, as Puppy is addressed” (Cunningham).


SNUFF, anger, resentment; “take in—,” take offence at.

SNUFFERS, small open silver dishes for holding snuff, or receptacle for placing snuffers in (Halliwell).

SOCK, shoe worn by comic actors.

SOD, seethe.

SOGGY, soaked, sodden.

SOIL, “take—,” said of a hunted stag when he takes to the water for safety.

SOL, sou.

SOLDADOES, soldiers.

SOLICIT, rouse, excite to action.

SOOTH, flattery, cajolery.

SOOTHE, flatter, humour.

SOPHISTICATE, adulterate.

SORT, company, party; rank, degree.

SORT, suit, fit; select.

SOUSE, ear.

SOUSED (“Devil is an Ass”), fol. read “sou’t,” which Dyce interprets as “a variety of the spelling of “shu’d”: to “shu” is to scare a bird away.” (See his “Webster,” page 350).

SOWTER, cobbler.

SPAGYRICA, chemistry according to the teachings of Paracelsus.

SPAR, bar.

SPEAK, make known, proclaim.

SPECULATION, power of sight.

SPED, to have fared well, prospered.

SPEECE, species.

SPIGHT, anger, rancour.

SPINNER, spider.

SPINSTRY, lewd person.

SPITTLE, hospital, lazar-house.

SPLEEN, considered the seat of the emotions.

SPLEEN, caprice, humour, mood.

SPRUNT, spruce.

SPURGE, foam.

SPUR-RYAL, gold coin worth 15s.

SQUIRE, square, measure; “by the—,” exactly.

STAGGERING, wavering, hesitating.

STAIN, disparagement, disgrace.

STALE, decoy, or cover, stalking-horse.

STALE, make cheap, common.

STALK, approach stealthily or under cover.

STALL, forestall.


STAPLE, market, emporium.

STARK, downright.

STARTING-HOLES, loopholes of escape.

STATE, dignity; canopied chair of state; estate.

STATUMINATE, support vines by poles or stakes; used by Pliny (Gifford).

STAY, gag.

STAY, await; detain.

STICKLER, second or umpire.

STIGMATISE, mark, brand.

STILL, continual(ly), constant(ly).

STINKARD, stinking fellow.

STINT, stop.

STIPTIC, astringent.

STOCCATA, thrust in fencing.

STOCK-FISH, salted and dried fish.

STOMACH, pride, valour.

STOMACH, resent.

STOOP, swoop down as a hawk.

STOP, fill, stuff.

STOPPLE, stopper.

STOTE, stoat, weasel.

STOUP, stoop, swoop=bow.

STRAIGHT, straightway.

STRAMAZOUN (Ital. stramazzone), a down blow, as opposed to the thrust.

STRANGE, like a stranger, unfamiliar.

STRANGENESS, distance of behaviour.

STREIGHTS, OR BERMUDAS, labyrinth of alleys and courts in the Strand.

STRIGONIUM, Grau in Hungary, taken from the Turks in 1597.

STRIKE, balance (accounts).

STRINGHALT, disease of horses.

STROKER, smoother, flatterer.

STROOK, p.p. of “strike.”

STRUMMEL-PATCHED, strummel is glossed in dialect dicts. as “a long, loose and dishevelled head of hair.”

STUDIES, studious efforts.

STYLE, title; pointed instrument used for writing on wax tablets.

SUBTLE, fine, delicate, thin; smooth, soft.

SUBTLETY (SUBTILITY), subtle device.

SUBURB, connected with loose living.

SUCCUBAE, demons in form of women.

SUCK, extract money from.

SUFFERANCE, suffering.

SUMMED, term of falconry: with full-grown plumage.

SUPER-NEGULUM, topers turned the cup bottom up when it was empty.

SUPERSTITIOUS, over-scrupulous.

SUPPLE, to make pliant.

SURBATE, make sore with walking.

SURCEASE, cease.

SUR-REVERENCE, save your reverence.

SURVISE, peruse.

SUSCITABILITY, excitability.

SUSPECT, suspicion.

SUSPEND, suspect.

SUSPENDED, held over for the present.

SUTLER, victualler.

SWAD, clown, boor.

SWATH BANDS, swaddling clothes.

SWINGE, beat.

TABERD, emblazoned mantle or tunic worn by knights and heralds.

TABLE(S), “pair of—,” tablets, note-book.

TABOR, small drum.

TABRET, tabor.

TAFFETA, silk; “tuft-taffeta,” a more costly silken fabric.

TAINT, “—a staff,” break a lance at tilting in an unscientific or dishonourable manner.

TAKE IN, capture, subdue.

