Ben Jonson – “Volpone” Act II scene 5

Corvino raves like mad, accusing Celia of flirting not only with the low-life mountebank, but with all the men supposedly ogling her when she came to the window. He says “I’ll declare myself a cuckold and then I’ll be able to divorce you and keep your dowry” (as the law allowed then). “You must consider me a Dutchman” (proverbially phlegmatic) because no Italian would tolerate this but would kill you and all your family”. He threatens her with a sword and ignores her pleas. His new rules are: the window is going to be bricked up and Celia won’t be allowed to approach it. She is going to wear a chastity belt. Eventually, he comes to the conclusion that “I will keep thee backwards, thy lodging shall be backwards… and no pleasure that thou shalt know but backwards”, referring both to the fact that he is going to restrict her to the back rooms of the house but also making an obscene pun on anal sex, supposedly preferred by Italians. A servant announces the arrival of Mosca and Corvino sends poor Celia away with more threats.

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