Ben Jonson – “Volpone” Act IV scene 1

We are back with Sir Politic and Peregrine, with Sir Pol acting as a very self-important tutor to Peregrine. He advises him to keep always his to himself, stay reserved, never tell a truth to foreigners and stay away from his countrymen, or they will always want him to help them out. He should also profess no religion and claim, following Machiavelli and Jean Bodin that the secular law is enough. An interesting point is that Peregrine should learn how to handle his fork (an Italian invention, a novelty in England then). He also should know the proper time when to eat melons and figs. When Peregrine asks playfully if that’a a state matter, too, Politic gravely asserts it is, because Venetians are very ready to make fun of anybody who doesn’t know proper manners, setting himself up as the example of the man who came to Venice prepared. Then he hints at the wonderful get-rich schemes he has in mind and it doesn’t take much prodding to make him reveal that one of these schemes includes importing pickled herrings from Rotterdam, which is obviously nonsensical, because Venice had plenty of fresh fish closer at hand. He also has another scheme in mind which he is going to propose to the government of Venice and he hopes to be richly rewarded for it.

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