TAKE ME WITH YOU, let me understand you.

TAKE UP, obtain on credit, borrow.

TALENT, sum or weight of Greek currency.

TALL, stout, brave.

TANKARD-BEARERS, men employed to fetch water from the conduits.

TARLETON, celebrated comedian and jester.

TARTAROUS, like a Tartar.

TAVERN-TOKEN, “to swallow a—,” get drunk.

TELL, count.

TELL-TROTH, truth-teller.

TEMPER, modify, soften.

TENDER, show regard, care for, cherish; manifest.

TENT, “take—,” take heed.

TERSE, swept and polished.

TERTIA, “that portion of an army levied out of one particular district or division of a country” (Gifford).

TESTON, tester, coin worth 6d.

THIRDBOROUGH, constable.

THREAD, quality.

THREAVES, droves.

THREE-FARTHINGS, piece of silver current under Elizabeth.

THREE-PILED, of finest quality, exaggerated.

THRIFTILY, carefully.

THRUMS, ends of the weaver’s warp; coarse yarn made from.

THUMB-RING, familiar spirits were supposed capable of being carried about in various ornaments or parts of dress.

TIBICINE, player on the tibia, or pipe.

TICK-TACK, game similar to backgammon.

TIGHTLY, promptly.

TIM, (?) expressive of a climax of nonentity.

TIMELESS, untimely, unseasonable.

TINCTURE, an essential or spiritual principle supposed by alchemists to be transfusible into material things; an imparted characteristic or tendency.

TINK, tinkle.

TIPPET, “turn—,” change behaviour or way of life.

TIPSTAFF, staff tipped with metal.

TIRE, head-dress.

TIRE, feed ravenously, like a bird of prey.

TITILLATION, that which tickles the senses, as a perfume.

TOD, fox.

TOILED, worn out, harassed.

TOKEN, piece of base metal used in place of very small coin, when this was scarce.

TONNELS, nostrils.

TOP, “parish—,” large top kept in villages for amusement and exercise in frosty weather when people were out of work.

TOTER, tooter, player on a wind instrument.

TOUSE, pull, rend.

TOWARD, docile, apt; on the way to; as regards; present, at hand.

TOY, whim; trick; term of contempt.

TRACT, attraction.

TRAIN, allure, entice.

TRANSITORY, transmittable.

TRANSLATE, transform.

TRAY-TRIP, game at dice (success depended on throwing a three) (Nares).


TREEN, wooden.

TRENCHER, serving-man who carved or served food.

TRENDLE-TAIL, trundle-tail, curly-tailed.

TRICK (TRICKING), term of heraldry: to draw outline of coat of arms, etc., without blazoning.

TRIG, a spruce, dandified man.

TRILL, trickle.

TRILLIBUB, tripe, any worthless, trifling thing.

TRIPOLY, “come from—,” able to perform feats of agility, a “jest nominal,” depending on the first part of the word (Gifford).

TRITE, worn, shabby.

TRIVIA, three-faced goddess (Hecate).

TROJAN, familiar term for an equal or inferior; thief.

TROLL, sing loudly.

TROMP, trump, deceive.

TROPE, figure of speech.

TROW, think, believe, wonder.

TROWLE, troll.

TROWSES, breeches, drawers.

TRUCHMAN, interpreter.

TRUNDLE, JOHN, well-known printer.

TRUNDLE, roll, go rolling along.

TRUNDLING CHEATS, term among gipsies and beggars for carts or coaches (Gifford).

TRUNK, speaking-tube.

TRUSS, tie the tagged laces that fastened the breeches to the doublet.

TUBICINE, trumpeter.

TUCKET (Ital. toccato), introductory flourish on the trumpet.

TUITION, guardianship.

TUMBLER, a particular kind of dog so called from the mode of his hunting.

TUMBREL-SLOP, loose, baggy breeches.

TURD, excrement.

TUSK, gnash the teeth (Century Dict.).

TWIRE, peep, twinkle.


TYRING-HOUSE, attiring-room.

ULENSPIEGEL. See Howleglass.

UMBRATILE, like or pertaining to a shadow.

UMBRE, brown dye.

UNBATED, unabated.

UNBORED, (?) excessively bored.

UNCARNATE, not fleshly, or of flesh.

UNCOUTH, strange, unusual.

UNDERTAKER, “one who undertook by his influence in the House of Commons to carry things agreeably to his Majesty’s wishes” (Whalley); one who becomes surety for.

UNEQUAL, unjust.

UNEXCEPTED, no objection taken at.

UNFEARED, unaffrighted.

UNHAPPILY, unfortunately.

