Ben Jonson – “Volpone” Act II scene 1

Sir Politic claims he knew Stone the jester well and that he was some kind of early-modern version of James Bond, receiving messages from the Netherlands hidden in a transport of cabbages and passing them on in fruit deliveries. He was also able to read a coded message in the way a roast was cut in the tavern and forward it in a hollowed toothipick. Peregrine somewhat doubts it, saying that he heard Stone was illiterate, but Sir Politic denies it, saying that he just pretended to be so, while in fact he not only could read and write, but also knew several languages. Peregrine continues to send him up, realizing that he’s that kind of guy who will never admit to not knowing anything. So he tells Politic some nonsense about baboons being spies as well, and Politic follows in all seriousness, calling them the Mameluks and claiming they had a hand in a French plot or two. Peregrine expresses his joy about meeting such a knowledgeable gentleman because he himself is very raw and in need of tutoring. Sir Politic rises to the bait, saying that he’s often been consulted by young sons of powerful men. Pergrine asks him innocently “Who these be, sir?”, and with this the scene ends. I imagine at this point they move to the side as if mid-conversation, to make room to other actors. I think it’s kind of innovative of Jonson to end the scene mid-air, so to say.

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