UNICORN’S HORN, supposed antidote to poison.

UNKIND(LY), unnatural(ly).

UNMANNED, untamed (term in falconry).

UNQUIT, undischarged.

UNREADY, undressed.

UNRUDE, rude to an extreme.

UNSEASONED, unseasonable, unripe.

UNSEELED, a hawk’s eyes were “seeled” by sewing the eyelids together with fine thread.

UNTIMELY, unseasonably.

UNVALUABLE, invaluable.

UPBRAID, make a matter of reproach.

UPSEE, heavy kind of Dutch beer (Halliwell); “—Dutch,” in the Dutch fashion.

UPTAILS ALL, refrain of a popular song.

URGE, allege as accomplice, instigator.

URSHIN, URCHIN, hedgehog.

USE, interest on money; part of sermon dealing with the practical application of doctrine.

USE, be in the habit of, accustomed to; put out to interest.


USURE, usury.

UTTER, put in circulation, make to pass current; put forth for sale.

VAIL, bow, do homage.

VAILS, tips, gratuities.

VALL. See Vail.

VALLIES (Fr. valise), portmanteau, bag.

VAPOUR(S) (n. and v.), used affectedly, like “humour,” in many senses, often very vaguely and freely ridiculed by Jonson; humour, disposition, whims, brag(ging), hector(ing), etc.

VARLET, bailiff, or serjeant-at-mace.

VAUT, vault.

VEER (naut.), pay out.

VEGETAL, vegetable; person full of life and vigour.

VELLUTE, velvet.

VELVET CUSTARD. Cf. “Taming of the Shrew,” iv. 3, 82, “custard coffin,” coffin being the raised crust over a pie.

VENT, vend, sell; give outlet to; scent, snuff up.

VENUE, bout (fencing term).

VERDUGO (Span.), hangman, executioner.

VERGE, “in the—,” within a certain distance of the court.

VEX, agitate, torment.

VICE, the buffoon of old moralities; some kind of machinery for moving a puppet (Gifford).

VIE AND REVIE, to hazard a certain sum, and to cover it with a larger one.

VINCENT AGAINST YORK, two heralds-at-arms.

VINDICATE, avenge.

VIRGE, wand, rod.

VIRGINAL, old form of piano.

VIRTUE, valour.

VIVELY, in lifelike manner, livelily.

VIZARD, mask.

VOGUE, rumour, gossip.

VOICE, vote.

VOID, leave, quit.

VOLARY, cage, aviary.

VOLLEY, “at—,” “o’ the volee,” at random (from a term of tennis).

VORLOFFE, furlough.

WADLOE, keeper of the Devil Tavern, where Jonson and his friends met in the ‘Apollo’ room (Whalley).

WAIGHTS, waits, night musicians, “band of musical watchmen” (Webster), or old form of “hautboys.”

WANNION, “vengeance,” “plague” (Nares).

WARD, a famous pirate.

WARD, guard in fencing.

WATCHET, pale, sky blue.

WEAL, welfare.

WEED, garment.

WEFT, waif.

WEIGHTS, “to the gold—,” to every minute particular.

WELKIN, sky.

WELL-SPOKEN, of fair speech.

WELL-TORNED, turned and polished, as on a wheel.

WELT, hem, border of fur.

WHER, whether.

WHETSTONE, GEORGE, an author who lived 1544(?) to 1587(?).

WHIFF, a smoke, or drink; “taking the—,” inhaling the tobacco smoke or some such accomplishment.

WHIGH-HIES, neighings, whinnyings.

WHIMSY, whim, “humour.”

WHINILING, (?) whining, weakly.

WHIT, (?) a mere jot.

WHITEMEAT, food made of milk or eggs.

WICKED, bad, clumsy.

WICKER, pliant, agile.

WILDING, esp. fruit of wild apple or crab tree (Webster).

WINE, “I have the—for you,” Prov.: I have the perquisites (of the office) which you are to share (Cunningham).

WINNY, “same as old word “wonne,” to stay, etc.” (Whalley).

WISE-WOMAN, fortune-teller.

WISH, recommend.

WISS (WUSSE), “I—,” certainly, of a truth.

WITHOUT, beyond.

WITTY, cunning, ingenious, clever.

WOOD, collection, lot.

WOODCOCK, term of contempt.

WOOLSACK (“—pies”), name of tavern.

WORT, unfermented beer.

WOUNDY, great, extreme.

WREAK, revenge.

WROUGHT, wrought upon.

WUSSE, interjection. (See Wiss).

YEANLING, lamb, kid.

ZANY, an inferior clown, who attended upon the chief fool and mimicked his tricks.